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The Typical Slovene

Can you imagine living in a country with a population of no more than two million? Can you imagine that the entire population of this country, a member of the European Union and NATO, which has contributed many important and esteemed innovations into the world treasury of knowledge, could only just fill the suburbs of a world city? This is the reason we often joke that everybody knows everybody in this country, this is the reason we like to sing songs and the reason we are such extremists and individualists. The geographic, historical and cultural circumstances have surely played a significant role in shaping our national character. Therefore, allow us to introduce the typical Slovene.

What do the statistics say?

Let us begin with the ladies. According to the data from the Statistical Office, Slovenian women will most often introduce themselves as Marija Novak. Every 13th lady in Slovenia is called Marija and every 137th's last name is Novak. She is most likely 42 years old and has 1.2 children. She will most often reply that she had her first child at the average age of 27.3 and that she was 27.4 years old when she married. Only three decades ago, this image was quite different - she would get married around 22 and give birth before reaching the age of 23.

The female student will proudly proclaim that she is one of almost 57 per cent of women to attend university during the past academic year, with every second female student studying human sciences, economics or law. In 2003, women made a great contribution to the Slovenian storehouse of knowledge, as they represented as much as 61per cent of all graduates and 41.4 per cent of all newly awarded PhD's. They most commonly suffer from vascular diseases and live to the average age of 80.7. The female representation in the National Assembly is relatively low - at the most recent elections held in autumn of last year, only eleven made it into the National Assembly (holding ninety members), occupying 12.2 per cent of all seats.

According to the calculation of likelihood, the male Slovene would introduce himself as Jožef Horvat. The top five most likely male name and surname combinations contain the surnames Novak and Horvat, and given names Jožef, Franc, Janez and Štefan. They are most likely around 46 years of age. The average Slovenian male will have put on his wedding ring and said his vows at 30, and have fathered his first child soon thereafter. The fact that almost two-thirds of all fathers of children born in 2003 were between 30 and 40 years old, reveals an aging trend of parents in Slovenia. Only 7 per cent of males were young fathers below the age of 25. On average, the Slovenian male lives to see 73 springs.

Sociologists, demographers and other demographic experts point out another interesting fact about Slovenia, namely that children leave their parents' homes later and later in life. One-half of all people aged 25 to 29 are still living at home with their parents; of this number, more are male than female, as women tend to start their own families at an earlier age. At the age of 25, one-half of women will have already started their own family and three-quarters of them will have started their families at the age of 29. At the age of 29, half of the men are either still living at home with their parents or have returned to live with them.

Following the 1970s population boom, the natural increase has been steadily decreasing and so since 1993, Slovenia's population has been increasing only due to positive net migration. This natural increase has been constantly negative since 1997. Over the past five years, the population of Slovenia has increased only by 0.1 per cent, or 2000 persons per year.

The stereotypical Slovene

Generally, Slovenes describe themselves as industrious, honest, a bit jealous, good singers who enjoy a good glass of wine, perhaps a bit on the melancholic side and with a slight propensity for extremism. The most visible individuals to deal with the Slovenian self-perception were psychologists Dr Anton Trstenjak and Dr Janek Musek. In his book entitled 'Misli o slovenskem človeku' ('Reflections on the Slovenian individual') Dr Anton Trstenjak records his observations and thoughts on the image of the Slovene. Besides the positive traits such as discipline and honesty he mentions moodiness, contention and serfdom. Dr Janek Musek observes that in terms of personality traits, Slovenes are as different and diverse as other nations. He also believes that it is difficult to generalise as all personal traits extend from one extreme to the other. Nonetheless, he examines three widely accepted stereotypes about Slovenes.

Slovenes are introverted.

Dr Musek believes that Slovenes are among more introverted nations, next to Central-European and Scandinavian nations. We are actually even more introverted than the English, and we are also seen as such by our southern neighbours, who add over-seriousness, melancholy and inwardness to the list.

Slovenes are industrious and disciplined.

The average Slovene is conscientious, hardworking and industrious. His working habits are well established. In this respect we are similar to the Germans, yet distinct in one important characteristic - Germans have an essential sense of community and collectivism while Slovenes are much more individualistic in our industriousness, which can sometimes reduce our efficiency in certain respects.

Slovenes are not a submissive and serf-like nation.

The perception of serfdom perhaps originates in the literary works of the celebrated national writer Ivan Cankar and other realists who described the tragedy of Slovenes living under the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Studies show that compared to other nations we do not appear to be a particularly submissive nation, and on top of that we are blessed with adventurism and ambition.

However, Slovenes are marked with another characteristic, that of self-destructiveness. Experts see the latter as a result of a combination of aggressiveness and introversion. This can be seen in the large number of suicides, alcoholism and traffic accidents. Sadly, we rank among the most dangerous drivers in Europe, we are the ninth in the world by suicide incidence, and we count among thirstier Europeans. Despite these dark statistics, we can see from talking with increasing numbers of foreign visitors to Slovenia that Slovenes are still very open to foreigners, kind and hospitable. Their experience is mostly positive.

Things one should know about Slovenes

Have you noticed that every single Slovene carries love inside himself? Well, the Slovenian language is a unique language for true lovebirds. It is the only language that uses the dual grammatical number in addition to the singular and the plural. Although this makes it particularly difficult to foreigners, it does not stop increasing numbers of them from enrolling in Slovenian language classes. Slovenes are also very proud that our language, along with our culture, has been preserved through the centuries even without national sovereignty. The ability to speak foreign languages is another virtue we have: everyone speaks at least one foreign language, and the younger generation even speaks two or more!

Slovenes have also made visible contributions to the world scientific endeavour. To name but a few: the theory of space travel (Herman Potočnik Noordung), logarithmic tables (Jurij Vega) and the physical law of thermal radiation (Jožef Stefan - the Stefan law).

If we were to ask a Slovene about his national sport, he would reply without hesitation: skiing. The skiing tradition in Slovenia is a long one, as the oldest skis in Central Europe originate from these parts. We shouldn't forget that the alpine skier with the most world cup victories, Ingemar Stenmark, skied on Slovenian skis. And there is also the legendary Slovenian skier, Bojan Križaj.

Even though we Slovenes like to describe ourselves as calm and reserved, we will quickly open up to good food and drink, and good company, and even start to sing. We should also mention the prime wines produced in the wine-bearing hills found across Slovenia. Almost every Slovenian region has its own indigenous local wine varieties.

We are a small nation that lives on a relatively small territory and so it is no wonder that we all know each other. We are one great big family and it is no rare coincidence that you might know the president personally, or at least someone who knows him personally. Perhaps even if they do not know the president himself, then they may at least know a former president, or someone who knew him.

Culture is an important part of our lives. Publishers will tell you that most contemporary Slovenian authors publish collections of poetry. Judging from that, we are also a nation of poets. Generally, Slovenes are very interested in culture and many practice various cultural activities as a hobby.

Another traditionally popular way of spending leisure time is mountaineering. There are ample opportunities for various kinds of mountain conquests. The mountain hiking trails are well-tended and marked. There is a saying that you're not a true Slovene if you have never yet climbed Slovenia's highest mountain, Mount Triglav (elevation 2,864 meters or 9396 feet). Triglav was a source of inspiration for many Slovenian poets, writers, painters and politicians, and it is a mountain that has become the symbol of Slovenehood.

One of the more popular Slovenian hobbies is urban gardening and many Slovenes dream about having a quiet house with a garden.

Many Slovenes practice extreme sports - alpinism (Tomaž Humar, Davo Karničar), ultra-marathon swimming (Martin Strel), endurance cycling (Jure Robič), ultra triathlon (Uroš Velepec).