What should you expect if you plan to visit a European country sometime in the near future? While you will likely notice similarities between the USA and European countries (since so many of us come from there), you'll probably also observe significant differences, not the least of which is that you are now a foreigner […]
What should you expect if you plan to visit a European country sometime in the near future? While you will likely notice similarities between the USA and European countries (since so many of us come from there), you'll probably also observe significant differences, not the least of which is that you are now a foreigner and English is not the dominant language.
That said, here are ten differences I noticed during a recent trip to the Czech Republic (officially known as Czechia these days):
1) Recycling is not just a good idea, it's a way of life that is also highly convenient. Recycling containers are found in virtually every community, regardless of size, and they even pop up in isolated areas where you wouldn't expect to find one (i.e. along bicycle paths).
2) In Czechia, people walk and bicycle everywhere, not only for pleasure but also as transportation. As well, age is not a factor. Every day and in diverse locations, we observed numerous gray-haired cyclists, some of whom carried groceries or other goods with them. On any road you travel down, you should expect to see multiple cyclists and pedestrians.
3) Fifty miles (or more) is a long way to travel here. Villages are generally located about a kilometer or two apart from one another. In villages and towns the speed limit is usually 50 km/hr, although you may travel 90 km/hr outside of town. Subsequently, that's how your journey goes: slow down, speed up, slow down.
4) Bus stops are located everywhere, even out in the middle of the countryside, and most offer a shelter for waiting riders. The transit system in the Czech Republic gets an A+. Really, you don't even need a car here.
5) The Atkins diet was probably a failure in this country. Multiple bakeries do business in cities the size of Pratt or larger. For example, in one city we stayed in, Vysoke Myto (population 12,335), we found at least five independent bakeries, which didn't include in-store bakeries of supermarkets, like Albert, where we picked up a fresh-baked loaf of rye bread for about 60 cents US (and sliced it using an automated bread slicer).
6) You can still pump and pay for your own gasoline, without even having to leave a credit card or personal ID with the cashier. I never even discovered a gas pump that would allow you to pay with a debit or credit card.
7) Czech parents may receive up to four years of paid maternity leave, although there is a cap of 220,000 Czech crowns (per child, I believe). Currently, the exchange rate is about 23 ½ crowns per dollar.
8) A vast network of paved roads connects every part of the country. If you use a GPS to map your route, you may suddenly come upon a sign or blockade indicating that the road ahead is closed to traffic. No worries though, you should easily be able to switch to a nearby road that will take you to your intended destination, in not much more time than the closed one.
9) Motorcyclists may ride between vehicles. We had our first experience with this at a roundabout in Prague. Subsequently, be careful when you're changing lanes, as there may be a motorcycle about to pass you. If it happens, it'll happen quickly, and the motorcycle will soon be out of sight.
10) You must pay to enter most restrooms (look for the WC sign). Outside of pubs, certain American chain restaurants, and some small villages, you should always carry a spare five or ten crowns with you for a nature break. Of course, there are plenty of woods here, so that's a free option. Don't be surprised if you see the caretaker of the restroom (usually a woman) in a room as you enter the men's WC. And you had better pay her!
These are just a few differences you may notice if you travel to Czechia or some other European country.
Overall, if you want to truly experience a foreign country, do your best to leave your cultural biases at home. Like the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans. If you follow this route, you'll be more likely to have an authentic experience of the country of your choice.