The trouble with compliments / Trampoty s komplimentyThe trouble with compliments | Czechmatediary
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The trouble with compliments / Trampoty s komplimenty

If you still have trouble figuring out if you are Czech or part-Czech this is a test question number 179:


Let me give you an example. If someone says, let’s say:”You look nice today!” Do you simply answer “Thank you” or do you start babbling about how that is not really true because you really need a haircut and your dress does not really match the shoes or  do you dis-validate the compliment by saying “Oh, that’s just the make up I am wearing – you do not want to see me without it!”

I have lived in this positive, compliment-abounding country for 12 years and I STILL have problem with this! I don’t know how about you but that one is hard to change…Why is that?

Let’s have a vote on that! (vote below)

CZ: Nemyslite, ze Cesi spatne prijimaji komplimenty? Ja osobne s tim neustale bojuji (i po dvanacti letech zijici v pozitivni, komplimentami zasypavajici Americe) a jak jsem se tak zeptala kolem, tak me ceske kamaradky s tim take mnohdy zapasi. A co vy? A proc vlastne??

Do you have problem accepting compliments? / Prijimate spatne komplimenty?

View Results

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27 comments… add one
  • Scott Phillips March 21, 2011, 1:57 am

    Always have and still do. So further proof of my Czech DNA! However, I just did a terrible job on my first try at making knedliky, so what does that say?

  • Eva Z March 21, 2011, 7:26 am

    It depends. Usually of course I am happy when someone is complimenting me, however, only if it is genuine. And that’s the problem here. A lot of times people compliment you only to make a small talk without actually meaning it. I have seen people compliment other people on their superbly hideous skirt, reindeer sweater, shoes that belonged to a garbage can, hair that would make you have bad dreams at night, etc….so how can you possibly take compliments seriously, especially if it comes in a day when you don’t feel particularly happy with your hair, outfit, etc.

  • Eva Z March 21, 2011, 7:32 am

    I also have a story about complimenting that would make anyone queasy…at least I hope. One of my colleagues does this thing when she sees me first thing in the morning at work, where she starts yelling in a very high pitch voice, jump like a puppy and exclaim how fantastic I look, how pretty I am, how this skirt, pants, top, dress, shoes…..are gorgeous and where do I get all these great things, etc. Sometimes she adds that I look like a Barbie doll or something absurd like that. You can imagine that at that point I feel like jumping through the unopened window… Although I have tried to brush it off, or say to myself that she means well, it got to the point where I started to avoid her if it meant to run through the office with a coffee in one hand and fake-talking on the phone, only so that she cannot do her thing again…. btw, this woman is 35….not 5.

  • Scott Phillips March 21, 2011, 7:50 am

    You are SO funny, Eva! Your comment about shoes and a reindeer sweater are great! So funny!

    Yes, you are SO correct too about insincere and fake compliments!

    Or a compliment from someone to your face, only to hear them trash you the minute you walk by!

  • Eva Z March 21, 2011, 8:08 am

    Thanks, Scott! Striving to make the best of Monday morning 🙂

  • Tanja March 21, 2011, 11:15 am

    Scott, were you raised by Czech parents?
    PS: about your knedliky experiment: that is my test question number 119:
    Did you mess up your first knedliky recipe?
    A/ if the answer is NO, then you are NOT Czech because you really weren’t nervous enough to mess up the recipe, hence you do not care enough about the Czech cultrue
    B/ if the answer is YES, then you ARE Czech – as a true Czech you were so nervous about doing a good job with this sacred meal that you probably lost few ounces of flour just by your hands shaking so much.

  • Tanja March 21, 2011, 11:20 am

    Haha – Evo, that’s so funny! Yes, I have met a few of those types. That’s just an American positivity (that we love so much) gone bad. I like your phone idea but maybe you should come up with something a little more permanent…Like you have a some kind of rare Czech-born sickness that is contagious within a 1 mile radius. Now you just have to come up with a name, something like “Leavemealoneitis”?

  • Elisabeth March 21, 2011, 11:35 am

    I was born and raised in Czech Republic. I have lived in USA for over 6 years now and I am slowly starting to change my mentality. I used to have problems accepting compliments, but now I just answer “Thank you”. I know that most of these compliments aren’t genuine, but it is easier to say “Thank you” than analyzing it and turning it into something negative. It is similar to the fake “American” smile and the “How are you?” question that nobody wants to know the answer to. In Czech Republic if someone asks you how are you doing, they care and they want to hear the answer. Here, I would not dare to start babbling about how bad my day has been so far and what are the newest health issues am I dealing with now. Unless the person is a close friend or a family member and I know that they aren’t in a hurry and they do want to hear the answer. However, I still keep it short and simple with minimum complaining because I don’t want spread too much negativity around. We Czechs, for the most part, are quite negative people compare to Americans. We are also more upfront when it comes to telling someone what we really think about them. I have met more fake people here in the past 6 years than I met in Czech Republic over two decades. I used to hate this shallowness and “fakeness”, but I learned to look at it as a part of this culture and I don’t analyze it anymore. I am trying not to take it personally.
    I didn’t have a chance to go back to Czech Republic for over 5 years, but when I went last year, I was shocked how much I changed. I was fed up very quickly with the negativity, rudeness and complaints from my Czech family, the neighbors, the shop assistants and people around me. Seeing someone rude and negative at a store in the morning almost ruined my whole day.
    I didn’t notice that when I lived there (it was a normal everyday thing), but since I was gone for so long and didn’t live in that I had a hard time coping with it. I also noticed how nosey Czech people can be compare to Americans who respect each others privacy.
    I think that the problems we Czechs have with compliments are in our roots and mentality, including the tough history. We grow up with low self-esteems and as children we have to work very hard to impress our parents and teachers. In my family there weren’t free compliments or positive words. You had to earn it. In USA kids are taught to believe in themselves and have more self esteem and freedom which sometimes backfires on the parents, teachers and the society. I think that Americans have more self-esteem than Czechs (mainly Czech women) and that is why we have a hard time accepting compliments. This is probably not true for all Czechs and all Americans, but it is something that I notice everyday.

  • Eva Z March 21, 2011, 11:36 am

    Tanja, you are hilarious, Leavemealoneitis is definitely a great idea! 🙂 But she would probably see through that….since she would see me talking to other people and they wouldn’t get sick 🙂

    Btw, where is that test of yours? Is it somewhere on your site?

  • Elisabeth March 21, 2011, 11:38 am

    Eva, you are hilarious! 🙂

  • Tanja March 21, 2011, 11:42 am

    No, that’s still to come 😉

  • Milena March 21, 2011, 11:53 am

    I used to have a problem accepting compliments also AND giving them as well. I don’t think it is in our Czech DNA, but it is a learned behavior. We were simply not taught to give or receive compliments. For the longest time I was uncomfortable in such situations not knowing how to respond. Then one day this topic came up in a conversion I had with one of my trusted colleagues and she gave me the “genius” resolution: simply say “thank you!”. I started practicing that and those situations are no longer the least uncomfortable. As far as those genuine vs. fake compliments, I recognize the difference. Than I allow myself to be happy about the “real” ones and don’t give a second thought to the fake ones.
    Just a note: keep in mind that we don’t see ourselves as others see us and we all don’t have the same taste. So even if we have a day when we don’t feel the best about ourselves because WE think that our hair doesn’t look its best, others might REALLY like it. Often, it is just in our own mind.

  • Dagmar March 21, 2011, 11:58 am

    Well Eva, you’ll just need to post a photo and let us decide for ourselves LOL..but i’m sure you are a “ravishing and uber-gorgeous Czech” just like the rest of us!!

  • Milena March 21, 2011, 12:01 pm

    Elisabeth you said it perfectly. This is a compliment.

  • Eva Z March 21, 2011, 12:31 pm

    Elisabeth, thank you 🙂 I fully agree with you. Most Czechs are just so negative. I have the same feeling whenever I come there….exactly the same answer to all “how are you”….they start naming all the bad that is going on, all the health problems, bringing all that negativity to your conversation. Why though? Why should you bother other people with your problems, especially health problems, when you meet them on the street. I don’t mean close friends of course, but others.

    And you are also right about the no compliment zone in our childhoods….My accomplishments were always dismissed as a common and expected thing, on the other hand, my weaknesses were mostly contrasted with other “better” children. It is hard to see world positively if the negativism is taught all your life.

  • Eva Z March 21, 2011, 1:12 pm

    Milena, I eventually learned the same, now I just say “thank you” and don’t analyze it. When it is meant for real, it pleases me, when it is not, I just get over it.

  • Alice March 21, 2011, 1:58 pm

    Elizabeth and Milena, you said it exactly right. I cannot agree more. Accomplishments expected and disappointments contrasted with other children. And being told “just say thank you” is what brought the compliment problem to my attention. I never made that mistake again! I have never posted in the forum section before but I just wanted to say how refreshing it is to find people who understand the way you were raised 🙂

  • Eva Z March 21, 2011, 2:10 pm

    Haha, Dagmar, beauty is in the eye of beholder, but thank you! 😉

  • Tanja March 21, 2011, 2:14 pm

    People, I highly recommend to read a comment section in this post:
    – especially what Jamie has to say; it touches on the same issues we are talking about here.

    Also, I think the reason why we don’t accept compliments well is because if we did, our inner-child (or inner-hamster?) tells us: “Oh-oh, now they will think that I am better than them or I have something that they don’t have and they will start to be jealous of me and I don’t want that!” and that makes us go the other way and answer in that complainer kind of way….at least that’s what my inner-hamster tells me ;). So then I have to punch the inner hamster over the head, go against my way and force myself to just say “thank you” even though it feels weird.

  • Eva Z March 21, 2011, 2:35 pm

    Tanja, just read the article about the Czechs being bad communicators and all the comments, very interesting! Btw, I agree with you and Vlastimil, middle of the way is best.

    I think that if someone in Czech Rep. gave you a compliment and you said “thank you,” you would worry that it would sound to the other person kind of like “Thank you, I know I am the most beautiful and wonderful person in the whole wide world.” I think you worry that you’d sound stuck up so that’s why you are trying to minimize your “achievements/beauty of your shoes”. Because we were taught that being confident is “stuck up” and complaining and minimizing is the way to answer.

  • Scott Phillips March 21, 2011, 4:08 pm

    Tanja, I was raised by a Czech grandmother.

    Eva ….. I remember once coming home with a B on a report card. I was very happy that I earned a B. I studied very hard, etc. My parents comment: “Your friend, Matt, got an A. How many others got A’s? I was crushed …. but came to expect that negativism the rest of my life. I also know I hate ‘fake’ compliments and people who will lie to your face with a compliment then talk ill of you when you are not there, especially at work. Grr!

    Now I must find that test, because YES, I am Czech … I was TOTALLY nervous about making my first knedliky, yes it was a disaster, yes, I was SO nervous as I recall how important a meal was if there was knedliky. And my mistake (which my mother was quick to point out) was not enough flour … I saw it was on the floor from falling from my shaking hands …… God I need a beer!

  • Jaryba March 22, 2011, 5:08 am

    Zajímavý je, že u mě to záleží na jazyku (žiju v Praze). Když mi někdo složí kompliment anglicky, nemám s tím problém, řeknu “Thank you” a kompliment mi udělá radost. Horší je to, když mě někdo chválí česky, začnu se cítit nepříjemně a mám pocit jako bych něco špatného udělala.

    And now for something completely different: Krteček poletí do vesmíru!

  • Eva Z March 22, 2011, 7:03 am

    Scott, that is so funny about your “B”. I had very similar experiences. Did you eventually master the art of knedliky? 🙂

  • Tanja March 22, 2011, 10:01 am

    Jarybo, velmi zajimave! Proc myslis, ze to tak je? A co kdyz te Cech pochvali anglicky? Nebo American cesky?? Jak to potom funguje?;)

  • Tanja March 22, 2011, 10:03 am

    PS: O krtkovi si urcite prectu

  • Vlastimil March 27, 2011, 6:29 pm

    My problem is different in USA…..I always get in trouble giving compliments….When I tell a woman “You have a nice haircut today” , she gives me a look saying “Get out of my face, I will not sleep with you”…When I hold door for a woman , she prefers to take another door.. I never got in trouble giving compliments to men, but sometimes those men get too friendly 😀 The best compliment I ever got was from my Indian co-worker….he told me : “Finally you look like human being ,,,, I see you have shaved”…. Compliments are (or are not) part of ethnic culture….

  • Eva Z March 28, 2011, 7:45 am

    Vlastimil 🙂 I had similar experience with my Indian co-worker…I was told that I work like a man…. 🙂 Of course, for me that’s more like an insult, since I am a bit of a feminist, but since I was moving boxes and shuffling pallets during a project….I think that was a compliment! Funny though!

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