Little Czech Things

17 tramWhen I visit the US in the summer, I revel in the differences between the Czech Republic and the US. But it’s not long before I miss my adoptive country. Now, anyone who has been to Prague knows that there are many things to miss. I mean, there is the castle, the river, Naplavka, and Czech women, who I would wrestle Apollo in pudding for.

While I do miss those things when I’m away, it’s not what I really miss about Prague. It’s the little unique things about her, the things you see or deal with on a daily basis and learn to love.

One of the things I miss in summer is the pubs. Not just pubs, pubs are everywhere, but Czech pubs. By this I mean a waitress so grumpy that it seems she’d rather set your pubic hair on fire than serve you a drink. Dogs sitting beneath the next table sniffing at your calves. Bartenders with mullets or rat-tails smoking cigarettes and bringing your beer before you ask for one and marking it on your table’s slip.

It’s damned special.

I will miss the people of Prague. The guys carrying around miniature briefcases under one arm, preaching a phenomenal lack of efficiency. The old ladies dragging groceries along behind them in bags on wheels or carrying dogs around in bags. There is the grumpy old woman peculiar to the Czech Republic, the baba, who glares at everyone from her trophy seat at the front of the tram, challenging everyone. My day wouldn’t be complete without the Vltava fishermen who sit by river in complete camouflage outfits, as if this will help them blend in to a brown rock walkway. I have always wondered what the fish looking out of the water are thinking about this green bush in the middle of a walkway trying to trick them into biting a hook.

I will miss the everyday Prague street sights. On any street in Prague one can see a parent holding a urinating child above a sewer grate. Every tram stop has a one-legged homeless man, four random girls who could contend in an international beauty pageant, and a couple of people dressed for medieval combat, carrying giant swords, spears, crossbows, or axes. They may or may not be accompanied by a wench. Though I have never seen a renaissance fair in Prague, the regularity at which I see these folks suggests that there’s one continuously going on somewhere.

There are so many other things, as well. When I am in the US this summer, standing in a supermarket line looking at the impulse buys – gum, chocolate, DVDs – I will be warmed by the knowledge that somewhere in Prague someone is impulsively buying condoms and an individually wrapped shot of alcohol sold at the checkout in grocery stores. If I see someone with a cold sore, I will instantly think about the face herpes-fest that is Prague in winter. I’ll miss the late night excuse for pizza and the look of absolute consternation waiters give when I ask if I can open a window in the pub.

Fellow expats, what unique Czech things do you miss when you leave the country?

  1. #1 by PJ on June 1, 2015 - 3:41 pm

    I miss the gut-wrenching complications that arise during simple requests like “could I have that without mushrooms” or the look of anguish and disbelief in the eyes of a waiter just asked the unthinkable “could I open this window?”

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