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09/24/2015

Funny and Interesting Things

by Corey Palermo, Rice University - CIEE FAMU Film Studies Production track

 September 8, 2015

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I’ve been surprised by the sights in Prague more than a few times during my stay thus far. The least significant of them being the very unusual image of Nicholas Cage’s head attached to a goat body (“koza” means “goat”) found nearby the Lennon wall. This post is dedicated to a few interesting tidbits. Please remember that the following are based on my experiences here, as I perceived them. Not all of my perceptions nor my generalizations are necessarily accurate, and they are limited to Prague.

  1. Customer service in Czech Republic need not be all smiles and pleasant interactions. In fact, it’s more common to be greeted rather brusquely or even coldly as disgruntled store clerks and deli counter workers slog through their work day.
  2. Not one person has said anything to me to get me to move out of their way. The phrases for “excuse me” or “may I pass” are readily available, but even moms with their baby strollers have quietly waited behind me, expecting me to eventually notice their intentions and move out of the way. Otherwise, people just lightly shove each other instead of politely communicating.
  3. Beggars are often seen kneeling on the ground, head bowed, holding out a baseball cap for change. Most of the time they do not speak or even look up.
  4. Behavior by men that would be interpreted as sexual harassment in the States is often interpreted here as “normal” flirtation. Several of my female classmates have been somewhat awkwardly touched or even “grabbed” by men interested in them. Somewhat contradictorily, a bright smile and direct eye contact is more than enough to indicate to a man or woman that you are interested. One need not stoop to vulgar and invasive physical contact.
  5. Medical School here is pretty much tuition-free and lasts 6 years. There is no “bachelor’s degree” required for Medical School here. The whole program, theory through to clinical work, is 6 years long, and culminates with a state exam to receive your (master’s) degree in medicine. If a student decides to leave medical school to pursue something else, they leave with no degree–not even a bachelor’s.
  6. The diet here is very heavy on fatty meats, sauces, dumplings, and breads. Despite this diet, there aren’t too many obese people. My Slovak flat buddy Bara claims this is due to smaller portion sizes compared to the U.S., combined with a lot more walking.
  7. Czechs are generally impressed and grateful when I try to speak their language. Generally they know it’s a difficult language and do their best to communicate, rather than getting annoyed or insulting. I think this is different from the U.S., where we often insult foreigners for speaking English poorly relative to a native English speaker.
  8. Segways are incredibly annoying and I dislike them. So many segway tours. So. Many.
  9. The river going right through Prague is called Vltava (“vultahva”) by Czechs, and they generally don’t like the name “Moldau” for it. The Moldau is the Vltava’s anglicized name.
  10. Food and beer are cheap, but clothes are very expensive, comparable to Western European prices.
  11. There’s pretty significant air pollution in Prague, and one can see a cloud of smog hovering over Petrin hill pretty clearly. Contact lenses can be kind of a hassle because of the smog.
  12. There are many little independent cinemas here, screening both new and old films and often serving food and alcohol.

That’s all for this post! Cau!

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