„Why are you going to Czechoslovakia on Erasmus?“ Firstly, there are two countries: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Secondly, why not? When I said I have chosen the Czech Republic as my first option for one year abroad, most of the people stared at me. Others told me that beer is so cheap there: „You are going to have great parties!“ Let me remark that this experience is not only about going to pubs and clubs.
„Tram is arriving exactly at 09.37? That is impossible,“ I said to myself. After two weeks I understood the public transport really works in Brno. Trams, buses and trolleybuses (which were strange buses with antennas for me at the beginning) arrive always on time. Besides that, they arrive each five or ten minutes and night buses drive even during the week. In short, the public transport is effective here. I was used to wait for delayed buses and before coming to Czech Republic I have never taken a tram or trolleybus. And it is still funny when I see locals running to catch transport. Come on, you have another one coming in few minutes!
Later I realized Czechs are practical persons not only with transport. When I checked my timetable, I thought there were mistakes. I only had lessons three days per week around two hours. „It is because I am an exchange student“, I guessed. It was quite differnt from my timetable in Spain, four days a week, five hours per day. At Masaryk university you spend less time in the classroom but you have to work more at home. Also lectures are not the same. While here they are based on discussions with colleagues and talking in public, at my home institution I sit and listen to the teacher writing notes about important points. In my point of view, students are more involved in teaching process here.
Even in pubs you can see distinct details. Normally tables are larger so different groups of people can share them. And it surprises me that cutlery is already on the table whereas you do not have napkins. In Spain it is the exact opposite. Lastly, they do not give you bread with your meal here if you do not order it. What seems strange to me taking into account that Czech food usually have sauces. But being shocked about details is also part of Erasmus.
At least for now I only have found one point I do not consider useful – roller blinds. It is true that in the Czech Republic is not as sunny as in my country but still light wakes me up in the mornings. Maybe you would think: „Oh, what a surprise, a Spanish who loves sleeping.“ No I do not follow this stereotype. I just mean that sometimes you need to rest and you cannot make the room completely dark, which used to be a normal thing for me. But to be honest, I think it is just a matter of time. At first I really hated square pillows and now I have discovered a solution – fold them for making a rectangle, as the Spanish pillows are.
I could write a book about the culture shock I had when I arrived here. Not only about aspects I did not expect, but also about those which I knew will be different. It is true that there is an opposite lifestyle and culture here in the Czech Republic. During the first days you feel like a stranger. But that is life. There is no place where you are going to find an identical routine. We are different and that is what we need to share for learning from each other. Because it is worthy.
Author: Henar Martínez Vega
This article originally appeared in HALAS, the magazine of students of the Faculty of Social Studies. The original version is available at http://www.casopishalas.cz/clanek/zobrazit/1990