I am writing this post about a two weeks after arriving in Prague, Czech Republic. I am having an amazing time so far and decided it is a good time to reflect on my time here by posting about my first impressions of Prague and differences in Czech culture from the culture I am used to. One of the things I was unsure about before arriving to Prague was the quality and availability of good food. I did some research before leaving the U.S. and almost all of the traditional Czech food I found didn’t look like something I would like (and I was right). Czech cuisine is pretty much some meat, potato dumplings, and cabbage. The traditional food tastes much better than I expected, but I was really happy to see how much good American, Italian, Chinese, and Thai food there is in Prague. In the immediate area around our apartment there is a nice Italian restaurant, burger restaurant, Thai restaurant, and to-go salad place. My early expectation of me eating very different cuisine while in Prague was way off.
Another major difference I noticed was the general friendliness of the people in Prague. Most people are good people, but not many people smile when greeting someone. This is different from U.S. culture where it is considered a little odd to not smile when meeting a new person. Waiters at restaurants expect to receive a tip, but their wage is livable without getting tipped, so they are not very outgoing and friendly. Public bathrooms, especially fast food restaurants, charge 20 crowns (about 1 USD) for someone to go in. One obvious difference that I have noticed is the language; however, this has not really been an issue because almost everyone here speaks English. The architecture in Prague is different than anything I have seen before. Most of the buildings are romanesque, baroque, or renaissance architecture style which shows the cities beauty and history. Even the classrooms at Charles University (the school my program is affiliated with) have detailed, artistic ceilings and a general renaissance feel. The final major difference I have noticed when comparing Prague to the U.S is how much better public transportation is in Prague. I maybe can’t speak for U.S. public transportation system as a whole, but I can say that Prague has a much better system than D.C.. Prague allows you to buy month long transportation pass that lets you take the train, tram, and buses as many times as you like. You don’t even have to scan them every time you enter. You just have to carry your pass on you because occasionally some transport worker will come up and ask to see your pass. If you don’t have a pass then you will get a large fine. In D.C., you have to swipe in and out every time you ride the train and bus. It is much more expensive and time consuming this way. Prague also has a tram that has its own lane in the city which makes it almost never late and very reliable.