I have spent the last month of holidays back home in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. It’s a very small town 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Pittsburgh. It’s hard to determine which continent I enjoy spending time more, Europe or America..they both have so much to offer, although overall, life and people are the same. :)
Of course there are obvious differences between the two, such as language and measurement systems, time, and weather measurements, but there are also some not-so-obvious differences I have observed that I thought I would share with you.
Dining and Drinking
The most general difference is the how often Americans eat out compared to Czechs. Although you will find students eating in pubs, and restaurants here in Brno, it is more common in the U.S. that you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner out with your family and friends. Americans love having breakfast out in restaurants and diners, and to really captures our “can-eat” spirit, we love breakfast buffets. Though it seems much less common in Czech for families to eat dinner out, let alone breakfast.
In the U.S. service is also different. Waiters and waitresses are working for their tips, as they are only paid maybe 2-3$ per hour, and the rest of their income comes from tips, provided they do a great job they will see a 20-25% tip, typically tips are not lower than 15%. Here in Czech it seems common to round up, and that is the “tip” given.
Now, drinking is also done a little differently in Slippery Rock than in Brno. We often times drink in our family homes, this is mainly due to the fact that not many of us have apartments, bars have “last call” at 1 a.m. and we live driving distances from the bars, so drinking in a house where we can drink all night, and not drive (and its much cheaper) is usually the more appealing option, but that’s not to say we are not at the bars a few nights a week.
Here in Brno, people drink in pubs, and less often in flats/family homes. Also, in the U.S. we love card games, drinking games, board games, etc. while we are drinking. In Brno it seems just sitting around having beers and maybe an occasional shot in pubs is more common for a night of drinking.
Czechs/Europeans and Americans differ in some aspects of general everyday life. This can be found in basic mentality, as Czechs (Europeans) are more relaxed and calm in work, breaks, and life, you may find often Americans are more “go-go-go” of course this is generally speaking, and not for all Americans or all Czechs.. :)
Of course, it is commonly stereotyped Americans love gas-guzzlers, and drive everywhere, and well, this is not far from the truth. We really do drive big trucks, SUVs, etc. and we drive everywhere, and we drive for fun. While here in Brno, public transport, and walking are the general mode of transportation, and I don’t think anybody would drive just a few kilometers away. Of course this is also because basic infrastructure is different. In the U.S. not many sidewalks are provided outside of the town center, distances are further apart, and we lack the great public transportation here in Europe unless you are in a big city.
Our general sense of humor can differ. As Czechs are less sensitive and are often said to have “black humor”, Americans have often come to be sensitive to issues someone might take offense too, and after living in the Czech Republic, it was hard for me to be so “sensitive” again. :)
Cafes/Coffees are another big difference from my life in Slippery Rock, P.A. to Brno. In Slippery Rock there is not even one café in the town. My friends and I don’t sit around drinking teas and coffees like you may often do here in Europe/Brno. Often, coffee is ordered to go, in large cups (though I love the size of American coffee :D) and they drink on the go in the car, while walking, etc. Although, I really enjoy the culture of sitting down for a good conversation over coffees and teas here, it’s a great way to spend warm or cold days.
You may find in the Czech Republic, more general cultural awareness. When situated in Europe, you find people know what is unique to their culture, and what is unique to their neighbors culture, but in the U.S. although there are differences between regions and states, we customarily just know what is daily life – and not what is going on in the cultures across the oceans. This is not an insult to the American culture, simply they know what they see, and what is around them.
Prices, Money, Banking
In the U.S. things are seemingly cheaper. Electronics, clothing, gas, and even food and bills are cheaper. Although for food, drinks, etc. the numerical price may be higher, relative to wages and cost of living, it is overall cheaper in the U.S. (of course, I am speaking Pennsylvania prices not NYC or LA)
In Pennsylvania we have no sales tax on “necessities” of life. This includes food (not prepared food), water, clothing, shoes, while here in Czech Republic those items have a 15% VAT. On goods and services in my county of Pennsylvania we have a 6% VAT, while in Czech Republic that tax is 21%.
These prices also probably reflect the frequency of items bought in the U.S. vs. Czech Republic. While in the U.S. consumerism and competition is the driving factor of economy, jobs, and life – it results in lower prices. Furthermore, sales are all the time and everywhere in the U.S., and not just 100 CZK discount like you might see in H&M here in Brno, they are “50% & buy one get one free pair of shoes with additional 10% off” sales, and as a shopper you think “how can I pass that good of a deal up?”
Banking and spending is also done differently. Here in the Czech Republic you will often use cash, banking is done ‘paperless’ (online wire transfers) while in the U.S. banking is done with paper, and payments are done with credit card. It is not uncommon to pay for your 1.25$ tea with a credit/debit card in the U.S, while banking (bill payments) may be done with checks or the debit card, while online wire transfers will run you a $40 fee.
These are just a few general differences in the U.S. and Czech Republic. I’m not claiming one is better, or worse, just that there are differences that make up culture and everyday life. Some things fit the stereotypes, while others may not. I enjoy the Czech Republic, and the U.S. and love things about both lifestyles and cultures. I’m sure many of these things you may have heard already, maybe from movies, friends, or assumptions, this is just my point-of-view. :)
So, how is your home country different from the Czech Republic/U.S.A… and what are the similarities? Is there a way-of-life you prefer? Do you find it hard to adjust to the Czech Republic, or when you return back home? Let us know! :)
Check out my favorite places to visit in Brno. :)