*Cue Steven Page voice.* – It’s been, one week since I’ve come to Prague. Cocked my head to the side and said nemluvím česky (I don’t speak Czech)…
Anyways, so I have officially been in the Czech Republic for seven days now. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions, ranging from losing my credit card within 5 hours of my arrival, (low point), to gazing out over the city of Prague from the peak of the Petrin Tower, (AKA the fake Eiffel tower, (high point (pun intended))). (Fun fact Prague literally built this tower to copy the Eiffel tower because they were jealous of Paris but they were broke and so they had to build a mini version and put it on a hill to get a good view.) I have walked 41.5 miles since Monday but have eaten enough gelato to make up for it. I am working on a new drinking game in the spirit of Czech Culture:
Order a Pilsner every time…
- …you almost get hit by a tram.
- …you see a shirtless man on the street.
- …you pass a dog without a leash.
- …someone rolls their eyes at your broken Czech.
- …you recycle.
- …a taxi tries to charge you $100 for a ten minute ride.
- …you trip on a cobblestone street.
- …I say, “wow, that’s beautiful.”
- …a night club poster advertises “hot blondes” as part of the entertainment.
That’s all I’ve got so far but you get the idea. Out of everything I have observed thus far, these things have stuck out to me the most.
Moving on to a more academic related subject, I would like to dedicate this post to unpacking the national environment here in the Czech Republic, specifically its political and social atmosphere.
Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the Czech Republic has been learning the ropes of democracy. This has made for an exciting and rapidly changing political and social atmosphere in the country. Older citizens who grew up with the stricter regime are still hesitant to embrace their new freedoms, while “90s kids” and those that followed never knew anything other than the rights they have now. It makes for an interesting dynamic when the worlds collide. For example, when walking down the street, a senior citizen will not even make eye contact with a stranger let alone offer them a friendly smile American style, whereas younger citizens are more generous with their unnecessary kindness. It’s not because older citizens are rude, but rather, drawing attention to themselves thirty years ago might have gotten them in trouble, so they learned live as wallflowers and and avoid any situation in which conflict could potentially arise.
In terms of human rights, I would say that the Czech Republic got a late start due to its recent parting with Communism. Speaking from a female perspective, the country is still extremely sexist towards women, especially in its professional community, and the pink tax is real here. While gay marriage is technically still illegal and gay couples are not allowed to adopt, same sex government registered relationships are legal- which is a step in the right direction. Human trafficking remains a problem in the Czech Republic as well as throughout all of Europe. (However, the Czech Republic has one of the lowest crime rate in the EU.) There are other issues I could go into, but I do not want to get too political- something the Czechs are more comfortable doing than myself. On the flip side, the Czech Republic highly values environmental protection, going as far as taxing energy so high that air conditioning is avoided at all costs. Their public transportation system is also excellent which encourages walking and public commuting instead of traveling via a personal vehicle.
Czech citizens are extremely blunt- voicing their personal opinions on everything from their stances on social issues to their political preferences within moments of meeting you. (Although to be fair, I think that their president is pretty universally disliked for low-key still pushing a communist agenda.) In general, the people here are very communicative about politics because of the young age of the country. There is a prime window for growth and the rising generations want to make sure that it is taken advantage of in a way that is beneficial for the country and the people. For example, the decisions that are currently being made within the new government will drastically affect the way the country’s economy grows. Right now, the Czech Republic heavily relies on tourism, but they have a chance now to stick their hand in the industrial trade cookie jar and diversity their income. They are very clearly attempting to do this, but it is still TBD whether or not they will succeed.
All in all, Prague so far has been an enriching travel experience professionally, socially, and culturally. 1o/1o would recommend it as an amazing vacation location for able-walkers, history appreciators and lovers of beer, meat, and potatoes. I am already upset about having to leave in ten weeks.
As the Czechs say, “chow, chowchow, chow, chow.” (Not sure why but they repeat hellos and goodbyes several times.)