Culture Czech – why my veggies are free, etc.


Traveling to a new country invites an onslaught of new smells, sights, sounds with plenty of puzzled looks and hilarious moments. One can begin to feel the contrasts even before departure – at the airport!

Examples:

  • My plane was mostly yellow, but this one is a close approximation

    Standing in line to check in with Ukraine’s Aerosvit in Bangkok, Eastern European stereotypes were everywhere. Lots of blonde and bottle blonde with some shockingly odd tans. Many dull pairs of eyes matched with limp, greasy hair and sallow skin met my gaze. Especially for the ladies, everything is tight. Tight hair and tight clothes which are often bawdy and revealing. If we were at a truck stop instead of an airport, I’d start wondering about how these ladies make ends meet.

  • The sunshine yellow paintjob on the plane seemed culturally distinct. As did the smattering of applause that accompanied each touchdown. I found the passenger’s relief at what I consider basic expectations mildly unnerving.

I’ve already touched on the general appearance of the Czech Republic, but I’ve had a handful of experiences – visual and otherwise – worth mentioning.

  • Prague Metro escalators are steep and long! They can definitely hold a candle to D.C.’s people-movers, which make me feel like I’m on a journey to the center of the earth.

  • Meant to be shared, but still… served on a cutting board?!

    Every minimart we’ve gone into or passed by sells fresh veggies! A welcome change from SE Asia. The flip side: seeing people eating huge portions – a woman with a rack of ribs bigger than her face, a little girl with a slice of pizza overflowing her dinner plate, and Pat’s pub meal so huge it’s served on a cutting board. Am I in America?

  • Speaking of SE Asia, we unintentionally risked a 700 Kc fine when we first arrived in Prague because we didn’t switch our brains over to western transit. We were befuddled when the bus from the airport arrived at our destination and we hadn’t been approached to buy a ticket. Prague is on the honor system with random checks. Oops!

  • Never ending, kind of scary escalators

    A ride on public transit would have one believing that the Czech are readers – most of the adverts are for books. The locals I quizzed said it ain’t so.

  • The same locals all proudly insisted that Czech beer is the best in the world. It’s served with a huge head of foam, and culturally important to drink the beer before the foam melts completely away. The “stale” bit left once the foam is no longer protecting the beer from oxidation is known as “the goat” and friends are said to make goat noises at one another during drinking sessions to encourage and slow-pokes to catch up.

  • Beer is usually served with typical Czech meals which include meat, cabbage, and dumplings or potatoes. With the exception of the cabbage, it’s become obvious that the Czech don’t eat greens outside of the lettuce family. I was stuffed to find kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens, spinach, or bok choy anywhere. At the farmer’s market we happened upon, I was pleased as pie to spy some greens. I filled a bag, stepped up the the cash register, and watched the farmer blush and grin while avoiding my gaze. He insisted I not pay for my prized sack of leaves. Back at our host’s apartment, I told him the story and pulled out the leaves. He doubled over with laughter. “Oh no! Oh no! We feed this to animals! To rabbits or goats or something! Are you sure you can eat this?!”

  • Typical street sign – almost always on the side of buildings

    Another cultural confusion – I’ve been seeing “Privat” on buildings and houses. My silly assumption is that I should keep out. Instead, the word is meant to communicate that a non-commercial individual has a B&B style room available in the house or building.

  • It’s been fun seeing Czech everywhere. A language I didn’t expect here: Hebrew! I guess what with the Jewish diaspora, it makes sense. A crucifix on the famous Charles Bridge has Hebrew letters, as does the altar in a Baroque cathedral in Olomouc.

That’s it for goodbye-Asia, hello-Europe observations. More hello-Europe to come! ♣

Czech out this photo album to see an Italian greyhound, Czech party life, and cool historical sites.

Photo credit links: aerosvit plane, prague metro escalators.



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