After two days of my Czech intensive course, I am certain my professor is Bernadette Peters’ grandmother. If I’m going to spend nearly five hours a day with any professor, I would want it to be Jitka. Everything is dramatic with her. We must smile broadly as we say dobry den, get angry when we ask were the beer is, and never wish a Czech “Dobry rano” on the tram because they are grumpy in the morning and they will kick you. When we perform even the smallest feat of pronunciation correctly, she says,"Gooooooood" in the manner of the witch in Hansel and Gretel.
Czechs are strange people, Jitka explains. You will never hear a Czech say she has money and you will never hear her say she has time. If you ask her how she is, she will thank you and tell you things are terrible, or perhaps so-so. You will never hear her say that things are excellent because something terrible might happen tomorrow. A Czech will use the moment as an opportunity to complain about how he has no money or time. If there is one thing Czechs love to do, it’s complain.
Some invaluable phrases I’ve learned from Jitka:
Cas je penize. (Time is money.)
To je zivot. (That’s life.)
To je skoda. (What a pity.)
Skoda is also a popular car manufacturer based in the Czech Republic, and the brand name of the car is Pity, which is all part of the Czech passion for complaining.
Czechs also love beer, says Jitka. You may come to Prague and see cheap beer, but it is not good for diet. That is why many Czech men have large bellies. For them, five beers in a day is nothing. But beer is more expensive now, it used to be two crowns. Then, fifteen beers in a day was nothing for them. If you come to Prague and drink cheap beer and eat cheap food, it is not good for diet. It is disaster.
The more I’m in Prague, the more I realize that I need to learn more Czech. I want to be able to ask for specific types of rolls at cafes, I want to know what the creepy Czech waiters that hit on me at the cafe today were saying. I want to make witty comebacks.