The Czech Republic, just like the United States, is a first-world country, so it will naturally be easier for an American to adjust to cultural norms in Prague than in many other places. However, that does not mean that there won’t be small differences that might challenge someone who is used to the American way of life. In this post, I want to mention a few of those differences and offer advice on how to effectively adjust to them.
- Accommodations – Air conditioning in apartments would seem like a give in to most Americans. In our minds, AC is one of the marks of a first-world country. In the Czech Republic, however, most people simply feel that they can go without it. As a result, you will probably be opening windows and using fans quite a bit in your apartments. I will be the first one to say that it still feels uncomfortable on some days, especially in the middle of the summer. My solution to this problem is to simply go somewhere else. If being in your apartment frustrates you, there are plenty other locations around the city to study, socialize, or do whatever else you might want to do. Make the most of what the city has to offer instead of staying in your apartment all the time.
- Transportation – Many Americans are not used to taking public transportation everywhere they go. In Prague, nearly everyone uses public transportation to get where they are going. Trying to figure out the public transportation systems may seem like an overwhelming task, but Prague’s system is very reliable and user-friendly. As long as you can locate the nearest metro, bus, or tram station, you will always be able to get where you want to go. Google Maps will tell you the quickest routes, and even if public transportation is not convenient at the moment, Uber is very affordable in Prague.
- Social Interaction – Czechs are not rude people by any means, but they are very reserved. You will rarely find someone behind the counter at a shop trying to make conversation with you. Since I am used to the friendly and hospitable Tennessee culture, for the first few weeks the more reserved attitudes of the Czechs made me feel like I couldn’t connect to people and make new friends. A couple things have seemed to help with this. First, if at all possible, I would highly recommend taking a Czech language class and to use what you learn. Not all Czechs speak perfect English, so if they see you are going out of your way to help them understand what you are saying–even if you only know a few basic Czech phrases–they will be much more likely to speak to you with what English they know. Most importantly, remember that the language barrier is just as frustrating for them as it is for you, so always remain polite and calm.
The world awaits…discover it.