Since living in Prague and meeting so many people that love to travel just as much as I do, I’ve become acutely aware of how lucky I am. Pretty much everywhere in the world is English-friendly. But travel isn’t as easy for people from little known countries in Central Europe, whose language, currency, and culture is largely ignored by the rest of the world. So when my Czech friends invited me for a beer, I took the opportunity to ask them about what it’s like to travel as a Czech person. Despite being confused about why our get-together turned into an interrogation, they were good sports. Here is what they had to say about traveling while Czech.
Gnometrotting: I’ve been to a lot of places in the world but it’s easy because almost everything is translated into English. Is it hard for you to travel outside the Czech Republic where your language is hardly represented?
Czesky 1: Try Slovakia first.
GT: That bad? If you take a tour somewhere that’s only translated in English or German, do you feel like you’re missing something?
C1: No it’s not that bad. I understand German, so if they have German it’s not a problem. You know the phrase “Same same but different?” It’s like that in most places. It was difficult in Georgia because I don’t speak Russian. And the good thing is that you can talk about other people around you and you know for a fact that no one knows what you’re saying.
GT: What’s been the most difficult place to visit? Have you had any bad experiences?
Czesky 2: Hungary. I was there with my friend and we were on a road trip from the Czech Republic to Albania only on our bikes. His bike crashed and we needed to repair it, but Hungarian is a difficult language. It was very difficult for us to do the repair. No language in common.
GT: They didn’t speak any English?
C2: Nothing. No language except Hungarian.
C1: When I was in Bali, we paid a lot of money for boat tickets. Someone was supposed to pick us up in the morning and no one showed up. We don’t know what happened. There was a booth in front in our hotel and it looked legitimate. We paid for the reservation. We were prepared with our luggage the next morning. But no one came. So we had to go to the marina and pay again.
GT: What’s the easiest/best place to visit for a Czech? Where nobody screws you…
C1: Where nobody screws you? Prague.
C2: Depends on what you prefer. Nature or going out. If you’re alone or with friends. I was born in same place as him and it’s beautiful to visit so I would recommend to visit Adršpach. It borders Poland. It has nice cliffs and pure nature. All big cities are almost the same, so it is the nature that is different. Or the Moravia region, in Zlín, if you like wine, but that’s better with friends.
GT: When I went to Thailand, I stupidly took out thousands of Czech crowns. And when I got there and tried to exchange them, they were basically like, “WTF is that?” So what do you do about money abroad?
C1: I work in the bank industry so I have checking account in almost all banks in the Czech Republic. So when I go abroad, I take a small stash of Euros. But I when I land in a foreign country, the first thing I look for is an ATM.
GT: What has traveling made you realize you hate about your own culture?
C1: Czech people are very reserved.
GT: That’s my favorite thing about you guys. I don’t have to talk to anybody.
C2: Czech people are really envious about things like money. It’s the worst point about Czech culture.
C1: Actually, yeah. I agree with him. That is worse.
GT: What has traveling made you realize you love about your culture?
C1: Just beer. It’s absolutely different than the Czech Republic when you’re anywhere on this planet. Beer is different. People don’t drink. Beer is the biggest difference.
When I was in Israel we were in a beer garden. It was a pub where they had a lot of different kinds of beer. They filled the glass, and it was full of foam. The culture of beer was really terrible. They had no respect for the beer.
GT: That would be your favorite thing.
C1: No but really, I can see how my life is good. I travel to the east a lot. So for example, a waitress in the Philippines, she earns 150 crowns ($6) from 8 am to 8 pm. So you realize, “Wow I have such a great life. I should never complain about anything.”
C2: I realized I loved the Czech Republic, when I was in Bosnia and we were on a road trip. So the only things we could buy to eat were nothing special. We survived, but probably on the 10th day, I realized that we have a great life.
We realized that people living there have a really tough life. We couldn’t realize it until we were there.
GT: When I first moved here, I had a really hard time with Czech food. Is there anywhere in the world you really don’t like the food?
C1: When I’m abroad I want to try as much as possible of local foods. I use Tripadvisor recommendations, even here. Like I saw an article about the Top 10 burgers in town, and I want to see if it’s true. But for me, beef, pork, and chicken is enough. Except when I was in the Philippines, I didn’t wanna try balut. It’s chicken or goose egg where the egg is incubated for 14 to 26 days before it’s cooked. In 20 days, new life is emerging.
GT: That’s fucking gross.
C1: Yeah, in the Philippines, I didn’t expect much but the reality was even worse. I was on the beach and I just wanted some fruit. I couldn’t even buy bananas because they said it was only for shakes.
GT: Would you ever consider living somewhere outside the Czech Republic?
C2: No. I probably couldn’t.
C1: If I met someone else, I would consider it but it wouldn’t be only about me. I can live happily here in Prague, or I can move back to my parents’ house. I still have friends there.
GT: What kind of vacations do Czechs prefer? Cultural, sightseeing, nature? What do you like to do when you travel?
C1: If you ask me beach or mountains, I would say it depends. Philippines was about the beaches. It depends on what you want at that particular moment.
C2: Of course we like to discover something new but it’s not necessary. We vacation maybe once or twice a year. But it’s not necessary. There are still plenty of places in the Czech Republic to see. Especially in July or August. And events like the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, which is the biggest in the country.
GT: What’s your favorite culture in a country that you’ve visited?
C2: A lot of cultures are really friendly. Czech people are very cold. So when somebody visits here, they will not behave like people from Bosnia, for example.
C1: Both of you have to go to Iran. My friend was there, and he’s kind of Jewish. He told us that visiting Iran was the best time of his life. Because everyone was so kind. No Jewish traps. It’s very underrated.
GT: What about you? What’s your favorite?
C1: Every country I have never been to is my favorite country.
C2: I don’t think I can drink anymore. I don’t know if I’ll make it home.
When a Czech guy tells you he can’t drink anymore, you know you’ve probably had too much. So we wrapped it up there.
But I hope this insight will inspire you to all welcome my lovely Ceskys to your nations like they’ve welcomed me into theirs. Though I suspect that it’s just because when they take me to trivia night at the bar, we kill everybody with my knowledge of useless American crap.