1. Embrace the Slavic language family (plus German) 

Thanks to the magic of Facebook (I used to bash Facebook, but you can use it in so many different ways)  I can practice understanding chat conversations in German, Slovene, Croatian, Czech and Slovak, like I did yesterday. Why do I do this? I have no idea, it’s just my idea of having a good time. I enjoy making lists of words in every Slavic language. Except Polish. Somehow that one gets sort of past my radar. It’s purely because of the way it’s written, they use our alphabet, but have a cumbersome way to write typical Slavic sounds. There are big differences between Slavic languages, Slovene is very different from Russian for example, but some words are almost always the same in every Slavic language and after a while you can sort of guess the meaning of a new word at least 20 to 30 percent of the time.

Counting to ten is very similar in all Slavic languages for example.

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2. Do you miss Belgium?

I have lived in Slovakia since June and I get this question every week.

My answer is no. I don’t read any Belgian news, don’t follow any Belgian newspaper, show or anything. News about Belgium comes to me purely through talking to friends.

Do I miss anything about Belgium? Yeah, first of all my mum, who’s the sweetest person in the world, very open-minded, loves to enjoy life and is just a lot fun to be around. I suppose that’s why I fall for self-confident fun loving, open-minded women with a huge EQ.

And I do miss French fries, who are of course called Belgian fries or frieten. They are the best. The ‘hranolky’ over here are not that good. And Belgian mayonaise is better than ‘tatarska’.

Belgian

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Slovak (an extreme case I must admit, but a real one…)

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If I would have to go back, I wouldn’t go back to Belgium. I would go and live in the Netherlands, probably Rotterdam or England, most likely London.

Oh, one other thing that I do miss about Belgium, and many Belgian won’t believe me, but: our administrative systems are almost fully automated. Filling in your taxes is a breeze in Belgium compared to the paper onslaught you can expect in Slovakia.

3. People don’t want to belong to a club that accepts them as a member

When I’m very open and very eager to be around a person, this person seems to close off and be less interested. On the other hand when a person is like hooked on me, writes me every day, wants to know everything about me, adores me, sprays me with compliments, I have exactly the same reaction. A mixture of gratitude and… disgust or at least a certain ‘ickiness’. We like to get attention, but from sources that we value. We don’t like to be idealized.

What is it about people that makes us behave this way?

We always seem to want something else than what we are getting.

That’s not so awesome, is it?

I’m sure there’s a way to deal with this in a satisfying way and when I find it, it’s gonna be…

Awesome.

4. What are Slovaks like?

Not a week goes by without this question popping up either.

So, a short answer.

On the bright side:

-uncorrupted. I mean, the people, not the government. There’s an innocence about people here that Dutch people or people in Western-Europe no longer have.

-cheerful. Outside of work, that is. Outside of work Slovaks are very sweet, they have a certain appetite for the simple things in life that is just not real in the West, in the West people seem to force themselves to enjoy the little things in life but they can’t hide the fact that it’s not enough for them. Over here people are genuinely happy with little things. Maybe this is still a trend in the aftermath of communism. People don’t take abundance of material goods for granted. Yet.

-gender roles are clear. Feminist will scream, but over here a man is a man and a woman is a woman. There’s a bigger barrier between the sexes somehow, but it’s also more clear what’s expected of you. Also, as a forgeigner you have an advantage over the local men. Women around here are so not used to a guy who actually remembers what they say.

-Modest. They don’t brag. They may want to show off their car, but other than that they are modest. They also have a kind of self-effacing humor.

-Formal. At first I was annoyed by this, but they still have quite a few rules to behave in public life. Like they have an obsession with using the correct title for people, if you hold a master’s degree or not, or when you should use to polite form (vykanie)  or the informal way of speaking to people (tykanie), but in a way this makes things easy, you know what to expect. And it’s sweet every time a person makes an effort to switch from vykanie to tykanie with you.

On the dark side:

-not open-minded. They are easily shocked. And they will judge, they will categorize you.

-conflict avoiders. If they don’t like something, or if they are prejudiced towards you, they won’t come to you and find out if they are right about you or not, they will just ignore you and put you in their box of damnation.

-no alcohol, no conversation. This is true for the men.

-q uite a few of the women are obsessed with the way the look. A woman like that is referred to as a ‘pipinka’, apparently.

-complaining and critizing without taking any initiative to change anything. That could be a human trait in general.

These are generalizations of course, you have fantastic people around here and awful people too, just like in any other country.

5. We can simply tell people how to treat us. Yes, we can!

Why not just tell people what you like and what you don’t like?

So often we just ‘ghost’ people or avoid people when they rub us the wrong way. Why not just tell them how to rub us?

Most people respond very well to that.