11 American Habits That Saved Me in Prague
1. My love for McDonald’s
Most restaurants close around 11pm, and most pubs stop serving food past midnight. But the McDonald’s in Malá Strana was open 24/7, and since I have no shame when it comes to downing McNuggets at 2am on a Friday night, I was able to go to bed full and only slightly hungover.
2. Getting coffee to-go
Grabbing coffee is not really the norm in Prague. While customers asking for take-away cups is increasing, most people like sitting in a café for a while enjoying their drinks. However, my favorite coffee shop had this creepy guy that used to always try and sit with me whenever I visited. I had the freedom of bringing my own mug, getting it filled with a delicious brew, and whisking myself out of the shop before creepo could “Dobrý den moje miláčku” me.
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3. Being overprotective of my belongings
In New York, you guard your shit with your life — even roommates are capable of stealing the dumbest stuff, like your toothbrush, or your apartment deposit. I was no match for pickpockets on the metro or in overcrowded areas, often spotting them before they approached and giving them a good ol’, “Don’t fuck with me” stare.
4. Leaving MTV on while getting ready for class
It’s amazing how much you pick up from mindlessly listening to music videos. I won a karaoke contest at Futurm one night because I knew all the words to Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music.” It was fun to entertain friends and family members with whatever the latest hit was. It didn’t even matter that I couldn’t sing.
5. Binge watching The Simpsons
My Czech wasn’t good enough to really understand the local television shows. But as an avid Simpsons fan, I was able to still laugh along with the Czech-dubbing because I had basically memorized all of the jokes. Watching Simpsonovi with my Czech host family was always a pleasure after that.
6. Feeling fine with long commutes
I traveled between thirty minutes to an hour each day to get to class, hopping on the A line, then the #26 tram or the X5 bus. Other students complained about how long the commute was, but in New York City, these timelines to get anywhere important are pretty common. It’s relaxing letting someone else do the driving while I zone out on my iPod.
7. Expressing myself with angry sports commentary
Czechs are passionate football and hockey fans. I just like pretending that yelling at the Yankees on TV helps them play better. Screaming and pushing other people around during a torrid hockey match, then crying hysterically and hugging every person in the arena when “the blue team” won just felt right.
8. Power walking
Transportation cops are well trained at picking out tourists on the metro. They can immediately spot an unsure traveler looking for the exit, swarming them and making them pay an outrageous fine. But they don’t bother someone striding confidently past them. My “Bitch I’m on my way to work!” attitude was the reason I easily dodged the overweight dudes standing at the bottom of the escalators with their leather jackets and faded jeans.
9. Buying food for the day
It wasn’t a bother to bring my own grocery bag to Tesco or Albert each day and pick up fresh produce and meat from the butcher. Some of my other friends sort of freaked out when they realized they couldn’t do a week’s worth of shopping without a car or a large supermarket.
10. Obsessing over Ikea
Knowing how to navigate the Ikea near the Zličín metro stop was integral in furnishing my apartment. It also proved to be the cheapest, chicest place to get furniture — my other options were outrageously expensive New Wave designers around Old Town Square, or stuff left on the street corner in Žižkov.
Sending SMS was always way better than actually talking on the phone to friends. It was cheaper and faster than calling, and I could use a Czech dictionary to impressively type in whatever words I couldn’t say. My awkward phone conversations nearly came to a standstill after that.