Friday, October 4, 2013

On Cultural Differences...

If you've traveled anywhere at all, or stayed in another country for an extended period of time, you've probably picked up on some cultural differences.  You know what I'm talking about, those idiosyncrasies that make a place, well, a place.  Distinct sets of beliefs or practices that stand out from one culture to another.

I find these cultural differences both intriguing and at times frustrating.

Let me preface this by saying, I do not think Americans have it all right and I do not think Slovaks have it all right.  Of course each culture has their pro's and con's.  Each culture has also been influenced differently from others, thus creating these beliefs and practices.  These are simply some observations of a mama living outside of her home culture in another culture :)

I'm thinking more along the lines of raising babies cross-culturally because that's mostly what I've been doing since living overseas.  That's just to say that we've faced some various cultural differences regarding child-raising that we have found in contrast to how we ourselves were raised.

Let's list a few, shall we?

1.  Drinking cold water.  This is a no-go here.  Cold water can lead to a sore throat or head cold.  From what we've experienced this is a belief even in the summer months.  We've been corrected on many an occasion for giving E cold water to drink for fear of her getting sick.

2.  Wearing a hat outside no matter what.  Hot, cold, warm, or cool, kids here always have on hats.  There have been quite a few times, particularly when it's been warm, that I've taken our babies out without hats on and have gotten many a look.  It's just not a thing you do around these parts.  The head always needs to be covered.

3.  Sitting on the (cool) ground.  It's a belief here that sitting (or lying) on a cold floor or ground will not fare well for a girl's nether regions.  I think this has long been practiced and warned against, thus the caution.  From what I've gleaned, the cold from the floor/ground could also lead to sickness.  This one was new and interesting for us to encounter when we came here two and a half years ago.

4.  Wearing shoes inside.  It's not generally welcomed to go barefoot or to wear just socks around inside.  A lot of people provide slippers at the door for you to slip on when you come in.  The idea behind this is also fear of getting sick, I believe.

5.  Putting babies in front of a fan.  I've been asked on many an occasion why I allow my babies to sit in front of the fan (mostly just during the summer months).  It's not a welcomed idea, but let me just say, when it's roasting hot outside, I'll stick a baby by a fan ;)

(photos taken at a market in Eastern Slovakia and Bratislava)

I have to say, we chose to live in another culture where things were done differently than we were used to.  We know the heart behind most of the scolding, correcting, or encouraging that we've gotten has been for wanting to protect our sweet babies...and we appreciate that.  It would be the same as if a Slovak were to live for an extended period of time in America.  They would find our customs and thought processes interesting (perhaps burdensome?) at times.  It's just par for the course.

We've learned a lot about being culturally sensitive, yet firm, in our beliefs on bringing up the children God's given us to raise.  It's challenging!  And humbling.  Glad we've experienced it firsthand and hopefully we can glean from it for years to come :)

Now, I want to know, have YOU experienced any cultural differences that have surprised you or caught you off guard?  How did you handle them?  Do share, I'm curious ;)


  1. haha - I totally remember when you were pregnant with E and we were sitting on the stairs outside the DEPO, someone came out with a cushion and insisted you sit on it :)

  2. We have experienced every one of the things you described, in Slovakia. It's comforting, in a funny way, to know that Slovak culture hasn't changed that much (as least as it relates to parenting). One of our favorite lines was told to us (only a little tongue in cheek) by a Slovak woman who had lived in the U.S. for a while, "A GOOD Slovak mother will keep her baby dressed so warmly that the baby will have heat rash."

    As your kids get older there will be a lot less uninvited advice. I don't know why, but the old ladies start to leave you alone once your kids get to be about 10 or so. I guess they assume that they've survived this long, maybe they're going to live. =)

  3. Only one of these practices which makes sense is socks inside the house w/ slippers--not tracking in the dirt, making housekeeping easier. Of course we like bare feet in the warm months and would prefer no slippers. Rooted in older times when it was impossible to weather-proof a home?

    1. Good point, Jane Anne...that didn't cross my mind about the no shoes thing, but that would make a lot of sense. I'm sure you guys have faced a few cultural differences where you are too :)

  4. Love reading these cultural things and seeing pictures from around Slovakia!

  5. Basically, everything will make you sick, ha! Noted. Not wearing your shoes inside homes is a big deal in Hawaii too. They don't provide slippers (that would be nice though!) (in fact, flip flops are always called slippers in Hawaii) but to keep the dirt/germs out and that's a very Asian-cultural thing, which Hawaii is highly influenced by. PS- What is the guy in the first picture drinking out of??

    1. Ah ha, Steph, that pic comes after the drinking point, but in fact he's not drinking at all...he's playing a handmade Slovak/Czech instrument (forgot the name of it though)...kinda cool, huh?

  6. I've only ever been pregnant overseas (never in America) so the advice has never seemed to end! Eating Ice while pregnant will give your baby jaundice. So will laying said baby on a yellow sheet. If you eat pineapples while pregnant, you'll have a miscarriage (because pineapples are, "Sharp"). You need to stay as warm as possible and never shower for at least a month after giving make sure that hair is clean on delivery day! Shave your baby's head sometime after its born (within the first 6 months if you're a good parent, within the first year if you care at ALL about your child) as the hair gets "unclean" on, it'll make your baby's hair grow in much nicer. Don't cross the threshold of your house for 44 days after delivery. Bury the placenta under the front steps for good luck. Use shavings of baby's hair to make a calligraphy brush with which will help the child to have good luck all his life when he uses it. ...and that's just a few!

    I personally had a Pizza Hut waitress deny my order of Hawaiian Chicken pizza when I was 36 weeks pregnant. Homegirl wouldn't budge...but how could she? No one could just ALLOW a woman to bring harm to her unborn baby with allllll that pineapple. :)


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