Tuesday, April 10, 2018

So Your Character is From the Czech Republic ... Featuring Marky @ Books Are My Life ..., Karolína Melounová, & Anna Alatriel

It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's  So Your Character is from Poland ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts is as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)

Hi everyone! My name is Marky and I’m from the Czech Republic, a little country in the middle of Europe. I’m a high school student at a language school and I speak English, German, French, and obviously Czech, my native language. I love reading, taking photos, playing the guitar and dancing. I also bake very often and spend some time with my cat.

Hello! My name is Karolina and I’m from the Czech Republic, city Olomouc. Olomouc is one of the biggest city in the Czech Republic, but it has only 100,000 inhabitants. Olomouc is also a city with a big and old university and in the school year, there are almost 50,000 students. Is really fun, because that means there is always something to do–lots of parties, public lectures, some festivals and so on. I also study at Palacky University and my major is history. 

Hi, my name is Anna I am 18 years old. I live in the city on the northeast of the Czech Republic in Hradec Králové. The city has about 100 thousand people so isn’t small. I am a student of high school. I have a lot of hobbies for example--reading, playing computer games, DIY, photography or what I  think is really interesting--historical fencing (swordplay).

What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Marky: We certainly do have a ton of traditions. For Christmas, we put a coin under everyone’s plate for luck. We float little candles in a basin and from their movements we “predict” the future (although it’s more the families with little children who do that). Also, it’s baby Jesus Christ who brings the presents, not Father Christmas or Santa Claus.

But the “weirdest” celebration we have is Easter. We don’t search for treats in the garden at all! The boys go around the houses with a “pomlázka” (that’s kind of a braid from willow twigs). The girls open the door, the boys hit them with their “pomlázka” sing a song and then the girls have to give them eggs or chocolate. It’s supposed to bring the girls health for a year but I’m not really sure about whether that works so well...

Karolina: How I say– the Czech Republic is a really small country in the middle of Europe and it’s truly beautiful here. We have lots of landmarks, but nothing really special. The one thing which Czechs really proud about it is Czech beer.

Anna: We have same celebrations like other Europe (religious) – Christmas, Easter, but I think it’s funny, that most of us do not believe in God. Maybe the celebration of Easter is different: Boys whip girls with “pomlázka” which is some kind of a small whip from twigs.

Hradec Králové
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
Marky: We don’t have any sea but except that, there’s quite everything in nature: fields, meadows, forests, mountains, rivers... Our country’s specialty is probably all the castles, fortresses, and chateaux. As the country was not hit by almost any bombs, all the old buildings remained and you can see them everywhere. Not just the castles but also churches and regular houses from medieval ages are to be found in almost every town. And they are so beautiful!

Karlštejn Castle
Karolina: The Czech Republic has really beautiful countryside. We have lowlands and also mountains (but not big–the highest point is 1600 meters above sea level). We have big cities and also small villages. I live all my life in one of the big city, and I really like it. I like sitting in a cafe, drinking my favorite tea, looking out at people. I like going to the park, feeling the sunshine on my skin, reading my favorite book outside. And… if I want I just pick up the right train and I will be in the forest in 15 minutes.

Anna: My country is in moderate weather belt so we have big differences in the seasons. In my country are lowlands, big rivers, and mountains, where you can ski. Unfortunately, there isn’t a sea. I think our nature isn’t famous, but there are many national parks in the mountains. My favorites places are in the city. I really like historic center and buildings.  

National Park Šumava
Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Marky: We have many traditional dishes for certain occasions. For example we always eat lentils on 1st January to have a lot of money for the upcoming year. On Christmas Eve we always have carp soup, carp and special cookies, that are just made in December. 

My favorite Czech meals are fried cheese and fruit dumplings. How do you make these? For fried cheese you need to put your cheese in eggs, flour, and breadcrumbs. Then you just fry it and it’s delicious! For fruit dumplings you make some dough (I’ll not describe it here, it would take too long), cut squares from it, put some fruits in, wrap them up and boil them in water.

Blueberry Dumplings
Karolina: I really like food! Well, when I think about traditional food here I have to say few. On Christmas day we usually eat carp with potato salad. One of my favorites is also duck with cabbage and dumplings. It’s really unhealthy but it tastes so good! Czech dishes are mostly really unhealthy and really heavy. But you can’t say no to it.

Carp and Potato Salad
Anna: I don’t like our national dishes because the most of them are same like dumplings, sauce, and meat. For example “svíčková” it’s a sauce from vegetables (carrots, celery … I don’t know :D) with dumplings and usually beef.  We cook also sweet dumplings stuffed with some fruit. What isn’t a food but a drink is beer which is really important for the most of people (I don’t know what they like about it). The Czech Republic is one of the biggest producers of beer in the world.


Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
Marky: Czech is very different from the English language. We don’t put accent on words nor have stressed syllables. The official language tends to be quite different to the language you speak with your friends. As Czech is written phonetically, we have many letters that are quite special: č, ď, ě, ch, ň, ř, š, ť, ž. Some of them are explainable: “š” is like “sh” in “shoe”, “č” is like “ch” in “check”. However the letter and the sound of “ř” exists only in our language! We also have long vowels (á,é,í,ó,ú,ů)... and many other beautiful things! Also, the words “robot” and “pistol” come from the Czech language.

Karolina: The Czech Republic is divided into a few regions and every region has special slang. But the difference is not so big. It’s not big deal, actually.

Anna: The Czech Republic is also Czech but Moravia and Silesia. In these regions people use slang and they have different expressions for some words. Some places sound more like Slovak.

Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
Marky: People tend to wake up quite early here, as the schools start at 8 a.m. or even earlier and adults usually go to work for about the same hour. Many people commute, as myself, so I wake up at 6 a.m. every day. School usually lasts until something in between 2 and 4 p.m., on Friday it’s always less. 

There’s a lunch break at both work and school and there’s always a kitchen and/or a canteen at the place because Czechs eat warm lunch every day. After school children have many extracurricular activities – they do sports and art, usually every child has tried at least one musical instrument in their lives. The families usually eat their dinner together–either warm or cold, that depends on the habits – and spend their evening together.

My Vegetarian Dinner
Karolina: The school here starts at 8:00 and is usually until 14:00. Then kids have free time, doing some out-of-school activities like sports and art and also doing homework. At uni we start usually 9:00 and continued till 16:00. Every day is different-even in high school. After lectures, I come home and do some school stuff, read books, and watch my favorite TV shows. In the evening I like to spend time with my friends. I really don’t know how to better describe a regular day here. Every day is kind of unique.

Czech University
Anna: School starts at 8 o’clock and usually ends at 13:30 (primary school) but high school usually ends at 15 or later. One lesson is 45 minutes and after one lesson we have a 10-minute break for eating our snack or going to the restroom. We have also one-hour lunch break. Work usually starts between 8 and 9. I think, that most of the people have dinner between 18 and 19.

Czech Primary School
How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
Marky: In my opinion, Czech people are more conservative in many aspects. The population is not very diverse (except for Prague, the capital). We also are a small country, but peoples’ ambitions tend to differ depending from whether they do or don’t live in a city. In the cities people also speak much more English and are more used to tourists etc. The age to drive, vote, and be an adult generally is 18 years. Everyone watches soccer here and sometimes ice-hockey. Beer is not a drink, it’s a cult. Everyone drinks it.

Karolina: Well I think it’s really hard to compare Europe and especially Czech to American. There are lots of things different. Almost everything is different. I can start with human nature (we are not kind, we usually really grumpy and not smile at streets and so on) and end with the school system and health care (everything is free for everybody). I think it’s gonna be better to answer questions on it in comments.

Anna: The Czech Republic has been a democratic state for almost 30 years. We have many political parties. I think we have a similar temperament to Slovaks. We shared one state with them for 75 years (Czechoslovakia). 

Culturally - We have our folk customs, but we usually don’t follow them except for in Moravia. 

I don't know exactly how to compare our countries but, what I think is  different :
When we are dissatisfied with something (politics…) we just sit in the pub and speaking about it. We usually don’t do something to solve that problem.
Most Czechs drink a lot of beer.
What is good, is that our healthcare and education are free opposite to the USA.
Our national sport is an ice hockey (Do you know Jaromír Jagr?)

Briefly describe three of your country’s historical events that you feel are important.
1. Being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Czech nation has almost always been oppressed by the surrounding countries. We’ve only gained our independence (together with Slovakia) after World War I (in 1918) and then lost it again to the Nazi occupation...

2. Nazi occupation. We’ve not only been oppressed by the Nazis. They took our precious lands and claimed them their own, killed our people. The most important even for the  Czech nation during this time was the so called “Operation Anthropoid“. That was the successful plan to kill Heydrich, the “protector” of our lands for Hitler. The men who killed him were all murdered afterwards, but remained national heroes and added hope to the Czechs.

3. Velvet Revolution. Since World War II, Czechoslovakia was under the power of communism, directed from the Soviet Union (now Russia). In 1989, after decades of oppression, when people couldn’t travel, say their opinion or even start their own clubs, we became a free country again The Velvet Revolution was a peaceful process of many demonstrations, since which we are democratic and free.

Velvet Revolution

Karolina: I’m sorry. I choose only one. The Czech Republic has a great history and I’m a historian so it’s gonna be a really long time if I speak about three events.

I choose the era of communism. The communism influenced every country in East. The time of communism start in February 1948 (one of the last countries in Europe, actually) and ended by Velvet Revolution in November 1989. It looks like it’s already gone by this time but it still affected lots of people. There are people who say that life was better in these times. It kind of complicated things and people usually don’t see the whole truth or they won’t see it. In the communism era was really hard to get at uni, have free will, say whatever you want, to step into politics, to go outside the country, and so on. There was action even against the church and it is one of the reasons why the Czech Republic is one of the most atheist countries.


Reign of Charles IV. in the 14. Century. He had it built the “new” part of Prague. He established Prague university and all country prosper.
1918 end of the First World War and origin of independent democratic Czechoslovakia state.
1989  the Velvet revolution and overthrow of the communist party.

The first president after the revolution was Václav Havel
What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Marky: We unfortunately currently have not a very representative president, who drinks and smokes a lot. That’s why people think that everyone is an addict here, but we are not. We are also not a poor, eastern country, as many people think. On my exchange year in Belgium, people asked me if we had warm water, schools, and internet. Yes, we do. Actually, we are quite like the States in the level of living.

Karolina: Because the Czech language is similar to the Russian language in lots of shows the Czech Republic is described as part of the Russian mafia. That happened in Gossip Girl and also in Jane The Virgin.

Anna: The stereotypes which most of the Czech people hate are: 

  • We are Eastern Europe. No, we are not Eastern Europe, we are the middle of Europe.
  • In the Czech Republic, we have a communist.
  • Czechoslovakia? No, we are independent since 1993!

Cecily von Ziegesar from Gossip Girl
What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Marky: I can’t help it. I need to tell you about the movie Kolya. It’s about the times of communism, but it portrays the historical event quite well–it even won the Oscar! There are many good movies made about our country but I don’t think that they have been translated to English.  However there’s a movie director who’s Czech and you might know him: Miloš Forman. His movies became quite popular–one of them being for example One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Karolina: I thought about it very hard and I couldn't find a good portrayal in any movies.

Anna: In our country are filming many movies, especially in Prague. Mission: Impossible, Bad Company, and Chasing Liberty show beautiful of Prague and magic atmosphere which is here.

Mission Impossible in Prague
Who are your top three favorite characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
Marky: 1. Krteček. His name can be translated as “The little mole” and the stories about him are kind of legendary now. There are books and short silent movies made about him. And a little figure of him was even in the universe with one of our astronauts!
2. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. He was our first president and there are many books and movies about him. His wife was American and that’s where his middle name comes from.

3. Karel Čapek. He was a writer and wrote many amazing and known books. He also invented the word “robot” in his book “R. U. R.”, which is now used in many languages.

Karolina: Because Czech is really small country, there are no famous characters in books, movies, or shows. So I choose some celebrities here.
  • The one and only Jaromir Jagr, hockey player. 
  • Petr Cech, football goalie. 
  • And Jakub Kornfeil, moto3 rider.
Anna: It is a shame but I don´t know. I really don't love any Czech character from the books or movies.


Thank you, Marky, Karolina, and Anna, for this very informative post! Come back next week for a post all about The Czech Republic!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Cuba, Venezuela, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, and Iraq.

Do you have any characters from the Czech Republic? Did this inspire you to write a Czech character or set a book in the Czech Republic? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Marky, Karolina, and Anna? Be sure to thank them!

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