Pardon Me, Do You Have Three Little Ducks?
I handed over the 50 crowns. She looked at them suspisciously.
"Nemáte tři kačky?" (Don't you have three little ducks?) Did she just ask me if I had three little ducks? No question about it, but she could only be asking about change. (I didn't see any ducks anywhere in the shop).
"Nemám. Mám jenom dvě pade." (No. I only have two and a half [fifty hellers].) This answer was the right one, though she wasn't very pleased. If you haven't shopped in the Czech Republic before, then you might not know that shops often ask you for exact change. It's usually not that they don't have change for you, but they just don't want to make the effort of counting it out. (Sometimes they don't have enough change, but this store wasn't that small.) My idea is that it's all money, right? And if you're the shopkeeper then you make change for the money that the customer pays you. But here, the idea is that it's the customer's job to make exact change. And when you don't, sometimes you get dirty looks. Sometimes, unless you're in a really big store (like at malls), they even make a big show about how difficult it is to find change. Talk about guilt trips!
I had to wait a few seconds for the lady to decide how she was going to give me change. She slowly got out a 10-crown piece, then counted out seven one-crown coins. "I have to give it to you this way," she said with an expressionless look while dumping the coins into my hand.
Then I went home and had breakfast. I also looked up kačka and found out that it is a diminutive form of the word for duck, but it also colloquially refers to crowns. Well, Americans call their dollars "bucks." Czechs who have traveled in the US have even asked me why this is. Next time I get that question, I'll ask them why they call theirs "ducks."
Tags: czech, language, stories