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Culture shock

Posted by timboudreau on January 9, 2005 at 2:05 AM PST

A lot of folks know me as Mr. NetBeans - in 1999, I'd been working as a contractor for a bunch of years, had backpacked through Prague and liked it, and found a job ad on from a tiny little company in the Czech Republic called NetBeans. I'd done some tools work before, had been doing a ton of GUI component development in Delphi, and was looking to do something different. I thought to myself, "I'm never going to hear from these guys," but I sent a resume for the heck of it. Life being stranger than fiction, they hired me. And I found myself working with a fantastic bunch of people with a great product, in a beautiful city. I'd studied Russian in Monterey in college (which I thought would help, and it did, but speaking Russian to people in Prague does not make you popular, as I quickly found out), which helped in learning Czech.

So in November I moved to California - back in the U.S. after years away. And I'm working in marketing now (no, I haven't given up programming! But NetBeans has desparately needed a real marketing team for years and now we actually have one!).

When you live away from your native land, you get used to things where you are - but it happens so slowly you don't notice it. So coming back is interesting - first, things have changed while you away, and second, you have changed while you were away - your definition of normal has subtlely shifted. Sometimes it's amusing, sometimes it's disturbing. Here's what's weird:

  • I talk on elevators - Americans have a sort of taboo about talking to strangers on elevators - it's like we're all trapped in this small space, and slightly afraid of each other or something. NetBeans original office in Prague was in an airplane parts factory. Every morning I'd ride the elevator with a bunch of guys going to other offices. And I would get off the elevator on our floor, and there would be a chorus of "Na schledanou" (good bye) from the folks still on the elevator. I didn't know what to make of it, and I asked my ex-girlfriend about it. She said "Well, Tim, they're pointing out that you were rude and didn't say 'Dobr

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