If you’re reading this article, you are probably considering a study abroad. I remember when I was in the same position a year ago. The idea of a new challenge, an adventure, and supposedly “easier” classes for a whole semester was enticing (Easier classes? No. Less pressure? Certainly.) But like everyone, I feared the pain of losing what I knew to the pleasure of what I could gain. Thankfully, my friends, family, and academic advisor made the path easy to say “yes” to studying abroad. It was scary as heck, but I’m so grateful that Kira eleven months ago accepted the challenge of living abroad with faith, determination, and an itch for exploration.

In this post, I will share three things that I learned about “conducting business and engaging with individuals” in Prague. Really, these three tips are helpful for embracing the culture, accepting different perspectives, and building meaningful relationships.

  1. Research and understand Hofstede’s CultureDimensions
    • In my Intercultural Negotiations class this semester, we learned about cultural differences, specifically in a corporate context. The link above compares the US with the Czech Republic in six cultural dimensions. When preparing for an international trip, this tool can be useful in understanding the values and paradigms that shape the decisions of people from other cultures. For example, the US and the Czech Republic have opposing scores in Long Term Orientation (LTO) index. Reading the description below, I learned that the US has a low-level LTO index: Americans measure success on a relatively short-term basis (i.e., quarterly profit reports) and judge situations as right and wrong, good and evil. The Czech Republic has a high LTO score: Czech people value investing and thrifting and determine truth as relative in each situation. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with this tool. Knowing our own cultural background will allow us to appreciate people from different cultures in our abroad experiences.
  2. Know what is taboo
    • In addition to knowing how other cultures think, it is important to understand what topics to promote and what to avoid. Here is a short list, specific to the Czech Republic.
      • Things the Czech are proud of:
        • King Charles IV and St. Wenceslaus (many things are named after them)
        • The word “robot” was invented by the Czech (just the word, not the technology)
        • The inventor of contact lenses, Otto Wichterle, is Czech!
        • Pilsner beer (and any Czech beer, for that matter)
        • The hockey star Jaromír Jágr, composer Antonín Dvořák, and author Franz Kafka
      • Touchy topics to avoid:
        • Referring to the Czech Republic as “Czechia” (they prefer the original and full name)
        • The old communist regime and influence of the USSR
        • The expulsion of Germans in the 1940s
        • The three emigration waves
  3. Learn the communication style
    • From my experience, Czech people are quieter and more reserved than the average American. The typical US greeting of “How are you doing?” is treated as a question and not a “howdy.” I noticed that instead of saying “no,” the Czech tend to postpone, delay, or use any other means to deny your request without explicitly saying it. They like to complain (especially about the weather). Where it is common to share your job as part of an introduction in the US, Czech people do not really care what your title or position; it is not relevant when meeting someone new. Lastly, when entering or leaving a store or café, it is expected to say hello (Dobrý den) and goodbye (Na shledanou) to the employees.

Thanks for reading my closing article. I hope I have inspired you to pack your bags and take a leap of faith to a new country. Feel free to reach out to me with questions about Prague (even if I have already graduated- I’m class of 2023) Also read my first entry on the CIBS blog and my personal study abroad blog!

Categories: Czech Republic

The train from Munich crossed over the Vlatava River at 8pm, and I thought to myself “Wow, this isn’t just a dream anymore.” After months of preparation, stress over visa application, and still not knowing what to expect, I am here, in Prague!

I have been in Prague for a week, and I am surprised at how much of the city I have already seen, like the Prague Castle and the Astronomical Clock. (I learned yesterday that Prague is known as the “City of 100 Spires” … I wonder if I can visit all 100…) The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) has partnered with my host university, VSE, to provide social events, a buddy program, and various discounts for the 200 international students. The social events they provide include touring the main sites of Prague, wine tasting tours in Moravia, brewery tours in Prague, and reserving huge club spaces for international students. My ESN buddy has introduced me to other international students and has shown me parts of the city. The churches, castles, and landmarks are stunning in their architecture and artwork.

My school routine in Prague looks quite different than it did at Texas A&M. The day begins with riding a tram for 20 minutes to the campus. There are four buildings, so it is easy to arrive to class on time. (There is no Wellborn train blocking West Campus lol.) Most of my classes occur once a week for 90 minutes. I have organized my schedule to only have classes Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. It is a pretty sweet schedule, and I have already taken a day trip on Tuesday to a nearby village. (For reference, I am taking the class equivalents of SCMT 340, MGMT 439 & 363, and FINC 341.) Like at A&M, my professors are friendly and passionate about their discipline; their excitement makes it easy to be excited to learn. My class sizes have been relatively small, 20-30 students, and are filled with international students. Participating in the ESN events has allowed me to see familiar faces in classes and make friends quickly. I have just finished my first week of classes, and I am still determining how to balance my time between learning in school and learning through travel 🙂

Outside from the university, I have met many people who live in Prague who only speak English. They claim that it is not difficult to only speak English because many Czech people learn English at a young age. The Czech alphabet is Latin based, and after a little study of a few phonetic rules, reading Czech is very doable. With the tram, most places are about 20-30 minutes away from the student housing, and being a university student makes the tickets very cheap.

Besides the expected American and European differences (metric system, different outlets, sparkling water, etc.), here are a few of my personal “culture shock” moments that will be helpful for anyone visiting Europe:

  1. Most coffee shops serve alcohol as well. It is not uncommon to see someone enjoying a beer at a Sunday family brunch.
  2. Eggs are kept in the pantry… this is still difficult for me to comprehend.
  3. Although Czech people are very friendly, do not make eye contact and smile with people on the street. Some of the stories of friendly Americans who have not broken this habit are unnerving.
  4. Not so much a culture shock, but non-native English speakers pronounce Texas as “Tex-sass,” I pronounce it as “Tex-iz.”
  5. People on trams are very talkative. My only experience with public transport is the New York subway and Moscow metro, where it is silent.

Going on an exchange program is a learning process and has been intimidating at times. I have made many mistakes since being here, and from all, I can learn how to avoid the mistake in the future. I was hesitant about leaving my comfortable life in Texas to live somewhere new and foreign, but I am so grateful I took the leap. I’m excited to continue meeting new people, exploring the city, and traveling Europe! Cheers to many more memories to be made, ahoj (“ahoy”)!

Categories: Czech Republic