This trip so far has been fantastic. Great food, great experiences, and great friends. But there have been times that I have struggled so far in my interactions with foreigners. This is my first time abroad in which I had to communicate through a strong language barrier, and it has not been easy. I regrettably did a poor job learning Czech prior to arriving in Prague. This made my first couple of interactions quite difficult. And I still don’t feel very confident communicating with native Czech speakers. Part of this is obviously my lack of experience with the language; it is both a hard language to learn and a language I have just started practicing. Another major part, though, is this worrisome feeling that I will do/say something that to me is natural but to them is offensive. During our first tour here, our tour guide, Honka, went through a list of the need to know rules of interacting with the Czech. As she start listing off the rules, I realized that I broke every single one of them. I smile a lot in conversations, ask a lot of “small talk” type questions, and am quick to be friendly with strangers. Realizing that all of these things would go against Czech customs, I became worried. I have since not been confident in my interactions. I’m taking steps to try to ameliorate this. Namely, I am trying to take a more object approach to my interactions. EUSA Director Martina gave us this advice: treat your interactions as social experiments instead of personal reactions and you will be more confident knowing that the end result does not affect you. I really took this to heart and have been trying to channel this in all of my interactions. As much as I don’t want to be “that American”, I have to embrace it at points and not be so self-conscious. At the end of the day, I am “that American”.
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