Prague never lets you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws –Franz Kafka
I had an idea when I was in between working a low-paying job as a child care worker to go teach English abroad. I had always assumed that China or Japan would be the only places one could go to be an English teacher. I simply googled “teaching English abroad” and I found an article explaining how to obtain a TEFL certification and which countries you could teach in. I was surprised to learn that one could easily obtain a visa in the Czech Republic, teach English, and live in a country where 1 dollar would be equivalent of 20 Czech korunas. I had always wanted to live and work in Europe. I fantasized about a more civilized culture, sipping European coffee in a quaint cafe afterwards I would wander the cobblestone passageways, visiting museums that housed priceless romantic and classical art, and perhaps picking up an exotic language to impress my fellow Americans. I had always had this idea that Europeans had the system to living a good life figured out, a society that catered to the people. Men that, rather than shooting guns and playing football, were studying other languages, dressing sharply, while holding a steady appreciation for the arts. I would soon find out that some of the stereotypes about Europe are true and some not. Everyone is crazy about their football teams, and to call football by the American word “soccer” was completely frowned upon. The wild parties that go on until dawn are encouraged with a society that doesn’t bat an eye. The city that I chose to take my TEFL course was Prague, the city of a thousand spires. Prague was a city that I knew little to nothing about.
People stare at you on the metro. In America, we are taught to never stare at people. In Prague, every time you step out in public, it’s like a moving target has been placed on you as you feel a dozen sets of eyes burrowing into your back. I’ve learned to understand the reason for this is because the Czech people under communism would turn in their neighbors or friends to the Soviet police and an air of suspicion meant your survival back in those days. It still was probably the most uncomfortable thing for an American. Do I look at them when they look at me? What is the proper procedure? Oh wait they saw me and pretended not to be staring. I know you were looking at me!
Always carry an extra plastic bag or backpack, you never know when you need to pop into a Tesco to load up on food and if you want a jug of milk, be prepared to carry that son of a bitch all the way back on public transport to your flat. Czechs are crazy strong because they carry their groceries and other necessities back to their flats. Also most buildings don’t have lifts so not only do they workout their arms but also their quads and legs! A daily workout without a gym membership!
Learn to cook from scratch unless you want to pay more at the UK brand Marks & Spencer, most Czechs get their groceries from Tesco or the Czech version called “Billa.” This is probably the starkest difference between America and The Czech Republic that I noticed due to an empty stomach, my lack of cooking skills, and the money I blew ordering expensive delivery food. Every time you walk into Tesco, there are fruit and vegetables of low quality and selection. Mysterious meat and sausage in strange packaging and most disappointing at all was the lack of bacon! How do they survive?! Okay, I admit, I sound like a spoiled American brat but this is actually an advantage growing up poor, you learn to be resourceful. I’m sure that most of the Czech people know how to cook simply as a survival skill while most young Americans my age can’t even use a toaster.
There you have it. Just a few things I’ve observed while living in the city of a thousand spires. One of the greatest and most beautiful places,