Over Here: A Cross-Cultural Observation

Two young girls and their grandmother

As my time in Prague comes to a close, I kindly choose to retract, or rather, reflect on my thoughts about the Czech people.

It was I who found it easy to give a superficial label to all Czech people, seeing them as cold and reserved. For the time being, I do still find this to be true given the struggling history the generations have been faced with. But to add more depth to my view, I chose to observe the people in a different way — in a way only I, a young Mexican-American woman, could.

To an American, individualism is key. The American way is to raise yourself up from your boot straps and make something out of what you’ve been given. It’s all centered on the individual, regardless of what the family may be doing.

Mexican people see things a bit differently.

We are shown how important the family is. You can bet that your mama and your tias will know all the gossip, entertaining their afternoons with some juicy story from the night before. At the same time, you can also bet they will have your back, no matter what trouble you cause them.

On our day trip to Plzeň, home of the famous Pilsner beer, the similarities between Czechs and myself really dawned on me.

I observed two young girls with their grandmother. Very well-behaved they ate their ice cream, remaining on the bench the whole time and whether they were or weren’t ok with that, they did not fuss — for the most part.

Some research led me to find that to Czechs the family is key. It is the center of their social structure and likewise, placed above work. More research confirmed the observation of the younger generation’s attitude towards their elders. With much respect, the youth is taught to value their elders even if it means putting their personal desires aside.

I found myself relating this to my personal experiences with my family. Many times I’d find myself confused, complaining over something not going my way. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why we had to be “ruled” by our parents. I’d revolt and convince myself that I was my own person with my own dreams — separate of anything my parents wanted. I tried to distance myself from my family and prove that I was responsible and mature. That’s the American coming out in me.

With a few years and several “coming of age” experiences, I came to realize what my mother always said to me: You’ll thank me when you’re older. With a heightened perspective, I came to realize that everything I’d accomplished was not just a result of my actions, but of the care, respect and hard work from all my immediate family members. Each had affected my life in direct and indirect ways.

As I patiently observed the two young girls on the bench, I found a part of myself resembling each one of them. The younger one, fussing slightly, still immature and questioning the meaning to parental control. The older one, staring off into the distance — daydreaming. Thoughts filling her young mind, but patiently understanding the way things need to be — the way our family intends for them to be.

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