I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but some of my favorite travel memories are from embarrassing moments or mistakes. And my time in Prague so far has not failed to deliver.
Being in a foreign country constantly takes you out of your comfort zone on so many levels. This includes all the little things that I don’t even think twice about back home like going to the grocery store or eating in a restaurant, and things that are completely new to me like trying to learn the public transportation system.
“A man yelled something in Czech, and I somehow knew immediately that it meant I needed to push a button somewhere.”
On arriving to Prague
When I first arrived to the Czech Republic I was a little tired from the long flight and layover but eager to get into the city center and become acquainted with my new city. I was traveling with an SDSU classmate who is going to the same university abroad as I am. We decided to call an Uber rather than attempt to figure out the public transportation with the amount of luggage we were carrying.
This was a wise decision because — before we even made it out of the airport — I somehow managed to knock over my 50+ pound suitcase on the escalator. Thanks to my embarrassment-fueled adrenaline rush I was able to flip it back on its wheels, and luckily no one was smashed in the process.
On weather that actually changes
Our first week in Prague everyday was sunny and in the mid 80’s, which was not a significant change from San Diego. But then on the Sept. 22 (the first day of fall, coincidentally), the temperature went down by about 20 degrees overnight.
I am actually excited to get to experience seasons this year. Word on the street is that we’re going to have an early winter this year because it started snowing in the mountains two weeks earlier than it did last year. The biggest weather adjustment for me personally was realizing that just because it looks nice and sunny outside doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s actually warm out.
On re-learning how to grocery shop
Going to a grocery is definitely a different experience when abroad. Pricing can be confusing because 1 U.S. dollar = about 22 Czech korunas. Pretty much everything in the local grocery stores is written in Czech. Most of the time you can figure out what the product is just by staring at it long enough and/or using context clues. To figure out which bottled water was still and which was sparkling we decided to just use the trial and error method. We then learned a new word, perlivá = sparkling.
Upon leaving the store I smiled and nodded at the cashier who was saying something to me in Czech as I left, but it turns out she was asking me to return the hand basket to the stack at the front of the store.
The first time my roommates and I went to one of the big Tesco Extra stores (similar to Target back home) we found out that to use a shopping cart you need to put a coin in it as a deposit to unlock it. When we walked into the store we got a little over excited because they have scanners that you can take with you throughout the store to scan items as you put them in your cart. However, when we tried to get in the checkout lane a lady yelled something at us in Czech — it turns out that we needed to go to a separate checkout area since we had used the self-scanners.
Another lesson learned.
On learning about Czech cuisine
The first time I went to a local Czech restaurant with my roommate, we decided we weren’t super hungry, so we wanted to get something as an appetizer. We looked over the menu and decided we would get dumplings. She ordered potato dumplings, and I ordered bohemian dumplings. I had never heard of them before and decided I would try something new.
It turns out that Bohemian dumplings are essentially slices of bread, and the potato dumplings were dense slices of potato. They are supposed to be a side dish and not intended to be eaten alone; I think we must have pictured some kind of Asian dumplings in our heads.
But we made the best of it and ordered something else to go with them.
On using public transportation
Let me first say that Prague has an excellent public transportation system. There are metro lines, trams, buses and ferries. Coming from San Diego I am thrilled to be able to get around without needing to use a car. It is also a plus that a 3-month student pass for all city transportation is only about $16. Using public transportation has definitely been a learning experience.
The first day I was out and about in Prague, I almost stepped right in front of an incoming tram because I was staring at another one that was coming from the opposite direction, and for some reason I thought it was a one-way track. The first time I tried to get off a tram I couldn’t figure out how to open the doors from the inside. A man yelled something in Czech, and I somehow knew immediately that it meant I needed to push a button somewhere.
We decided to live in a flat in the city center rather than at the campus dorms. This requires us to commute to campus taking a tram, the metro and a bus. I’ve got the route down now, but when we first went to catch the bus to campus we thought we were heading the right direction, but we ended up walking around a giant roundabout to get to our bus stop and circling almost all of the way back to where we had started.
My time in Prague so far has been amazing. I love getting lost in this city and having new experiences every day. And I wouldn’t trade any of the little silly moments — they are going to be the memories I look back on and laugh at for a lifetime.
Hayley Chase is a senior majoring in hospitality and tourism management. She is spending a semester abroad at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic.