Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Czech and french travellers a comparision of stereotypes

Being of two nationalities and consequently linked to two cultures, I often hear and read from experiences of my two fellow countrymens.
They are both european nations, both even in the shenghen space and one would say the differences are too small to be percieved. Granted there is not nearly as much difference between French and Czechs as there is between for example French and Chinese but still, if you experience living there for a long time, the differences will blow your mind.
As a blog writer and more generally, travel site designer, I developped a habit of looking at other sites of the same kind. I noticed a couple of things.

The websites

The french have pretty shiny websites, carefully designed and smartly made with the latest of available technologies. Not necessarily a lot of programming work but surely a lot of research for the tools that would be used.
During the trip, the content is rich in quantity, delivery and art potential. Photos are taken with the touch of a professional photographer (and often with a professional camera) and the whole trip is sometimes even filmed. Sometimes you'd wonder if french travellers didn't finish some art school beforehand.
The blog language is almost exclusivly French. English is very occasional, most of the time in the comments, when a merciful soul who a passage for an occasional foreigner. I couldn't understand the reason for this but it was the case for almost every travel site I went to. The weirdest thing is that the authors usually speak english.
Some Czechs do also write blogs but they don't seem to care that much about design. It's better than it was a couple years back but it stays pretty poor. Almost no video sequences. An awful lot of people still write in czech which is borderline useless but you often find either an english version or at least a button to do an automatic google translate to the language of your choice.
Other Czechs don't write blogs at all, mostly due to lack of organisation and preparation - this is linked to their way of travelling. In that case, you see a bunch of commented photos on facebook at the end of the trip.
Some don't write anything. What's the point of taking a break of civilisation only to connect to it virtually. The thing with Czech travellers is that they don't feel that what they are doing is so special. Therefore, they don't feel the need to write about it. Chances are a couple of their friends have done similar adventures and don't brag about it.
On one hand you could say czechs are more humble but on the other hand a lot of their stories have values and I think it is a shame to let them vanish to occasional word-of-mouth between friends.


To stereotype things, I will say this: French go to Cambodia, Indonesia and Australia, Czechs go to Russia. A notable consequence is that while almost all French return home to tell about their exciting journey, some Czechs never will.
Stereotyped paths, french in orange, czechs in blue


Both parties end up having some amout of press. French press starts even before the trip starts. Media coverage is almost a part of preparations. The organisers are invited to local radios, newspapers, sometimes even TV. And they are wise to do this because French media is the main and often the only media the travellers will be able to interract with since their website and everything related to the trip is in French.
Czechs don't seek media coverage, in fact they don't need it. Contrary to the french they have no project and sometimes no idea where they are going and if they'll manage to get there. Nothing worth to talk to until it's done, if it's done. It's only after a while and far away from home that some journalist discovers soem crazed czech idiots who just crossed tibet without mountain gear nor visas and will write a piece about it.
Were they french, I feel they could be superstars but because they don't know, don't care or don't want a public presence, they will only be covered by media in places like Kazachstan or North-Eastern mongolia, their exploits will quicky fade away and they'll never be famous.

The Why and the interactions

This is, I think, the biggest difference between czech and french travellers. Most czechs will travel because: why not?. They don't have any project or reason to go there, they often travel for the sake of travelling. As a result they don't think that much about how leaving a positive impact on the world they go through. They just go and see what happens.
On the french side, everything has a purpose. Travelling is the big part of the project but that's what it is: a project. French travellers do not travel: they design and realize a project linked to the theme of travelling. This project is well imprinted inside the guidelines of modern ecology and often linked to sustainable developement or social developement.
To do so, they interract with numerous associations who help people in need and whilst doing this, sometimes establish partnerships with new sponsors.
Overall, the french traveller's itinerary looks more like a preseident's political campaign than an actual plan.
Maybe are they ashamed because they took too much vacation and they think that doing humanitarian work will redeem them as well as bring them interaction with the local culture.
The czechs on the other hand don't think. They just go to countries and expect to blend into the local population. But because they don't speak the language and they're caucasian they are mistaken for tourists. But is it really a mistake? So they get angry and only travel to remote places like Siberia or Kazakhstan so they won't be mistaken for tourists because they are no tourists there. In fact, there is no one there.
So don't count on czech travellers to rescue dying children in Africa. At least not while they're on the road. Instead, prey that the dying children in Africa rescue the reckless czechs!

How do they travel?

If you'vre read so far, you can take this quizz:
Two groups of bike riders, one French and one Polish travel the world and stop in a town called T.
Can you recognize the Polish guys?
HINT:Polish are like czechs but with a bigger country

What about us?

I like to think we'll take a bit of each of our cultures. As you've noticed I and my not-at-all humble nature are convinced that our trip kicks ass and that you and all your friends should hear about it. Hence this site.
I would argue this is my french side and that it is predominant. However I won't be going as far as actively seeking media coverage. If we deserve it, then we shall get it.
I also want to document the trip as much as I can. Maybe not in film but I do intend to publish photos and blog. I even go further by sharing our GPS position on a regular basis.
What about a travel project, working with charity organisations? Unfortunately, I'll be honest with you, this is where my french side stops. I do like the idea but I think that with our tight budget and way of life, we will be those in need of assistance. Secondly, the idea is to live outside civilisation, free of any obligations or ties society puts on us. Getting into organised help is a way of not leaving civilisation behind, to still be part of the system.
And most importantly, the more the start is getting near, the more I realise that you cannot do such a trip for another person than yourself. You can have all the humanitarian plans and projects, as many admirers as your ego wishes, all the media coverage in the world, in the end, it's just you and your fellow traveller facing the delusion of grandeur that constitutes such a project. Everything else is just air. Don't bother painting it, colors won't stick.
Does this mean I will not help people? Of course not. I will, as much as I can, but as an individual, not an organisation.
Ilona seems to be a more private person than me. Unfortunatelly for... everyone... you will be seeing much more of me than of her. I could write a paragraph about what I think is her point of view but I'd rather leave that to fate.
But she'll surely bring more of the czech element to the mix, though maybe not the stereotypical one I described above (the whole post kind of deals in stereotypes).