Czechs speak the same, smell a little different

Czeching In

In the smoky recesses of Akropolis, a dingy bar and concert venue in one of Prague's blue-collar suburbs, Czech band Zoe-Deer was testing the sound system. They greeted the crowd in Czech and thanked the crowd for being there in Czech. "Diky moc," the lead singer said, "Thank you much," and then launched into the opening number. In English.

Every song was sung in English and the conversation in between was spoken in Czech. The same was true of opening act South Paw. Why did these Czech bands write their lyrics in English? Was it the popular thing to do? Weren't they concerned about contributing to a national musical identity?

Then it occurred to me: Much like the euro is becoming the standard currency in Europe, English has become the continent's universal language. If these Czech bands want to reach the biggest audience possible, they should naturally sing in English. Czechs know it, and most foreigners visiting the country know it. When an Italian is lost in Prague, he asks a Czech for directions in English.

I do my best to speak Czech when ordering food or asking for directions or greeting people, but there is really no need to, which is both a convenience and a shame. Maybe if the Czechs left Americans to their our own devices, we'd take the initiative and learn their language. After all, we're the guests.

So, Czechs like beer and they speak English well. This much I've established so far. I've come to some other conclusions as well.

The Prague tram system is a mixed blessing. It is convenient, cheap, reliable, quick and runs on electricity. However, it is equipped with few seats and many hand straps, a proportion that leads many people to stand with one arm raised to the strap in order to maintain balance. Logical to conclude, then, is the fact that the raising of the arm will invariably cause the exposure of the armpit. (If you don't believe me you can try at home).

Which brings me to my next point, the second most identifiable thing about Czechs besides their beer: their body odor. Europeans in general seem reluctant to use deodorant, but with the Czechs it is more than just reluctance. Judging by the frequency and intensity of the odor, it appears to be an outright protest of underarm hygiene. But it's not just one person; it's everyone. And the fact that it's everyone makes it both unbearable and acceptable. What a cruel combination.

Also, everyone in Prague smokes (I second-hand smoke two packs a day), dogs are allowed everywhere (I've seen a sheepdog the size of a bear sidle up to a bar and order a beer) and there is no such thing as customer service (Foot caught in the wheels of a subway? Too bad, we're on our coffee break). In short, the Czechs are a smelly, easygoing, bilingual people who believe that man's best friend is the cigarette and that the best way to relax after a meal is to grab the nearest dog and hold it close.

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