The Czech Way: Culture in Prague

Written by  January 25, 2013

What differences did Beth spot in three months abroad?

The Czech Republic was a very interesting place to live for three months. Its culture and people were much different than Canadians but I grew a big appreciation for the place despite these differences:

The friendliness factor.

I had heard a lot about Czechs being cold and unfriendly before going over there. I found the people were very nice but that they were not overtly friendly, which Canadians are known for. If you had questions or anything they often didn’t hesitate to help but would not go out of their way unless approached by you.

Minding manners.

One major thing I noticed was that in classes, restaurants, or basically any sort of public place, blowing your nose is not rude. In Canada, if you blow your nose really loudly people look at you like you have three heads and it’s very rude to do in class when your professor is speaking. In Prague, students did not hold back blowing their nose—it was a natural thing that had to be done.

On public transit, people were very quiet and generally didn’t talk to one another unless it was done in hushed tones.

Dining out.

A huge difference I found was the way in which you were treated in restaurants. I often feel in Canada that servers can almost be too nice that it’s fake. I generally feel rushed out of a restaurant once I finish eating and that I’m being a burden if I sit and enjoy my company.

In Prague you were asked for your order and given your food but you were not given the bill the second you finish like at home. You often have to flag down the waiter to pay and it’s almost always together on one bill and typically payable by cash and not credit. It never felt like an issue to stay after we paid to enjoy a beer or a chat. Gratutities weren’t expected, but if you liked your meal you would tip around 10 per cent.

Pets and their people.

People also had a lot of dogs around town and they were always on the trams. One thing I found funny was that the dogs also needed a ticket to use public transportation. I once saw a woman get asked for three tickets; one for her baby in a stroller, herself, and her dog.

Confidence in the classroom.

Europeans have much more confidence presenting in front a classroom of people. A fear of public speaking is huge in North America and I didn’t see it at all while I was in Europe; people were very casual and comfortable.

Cheating on tests was extremely common. I had even heard other students tell me their professors allowed them to outright look at their notes during their exams; that would never happen in Canada (unless we were notified beforehand that the exam was open book). I had one person tell me their professor explained what an academic source was and that they were required for their paper; I would have thought that was common knowledge because that’s what’s expected in North America.

Work vs. life balance.

People were not constantly on their phones, iPods and laptops in public like at home. If anything, people would be reading a book or the newspaper; it was actually kind of refreshing.

Overall the way of life seems at a slower pace despite the hustle and bustle of the two million inhabitant city. North Americans are very work-focused and generally seem to take out less time for leisure activities.

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Beth Saunders

Beth Saunders is a young Nova Scotian who studied Commerce at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. During a semester abroad at the University of Economics in Prague, Beth shares her overseas adventures with us.

Website: bethsaunders.wordpress.com/

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