Ever heard of the United States of America? Yeah. I thought so. Ask your typical American the same question about Slovakia, and the answer you receive might be a little different. Back in the day when I followed my heart (her name is Marta) to this little place that doesn’t exist to most of the free world, I was shocked to find that nobody really had a clue about Slovakia.
In the weeks leading up to my move to the Slovak Republic, or “The Slovak Repub” as I like to call it when I’m feeling a little “gangsta”, the questions that I got were somewhat humorous. It usually went something like this… “ Where was it that you said you were moving?” I would then tell them that I was moving to Slovakia, and nine times out of ten I would get, “ Oh yeah Czechoslovakia, I have heard of that”. I would then explain that Czechoslovakia hasn’t existed since 1993, and there really is a place called Slovakia. The next question that I usually got was, “Isn’t that part of Russia?” “Um…no” Finally, most of these people with concern in their eyes would ask me if it was a dangerous place. This just proves how little the rest of the world knows about the place I now call my home.
Now, when I am stateside, everyone wants to hear about the mysterious “third-world” land that I live in. They ask me crazy outlandish questions with straight faces. Questions such as: Do they have ____ in Slovakia? I hope that you noticed the blank space here. If you are one of these people, this is where you simply insert an object, food, or anything common to everyday life. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked if we have television, the Internet, or microwave ovens. Why microwaves? But really, I’ve gotten that one a lot.
A few years ago, I was teaching in Bratislava. I taught both at a Gymnazium, and also for a language school. One of my students at Siemens once told me a story about her daughter, Alenka, who was also one of my students at Gymnazium. She told the tale of a 10-year-old Alenka going to the U.S. on a trip with her folklore group. During her time there she stayed with three different host families. When she got to the first host family she was ceremonially presented with a toothbrush, and dental floss as a welcome gift. It was clear that these people thought she had just arrived from some nation with extreme poverty. Upon arrival at the following two host families, believe it or not, this sweet little girl was presented with toothbrushes and more dental floss. Alenka’s mom said these people were simply shocked when Alenka pulled out her cell phone and made the call to check in. She also said that she was a bit surprised that her daughter had traveled to America, and all she brought back was a suitcase full of dental hygiene products.
By no means am I trying to say that Americans are stupid because they are not. Many amazing people and great minds have come from the good old U. S. of A. Rather, I am just trying to point out how little the world knows about the beautiful country that is Slovakia. I think it is quite typical that smaller countries know so much about the big superpowers, and the superpowers regularly know very little about the little guys. In the case of Slovakia, I love it here, it is my home, and to be honest, maybe it’s better if we continue to be overlooked. When I go home to the United States, I love to tell my friends and family about my love for kopanice and Slovakia (excluding Bratislava of course). I tell them of the caring hospitable people, and the beautiful nature (Slovak girls included), then I quickly place my finger upon my lips and say shh… don’t tell anyone.
by Matt Haarman
Year 2, Issue 3