Dedicated to my instructors Adrienne and Kenny, and my grandfather Yap Kim Hao. “Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”
I came to Prague for a month to earn my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification. I had recently been to several countries in Western Europe so I found myself constantly trying to absorb the culture but at the same time naturally comparing to life in the USA, Singapore, and Western Europe. I had easily learned survival French and even German but regularly butchered Czech even after a few language lessons. It has gone to the extent that it has become my life’s mission to say four in Czech “ctyri”.
None of my class knew but my grandfather had endured a minor heart attack while I was attending the course. I’m a bit of an obnoxious asshole to be frank, this came from growing up being let down by my friends, loved ones, and role models time and again. So overtime I learned to “turn off” my feelings and refer to a visage of an insensitive person. I’m not proud of this but acknowledge it, I am an individual so sensitive and caring that I act the complete opposite to hide it. I wish I had confided in someone, but history has urged me to bottle it up and shut off my emotions – I dislike this the most about myself.
TEFL Worldwide Prague “Family Night”. (Yes, that is a puma. We went to Krakora Bar in Prague where the owner legally owns a pair of tame pumas who roam the bar on occasion.)
I learned quickly that Czech people are cold. It’s an uncommon occurrence for a passerby to smile or small talk with you even in a bar. This is not to say the people are rude but they are shy and reserved and it reflects as unwelcoming. Asking for directions, to pet someone’s dog, change for bigger bills, or to bum a cigarette is seen by Czechs as a weird and awkward request especially when they don’t know you. That being said, Czech people do have the best behaved dogs I have ever seen! So well-trained that it’s a frequent occurrence to see dogs following their owners off leash everywhere from the metro to school, Czechs see their dogs as their children so asking to pet them can come across as asking to pet their son or daughter so it’s just best not to be done.
1. See the Dancing House: Although closed to the general public Dancing House is just one of the many beautiful examples of Prague’s unmatched architecture.
2. Stroll through Charles Bridge: Prague is about as safe as it gets. Locals joke pickpocketing is said to be common in Prague because “experts” couldn’t find anything else criminal that occurs in the city.
3. Admire the St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle Grounds: Castles and holy places are widespread throughout the Czech Republic and Europe for that matter, therefore I always opt to find ones that are unique and standout to me – St. Vitus Cathedral was one of those.
Getting into the castle grounds you have to prepare for three things: a lot of steps, more often than not a long line, and security consisting of a walk through a metal detector, a wand, and a pat down reinforced by cold stares from a small army of soldiers, law enforcement, and castle guards – although most people adore posing next to stationed guards to add a photo to their scrapbook.
4. Visit St. Nicholas Church: The Bell Tower, which is a separate entrance and fee, was my prime reason for scouting out this church, however I adored the ceiling painting and artwork.
5. Find Your Favorite Viewpoints! Because of the varied elevation finding the best viewpoints was one of my favorite activities in Prague. Pictured below is my favorite viewpoint from the top of steps up to the castle grounds.
6. Take a Selfie at Lennon Bridge: An ode to John Lennon from various local artists, this wall is regularly being painted over and changing over time. It’s all too common for a passerby to pose in front of it for a new profile picture.
7. See the Astronomical Clock’s Puppet Show in Old Town Square: The Astronomical Clock to me was a bit of a let down as the hourly puppet show is only a few seconds long and underwhelming to say the least. Regardless, there is always a mob standing in front of it with their phones and cameras out patiently waiting for the show to begin. It’s one of those things that I refer to as being so bad that it’s good, kind of like the film Roadhouse.
8. Walk Through “The Narrowest Street in Prague”: This one-way alleyway is so tight that it has a traffic light.
9. Find the Love Locks: Primarily found in various spots underneath Charles Bridge, I admit I’m indifferent towards love locks as I consider it a bit tacky and just don’t think it’s that romantic of a gesture to, in a small sense, vandalize public property to express your affection for someone. The collective weight of love locks has gotten to the extent where they must be removed regularly as part of city maintenance due to structural damage to attractions such as the Eiffel Tower. However, I occasionally see them as little mosaics of art. I am torn in my opinion to say the least.
10. Go to a Thai parlor and have fish eat your feet. Literally they are widespread throughout Prague and cost around $20 for a 30 minute session. Get a great Snapchat and surf the web while little schools of fish consume the dead skin off your feet.
11. Ride the Metro! The public transportation is unmatched in Prague and very clean at that, the metro has three lines (A, B, & C) which intersect in the center of Prague and each line only goes two directions so if you ever miss your stop like me simply get off, walk across the platform, and take the subway back. Moreover, my first experience using the metro led to me paying a fine of 800 Czech krowns ($30) for buying a child’s ticket instead of an adult’s by mistake. The result of a simple overlook when buying from the ticket machine and rotten luck since tourists are targeted on the metro by police for this exact reason.
The districts in Prague are relatively easy to navigate as they are numbered just like in the Hunger Games. I lived in Prague 9 while I earned my TEFL certification and when I had friends come and visit jokes about who “volunteered as tribute” were shared relatively often.
12. Feast! Czech food is for meat and potatoes eaters. Dumplings, sauerkraut, schnitzel, and goulash are some traditional Czech entrees. Czech food is more so about being savory and filling as opposed to being nutritional or complex – so you won’t find many fruits or vegetables in entrees. That being said, I’m not sure why but KFC is everywhere in Prague – I guess because Czech’s love that it’s finger lickin’ good!
Tipping isn’t common in Prague as customer service is nonexistent. Tipping 10% on a bill is considered generous. Generally patrons will simply round up their tab so if they have a bill that is 180 Czech krowns they will just hand over a 200 note and say keep it or ask for how much of their change they want back. Czech people will never be insulted by a nice tip but again make sure to lower your expectations of customer service when eating out in Prague..
Paying in big bills is inconsiderate. 25 Czech krowns equates to $1 US Dollar and typical entrees will not cost more than $8 or 200 krowns. So paying with a 5000 or 2000 Czech note for a small bill is often seen as inconsiderate because servers and bartenders don’t make nearly enough to regularly make change for large bills and will run out of small bills themselves. Czech notes come in 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, and 5000 and coins come in .1, .2, .5, .10, .20, and .50. It’s similar to if someone in the USA gave you a $100 bill at a restaurant for a $5 meal and then asks for all ones or fives in change.
13. Do Laundry: The washers in a lot of Europe are TINY. Not much bigger than a microwave, these washers are about a third of the size of the washers I’m accustomed to using while I was living in America.
Hang drying your clothes on drying racks strategically placed by heaters is widespread in Europe, especially during the winter season. Expect to wait a day or two for thick articles of clothing like jeans to dry and even then the seams might still be damp on top of the stiffness becoming uncomfortable and inconvenient. It’s also a good idea to crack a nearby window open so that the air doesn’t become humid.
14. Take a Bath: I will always loathe laying down in a bathtub and holding a shower head over me although I appreciate being able to brush my teeth in one room while my roommate relieves himself in the other. I am 6 feet tall and loathed bathing for this reason, my French roommate was 6 foot 6 and had long hair, I would not wish what he had to endure in there on my worst enemy.
15. Go on a Day Trip! Prague has some of best day trips. Kutna Hora, Cesky Krumlov, Cesky Raj, and Velka Amerika are among a few of Czech Republic’s best kept secrets. Architecture, museums, hiking, castles, cathedrals, whitewater rafting – you name it the Czech Republic has it. Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria are also only a few hours away by bus or train.
Kutna Hora’s Bone Church:
16. Admire the Fauna: Swans and peacocks are typical wildlife in Prague as well as hedgehogs in the spring when it’s warmer.
17. Get a Workout: Stairs are everywhere in Prague when it comes to traveling and sightseeing. The escalators are among the steepest I have ever seen and taking a series of stairs to go anywhere should be expected. I’m not nearly in the shape I used to be when I was cagefighting but maintain some form of health and fitness through hiking and walking everywhere so I always got a good laugh at watching people take a break trying to overcome the many steps up to a tower, down to a metro station, and especially up to the castle grounds. I’m an asshole, I know, you don’t have to tell me.
18. Turn your head at the prices. The cost of living and especially visiting Prague is dirt cheap from taking Ubers, to hotels, to eating out. Beer is cheaper than water, not by a lot but it definitely is. On average a pint of beer at a bar will cost between $1-2, in a grocery store it is possible to order a plastic 2-liter of beer for the same price range. While in the meantime a small water, depending on factors such as if it’s flavored, sparkling, glass bottled, will cost a few cents more at a bar and potentially a few dollars more at a grocery store depending on the factors. Note that it is customary in Prague to have a lot of head on your beer.
Prague has the Guinness World Record for annual consumption of beer in the world. You can even pay to bathe in beer. Yes, for around $90 you can bathe in a tub of Bernard Brewery’s homemade beer.
Wow! This is such a beautiful place!! Especially, the dancing house!! 😊
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Very revealing Shaun! Great write up.
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woah… you lie down in the bathtub for a shower? na, man, doing it all wrong. if theres not enough room for standing up, or no screen to keep the water at least generally in the tub for a standing up shower, what you do is you sit down in the tub. not lie down! 😀 its just funny someone would even consider taking a shower lying down.
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Never had to do it before pretty much I’d just take a bath.
Wow! A great and thorough post thanks! 😀. Having been to Prague briefly I can deffo agree with the finding your favourite viewpoint part. There’s such beauty from nearly any point be it looking across the bridges or over the town itself from up on high and the cathedral. Lovely.
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Hi there! Fellow TEFL Worldwide alum and Czech blogger here – it’s really nice to find your blog and think you have a great list! Happy to have done most of these things (don’t think I’ll ever do the ‘dipping my feet in a fish tank’ thing though)
One little thing I have to disagree with you on… I really have a different experience completely when it comes to the Czech people and do not think they are that cold, in fact, when you get to know people here, they are the warmest and kindest I have ever met in my life. I think living in Prague may color your experience differently, as it is the big city vs. smaller city/town people who are leagues warmer…. it’s not fair to generalize the whole people from the ones you see in Prague, ‘naw mean? For example, strangers often stop to ask about my dog or comment on something at the supermarket, etc. I will agree though that it took me a couple years to get over the scowls from passersby on the street.
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Thanks for the comment and I understand. It’s not intended to be a generalization but more so my experience as I obviously visited Prague as well as Kolin, Kutna Hora. I don’t think all Czech people are that way but generally speaking if you had to describe them based off of my experiences that is how I feel. Of course I met some who were super friendly, helpful, and even let me practice my Czech but more often than not I would get scowls, eye rolls, or cold attitudes trying to ask for directions, order food, and making compliments about dogs. It’s just the cultural difference coming from America.
Hi there, another TEFL Worldwide alumni (and Brexit refugee) here. I’d just like to say that I agree with you about the outward coldness of Czech people. I heard that this was a hangover from communist times, when people couldn’t talk to strangers for fear of them being secret police. Maybe there is some truth to that.However, this is like a mask you can see visibly falling away when they first talk to you. The irony is that Czech people are some of the warmest people on earth, you just have to break their icey shell. 😉
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I agree I met a good variety of both but it made it difficult to meet people or learn more about the culture because you can’t simply approach someone at a bar or cafe unlike other places in Europe where that is common. I think my biggest distaste was the lack of service as well albeit it is said to have improved from earlier years and of course nonexistent service is not the case everywhere. To keep it simple: My bad encounters with Czechs were far more numerous and left a more lasting impression than the locals who I met, most of whom weren’t originally from Czech but nearby or neighboring countries actually.