After about two weeks in Prague, Czech Republic, I can finally say that I am beginning to get comfortable navigating the city and transitioning into the Czech customs.
I have certainly noticed a great deal of differences in culture thus far between home in Indiana and the Czech world. One of the most significant variations I have come across, and also my favorite, is the immense amount of dogs all over the city. And by all over, I mean on the trams, the metro (subway), the trains, inside shopping malls, and all over the sidewalks. These are the best-behaved dogs I have seen in my life. Most of them walk unleashed and just stick by their owner’s side.
On trams and the metro the dogs immediately lay under their human’s seat for the duration of the ride. The most common dogs in Prague definitely are of the smaller variety. There are so many variations of Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and small Poodles. It is very common for people to carry their dogs in bags or their purses. It has been fun and intriguing to see how much Czechs incorporate their dogs into their culture and everyday life. The extreme presence of dogs does have a downside, however. Everywhere I walk, I have to make sure I am not about to step in a puddle (or mound) of hound droppings. It has been surprising to see how common it is for dog owners to not clean up after their pet on the streets.
Another key difference in the Czech Republic as compared to Indiana is how people treat others in public spaces. I was warned that Czechs are not the friendliest people, and that has definitely been accurate. It is expected for one to avoid looking at others, and especially making eye contact, while walking past them in any given place. It has been quite an adjustment for me to not look people in the eye and to avoid friendlily smiling at strangers. This custom does come in handy in the mornings however, when it is too early for class and you do not feel like talking to anyone anyway.
The language barrier is definitely a real thing here in the Czech Republic. Luckily, there are a lot of English speakers in Prague since it is such a large city. That being said, however, it is still questionable whether ordering food at any given restaurant will be a challenge or not. I have had an especially difficult time in regards to eating in the Czech Republic. Being a vegetarian, I knew that I was not putting myself in the simplest of situations by studying abroad in a meat-saturated country. Therefore, I have become quite familiar with the local grocery stores and outdoor markets. I often have to resort to brining along my own snacks on day trips and outings when the meals are not already planned.
Even though I have only been in Prague for a relatively short period of time, it is already beginning to feel like home. This past weekend each class went on a three-day trip to another place in the Czech Republic. Although it was interesting exploring other parts of the country, everyone was ready to get back to Prague – the city we have grown to know and love.