Christmas is coming, once more. The city of Prague gleams with warm and colorful lights, while its squares are filled with traditional markets characterized by little wooden shops, hot drinks, sparkling ornaments and Santa’s miniatures.
The Czech Republic is famous for its peculiar customs. Different types of food are eaten due to their special properties during Christmas time: garlic gives strength to those eating its slices, honey protects from the evil, mushrooms foster health, apples are used to feed goats to produce sweet milk on Christmas Eve.
Beyond these ancient beliefs, there’s one that we find particularly significant, one that carries a strong sense of hospitality and goodwill. Since centuries ago, Czechs have added an extra plate to their banquet implying the possibility of welcoming an unexpected guest to sit at the table.
The guest might be a friend whose arrival was not planned, or a person in need looking for shelter and a hot meal. We like to think that it might be an expat too.
Most European citizens living in the country normally fly home to spend some days with their family and friends, but does this apply to all expats in Czechia?
A good number of people coming from non-European countries regularly face high prices when booking continental flights that usually take almost a full day to reach the destination.
Therefore, plenty of expats decide to spend the end of the year in the Czech Republic, missing the warmth of their beloved living thousands of kilometers from them.
Foreigners supports the following concept: understand different. By putting ourselves into others’ shoes we achieve a better understanding of those coming from diverse countries with distinct religion, behaviors, and routines.
In a certain sense, this blog post refers to all Czech people and their custom of adding a further spot to their Christmas feast. What if that empty chair was left for an expat you get along with, somebody that might be willing to join you and your family on the happiest day of the years?
We know what you’re thinking: grandma may turn up her nose when hearing of the Mexican mate who’ll sit next to her at lunch, while grandpa – who spent a life under Russian occupation – might not appreciate the Russian girl you started dating a few months ago who’s bringing pelmeni as the main dish.
Those feelings are totally understandable: we fear what we don’t understand, and some of the former generations didn’t have the actual chance of traveling enough to get exposed to far-away cultures.
The language is another great barrier: only a few foreigners have learnt enough Czech to speak fluently, make jokes and express feelings in a wide fashion.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t think that the abovementioned issues can’t turn into something positive. The Mexican homemade burrito could surprise your Moravian uncle, and some Russian Polka has never killed anybody.
The linguistic obstacles themselves may deliver funny moments: a perfect understanding is not always necessary to establish a good connection with others, and it’ll be definitely more interesting to host a Chinese friend from Beijing than your Wallachian neighbor from your home village.
To conclude, we at Foreigners believe that welcoming someone new in our familial circle can bring great vibes for Christmas and beyond. This mental attitude should be applied not only on holidays or special events but during the whole year.
Helping others to feel at home when abroad is not only a good deed, something that should be praised, it’s also a good investment for ourselves, giving us a real chance to exit our comfort zone, understand the world better and feel part of a wider picture.
Pics taken from everypixel.com