Czech culture


Here is a blog I wrote Friday on the train from Brno to Prague. This was before we realized the havoc caused by the volcano in Iceland.

9:50 local time: I don’t have wireless Internet, so I’m recording my thoughts. We’re riding on a train from Brno to Prague. Parts of the countryside a while ago reminded Josh of the Highway 411 area in McMinn County; it reminded me of Loudon County. Now it definitely has a European feel, with ancient houses and train stations. It’s hilly and forested. I’m sitting in a compartment with Julian and a stranger.

Sitting in small spaces with strangers, and being crammed into trams shoulder to shoulder with people is one of the most foreign things about Europe. After a while being a non-native speaker isn’t too bad…you start picking up on bits and pieces of the language. But it’s always good to have a phrasebook.

This is one of the very few downtimes we’ve had on the trip, and so I can write up my thoughts. Here are a few observations on the Czech culture:

They can be shy when you try to engage them. I’m sure that having lived under Communist rule has influced this. But others are very friendly. The man in my train compartment helped me load some heavy luggage into storage bins.

The people in Brno put on a neutral, blank face when riding the public transport. I’ve started doing that myself, because when you’re pressed into strangers you have to cope somehow. Czechs are sometimes mistrustful of too much smiling and platitudes, which again may result from Communism (American optimism isn’t something they buy into.).

But again, they can be so friendly. The Christian ministry that ran the Brno hotel we stayed in bent over backwords worrying whether we ate enough at breakfast each day. The first morning of our internships, we were too busy to eat, and their feelings seemed to have been greatly hurt. Czechs eat large meals, and it’s impolite to decline food. The students at the college where we helped teach were very eager to meet Americans and were extremely friendly. They guided us around the city in the rain all afternoon.

Young children here freely take public transport or walk around the cities without adult supervision. American parents are much more protective, in general.

It’s hard to arrange business meetings here because plans can change at the last minute. You have to learn to be flexible in times and negotiations. That took some getting used to, but things worked out in the end.

(I deleted a reference here about leaving on Sunday since that’s not going to happen. …)

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About Jason Reynolds
I'm a reporter, blogger, husband and aspiring author. When I'm not working, spending time with the family, or reading (which is quite a bit), I enjoy cooking, traveling, photography and wrangling my family's cats and chickens.

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