#LifeInCzechia Traveling to another country or region brings a lot of change and new experiences, and moving to another place can bring even more. Embracing new cultures, places, foods, and traditions can be exciting, but being prepared for the journey begins before you even board the airplane. As a student studying abroad, I was in the unique position of needing to prepare for not only the change in school and classes but a change in lifestyle.
Exploring the Czech Republic is really exciting.
After living in Brno for a month, here are some pieces of advice and things I wish I did before landing in the Czech Republic.
- Equip your phone with helpful apps
When traveling to a part of the world that uses a language and currency system you are not familiar with, being able to quickly make translations and conversions is important. Two apps that I have found to be extremely helpful are Globe Convert and Google Translate.
Globe Convert is a free app that allows the user to enter two different currencies and then the conversion rate is shown. With this, I am able to see how many dollars I am spending in USD when I pay with Czech crowns. The app is very user-friendly and contains many different kinds of currency options.
The Google Translate app offers a multitude of language options that are easy to switch between. In addition to being able to enter text to translate, it offers the ability to take a photo of text to translate. I have to say this has saved me more than once when I am in the grocery store or trying to find the cooking instructions on different food labels.
- Arrive with knowledge of key, common phrases
Understanding how to greet others in passing, express thanks, apologize, and even how to ask for something is extremely helpful. In addition, it is a good way to show you are trying your best to embrace the new language that you are living among. Some key phrases that have been helpful for me to understand are:
- Dobrý den → good day
- Dobré ráno → good morning
- Děkuji → thank you
- Prosim → please
- Promiňte → sorry
- Nashledanou → bye
In addition, recognizing phrases or words that will be helpful in your everyday routine is useful. For example, having some understanding of transportation phrases and food translations can be helpful. Speaking a new language can be scary, but trying your best and asking questions is the best way to learn!
- Research the transportation in your new area of residence
Getting accustomed to new transportation is daunting, especially if you are coming from a place without lots of public transportation options. For me, getting used to the bus, tram, and subway systems has been something that has taken a fair amount of time. There are many different routes and transportation options, so I recommend looking at where you are living and planning to travel frequently (school, work, grocery store, etc.) and mapping out stops for the kind of transportation that will be most useful. Having the correct pass or ticket to use the tram, subway, or bus is also vital. Looking at the pass or ticket options and their costs ahead of time is a good idea, and it will save time.
Utilizing apps like Maps has also been a big life-saver. I am able to find the different bus, tram, and subway stops, the different tram or subway lines, their routes, as well as their arrival times and any transfers I need to make in order to get to my destination.
- Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
There will be situations that, no matter how much you prepare for, are unexpected. Going with the flow and not panicking is crucial. Culture shock is normal and nearly inevitable when traveling to a new part of the world. Spending an extended amount of time in a new area will reveal many aspects of everyday life that are different than what you may be used to. For example, upon arriving at my first train station in the Czech Republic, I discovered I had to pay to use the bathroom, get a ticket, and enter through a turnstile gate. Trying to ask questions to someone who speaks another language can also be challenging. However, situations like this are inevitable, and trying your best to communicate (maybe using Google Translate!) will help.
- Don’t take anything too seriously, and enjoy the journey
On my first morning in Brno, my friend and I decided to find a café for some coffee and breakfast. We walked up to the cashier and tried to order our meal. We were greeted by a confused employee who informed us that if we sat at a table, she would come and take our order. Realizing that this is normal for nearly every restaurant and café, we quickly got used to picking a seat and letting a waitress come to us to order.
This story, while slightly embarrassing, makes me laugh now. The moral of the story is that there will be many encounters like this when adjusting to a new place with new customs. Don’t put too much pressure on trying to be perfect, and embrace learning a new way of doing things.
I am now one month into my semester abroad, and I’ve had my fair share of confusing encounters. However, I am still here and loving Brno. Taking that leap and living in a new city or new country is worth it. I am meeting the most amazing people and am experiencing so much new food, music, movies, art, and history that I never would have experienced if I stayed at my home university.
So, if you are looking for a sign to try living in, or even just visiting a new place, this is it!