I think that everyone at least once in life has got into stressful situation, having survived some kind of cultural shock during trips abroad- foreign language, different national mentality, traditions and customs. But it seems nothing if to compare with moving to a foreign country for a long time. It takes lots of time and efforts to be integrated in the society You are moving in. I think that is one of the main tasks of EVS projects, which become a real school of life, serious challenge. You will never learn it even in the best European universities, You just have to survive it.
Going to Czech Republic for my EVS project seemed not a big deal for me - another Slavic country, similar, at the first sight language and I have already spent 3 years living and studying abroad. "It should be easy" - I thought. But frankly saying - I've been mistaken. Analyzing my life in Czech Republic I will start with the
It still unfortunately remains my biggest problem. Having studied Czech for 2 year I expected that it won't be so difficult to communicate at least in some basic level. But just straight after landing at Prague airport I realised that I know nothing... Directly I experienced called by me "complex of the dog" - I understood everything, but couldn't say any single word. Czech language just seems easy for Slavs, but it can be really embarrasing especially for Russian speaking people. The matter is in co-called "False friends" - the words in two languages that might look or sound similar, but are significantly different or even opposite in meaning. I think that everyone knows that Czech word "pozor"(attention) in Russian means shame, "úžasný"(amazing) - in Russian means horrible, perfumes in Czech can "vonět" (to have a fine smell), at the same time in Russia, "vonět" is to stink. Ordering "kompot" in one of local restaurants, i had no idea that I will get some king of jam instead of expected drink (in Ukraine and Russia "kompot" is non-alcoholic juice cooked from fruits). So be carefull ordering food in Czech "hospodas", your dish could always turn out to be something else that You expect.
As I have already mentioned difficulties regarding the names of Czech dishes, it is the right time to tell something actually about Czech traditional food. Tasty...what else can I say - much meat, cheese, cabbage and bread. The obvious minus of Czech cuisine are extra 5kg which I gained during the first month of my stay-the dishes are fatty and always contain much bread- different knedliki, rohliky, housky - Czechs are fanciesrs of bread. But my two biggest personal discoveries became "smažený sýr" and "pomazanka", such kind of dishes I have never tried before and which will always remind me about Czech Republic. Speaking about cuisine I can't but mention
"The best beer in the world is Czech beer"- such ode to Czech beer I've heard from one of my friends. And this is quite true - the variety of the beer simply fascinates. Yes, Czechs love beer and that's why every little town or even restaurant has its own special beer.
Another difficulty that a foreigner may face is Czech koruna, national curency which really complicates life with high nominal value of the bank notes and can drive you crazy when it comes to exchange rates. Each time I go to the shop, my head feels like exploding while I am calculating that approximately 25 Korunas = 1Euro, 1Euro = 4 Polish Złotych, 4 Złotych = 10 Ukrainian Hryvnya... Yes, going to the shop is a very complicated task and I really hope that someday I will define the price without all those sums :)
Another thing that you might be surprised with are definitely Czech railways. Once, one of my colleagues told me that in Czech republic I will fond of buses. And the matter is not in conveniences of Czech buses but in trains that are being late nearly all the time. Being stucked in a small village for a couple of ours because of the train delay I had no other chance as follow the advice not to rely much on České dráhy.
Living in Czech republic for almost half of a year, I don't stop wondering - why having a good national football team, Czechs aren't football fans. Hockey confidently replaces fotball and other sports. Going home by bus i usually see little boys with hockey sticks in their hands, each average town has its own covered skating ring and hockey team. As well each city, town or even little village has a monument to father of Czech nationalism - Tomas Masaryk.
During those 6 months observing Czech Republic from the inside, a huge part of my previous beliefs about culture, traditions, mentality have been destroyed. I have learnt much, I am sure that I will learn much more and I really hope that step by step i will completely succeed even in Czech language :)
by Oksana Kulakovska