As I am quickly approaching the end of my first month here in the Czech Republic, I am finding this place to feel more and more like home. As I get a better sense of the places around me and slowly learn a little bit more of the language, things seem very family; yet even as I grow more comfortable and secure with my surroundings, I am still finding differences from the states that surprise me. Although the Czech Republic, as a western culture, is not drastically different from the U.S., there are still small things that I can’t help but notice. This week it was particularly visible when I got sick.
I’m used to the States where you’re essentially expected to go to work unless you’re throwing up your insides. Here it’s much different. I went to work with a cough and feeling completely fine otherwise, and I was sent home for the past two days. Although I was perfectly willing to work, I’ve gotten the impression that in the Czech culture it’s seen as rude to come to work sick because you may be endangering other people’s health. When my boss first approached me about going home yesterday, I had only been at work for about 2 hours. She approached and politely suggested that I go home and take care of myself. I tried to protest that I felt fine, but when she insisted that I go home I got the impression that my sick-self was not wanted there. Even before this, my co-worker went out and bought me medicine and seemed to be frustrated that I was there. She commented that she was going on holiday soon and did not want to get sick. Today I tried to go into work again, this time armed with tissues, honey, nasal spray, vitamin c, and cough medicine, and literally within seconds of reaching my desk I was sent home. I am not alone in this experience either. Another co-worker, who left and seemingly was fine, was out 2 weeks because the doctor had prescribed a 10-day prescription for anti-biotics. Here you are not allowed to go back to work for the duration of your prescription. Czech people take their health very seriously.
Even though I can admit that today I was not feeling the greatest, I felt so guilty about missing work. Even though I am not getting paid and I honestly was a distraction being there with all of my coughing, I am so used to American standards that expect full dedication to a job despite any ailments. I recall a time when a friend of mine missed a test because he was hospitalized, and his professor still did not let him make up the test. This event made me realize how important work is to the American culture. Taking a sick day is often seen as weak or indicative of a poor work ethic. I think that often times Americans tend to neglect self-care in pursuit of professional achievements, myself included; but I think that while sometimes sick leave is a bit excessive here, with people taking an average of 29 sick days per year, I think America could stand to learn from this and take a little greater stalk in our physical and mental well-being.