Bland Stuff · living abroad

ways in which I have refused to integrate into Czech society

Sure, I live here. Alright, I earn Czech money and pay Czech taxes. Yes, I’ve been known to speak the odd word of Czech. Fine, I’ll admit it, I’m sitting in a Czech cafe right now, drinking a Czech coffee and eavesdropping on the Czech conversations of my (presumably) Czech cafemates. But, despite this, I am not Czech, and there are elements of Czech society which I have roundly rejected.

I…

will not enjoy Pilsner;

Lads, I love beer. At any moment in time, I’m either drinking a pint or wishing I were. My fridge is full of rainbow cans of various craft beers I’ve collected from expensive bottle shops in distant corners of Prague. I have a beer-based tattoo.

You might think that Prague would be the perfect city for me, then. After all, Czechs famously consume more beer/capita then any nation in the world.

Unfortunately for me and for everyone who spends time with me, I’m bored of Pilsner. Pilsner is the Czech beer: it’s in every pub, cafe, workplace and school. It’s essentially a really nice lager that goes well with most food. The problem is that I’m sick of it: it’s the most generic beer I can imagine. It just tastes like the word beer. It’s so nondescript that I can’t think of any way to describe it except by writing beer and underlining it a few times.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about it. It’s just that I’m by nature a stout drinker and I’m living in the land of the ležák. It’s something I struggle with every day.

I’m vegetarian;

And I’m getting more militant with each passing day.

This is specifically tricky in the Czech Republic, land of pork. The classic Czech vegetarian option is breaded cheese deep-fried and served with potato salad. I love deep frying things as much as the next gourmand, but you can only have so many mozzarella sticks.

will not take ová;

Czech surnames change depending on whether the holder is male or female; women’s names usually take the suffix ová. I thought this was a fairly inoffensive, cute eccentricity until I learnt about possessive nouns – it turns out that the ová ending essentially denotes belonging to

I realise the irony of rejecting this; my name is Daniels which, although I’m no etymologist, surely means belonging to Daniel, essentially Daniel’s.

Still, though, I’ve stopped giving my surname as Danielsová on principle. It means that I get some weird looks (although, admittedly, people being confused about my gender is a by-product of my whole androgynous thing), but I’m just not a fan.

and don’t own slippers.

Slippers are a cornerstone of Czech culture. I will not expand on this, because I don’t want to.

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Bland Stuff · living abroad

ways in which I have integrated into Czech society

As I’ve already mentioned a million times on this blog, I recently moved to Prague to pursue my dream of gentrifying East-Central Europe. I’ve been in the Czech Republic for about six months now, and whilst I’d hesitate to identify myself as convincingly European, despite what my passport insists, I am conscious that certain aspects of my behaviour have changed in my jaunt on the continent. Although hindered by my shocking Czech and general standoffishness, I am slowly integrating into Czech society in certain specific ways.

I…

don’t buy public transport tickets;

The Prague public transport system is a mixture of underground, buses, and adorable trams that look like they’ve not been updated since 1968 (pictured). Since I started working largely from home, the frequency of my rides on the rails has diminished massively. I no longer rely on the tram for my income, but rather consider a trip on the metro a sort of weekly treat.

The network is relatively reliable, at least compared to its Sheffield counterpart; and, like its Yorkshire equivalent, it’s incredibly open to abuse. Unlike the larger public transport systems I’m familiar with, both Sheffield and Prague rely on a largely self-policed ticketing service. You buy a ticket from an exciting yellow machine with pleasingly old-fashioned buttons, validate it onboard using another exciting yellow machine, and present your validated ticket to representatives of the law on request.

It sounds like a reasonable and decent system, except for one thing: I’ve never seen a representative of the law checking tickets. I’ve lived here, as I say, for half a year now, and at my peak I travelled by public transport a few times a day – and my ticket has never been checked. What does a person do in the face of such a lax system? Stop using the exciting yellow machines.

I’m sure my comeuppance is up-and-coming, and, frankly, I’d not feel at all upset if I were fined at this point. I deserve it. Sometimes I use the first exciting yellow machine just to enjoy the pleasingly tactile buttons, but, largely I’m a criminal.

Anyway, I think this counts as cultural integration because I was encouraged to flout the law by my Czech pals who openly laughed when they saw me buying a ticket from the exciting machine. Peer pressure strikes again.

don’t consume any Czech media;

“Friends,” I ask in my charmingly broken Czech, “can you recommend me a Czech newspaper?”

“Pals,” I inquire in my accented Czech, “what TV show should I watch to strengthen my already mighty knowledge of your language?”

“Chums,” I wonder aloud, “do you know any Czech music?”

The answer to these earnest questions has always been, in this order,

“No.”

“None.”

“No.”

It’s 2019 and, as any language learner knows, a great way to improve your skills is to immerse yourself in the media of your target language. Imagine my horror and disappointment in hearing that my Czech friends get their news from the BBC, watch HBO and listen to Blur. I’ve spoken to the occasional Czech who reads German news, but I’ve been roundly discouraged from opening Lidové Noviny or listening to any Czech tunes – with the notable exception of Plastici.

have a job and a flat and that; 

What could be more Czech than living in the Czech Republic and earning Czech crowns??

Although, if you ask someone from Moravia, Prague isn’t Czechia; just like, to northerners, London isn’t England.

have strong opinions about the whole Czech Republic/Czechia debate.

Those opinions change regularly, but I have them, and I’m fully invested in the polemic.

haiku

a Sixth Twitter Haiku

Tell me, how can your
Zine be about my teachings,
When zines don’t exist?

Bland Stuff

Making a House a Home

Before I moved to Prague about six months ago, I lived in an alternating sequence of student halls, my childhood bedroom, and shared flats. Student accommodation, as even a cursory understanding of the documentary series Fresh Meat will tell you, is a hellscape of ununpacked stuff and unwelcome mould. My childhood bedroom, when I was occupying it fulltime, wasn’t that different.

But I’m a grown-up adult human now. I rent my own flat and I live next door to my landlord. I have to clean my own sink. (In my childhood home, the sink is cleaned by my mother; in student accommodation, it’s cleaned by ??elves??)

Me, smirking

When I first dragged my suitcase across the threshold, I was so overjoyed to have got out of the hostel I’d been staying in that I barely took in the flat itself. All that mattered was that I wasn’t going to wake up to a Mysterious Man going through my stuff.

I spent the first few weeks sleeping in a sleeping bag; it took me over three months to work up the Czech/crowns/courage to buy a duvet – although I did get sheets admirably quickly. I’d never lived in a proper flat before, and I didn’t know what expect. I was shocked that flats don’t come with cutlery as standard.

It took me a good couple of months to collect together the basic necessities (eg knives, glasses, pillow etc); I still don’t have a chopping board. That doesn’t bother me, though: what I’ve been concerned with is making my flat feel homely. And, by God, I’ve managed it. Here are some handy tips for those of you moving out for the first time.

hang pictures

And if, like me, you’re too cheap to buy full size prints, postcards will do.

Pictured: Jerry the cat really digging my Kafka/Havel aesthetic.

There are also companies these days that you can send digital files to and they’ll post you pleasingly tactile, shiny photographs. This system has allowed me to garland my flat with nostalgic and wholesome pictures of my favourite people.

invest in lamps

I’m no interior designer (I’m an English teacher-cum-timewaster) but I’m a big fan of well-lit spaces.

This lamp cost me 30czk (~£1) from the junk shop across the street. Also, look how incredibly cosy my bed is. That’s where I get to sleep! Every night!

paper sculptures

This one might not be completely universal, but that’s what you get when you take advice from someone incapable of empathy.

Pictured: Jerry the cat ignoring the strings of cranes I spent literally a million years making.

constant grime

Because, otherwise how do you know you aren’t just visiting?

The grime might not be visible in this shot, but it’s there. Believe me.

haiku

another Twitter haiku

Resolved: from now on
I’m on the right path. Then -
no! POCKET DAIRY.

Bland Stuff

Gleb Pesoc’s Best Tattoos (ranked)

Gleb Pesoc is my favourite name in the world. Gleb’s been getting more and more popular outside of Russia and he’s started regularly ‘touring’ Europe – although I met him in SPb, he gave me my tattoo in Berlin. I’m praying he’ll come to Prague whilst I’m living here. Check his instagram for regular beautiful tattoos and details about his availability.

5. Paperclip

One of the cool things about tattooing is that your canvas is people, and people aren’t all smooth and blank. I really like the way Gleb’s tattoos sometimes include people’s features, especially scars.

4. Dancing girl

This one is just so graceful!

3. Why not?

The croc looks slightly uncomfortable, like he’s embarrassed he’s been immortalised eating this girl.

2. Fire extinguisher


I love the way Gleb uses colour!

1.Birds on a wire

Blue on skin is so striking, and looking at the individual birds blows my mind. They’re all slightly different and each one seems to have its own unique character.

Bonus: Rosie’s chocolate mammoth.

It’s red ‘cos it’s fresh and (bonus info) it fucking hurt.

Gleb stopped about halfway through and asked how I was doing. In my mind, I was thinking about how a half-finished chocolate mammoth would be so much more stupid than a full one. Out loud, I said, “Yep yep good good.”

how to tell if

how to tell if your significant other is a prominent modern artist

That’s right, it’s another stunningly relatable how to tell if from your favourite patchy blogger, Rosie.

Today, let’s cast our minds into the realm of romance, as intimidating and thorny as that might be. It’s easy to feel isolated in a relationship, especially a longterm one. I wouldn’t call myself an expert in matters of the heart, preferring to allow others to honour me with that title, but I’ve spoken to enough of my peers to glean that doubts start creeping in after the few-month-mark: doubts about fidelity, about reciprocity, and, perhaps most worryingly, doubts about whether that sweet guy you’ve been seeing is secretly Banksy.

Whilst I myself am always careful to vet my potential significant others about their affiliations with the art world – my sixteen-point questionnaire about eg gallery visits, radial symmetry, dominance/emphasis etc never fails – some of my friends lack such forethought. They come to me, some weeks or months deep into a relationship, with their heads full of doubt: what if this person is secretly an esteemed anon?

Doubt no longer. This handy guide will clear it up once and for all: is your new beau the sensible quantity surveyor you thought, or is s/he secretly an eminent modern artist?

Do they…

have white hair?

White hair is the most artistic colour of hair known to man. Popularised by Andy Warhol, prematurely de-coloured locks are a sure sign of creativity. It’s theorised that the reason behind Warhol’s snowy head was a constant, edging fear of being stranded without a viable canvas. How can you lose a sketchbook when your very head doubles as a workspace?

own four of everything in different colours?

When they pop to the corner shop for crisps, they come back with four flavours. When they nip to Waterstones for the latest John Grisham, they come back with four spine-chilling tomes. When they suggest a comedy for your weekly Netflix date, it’s James Acaster’s four part ‘Repertoire’. The wheels on their Volkswagen Polo are slightly different shades of black. The amount of money you spend on soup has increased eightfold.

It’s subtle, but this obsession with symmetry and quadruplication may imply an underlying appreciation for pop art.

constantly signing things they find lying around?

“Darling,” you exclaim, “why have you written your name on the bra I left next to the bathtub?”

“Honey,” you wail, “why have you initialled the spoon we use to pry open stubborn jars?”

“William,” you huff, “why have you sharpied on my left shoe?”

Sound familiar? Sure, maybe you tend to employ different pet names (‘William’ as a term of endearment hasn’t achieved mainstream popularity yet), but if this is a situation that repeats itself regularly, you might be dealing with an artist.

often struck dumb by everyday stuff?

“Look at the raw, animal emotion!”

Fair play, though: this picture is amazing.

haiku

twitter haiku four

Chops stained with rainbow
Of zealous health. Stomach full
Of gummy delights.
haiku

Twitter Haiku III

And thus the world ends:
Not with a bang, nor in flames.
Just Oopsie Daisy.

haiku

Twitter Haiku #2

Creaking branches and
Sticky ribs on mossy ground.
Beware of the woods.