Ruth's Diary


I may not yet be renting anywhere, but I've now been in Ostrava for nearly 2 weeks and have begun my training proper, along with 3 other new recruits that live on the same floor as me in the hotel and with whom I just generally hang out with. But I really need to be here for a while to understand the Czech mentality, their approach to things, their general identity. As familiar as aspects feel, considering that some of the buildings and architecture are exactly the same as what you'd find in Germany, and that like many Germans the Czechs generally hold themselves back as far as affection goes, not too touchy-feely, but they love to smile and are always helpful. And they will always say goodbye to you. Understandable that restaurant staff will bid you farewell so you'd want to go back as customers, but when I was getting on a train to come here, I had other passengers randomly offering to help me with my luggage, and since the long-distance trains have seats arranged in private 'cars' of 6 seats, they always say their farewell to the 'car' when they disembark.

Anyways, I wanted to just write certain things about the Czechs and Ostrava, the city I'm now in. One thing I've noticed is that the Czechs very much prioritise comfort, apparently because feeling such security will improve their job performance. So it's very normal for a number of Czechs (not all of them) to carry a pair of slippers or sandals to work, so that they can wear them in the workplace. Fair enough in an office, but I always find it so jarring when I see a smartly dressed waitress walking around in sandals or crocs. As a former waitress myself I'm...convinced it looks unprofessional. Mind you, I have been told by someone at work that the Czechs have multiple pairs of slippers by their front doors so that visitors can take off their shoes and use a pair of slippers available. How Japanese.

What I find more interesting is what Ostrava as a city is doing to change from its original reputation as an industrial, smoggy, decrepid place to live in. A lot of the industry here has shut down and the thing that first struck me when I was shown around Ostrava was...just how green it is. Coming from London, it's noticeable to me. There are trees and lawns everywhere. Also, many of the blocks of flats (there are hardly any houses here) are getting a repaint, if they haven't been repainted already. To give them each an individual distinction, they get painted in all kinds of colours: orange, yellow, turquoise, red, brown. Oh, er, I don't mean there are buildings completely painted red, I mean, a mixture of any colour is used in the patterns and decorations of the buildings. Another thing that is VERY noticeable here is that every living dwelling has double-glazed windows. I'm guessing it must have been a government-paid service 'cos it isn't exactly cheap. And in relation every Czech interior is just overheated; Czechs are afraid of cold for some reason, which is bizarre considering that it seems to hit the lower temperatures far more easily here than in mild Britain. The best thing to do is to wear a very thick coat with a relatively thin top underneath, then you don't suffer too much with the transitions. (Is heating cheap here?)

The last thing to note would be that, while a sizeable chunk is taken out of the pay packets to pay for tax and health/social insurance, the indirect taxes here are actually rather low. The VAT (called the DPH here - no clue what that means) is only 10% on groceries and travel, while anywhere involving service ie. restaurants demands 20%. Why there's this difference I have no clue.

Oh and why are there so many BMWs and Bentleys here? In fact, how is it so many have been able to afford cars at all? I've noticed many are 2nd hand but considering how excellent public transport is here, and how expensive fuel is (fuel costs are exactly the same here as back in the UK) I don't understand why so many have bothered. But if you do have a car, at least have the decency to wash it.

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