As I’ve already mentioned a million times on this blog, I recently moved to Prague to pursue my dream of gentrifying East-Central Europe. I’ve been in the Czech Republic for about six months now, and whilst I’d hesitate to identify myself as convincingly European, despite what my passport insists, I am conscious that certain aspects of my behaviour have changed in my jaunt on the continent. Although hindered by my shocking Czech and general standoffishness, I am slowly integrating into Czech society in certain specific ways.
don’t buy public transport tickets;
The Prague public transport system is a mixture of underground, buses, and adorable trams that look like they’ve not been updated since 1968 (pictured). Since I started working largely from home, the frequency of my rides on the rails has diminished massively. I no longer rely on the tram for my income, but rather consider a trip on the metro a sort of weekly treat.
The network is relatively reliable, at least compared to its Sheffield counterpart; and, like its Yorkshire equivalent, it’s incredibly open to abuse. Unlike the larger public transport systems I’m familiar with, both Sheffield and Prague rely on a largely self-policed ticketing service. You buy a ticket from an exciting yellow machine with pleasingly old-fashioned buttons, validate it onboard using another exciting yellow machine, and present your validated ticket to representatives of the law on request.
It sounds like a reasonable and decent system, except for one thing: I’ve never seen a representative of the law checking tickets. I’ve lived here, as I say, for half a year now, and at my peak I travelled by public transport a few times a day – and my ticket has never been checked. What does a person do in the face of such a lax system? Stop using the exciting yellow machines.
I’m sure my comeuppance is up-and-coming, and, frankly, I’d not feel at all upset if I were fined at this point. I deserve it. Sometimes I use the first exciting yellow machine just to enjoy the pleasingly tactile buttons, but, largely I’m a criminal.
Anyway, I think this counts as cultural integration because I was encouraged to flout the law by my Czech pals who openly laughed when they saw me buying a ticket from the exciting machine. Peer pressure strikes again.
don’t consume any Czech media;
“Friends,” I ask in my charmingly broken Czech, “can you recommend me a Czech newspaper?”
“Pals,” I inquire in my accented Czech, “what TV show should I watch to strengthen my already mighty knowledge of your language?”
“Chums,” I wonder aloud, “do you know any Czech music?”
The answer to these earnest questions has always been, in this order,
It’s 2019 and, as any language learner knows, a great way to improve your skills is to immerse yourself in the media of your target language. Imagine my horror and disappointment in hearing that my Czech friends get their news from the BBC, watch HBO and listen to Blur. I’ve spoken to the occasional Czech who reads German news, but I’ve been roundly discouraged from opening Lidové Noviny or listening to any Czech tunes – with the notable exception of Plastici.
have a job and a flat and that;
What could be more Czech than living in the Czech Republic and earning Czech crowns??
Although, if you ask someone from Moravia, Prague isn’t Czechia; just like, to northerners, London isn’t England.
have strong opinions about the whole Czech Republic/Czechia debate.
Those opinions change regularly, but I have them, and I’m fully invested in the polemic.