Man surprised by a sausage - Being Girl in Czechland
By: Mrs. A - Also see author's expat blog listingWhy did I move to the Czech Republic? The answer is simple.
It’s a love story.
My tale is not unusual: woman meet tall dark foreign stranger and is whisked off to his homeland to live a new life. Or at least it seemed that way judging from a quick browse of the other expat blogs out there in cyberspace. Indeed it was reading a copy of Petite Anglaise, the book in which Catherine Sanderson recounts how sharing the highs and lows of her romantic adventures as an English woman in Paris changed her life, which persuaded me that sharing my thoughts on living in a different country was something worth doing.
Leaving London for Prague was a bold move, perhaps even reckless, especially since I’d sworn off living abroad forever after a miserable year in haughty, unyielding Paris.
I hoped I would find life here tolerable. I never expected to fall head over heels in love with all things Czech. Apart from the unsmiling shop assistants who growl at you if you dare to present them with the exact change. And although those cobblestones in the Old Town are certainly part of the city’s picturesque charm, they do wreak havoc on a lady’s heels.
I began blogging as a way to keep in touch with friends and family as well as to make sense of what I was experiencing. Moving abroad won’t suddenly transform you into a writer but taking yourself out of your familiar environment and having new experiences on a daily basis will give you plenty of potential material – if you know where to look.
Girl in Czechland began with some pigs trotters and a man being surprised by a rather long sausage. This was soon followed by a post featuring the strangely menacing mannequins I saw in C&A – yes, they’re still going strong here – and another where I observed that most Czech words seem to be made up of the letters left over in a game of Scrabble. My struggle with the language continues.
I didn’t feel like I was experiencing the truly deep sense of culture shock which I might have undergone if I’d opted to base myself somewhere more exotic but I had noticed plenty of little differences. Let’s call them culture shivers. Woe betide you if you forget to collect your toilet roll before entering the cubicle of a public toilet. And why do the practical Czechs insist on wearing those silly looking headbands rather than something which might actually keep their heads warm?
Becoming an expat blogger hasn’t brought me infinite riches nor has Mr Spielberg offered to buy the rights to my life story. However, I have gained a good deal from serving up regular slices of my expat life online including a small income from advertising, some paid writing gigs and a few new real life friends. I’ve gained a substantial Czech following too: it seems the locals are interested in hearing what an outsider has to say about their country provided those observations are presented in an entertaining yet sensitive manner.
What tips would I give to those thinking of chronicling their own expat adventures in the blogosphere?
- Who are you writing for? Is your aim to create an online diary for friends and family or would you like to reach a wider audience? If it’s the latter, you’re going to need to tailor your content accordingly.
- Don’t be afraid to criticize – controversy is a great way to get a dialogue going - but do be respectful when commenting on the foibles of the natives. Humour can be a useful way of sugaring the pill. Fortunately for me, the Czechs and the British apparently share a fondness for dry wit!
- Have something positive to say though – nobody wants to read rant after rant of homesick whingeing. After all, it’s your choice to be in your host country so if you really can’t stand it, don’t stay!
- There’s a subtle but important difference between a travel and an expat blog. I come to an expat blog to get an insider’s perspective on the day-to-day business of living in a particular country and the challenges I might expect to face should I choose to settle there. Some posts might read more like travelogues but basically I recommend trying to capture the quirky and the offbeat moments you’ve experienced that a tourist or traveler would miss out on.
- Much of my blog’s insider perspectives come from my interactions with my partner’s family – aka The Village People – who have become minor stars on the blog. Which brings me to my next point – how personally revealing are you prepared to be? Catherine Sanderson’s blog Petite Anglaise centred around the highs and lows of her relationship with Mr Frog; my own Czechman already gets a bit grumpy when his foibles become material for the blog so I have to be careful to respect his privacy while still allowing some of our misunderstandings to find their way into a post. He also got a bit cross when I let it slip to a journalist that he managed to escape military service because he’s allergic to apples. Oops. Anonymity might be one answer to this dilemma but remember it may be a matter of time before someone finds out who you are: even super star erotic blogger Belle De Jour got exposed (if you’ll excuse the pun!).
- Make it look pretty but again not in an obvious way. Enrich your posts with photographs of the overlooked and the unusual rather than the typical tourist snapshots.
How much can a place contribute to happiness? Surely wellbeing is more than a matter of geography? The answer is yes and at the same time no. It’s the circumstances that you find yourself in which add to or diminish your enjoyment of life. While I’ll never be the kind of Brit who berates everything about their homeland, I’m so glad I was brave enough to take the plunge and give living abroad another country a second try.
About the author:Mrs. A is a British woman who as well as blogging about her expat adventures, works as a freelance journalist and university lecturer.
Blog address: http://girlinczechland.com/ Twitter: @GirlInCzechland
Contest Comments » There are 2 comments
Hi GIC/Lisette - your story is slightly more unusual in that you are an English-speaking woman who fell in love with your Czechman. Two thirds of my weddings - which may or may not be a significant sample - are the other way around. Secondly, I concur entirely, 'it’s your choice to be in your host country so if you really can’t stand it, don’t stay!' Wise advice which I wish one or two expats I meet online &/or in the flesh, would take.
I absolutely adore Girl in Czechland and her posts. I live in the States, but my parents, grandparents, etc., were all born & raised in CZ, thus I feel more Czech than American (well, err, at times). What she notices about CZ and it's people, and her opinions, are genius. I have to laugh because at one time or another, I have thought the exact same thing! Keep writing, GIC, because you have one reader that would miss you so. Eva