Keys to the City – People and Customs
Based on an informal survey of other students studying in Prague, there are a few things that American students regularly find surprising about the people here in Prague.
1. Czech people are very reserved. They are quiet on the trams and metros. Some people find this disconcerting – they say that its hard to be a typical loud American because you feel out of place. Also, it makes a lot of Czechs seem angry. But others like it – they say that it makes the city peaceful and the people are non-confrontational. Honestly, I enjoy the silence. It means I can daydream in the trams and enjoy the city in my own way. But it also means that groups of tourists inevitable stick out like sore thumbs. Love it or hate it, its something you’ll eventually get used to.
2. It takes a while to get to know a Czech person. This connects closely with #1. It is really hard to truly befriend a Czech. But its totally worth it, because good Czech friends are key to the best things in the city. And once you’re friends with a Czech, you’re friends with all their friends too. So be patient!
3. A lot of people speak English. Nearly everyone studies English in school now, so anyone in our generation is likely to be fluent in English. In some ways that can be really nice – you don’t really need to worry about knowing the Czech words for what you need, because English will almost always work. But there is a downside too. A lot of Czechs speak better English than you speak Czech, which means that they’ll want to speak English instead of Czech. Don’t let that stop you from using your Czech, though!
4. Service in restaurants is slow. Don’t expect to dash into a sit-down restaurant for lunch if you’ve only got a half hour. In that time, you might get your drinks. I rarely get a full sit-down lunch even in my 1.5 hour break, and when I do its just barely. I’ve had dinners last over three hours! But you get used to it, and by the end of the semester, a quick lunch will be a confusing idea. The other benefit of this – working in cafes!
5. Working in cafes! There are soooo many amazing cafes (kavarna) all over the city. Some are bigger, some are non-smoking, some are loud, but almost all have wifi. I love nothing more than taking my computer over to a cafe and getting some reading/writing/general internet surfing done over an hour or two and a cup of green tea. I’ve found that you can sit about an hour and a half nursing one cup without getting a second look – even at noon on a Saturday in Cafe Louvre (one of the biggest cafes in the city). Its a long-held and very relaxing Czech tradition, so why not be a part of it?