“You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.” Borg, Star Trek universe.
I know my geek is showing. My point is that when moving to a new country it’s important to breath in that culture and not stick out lIke a sore thumb and not act too American. The key is acclimating to life in Prague. Granted,
if we were purely missionaries going to a land of cannibalistic hedonists we would not try to blend. But as English teachers in Prague looking less like tourists and more like Czechs has its advantages. First though you have to research and observe the differences in dress and mannerisms and begin to acclimate to your new home.
Here’s a list of things I’ve learned and observed in my first few weeks in Prague.
1. Take off your shoes. When entering someone’s home take off your shoes. It’s polite and a good custom as far as I’m concerned. Taking off your shoes keeps the floors cleaner. Most Czechs take pride and great care of their homes. They also don’t need the extra work of cleaning up after dirty feet. When slippers are provided please wear them. That’s why they are there.
2. Boots. It’s autumn and chilly. It’s time to start bundling up and wear your boots. Lovely boots with pants or with skirts. Most are reasonably heeled because of the cobbled streets. Good and sturdy but nice boots. A true necessity in Prague therefore I’ll need to get a pair.
3. Scarves. Scarves are huge here. Literally. Czech love huge scarves. I can see why with damp chilly mornings and evenings. While waiting for the metro or the bus a scarf makes a huge difference in keeping warm. I am looking forward to knitting a great big scarf or three. Until then I’ll make do with make smaller lighter versions that I brought with me.
4. Layers. As in Colorado layering your clothing is necessary. Mornings are chilly but it warms up quite nicely in the afternoon. Being able to bundle up and to remove layers when necessary is just the way to deal with the changing temps.
5. Coaster. When heading to a bar, pub, or restaurant and needing a beer place a coaster in front of you. Sometimes a beer will appear but most often it tells the waiter that you are ordering beer and they ask pilsner or dark or some such defining question. This is Czech custom and utilizing it makes you less touristy.
6. Tipping. To tip like a native you don’t really tip. You round up. If the bill is 713 Kc leave 800. Wait staff make a regular income and don’t rely on tips like in the States. Hand them your money, say 1000, and ask for the amount you want back, say 200.
7. Read. On the train. On the bus. While waiting. Czechs love to read. This will be difficult for me because I get a bit nauseous if I try to read while moving. I’m sure I can manage to read while waiting though.
8. Quiet. Buses and metros are mostly quiet. Kids and babies make a normal amount of noise. But people in general are reading, listening to music with earbuds, texting, or talking quietly. It’s rather subdued and polite even when crowded at rush hour.
9. Quick. The speed of Prague is taking some getting used to. After 100 days if Pura Vida and the laid back pace of Costa Rica, Prague is quick. Always walking quickly to the bus or the metro or to work or to lunch. As far as I can tell Czechs are timely. A big change from our first 100 days abroad.
10. Survival Czech. Getting the lingo down for Costa Rica was easy. I’d been exposed to Spanish for years. Czech is different. So far I’ve got dobry den (hello) down. I think it’s highly important to learn key phrases when in country. Greetings and basic courtesies to start and learning the streets and metro stops. Being able to order food and drink and go grocery shopping in Czech are basic necessities.
If you try to look less like a tourist and blend just a little you’ll go far to becoming part of your new world.