We’ve officially been living in Prague for two months – can you believe it? It feels like we just got here and, at the same time, like we’ve been living here forever. But every now and then I’m reminded that I live somewhere completely different when I come across one of Prague’s fun surprises.
Of course, I knew Prague was going to be filled with old buildings and people speaking Czech. But there were a few things I didn’t know before moving to Prague. Some parts of living in Prague have been really surprising for me – in both good and bad ways.
So here are 17 things I’ve discovered two months into living in Prague.
There are no apartment numbers
This one totally blew my mind. Apartment numbers are not a thing! We live on the sixth floor but our apartment doesn’t have a number. When people send me mail, it’s just a street number and street name. When we get deliveries or have people visit, we just tell them the floor. Luckily, there are only three apartments on each floor, but still. This is wild to me!
When the mail carrier brings the mail, they have to take the time to read the name on each piece of mail and find the corresponding name on the mailboxes (which aren’t in alphabetical order, of course). That sounds like so much work! No wonder people complain about the mail service here; how is someone supposed to find you without an apartment number?
So if you’re sending me mail, be sure to write my last name very clearly. And cross your fingers the mail carrier takes the time to find my mailbox.
No one checks tickets on transit
To ride transit here, you can buy a ticket on the tram or at the little kiosks in the metro station. You can also use your tap credit card, but I tried a few times and it never worked. But no one seems to check! In two months of riding transit, neither Colin nor I have ever been asked for our ticket, and Colin rides transit twice a day to work.
Of course, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t buy a ticket. You should. And Colin and I both have annual passes that we bought when we first arrived in Prague. So we’ve always paid our fare. But to justify the purchase, I want to get my ticket checked at least once!
Air conditioning isn’t a thing
Unfortunately, this seems to be a Europe-wide problem. Look, I grew up in Toronto. I’m used to not only having air-con but often having central AC in a house. If not central, at least a few box units in the windows. Upon moving to Vancouver, I was a little horrified to learn that central AC isn’t a thing and only recently did Colin and I buy an AC unit that, of course, doesn’t really fit in the window.
But the Czech Republic seems to be even more behind than Vancouver. Not only will you not find AC in homes, but you won’t find it out in shops or restaurants either. Colin and I spent a few hours sweating at a chain coffee shop on our first day here because we needed the wifi. I couldn’t believe a coffee shop wouldn’t have AC!
(Before you start yelling at me, I understand why AC isn’t as prevalent: old buildings, high electricity costs, and no need for it most summers. And, in fact, fans have done a pretty great job of keeping our apartment cool. I was just surprised to not find it in all shops and restaurants, like I’m used to back home.)
Beer is cheaper than water
Literally. If you go to any restaurant and look at the menu, I guarantee you a glass of beer will be cheaper than a glass of water. So you’re actually saving money if you have beer with dinner! Na zdraví!
Beer is everywhere
The Czech Republic didn’t earn the title of most beer drank per capita without trying. Beer is readily available. Of course, it’s available at every restaurant and bar. And, unlike Canada, it can also be bought in grocery stores and convenience stores. But it’s the sheer amount of beer available that is surprising. Our local Albert grocery store has an entire room dedicated to beer (in a two room grocery store). And the Tesco Extra we go to has about half of a floor stocked with drinks.
Tap water is not
While beer is readily available, tap water is not. One of the things I dislike about Europe is that free tap water at restaurants is not a thing. If you tell the server you’ll just have water, they’ll bring you a bottle of water and you’ll see it on your bill. Which is too bad, because the tap water here is potable and tastes just fine. Because I’m cheap, I’ve started sneaking my own (tap-filled) water bottle into restaurants!
They park on the sidewalk!
This is another surprise of living in Prague that totally blew my mind. Cars park on the sidewalk. Not against it or slightly on the curb – but straight up on the sidewalk! It’s the weirdest thing, but also incredibly convenient when your UberEats driver doesn’t have to spend 10 minutes trying to find parking.
Phone plans and internet are cheap
As I mentioned in my settling into Prague post, we got super good deals on internet and phone plans. I think the issue might be that we just pay way too much back in Canada, because I’ve heard expats from other countries complain about the pricing here. But coming from Vancouver, I’ve got no complaints!
In fact, T-Mobile is running a promo which gives us unlimited data for the summer for no extra cost!
Free dog poop bags
One thing I’m loving about being a dog owner in Prague is how dog-friendly this city is. Dogs are allowed on transit and into lots of shops and restaurants. Plus, about half of the dogs here seem to be off leash and no one minds. The best thing might be the little stations all around the city that have free poop bags. Back home, we’d sometimes see these set up in parks. But here, they seem to just be on the streets, which is awesome.
However, the bags are a bit weird. Back home, the free bag stations usually supply small plastic bags. Here, they are paper bags, with a paper tray you fashion into a shovel to pick up your dog’s poop. While I’m loving the environmental aspect of using a paper bag (assuming it’s made out of recycled paper?), I can’t say that shoveling poop out of grass with a tiny piece of cardboard is the most fun.
Recylcing is more complicated
Back in Vancouver, we’re big recylcers. Not just Colin and I, but the city as a whole. Every house and apartment has a series of recycling bins. But in Prague, that doesn’t seem to be a thing. Our building only has two large garbage cans and no recycling bins.
Instead, the recycling seems to be less of a residential thing. About two blocks from us, there’s a series of recycling bins set up on the street. We have no clue if you’re supposed to do your residential recycling here, but we’ve been going for it. Every few weeks, Colin and I will haul our bin of recyclables over to the street bins and spend a good 10 minutes sorting everything into its right spot. The only thing we haven’t found? An organics bin!
Surprises at the grocery store
I could do an entire post on all of the fun and not-so-fun surprises I’ve found in the Prague grocery stores. But instead, I’ll give you a concrete little list:
- Bread is incredibly cheap
- So is cheese, which is the best
- Salad dressing and BBQ sauce don’t seem to be things here
- Crackers are also hard to find
- They do sell saran wrap and tinfoil, but without the cardboard boxes they come in back home
- Maple syrup is expensive and I’ve yet to break down and buy it
The water is harder
I know that’s a weird way to describe water, but it does feel like the water here is harder and less wet somehow. I find that my skin and my hair are a lot dryer than they were back home. And when I first wet my hair in the shower, it seems to take a bit longer to actually get soaked through.
It’s not horrible though (it’s no Iceland!). I’ve heard other expats complaining of rashes and breakouts. And I remember the water being different when I lived in Amsterdam too. So I’m getting used to it and allowing myself to buy the second-cheapest bottle of conditioner, instead of just the cheapest.
Another water related surprise (or complaint): our kitchen tap water isn’t cold! So I have to fill up my water bottle in the bathroom.
There are so many beautiful parks
One of the best surprises we’ve found living in Prague is how many gorgeous parks there are. We knew this city was famous for its spires and old buildings, but who would have thought the green spaces were so lovely? Letna (with its awesome beer garden) is a great choice and has a beautiful view over the river. And there’s even an island in the middle of the river if you’re looking for a unique green space. But our favourite park has to be Riegrovy Sady. Beautiful views, nice trails, an off-leash dog area, and just a few minutes from our apartment!
We have a dryer! But it sucks…
One thing I was super psyched for in our apartment was our dryer. I’ve heard from many people that dryers are hard to come by if you’re living in Prague. But turns out, having a dryer isn’t all that great. You see, we have a ventless or a condensation dryer. So instead of the steam from the dryer being vented out, it’s collected as water in a little tank. I wouldn’t mind the simple task of emptying the tank, but apparently this also means it takes twice as long for clothes to dry.
After having our clothing in the dryer for over three hours (!!!) and them still not being dry, we finally gave up and decided to air dry everything. And it’s not that bad! We bought some fabric softener, and now simply hang our clothing on a drying rack straight from the washer. Less energy used, less utilities paid by us, and less heating up of our entire apartment by having the dryer run all day.
Prosim is the magic word
If you’re coming to the Czech Republic, you’ll want to learn one word: Prosim. Prosim is the magic word because it has so many meanings! It means “please,” “you’re welcome,” “may I?”, “here you go” and probably a few more things. Basically, if you’re stuck in conversation with a Czech speaker, just throw in some prosims for good measure.
By the way, if you are planning on living in Prague, get ready for a tough time mastering Czech. This language is very hard. There are so many different word endings – even your name will have a different ending on it depending on the context!
Italian and Vietnamese food are everywhere
…and they’re delicious! Which is especially good for me, because I’m not a huge fan of Czech food. But almost every restaurant on UberEats and out on the streets seems to be either Italian or Vietnamese. Prague actually has a very big Vietnamese population and that means some very delicious Vietnamese food. I haven’t tried sushi yet, but Vietnamese is helping fulfill my cravings for Asian food.
There’s a potraviny on every block
A potraviny is a convenience store, usually Vietnamese-run, that seems to exist on just about every block in Prague. They’re open late and stock just about everything from alcohol and chocolate to cereal and shaving cream. There’s one right next to our apartment and it’s embarrassing how often we pop in to buy something.
Funny the things you learn when you move to a new place! Living in Prague is such an adventure, and I’m still so happy we decided to move here. Luckily, most of these surprises are just little quirks and not huge problems.
What would someone find surprising about living in your city? Or what different things have you found living in cities around the world?
Share these Prague surprises – Pin it!