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Culture Shock: The Biggest Differences Between the US & Prague

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Poly chapter.

Two countries, separated by thousands of miles of land and sea —there’s bound to be some variation. When I first arrived in Prague, I was immediately immersed in this new, amazing culture. Things were pretty different from back home, and I had to adjust to these changes. I’ve been here for three months now and have gotten to know the in’s and out’s of Czech life. From minor to major distinctions, here’s a list of 11 differences I’ve noticed between the USA and the Czech Republic.


Prague is the cheapest place I’ve ever been to. If you look hard enough, you can eat a giant meal that would cost $20 or $30 in the States for only five dollars. I’ve ordered a whole large pizza for less then five dollars and a large beer for barely two! And concerning tipping, you don’t have to calculate 15%, instead you just round your bill up a bit, which usually ends up costing only a few cents to a few bucks extra.

Customer Service

It’s not that the waiters and store clerks aren’t nice and hard-working, it’s just they aren’t well-versed in America’s idea of inhumanly fast customer service. If you’re hoping to grab a quick meal at a Prague restaurant, good luck. Waiters rarely bring the bill unless you chase them down and demand it. Expecting a nice chat at the grocery store check out line? Not gonna happen. The only thing they’ll say is dobry den (hello) and you’re lucky if you get a smile.


First things first, if you ask where a bathroom is, chances are you will get a confused face in response. You need to use the term “toilet” or “WC” instead. Second, you might have to pay. Many public bathrooms have a machine or person outside you must relinquish a few coins to before proceeding.


In America, we frequently get free water when we dine at restaurants or get fast food. That is not the case in the Czech Republic. One of the first nights I was here, I requested water assuming it’d be free of charge. Wrong! It showed up on my bill. Now I carry my own water bottle with me everywhere I go. I’ve also only seen one public drinking fountain. One! Free water is a luxury, people.


Obviously if you’re halfway around the world, the food is gonna be a little different. But some foods I could find so easily in America, I can’t here. Kale doesn’t exist as far as I can tell. Campbell’s canned soups? Forget it. Most soups here come in little paper packages, not cans. I didn’t realize how much I loved Kraft Mac & Cheese until I’ve had to live months without it. And I’m still on the lookout for some raw refrigerated cookie dough.


I miss Target. However, there’s this amazing store called Tesco, which luckily houses all my necessities. The one closest to me is huge; it’s got about five or six floors. There’s a well-stocked grocery store on the bottom, a toiletry section on the first floor, clothing on the third and fourth floors and office and home supplies on the top floors. It’s basically Czech’s Target.


The public transportation here is amazing. Of course, many major American cities have great transportation, but I grew up in a smaller town that had almost nothing. Prague has got dozens of buses and trams, three different metro lines, trains and a few taxis. Owning a car here is definitely optional.


Man’s best friend crowds the streets of Prague. You truly can’t go a day without seeing one of their adorable drooling faces. Everyone here owns a dog, and they prove it as they go about their daily business with their optionally leashed furry companion by their side.


The people here not only speak Czech, but nearly everyone I’ve encountered knows English as well as another dominant European language like Italian, French or German. It’s a drastic change from the stereotypical American, who only knows English and maybe some high school Spanish.


Europe is a far more eco-friendly place than America. Dryers don’t exist, so you have to either hang laundry up to dry on clothes lines outside, or put them on foldable indoor drying racks. BYOB (bring your own bag) is a common phenomenon in the Czech Republic. If you don’t bring a bag to the grocery store, you’ll have to pay for one there. They’re also very big on recycling.


It’s actually cheaper than water. An ice-cold glass of beer isn’t just a beer here; it’s a symbol of Czech culture. The Czech Republic is famous for their supreme beer (Pilsner Urquell, anyone?), and rightfully so. You can’t walk down a street in Prague without passing at least three bars. I don’t think any Czechs go a day without gulping down a beer (or five, or six, or seven).

Thinking about studying in Prague? Stay tuned for more tales from abroad!

I'm Frances. I'm 19 and am currently studying anthropology and geography at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. My ultimate passion is travel but I also love to eat, cook, read, and write. I hope to join the Peace Corps in a few years and make a tiny difference in the world.
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Aja Frost

Cal Poly

Aja Frost is a college junior living in San Luis Obispo, California. She is equally addicted to good books and froyo, and considers the combo of the two the best since pb & b (peanut butter and banana.) Aja has been published on the Huffington Post, USA Today College, Newsweek, The Daily Muse, xoJane, and Bustle, among other publications. Follow her on Twitter: @ajavuu