We’ve called this city home for years and have noticed a few unusual things about living in Prague. Some are weird, some are wonderful, and some are downright confusing.
Why are there no toilets in the bathroom? Why do I have to worry about dog poo when I don’t have a dog? Where do I buy some Pepto? These are all questions we’ve asked ourselves at one point or another while living in Prague.
So, we thought it would be entertaining for you to see what some of the big differences between living in the States and living here, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, are.
Table of Contents
Weird and Wonderful Things About Living in Prague
By the way, the list isn’t a rant or a bunch of reasons we don’t like living in Prague. In fact, we love Prague and quite enjoy life here. Plus, many things on the list are awesome and totally make sense.
That said, the article is full of sarcasm and a few strongly expressed opinions. Yes, we poke fun at Czechs a bit, but it’s with a lot of love in our hearts that we do so.
So, try not to get your kalhotky in a bunch, and let’s get down to business!
Where’s the Toilet?
When we rented our first Airbnb apartment in Prague we arranged to get the keys from a neighbor of the owner since she was out of town. She let us in but didn’t show us around.
We found the bathroom but it did not include a toilet. We looked around and couldn’t find one. Panic set in. We were to be there for over a month after all. Was there no toilet? Was it a shared toilet located in the hallway?
After a few minutes, we opened what looked like a closet door in the kitchen only to discover the toilet room. See, in the Czech Republic the toilet has its own room.
Curious? Yes. Practical? Also, yes. Why have we, Americans, never thought of this? Why do we allow our toilets to be located within spitting distance to our tooth brushes? It makes no sense, and the longer we have been living in Prague the longer we appreciate our little toilet room.
Emails Are Kryptonite
This one was a huge shock. Czech people almost never respond to emails. Like, ever.
Pretty ironic considering they all have one. Email addresses are clearly displayed as a way to get in touch on nearly every business website. Yet, sending one is akin to sending one to outer space never to be seen again.
Want a doctor’s appointment and the website says to contact them by email? Enjoy whatever pain and suffering you are experiencing because you won’t get a reply. Need to know the standard operating hours of a restaurant and email them for info since it’s not listed on their site? Get ready to stay hungry, call them, or go elsewhere because they aren’t going to reply. Need to submit an important report to a Czech colleague that requires their written acknowledgment of receipt? Forget it. They’ll never confirm.
This was something that baffled and annoyed us for years. Recently we were discussing this anomaly with a Czech friend. She explained that there is so much stress in sending emails that are grammatically correct because their language is overly complicated. They end up second, third, and fourth guessing themselves about what they’ve written and it takes hours to write a simple reply. A light turned on… no wonder they don’t reply to emails!
Leave Your Shoes at the Door
Shoes are absolutely, positively, 100% NEVER worn indoors at home. In fact, most Czechs even have work slippers they wear in the office, outdoor shoes are not allowed in the gym, and even some doctor’s offices will give you a pair of slippers when you enter.
So, if you move here, invest in a nice pair of slippers and a few pairs for visitors. And never, ever, ever enter someone’s house without taking your shoes off!
Squat Toilet? No. Squat Shower? Yes.
If you’ve traveled to Asia you’re familiar with the squat toilet, but have you ever heard of a squat shower? We have!
When we first started living in Prague we figured whoever designed our shower simply failed to install the wall mount to hold the shower head (they’re detachable in Europe). The longer we stayed, and the more apartments we stayed in, we noticed that there was almost no such thing as a wall mount.
After speaking to one of our landlords we discovered that Czechs typically squat in the shower as they bathe instead of standing to shower like…well literally everywhere else we know of in the world.
Thankfully, they are finally catching on and showerhead mounts seem to be trending in Prague! Yay, standing showers.
It’s Not 5 O’clock Somewhere
If you’ve ever walked around Prague in the morning you’re bound to see people sitting or standing outside of pubs, cafes, or wine bars enjoying a beer or wine. Yup, drinking is acceptable at pretty much any hour here in the Czech Republic.
You need not wait for the clock to tick down to 5 o’clock to dive into your first beer. It’s absolutely socially acceptable to order one with lunch, stop by the pub at 10:00 am for a quick drink, or grab one from the local farmers market at 2:00 pm. There is literally no bad time to drink in the Czech Republic, and the expression “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” means nothing here.
Beer is the National Dish
Sorry to break the news to you Svíčková, but you’re playing second fiddle to beer in the Czech Republic.
Czechs invented Pilsner beer, they drink more beer per capita than anyone else in the world, and their beer is cheap and delicious. For these reasons, we are declaring that beer, aka liquid bread, is the national dish.
You’ll quickly learn that beer is literally in their blood. It’s as much a part of their lives as pasta is a part of an Italian’s. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Czech who doesn’t drink. Even if you do, they’ll still declare that their beer is the best in the world. We happen to agree with them on that.
Don’t worry though. You might be worried that with as much drinking as they do, nightlife in Prague would get overly rowdy and dangerous. It’s not. Czechs are, for the most part, reserved. They won’t take their anger out on you in a drunken rage. They’ll save it for when they’re behind the wheel..totally sober and trying to run you over for crossing the street in a crosswalk. More on that next…
Metamorphosis of the Czech Driver
Within hours of arriving in Prague for the first time we were nearly killed. Yes, a man driving a huge van decided it was better to speed up while we were crossing the street than take his foot off the gas. Thankfully we were spared and made it to the other side of the street uninjured, but it was a close call.
Over the years we noticed this is an all too common occurrence. Czechs are, for the most part, mild-mannered and avoid confrontation at all costs. However, they transform into totally different, road rage-fueled beasts when they get behind the wheel. Perhaps this is what Kafka’s (he’s Czech) Metamorphosis is actually about?
They’ll yell, scream, honk, and make actual efforts to run over you if you dare to cross the road in a crosswalk…where pedestrians literally have the right of way! It’s baffling. I guess holding all that anger in all the time has to come out at some point.
Don’t ever, ever, ever, put your beer down on the table without a coaster. It’s pretty much a mortal sin here.
Every bar or pub has a stack of coasters on the table, so before you even order your drink put one down. Otherwise the waiter will send you death stares when he or she has to do it for you.
No Such Thing as a Bar
With as much drinking as Czechs like to do you’d think there would be a proper bar here. Don’t get us wrong, there are loads of bars, pubs, and wine bars in Prague (and elsewhere in the country) but what is missing is an actual bar. Let me clarify.
When you go to a bar you sit at a table. The bar is only for preparing drinks. Something that makes for solo drinking or socializing with strangers in bars quite an awkward experience.
Our theory? Czechs don’t make small talk, Czechs don’t interact with strangers. Czechs don’t need bars in a bar. They’re only there to drink the night away with their closest of close friends.
No Bikes Allowed in Prague
Prague is for drivers. Prague is not for bikers.
Aside from a select few parts of the center and some parks, bike lanes do not exist in this city. So, biking to get around while living in Prague is not an option. Luckily public transport in Prague is incredible and cheap. However, if you want to be totally environmentally friendly and get around by bike, then we’ll crush your dreams now and tell you it ain’t gonna happen.
That said, there are some absolutely awesome bike paths spread out across the Czech Republic. You can bike from Prague to Dresden along some gorgeous countryside and via backroad trails. Just don’t expect to have much fun biking in the capital and you’ll be fine!
Czechs Love Dogs, and Dog Poo
Czechs love dogs.
In Prague, there are doggies everywhere, and people are incredibly serious about training them to be well-behaved. In fact, you will almost never see a dog on a leash unless it’s a puppy and hasn’t yet been trained. Additionally, dogs are welcome everywhere including parks, cafes, bars, and some shops. They’re just a part of living in Prague.
Nice right? Well, not entirely because Czechs also like dog poo. So much so that they leave it on the sidewalks for other Czechs to admire. Instead of picking it up and throwing it in one of the thousands of trash bins dotted around the streets and parks in Prague they leave it out to disintegrate or to be spread around by unknowing pedestrians.
Weirdly enough, fully stocked doggy poo bag dispensers are all over the city. What a waste of taxpayer money!
Customer Service, What’s That?
There is almost no such thing as customer service in Prague.
Okay, that’s an over-exaggeration, but customer service in this country is starkly different to what exists in the United States. Hell, it’s starkly different to the customer service in France, Germany, and Sweden…not exactly places known for their warm and friendly vibes.
Not only are Czech waitstaff often considered rude, they are also incredibly forgetful. It’s not uncommon to have to remind your waitress a few times for that drink you ordered, or to just have to get up and grab that ketchup you want yourself.
Pickled and Salted Foods
Unless you’re from Germany, Poland, or Hungary you might be surprised by the sheer volume of pickled and salted foods in this country. Food habits in this part of the world are derived from surviving the loooong winters, so you will find many pickled and salted foods meant to persevere over the long term.
Practical? Very. Tasty? We’ll let you decide.
Weird Holiday Traditions
Easter is a wonderful holiday. Hidden eggs, candy filled baskets, and big lunches with family. That’s what happens in the United States anyway.
Easter in the Czech Republic is all about boys decorating willow branches with colorful ribbons and braids, and going around hitting girls on their butts for good luck and fertility. In return, the girls give them candy and eggs. Sometimes they’re allowed to throw water on them but usually, girls are expected to take the whipping with good humor and appreciation.
This tradition does sound a bit strange and sexist, and when we first heard about it we were horrified. Having seen it year after year, I guess we’re used to it now and don’t give it much thought.
Easter isn’t the only holiday with unusual Czech traditions. There’s, of course, the carp in the tub at Christmas, the kissing under cherry trees to hang on to youth, witch burning, and more!
Scented toilet paper is big here.
For some reason, Czechs want to wipe and have the scent of lavender, chamomile or some similar flowery smell left to linger behind. Finding unscented, good quality toilet paper on the store shelf is like a challenging game of Where’s Waldo you never wanted to play.
Abandoned Babies Everywhere
Years ago we saw a report that Denmark was home to the happiest people in the world. The country was so happy and safe that people left their babies in strollers on the sidewalk when they went into a shop or cafe. Très bizarre! So when we saw this happening in the Czech Republic we were only mildly shocked.
It’s pretty common in Prague, the capital of the country and the largest city in the Czech Republic, for people to leave their babies outside, alone, and tucked snuggly into their strollers while they enjoy a coffee in a cafe or sip on a cocktail in a bar. And guess what, no one snatches them!
Don’t believe us? The above picture is proof.
+420 Country Code, Wink Wink
No one seems to know how the Czech Republic got the country code 420, wink wink.
Czechs love weed. Maybe not as much as beer, but we’ve never seen so much weed in our lives. It’s everywhere. In fact, they smoke more weed here than in most other European countries.
There are even unofficial weed bars all over Prague where you can sit down, order a beer, and have someone come up to you and sell you weed.
Now, before you get excited and decide to ditch your life in Whereversville USA and move here, you should know there is strict weed bar etiquette. If you don’t act according to the unwritten rules of the unofficial weed bar then you won’t be buying anything and you might even get kicked out.
And no, we’re not going to tell you what it is, or where these bars are. You’re gonna have to learn that for yourself like we…I mean like everyone else does.
Kids & Babies in Bars
Bars can, and are, a family-friendly experience in Prague. In fact, we can’t even remember how many times we’ve seen mothers nursing infants in bars here. Kids are as welcome in bars in the Czech Republic as they are in McDonald’s.
Before you get your panties in a bunch over the topic, kids are for the most part very well behaved here. You won’t see them running around like little, loud drunks annoying everyone else. So, it’s really not a big deal.
Fashionistas of Nowhere…
We’re the first to admit that fashion isn’t our number one priority…or even number 71. But OMFG fashion here is just terrible. Think nude colored pantyhose, 80s women’s dress shoes, socks and sandals. Argh!
Shopping in Prague is not an exciting proposition. We can’t tell you how many times we have gone out to buy something and come back empty handed because the best options were H&M or Lindex. And before you say, “oh, but H&M has some nice stuff.” come to Prague. The selection isn’t the same here as it is in New York, Sweden, or Germany.
We don’t know why but fashion trends are not making it to this Central European country.
Pharmacy’s – Where’s the Pepto?
Forget Wal-Mart, forget CVS. They don’t exist here. Living in Prague means you have to go to the pharmacy for literally everything AND you have to ask for it.
Have a tummy ache, ask the pharmacist what to take. Need some rubbing alcohol, ask the pharmacist for it. Out of contact lens solution, ask the pharmacist for it. No, not the sales clerk, the pharmacist.
See, here (and elsewhere in Europe) you can’t just randomly stock up on anything and everything you want to self medicate. You have to actually talk to a professional who is trained to give you the over the counter medicines you need, inform you about how to take them, and warn you about any side effects or interactions. Crazy, we know!
Also, they don’t have Pepto here. So, bring some with you! You’ll need it after all the fatty Czech meat dishes you’ll be eating.
Doctor’s Offices Are…Different
Going to the doctor in the Czech Republic can be a jarring experience.
The first sign that something is off is that there are almost never waiting rooms with upward of 20 sick people like there are in the States. In fact, there are usually no waiting rooms at all!
Instead, when you visit the doctor you wait in a hallway until the nurse opens the door. You hurl yourself from your chair to hand her your insurance card before she disappears back into the examination room. Then you sit back down in the hallway to wait your turn.
Once inside, you’ll realize that the exam room, doctor’s office, nurses station, and restroom are all in the same room.
Okay, we’re joking about the restroom but everything else is all in one room. So hopefully you’re not shy. If you need to de-robe or be anally probed it’s happening in front of everyone on staff!
The Language You Won’t Learn
Czech is a pretty difficult language to learn. On average it takes English speakers about 1100 hours to learn it. That’s double what it takes most to learn to speak Spanish, French, Swedish, or Italian.
Czech grammar is complicated to say the least. The language has seven cases, each with a singular and plural version, lots of verbal conjugations, and a lot of intimidating looking words. Many of which don’t have vowels and feel impossible to pronounce. For example, “Strč prst skrz krk.” is a real sentence.
Czech is so complicated that many native speakers don’t even use it properly. We’ve even heard of grown adults taking Czech classes to try to get better at…their own language!
Obviously, it’s not impossible to learn the language, some people do. We just don’t know any of them.
Always Wear a Dress to the Gyno
If you’re from the States and the owner of a vagina you’re used to getting a changing gown when you visit the Gynecologist. But in the Czech Republic you’ll have to walk across the room, half naked, from the changing area (if there is one) to the exam table. Awkward.
Yes, I agree, it’s kind of pointless to be shy around our Gynos…they’re about to look inside our vaginas after all. But sometime’s you’ve gotta leave something to the imagination, right? If that’s your thinking then always wear a dress to a gynecologist appointment, because you’re not getting anything other than a swift exam from your doctor.
Speaking of gynecologist exams, in the Czech Republic they always do inter-vaginal ultrasound exams in the office at every yearly visit. Something you’ll only get if you are experiencing an issue in the States. On the flip side, you’ll rarely get a breast exam from your doctor, and mammograms start at 42 here instead of 40.
Atheists and Real-Life Jedi Knights Living in Prague
Actual Jedi Knights live in the Czech Republic. Really.
Strangely enough, the Czech Republic is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. So the next time someone claims religion keeps us from doing bad things you can point to this country as proof that that’s untrue! Or maybe The Force keeps everyone in line here?
We can only speak about expats living in the Czech Republic as self-employed freelancers, but for us health insurance is awesome. Full coverage costs under $100 a month. Doctor’s visits are free, many prescriptions are free, and a recent minor surgery Randi had at a hospital cost her a whopping ZERO Koruna.
Move back to the States? No thanks.
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