Where are the džentlmeny?

Lidové noviny has an interesting series called “Český Å¡ok” (Czech shock) which asks a different foreigner every day about their own culture shocks in living here. It’s an interesting idea, and the responses are thoughtful and varied.

Today’s piece is from a Frenchman who asks where the “džentlmen” are. An excerpt:

I know a lot of foreigners who are here maybe ten years, and have never been to a Czech person’s home. It appears to me that in normal, everyday life women have a weaker position in men-women relationships. It’s a rare Czech who is a gentleman. [Czech] women are golden, they accept everything. I get the feeling that Czech men are totally ‘machoists’.”

Where to start with this one? I’ve been to more Czechs’ homes in the last ten years than foreigners’ homes, and can say with certainty that I have always been greeted with great hospitality, almost embarassingly so.

I think it’s true that for many foreigners living here, especially those who make a living off their English-language skills, it’s difficult to step out of the Expat Bubble. Maybe I’m lucky, but the Czech people have always been very curious about me, and about the place I come from. Either that or I’m really funny-looking.

As for Czech džentlmen, here’s my own dumb view.

I take issue with my French colleague’s dim view of Czech men. I personally have seen feats of great džentlmen-ness, but it’s a different kind of džentlmen-ness than you get in France. French džentlmen-ness involves more of a display – the kind of guy who smoothly opens a door for you in a quietly theatrical gesture. Czech džentlmen-ness is a bit more unrefined but all the more heartfelt – the kind of guy who’ll spend all morning fixing your sink.

One is certainly romantic and showy, yes, but when it gets down to brass tacks, the Czech guy is always going to be there. I think that’s a trait to be commended. In fact, if you pick up copies of the free ads newspaper Annonce, you’ll see numerous ads referring to a “kamarad do deÅ¡te,” a friend in the rain. I’d say that’s a trait appreciated by Czech women as well.

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