Czechs: a nation of cauliflower eaters

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When you ask foreigners living in the Czech Republic how they perceive Czechs and whether there are any typically Czech qualities, they usually avoid answering the question, saying they don’t want to generalize. However, after spending nearly two years in an office with three Brits, I couldn’t fail to notice some of their remarks. Talking about Czech stereotypes may be a dangerous thing if you are a foreigner, but as a Czech, I feel I have the right to do so.

One thing my colleagues agreed upon was that Czechs love to “dress up”. At first I didn’t really know what they meant. But now, whenever I see a man dressed up as a knight walking through the streets of Prague with a sword in his hand (and that, believe me, happens quite often), I admit there might be something to my colleagues’ remarks. It is true that Czechs love historical fairs, where people dress up as peasants or knights, sell hand-made products and liquor.

“Dressing up”, however, is apparently not the strangest Czech quirk. My former colleague Rosie once complained that her Czech friend had nothing in the fridge apart from beef stock cubes. That didn’t seem so strange to me, until she added that keeping stock in the fridge was a “typically Czech thing”. I thought that was ridiculous and as a Czech, I felt rather offended. That is, until a few weeks later, when I was cooking soup and automatically opened the fridge to get some stock cubes. So, she was right after all….

Another observation also comes from my former colleague. When it comes to typical Czech food, forget about dumplings, cabbage or pork. According to Rosie, Czechs are the biggest cauliflower eaters in the world. It is true that we have numerous ways of preparing this rather bland vegetable. The most popular is of course “smažený květák” – fried cauliflower, but also popular is the so-called “květákový mozeček” – cauliflower brain, a rather uninviting mixture of egg and boiled cauliflower.

My foreign friends have also remarked upon the Czech practice of “freezing children to sleep”. In other words, when we want to lull a baby to sleep, we wrap the child up in a warm blanket and put it in a pram by an open window. The cold air works magic. For myself, I have only noticed one “typically British quirk” over time: my colleagues keep the heating down even when it’s freezing cold outside. So now I always bring an extra sweater to work.