won't take no for an answer

If you are a polite person in Czech culture, you are relentlessly negative.

Example: a friend invites you to his or her home. At the door, you take off your shoes (an essential habit that respects the cleanliness of the home as opposed to the dirty streets outside). What will you host say? "Oh, no, don't bother! It's fine to keep your shoes on!" But if you know how to interpret this correctly, you will take off your shoes, regardless of how many times the host says, "No, not necessary!"

Another example:
Your host asks you if you want something to drink. You must first say "no, no, no." Then the host starts naming drinks: tea, coffee, water, maybe beer or wine. Again you say no. Then again the host repeats the list, and now you can say "yes, I'd love a cup of tea."
Last example: my husband's aunt Dobromila, who lived in Prague all her life, was a frequent guest in my husband's home. On New Year's Eve every year she was part of the celebration, which involved a toast at midnight and then a light meal. By the time the festivities were over, the trams were not running so she needed to take a taxi home. Under communism getting her a taxi was a big deal, as my in-laws were not allowed a telephone and taxis were a rare expense.

Their neighbor Jarka, who was also invited to the party, would offer that Dobromila sleep in her spare bed in her flat next door. "No, no, no, no, no" was the first response from Aunt Dobromila. This exchange happened every year for many, many years, and both women knew that Dobromila would, of course, stay with Jarka. But the ritual was respected, and there were at least three "please stay--no, no, no" interchanges before the "yes."

So the normal, expected polite answer to any offer is "no." Only after repeated offers and exploratory alternatives can one say yes. Here, literally, people don't take "no" for an answer.


Popular posts from this blog

Read all about the wonders and treasures of the Golden City--Prague!

Prague wakes up!