I am only a few days into this journey, and it hasnt been as startling as I thought it would be. The culture is quite different yes, but not extremely shocking to me. -They call it culture shock, no?- In fact Prague and other big cities of Europe remind me a lot of Portland–considered the wierdest city of the west half of the US at least. European cities are interspersed with trees and urban sprawl. Eco conscious, yet not afraid of technology. Mindful of the past and embracing of the future.
1 -jedna- No means yes.
If you need to say NO, NO, NO, you need to say neh, neh, neh, or I dont want that is -nechci je to-. If you want to say yes, you say no, or more formally -ano-. This allows me to play mind games on unsuspecting Americans. Wait, are you telling me no in czech? No.
Wait, no yes, or no no?
2 -dva- It sucks not knowing a language.
Even though central Prague is filled with english speaking cashiers, shopowners, tour guides, etcetera, the local people mostly speak czech alone. The youth are also taught in school to be fairly fluent in British english, but this still causes problems for Americans. If you actually want to talk with locals, its best to learn the language. Especially living here. Not being able to communicate what you want is a pain. Not knowing what people feel is even worse. I feel terrible when I cant apologize, and I feel like Ive wasted their time. But I remember whenever I met foreign exchange students in America, I always felt honored to see them struggle with the paradoxical and ill-natured code known as English.
I think the czech language has connections to German, Hebrew, Latin, and Russian. Finding words that sound similar helps to memorize, even though they probably have absolutely no relation. Like horka means hot, and it sounds like orca, the killer whale. And zelency sounds like celery and means green. But other words are clearly meaningful to me, like Sabota means saturday and sabbath. While every letter is phonetic, some of them are confusing or hard to pronounce. J makes a -yuh- sound. C by itself makes a -ts- sound. C with an accent is -ch- sound. S with an accent is -sh- sound. Z with an accent makes an -jz- sound. R with an accent makes an airy -j- sound or an -rhu- sound. And their are others.
3 -tri- Directions are a fun puzzle.
While we were in the Nuremburg train station, we had seven different people give us the exact same directions all in different locations relevant to the station, which turned out to completely wrong. Finally, a kind man who spoke no english walked us there. I am learning the charts and maps slowly. Navigation has always been one of my weak points. Prague has like 15 districts or something, and they all have very slovak names so I only remember the intersects and our destinations.
3 1/2 -tri a pul- You dont need a car. Really.
The mainland EU is crisscrossed with trams, trains, metros, busses, and more. Only Britain drives on the left side, but Czechs still drive like madmen. So be careful to wait for the walk signal.
4 -ctyri- The buildings are breath-taking!
In America, we have this notion that old is ugly. We tear them apart and build something shiny. But here old is elegant, just needing a renovation here and there. Everywhere I turn there is an apartment hundreds of years old with statues of angels on every window. Castles sit in the distant fog. Cobblestones pave the inner city streets. Beautiful lamposts light the streets. And yet, monuments also catalogue the attrocities of the Nazis and the USSR. Wow, this is a dissonance Ive never really put together. The romantic europe with the horrors of the world wars. Thats shocking.
5 -pet- The keyboards are a little confusing.
The Y and Z buttons are switched, probably something to do with typing efficiency in the Czech language. I havent been able to figure out most of the punctuation buttons. -sad face-
The letters in passwords sometimes only show up as blank spaces.
6 -sest- Czech food is diverse and beautiful.
My new wife and I like to play food roulette. The supermarkets have at least four entire sections for meats, and four for cheeses spread throughout the store. Today I enjoyed a wonderful peper kolbasa, -not pronounced kebasa like stupid english- swiss cheese, curry noodles, fried parmesian patty, fried cauliflower -very popular-, strange tasting yogurt, the juiciest apples ever grown, and more.
7 -sedm- Cźech culture still suffers the after-effects of communism.
One might think that this country is full of manic depressives, rude bartenders, and fast-paced introverts. But this is largely just the traditional manners of the Czech republic. Whilst in communism, business owners were not allowed to converse with customers, use too much eye contact, or smile. It may be misconstrued as rude and selfish when other people might be sad to act overly happy. Happiness is also largely considered fake–no one can be that happy all the time.
This is troubling to me. Because I genuinely am happy almost all the time. However, if one pays close attention you can see subtle smiles behind counter tops and windows. That just makes me start dancing.
7 1/2 -sedm a pul- It is rapidly adopting western culture.
Today is the 35th anniversary of czech independence!! As well as our 1/2 year wedding anniversary!!! -smiley face-. They have adopted supermarkets, but also have traditional markets. They have malls. They have contemporary apartments. They have washing machines. But they dont believe in dryers, they still have clotheslines in their showers.
They have fashion lines. We actually dont stand out that much from young european dress -extremely hipster-.
8 -osm- There is a growing movement of Christianity.
This is quite inspiring. Despite their long history of exploitation from other countries, and their dive into Jewish existentialism, like Kofka, small churches are gaining a foothold. I have faith this ministry has a bright future in a spiritually starved land.
9 -devet- The money is so cool.
They have both traditional money and euros. I like both better than American money. Its color coded and artistic, and made of so many cool materials.
… Does anyone know what a pomelo tastes like?