In the beginning, I was planning on writing a sarcastic article about the Czech Republic and life here being terrible. Don’t get me wrong, I do love this country, I grew up here and I still consider it my home. But there are things that are not, let’s say, ideal. Unfortunately, the longer you live somewhere, the less you appreciate the good and the more you concentrate on the not so great things. I’ve met many people from all over the world and a lot of them told me their stories about the culture shock they experienced upon moving here. I’ve even experienced reverse culture shock when I returned after a few months’ stay in Germany.
If you know what culture shock is, do not hesitate to skip this paragraph. If you’re still wondering, read on. I just want to make sure you know what I’m talking about. Culture shock is a term that describes your feelings about a foreign country or culture which don’t necessarily have to be negative. In a nutshell, culture shock are things, food, customs, facial expressions and anything else that you find different from what you are used to. A really nice read about culture shock can be found on the website WorldWide Classroom.
So what made me change my mind about not writing a sarcastic article? An encounter a few days ago. When I was waiting in the central train station hall for my train to Hamburg, I was asked by a nice polite young lady if I spoke English. It turned out that she was taking the same train and needed to ask which platform the train was going from. (For more context please see rule nr. 1.) She told me later on that she was a research psychologist from Australia who came to Brno for a conference on video games and was returning to Australia the next day. She also told me that she had been to the Czech Republic several times and that she liked it very much and as a proof, she enthusiastically pointed out some little things that we probably take for granted and that make the Czech Republic a nice and friendly place to stay.
It’s a pity that I didn’t have enough time to ask her if she experienced culture shock when she first came here, but this chance meeting helped me realize that living somewhere makes you blind to the good things and in the end, you only point out the things that need to be changed. In business, you wouldn’t call them mistakes or weaknesses, business prefers the word “opportunities”. So let’s see what opportunities we have when it comes to foreigners and if we can somehow change them into strengths, and what other things you might find interesting or shocking if you decide to go to the Czech Republic.
- Don’t expect any signs or instructions to be in English. Need to get around? Learn Czech (or get someone to translate for you).
- Also, be prepared that a lot of people don’t speak English, sometimes not even the authorities. On the other hand, younger people usually do speak at least some English and will be nice and willing to help, so don’t worry. Or learn Czech language, Czech people will appreciate it!
- Sometimes, people believe that if they speak louder, you might miraculously start to understand them. I’ve recently discovered that it’s not only a Czech speciality though. Just talk to these people calmly in your mother tongue, they will understand that you don’t speak Czech after a while.
- On a different note: beer, drinks and food in restaurants are really cheap compared to western European countries, North America and Australia. Czech beer and wine is really good, too!
- Unfortunately, it’s a little bit harder to get to know us Czechs and to get to hang out with us and drink the delicious, yet cheap beer with us. Most people don’t like to talk to strangers, not even unknown Czech people. But you shouldn’t get scared off. Once we get to know you a little bit more, everything will be fine. So don’t expect anybody to come to you to offer help even though it’ll be pretty obvious you’re lost. You’ll probably have to ask someone.
- Depending on your country of origin, the proximity between two people communicating with each other might seem a little bit too short, or too long. Speaking from my personal experience, for most foreigners I met it was way shorter than they were used to. There is nothing offending in it, it’s just the way it is. We are a small country, so the distances are shorter everywhere. ;)
- Speaking of distances: the public transportation system is great! Whether you are living in a city or in the outskirts, there will always be a bus, train or tram to take you wherever you might want to go. It’s not expensive either. Which takes us to the next point…
- Czech people don’t like to pay for services much. Medical care is super-cheap as well as cinema tickets, parking, language courses etc., in comparison with for example Germany or France. And the quality of the services is high.
- Another thing worth mentioning – as we don’t like to pay for services, we don’t like to pay for translations either. Why would we do that since we have Google Translator? There might be interesting outcomes though. If you come across some creepy dish on a menu or strange instruction anywhere, consult someone first. Maybe it just wasn’t translated correctly.
- The living standard in the Czech Republic is high, even though you’ll probably hear the exact opposite from the Czechs. Why? I don’t know but it might be connected with point 11.
- Czechs tend to be pessimists. The standard phrase we answer to “How are you?” is not “Very well, thank you” as one would expect, but something like “I’m doing ok(ish)”. Even if one just earned a million dollars, the answer probably wouldn’t be “Great!”, because there are just so many things that might go wrong, right? Don’t let this get you down. Maybe you are the one who can change the stereotype by giving answers like “Perfect!” or “Couldn’t be better!”
Now I just hope my article didn’t discourage you from visiting or living in the Czech Republic. It’s a nice place to live, I swear. The beer is great and once you get to know the Czechs better, they are very friendly. Yes, the weather could be better, but we don’t have any natural disasters like tornadoes, so it’s definitely a plus. And the historical city centres and nature are amazing and worth seeing.
Author: Dagmar Wiesnerová