Some like it cold
It has repeatedly made its way into my conversation this winter how much Czechs love heating their homes. Now, you have every right to ask 'who doesn't?'– but I can furnish you with a definitive answer - us stoic, northern, British types – at least not as much as our, in many cases long-suffering, in some cases utterly scandalised, Czech neighbours.
Yes, I hear you cry, but what does this have to do with Czechs? Anyone in their right mind, of any nationality, does not enjoy courting the initial symptoms of hypothermia. Well, I would say that for a country known for its harsh, continental winters, the Czech Republic's inhabitants are none too happy about having to stand the cold. In fact, I'd say they are pretty wussy as far as cold is concerned. The first autumn leaf falls down, and the heating gets cranked right up.
I don't like to feel like a freeloader, but I must admit that I have only heated my house once this winter, and even that was to allay the concerns of a Czech visitor worried about my health in such, relative, cold. The rest of the time, my neighbours have been churning out heat from left and right, from above and below. And I don't even live in a 'panelak' or block of flats – which are known for having wafer-thin walls through which heat escapes faster than you can say ‘ahh, what a comfortable temperature’.
Now, I realise that I am the odd one out (with a real emphasis on the word odd). I'm sure my neighbours across the road find it unusual to see a yeti-like creature crossing its own living quarters swaddled in all of its coats and blankets at once. And I know for a fact that these same individuals found it almightily weird to see a Scottish girl dining al-fresco on the balcony and basking in, er... the January sun. There was definitely some pointing, and some photos may have even been taken.
When I asked a Czech recently about the three years they spent in Oxford, forget the dreaming spires, forget the fine education, they first thing they said was 'they were the coldest years of my life'. I have even heard the cold in Britain cited by Czechs as a reason not to live there. But I suppose what always surprises me is how much milder it actually is back in Britain, and how Czechs don't realise how cold they have it here. But I suppose that is not surprising, given that Czech homes are turned into a balmy, exotic, some might say inhabitable, microclimate for eight or so months of the year.