The Pros and Cons of Prague: My Two Month Czech-in

Tomorrow marks two months since I arrived in Prague, and the halfway point of my time here. I can’t make up my mind whether I feel like I’ve been here a longer or shorter time than that. Time feels like it passes differently for me while I’m over here. I think this is because I am so far out of my normal routine.

I think missing home is natural, and my occasional moments of brooding have inspired me to compile a list (in no particular order) of what I’ve been missing most from home. To keep things balanced, and to avoid this post being just a negative rant, I will follow with a list of things that I definitely do not miss.

“The ‘Mexican food’ over here just isn’t the same.”

Things I miss

American dogs
Okay, so this one might sound weird, but hear me out. The Czech Republic is full of dogs, and the businesses are generally very dog friendly. I see so many cute dogs every day, but the issue is a lack of fulfilling interactions with Czech dogs. The dogs here are very well-trained, many of them walk alongside their owner, on the city streets, with no leash.

The craziest part is that Czech dogs WILL NOT APPROACH YOU. It doesn’t matter what you do, or how friendly you try to be to them, occasionally one will give you a passing sniff, but then they go right on their way. There was a day we were even sitting on a blanket at the park and two dogs were running around us but try as we may, we couldn’t get them to come over and be pet. Czech dogs make American dogs look like a bunch of wild, over-friendly nutcases; which brings me to my next point that this may be a reflection of American vs. Czech culture.

Czech people in the day-to-day world are not especially sociable, they don’t tend to smile at strangers or strike up conversations in the check-out lane at the store, whereas this is often the opposite case in The States. I knew something of these stereotypes about Central European culture before I came, I had just never imagined that the dogs would be that way too.

Food and drinks
This is obvious, I’ll make it quick and direct. I miss Mexican food, all of it: tacos, burritos, chilaquiles, you name it. I miss normal margaritas made with tequila brands that I recognize. The “Mexican food” over here just isn’t the same.

I also accidentally thought about Trader Joe’s the other day which was a mistake. There is no version of TJ’s over here and that saddens me. Then there’s some of the other usual suspects: ranch dressing, spicy food in general, sushi (I haven’t braved a sushi restaurant here yet) and light blue Gatorade.

I’ve had to make some adjustments: Turkish kebab shops have filled the hole that is usually occupied by taco shops, and other than that I eat a lot of paprika pringles, which is the best flavor by far and not available in the U.S.

The ocean
I definitely have been missing the ocean a lot lately. I miss jumping in the water, surfing, paddleboarding, biking along the boardwalk, laying in the sun, mornings spent staring at the water with a cup of coffee and evenings watching the sun go down over the water. Being away from it makes me feel lucky that I am able to live so close to the ocean back home and enjoy the quality of life that comes with it.

Friends, family and work
This one is fairly obvious again, but I do miss my friends and family back home and, yes, I even miss working. We are lucky to be able to communicate with people on the other side of the globe quite easily, but electronic communication will never be a true substitute for actually spending time together.

I am also lucky to have some family and friends on this continent, which means I got to celebrate an early Thanksgiving in Germany last weekend. It’s pretty awesome to be closer to family over here and spend time with them. As far as work goes, it actually made it on both lists. I miss working because I like being busy, talking to new people and working with my friends.

Hearing stories about everything that has been going on has made me miss all of my “people” back home, but January is feeling closer every day, so I know I’ll be seeing them soon.

Things I don’t miss

This might be just me, but I don’t particularly like driving. It certainly makes life easier in Southern California if you have a car, but that is one thing I definitely don’t miss. Being somewhere with an extensive, and very affordable, public transportation is awesome. My 3-month student public transport pass to go anywhere in the city — including to the airport — was $16. That’s like Ubering to downtown San Diego and back once, or like 1/17th of a San Diego State Parking permit.

But I digress. My main takeaway is that it’s great to not need to rely on cars, or to remember what side of the street you parked on to avoid getting a street sweeping ticket.

Food and drink prices
Another great thing about the Czech Republic is that food and drinks are generally cheaper than in San Diego. This is especially true for beer, which can be bought in the grocery stores in bottles for 40-50 cents, and at restaurants and pubs on draft for as low as $1.

You can get good food very affordably as well, which has been very helpful for someone who is a fun-employed student this semester.

I know I said that I miss working, but, I don’t necessarily miss working every weekend. In San Diego I’ve worked at restaurants and hotels, this means that you work weekends and holidays. So yes, it is nice to be able to travel on the weekends and not worry about being scheduled to work during the holidays.

Southern California Christmas
The one month that I’m not in love with San Diego’s climate is December. I was raised in Northern California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. I grew up with distinguishable seasons, and while most of the time I’m happy enough with year-round beach weather, I don’t like it for Christmas time.

Also, no offense to my hometown either, but European Christmas does it best. I am so looking forward to endless Christmas markets, with cute shops and hot mulled wine. Also, there are a couple snowflakes in this week’s weather forecast, so my fingers are crossed (and in gloves).

Honorable Mention

This last one is more of an “I wish” than an “I miss.” I wish that the United States used the metric system, Celsius and the same date format as everybody else. It would make so much more sense, and you don’t really realize how weird it is until you are trying to explain to someone that we use different units of measurement for everything.

All petty rants aside, I am having an amazing time living in Prague and traveling around Europe. It’s been so interesting to be able to experience living in a completely different country, and to be able to compare life here with life at home in San Diego. It’s definitely funny to reflect on how some of the weird little differences can affect day-to-day life. I am so grateful to be on this adventure, and I am looking forward to the rest of my time over here.

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.

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