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Culture shocks

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When coming to a different country, many people experience an interesting phenomena — culture shocks. Culture shocks are blessings in disguise because they expand our horizons by introducing us to a different way of life, different norms and, therefore, transform our world-views. I have asked some foreigners who are temporarily residing in Prague for work or education reasons to share some of culture shocks that they have experienced in the Czech Republic.

“I was surprised by the incredibly peaceful open air concerts and political rallies where it’s hard to find an obvious police officer. In the US, police with guns and flak vests and vehicles are everywhere at such events. An open air music concert in Prague’s old city is like a piece of Heaven! And that’s with beer readily available,” says Stephanie Shelton, a CNBC reporter, who teaches in one of the private universities in Prague during the summer.

“The biggest difference in Prague, actually, and in all the Czech Republic is the lack of foreign cultures, and the lack of foreign faces. Unlike New York with its huge ethnic diversity, Prague’s faces are mostly white. I see a more ethnic diversity in my neighborhood each year, but the change is very slow,” says Stephanie.

Frank Herold, a video editing professor who works in New York, is amazed by the local public transportation system. “Prague is awash in public transportation. You can go almost anywhere in the Czech Republic by train or bus. Within Prague, the system is extensive and reliable. Every tram and bus stop has a posted schedule and the information is very accurate. One of the many benefits Prague offers to older people is free public transportation. The fare for riding anything in Prague is reasonable but if you are over seventy it is completely free.”

Luke Fernandez, a study abroad student, who came here for a semester, was surprised by the popularity of weekend homes in the countryside. “I did not know that was a trend to have a weekend home to escape the city life. It is interesting because that was something that was unheard of to me. There are many public parks here and open spaces with lots of trees and nature. It is nice to see so many people using the parks and open spaces.”

As for me, one of the culture shocks that I had was that the dogs were allowed in places such as shopping malls and fast-food restaurants. A true dog heaven! I vividly remember the day — it was the second day upon my arrival to Prague — I was in a shopping center when a furry object caught my eye. For a second, I rejected the idea that it could have been a dog, but on a closer inspection it really was a dog casually walking with its owner in a shopping mall. I was amazed! I was even more astonished to see bigger dogs in fast-food restaurants such as KFC. I have never seen it elsewhere before visiting Prague, and it warmed my heart to see how much love and respect is given to dogs.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see how little locals use their phones or any other gadgets in public transportation. In other places that I have travelled to, I would often see people using their phones in the metro, in the tram and the bus stops, when eating in restaurants and so on. So personally for me, it was refreshing to see people looking out the window or chatting in the public transportation and in general everywhere else such as the cafes, shopping malls and so on.

The other thing that positively surprised me was the affinity the Czechs share with the nature. Most Czechs love camping. During the weekend many Czechs travel out of Prague to go hiking, mountain climbing and bike riding. And judging by the numerous picnic festivals, picnic culture is also big in the Czech Republic. It is commendable how in the century where so many people spend their spare time online, the Czechs prefer to go out and spend their time in the woods, mountains and other natural landscapes. Truly amazing!

About the author:
Anelya Kadyrova is one of Prague Monitor’s reporters, who is in her final year of studying journalism in Anglo-American University.

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