This is the thing I say the most to people. It’s like a formal hello (literally: good day). Many colleagues tell me it is okay to use the more informal “Čau” or “Ahoj,” but since I am American and I am not used to greeting people differently depending on our relationship, I just use “Dobrý den.” In fact, I have become a product of classical conditioning at this point. I’m so worried about seeming rude, that I say this to literally everyone I see.
I should really start keeping a list of the cultural differences I notice. But then I promise nobody would read it, because the list would be too overwhelming. Seriously, nothing is the same. There is no top sheet on beds; just a comforter. At pharmacies, even vitamins are kept behind the counter. No one eats peanut butter—I found ONE store in town with ONE jar. And last weekend, there were four ambulances in town because someone went mushroom picking and ate the wrong ones.
In the US, we can just come into the office, sit down and go to work. Or, when we are leaving we might just get up, walk out, and say, “Bye, everyone!” At my school, when you leave you say goodbye to EVERYBODY. People will walk into the office, which I share with two colleagues, just to say goodbye to everyone. Individually. It is very nice…In fact, this made me realize how silly it is that central Europeans get a bad rap for seeming unfriendly. The difference between Czechs and Americans is that Czechs tend not to use unnecessary niceties. Why would I say hi to someone I pass at the street? Why would I smile at the cashier for no reason? Why would I make small talk in line, just to pass the time? It’s less like they are unfriendly, and more like they have a limited word count for the day–they want to make sure their words matter. With that said, if you approach someone else with a question, they are not quick to judge and will be as helpful as they can (usually).
On another note, my bank decided for me that I have been out of the country long enough, and my account was frozen. Don’t try to solve the problem for me; I have wasted enough time trying on my own and it is hopeless. However, an unlikely hero came to save the day!! REI, which managed to persuade me into opening a credit card, has no foreign transaction fee! Ohhh boy, do I wish they would pay me for how I am about to wax poetic over the company: Not only did they give me a $100 gift card to open the card, they saved my ass when my bank decided I’d had enough of my own money. It might be a bit pricey, but REI holds a special place in my heart. This has gotta be something Cheryl Strayed and I have in common, if nothing else!
Lastly, check out the Flickr photo gallery for some new pictures from Fulbright Orientation in Brno! And the beautiful cover photo…I live here.