While studying abroad in a different country, there are many challenges that I have been faced with. While adapting to a different culture, there are many aspects of life that made me uncomfortable, surprised me, and that I really fell in love with. The reality is, culture is very complex. While living here in the Czech Republic, I have chosen to appreciate and learn from every little thing. I did come here with the mindset of being present and to absorb everything that I could in my short time. As an exchange student, I go to school everyday and spend the majority of my free time with my classmates and friends. Czech Teenagers are very unique and interesting in many ways. Of course, it is impossible to generalize with an entire group of teenagers, but I wanted to write a little bit about what I have observed as a foreigner. Czech adolescent culture is something that I found the most difficult to adapt to, mostly because of my own lifestyle before I arrived. What do Czech teenagers do in their free time? What is the most important to them in their group of friends? What do Czech teenagers think about their own country and their own culture? Well, I spoke to a lot of my friends to get their point of view, and I would also like to add in what I do with my friends in my free time here. This will likely be a longer post, I hope to dive into many different aspects of life as a teenager in the Czech Republic!
Just like anywhere in the world, teenagers are busy with their own hobbies and other activities. Among my friends in my town, dance aerobic, skateboarding, soccer (football), music, being with other friends, partying, and studying are the most popular ways to spend free time. School takes up the majority of life everyday. It starts very early and usually ends late, the latest being at 3:45. For most of my classmates, school is very important and they will spend a lot of time studying. On the bus in the morning, I have observed many students studying from their textbooks. This is something that I did last year…but I was always the only one. There is a lot of pressure on good marks, several of my classmates have cried in class throughout the year when they don’t do as well on a test as they had hoped. Once again, something that I did last year that people thought was crazy! Sports are also very popular. Although not as popular as sports teams in Canada, my friends play floorball, soccer, and dance. Because there are no school teams, they will join a community team. Often during the week, they will have two to three practices. Unlike in Canada, sometimes you don’t even know when someone plays a sport. I feel like in Canada people are very proud of their sports team. They will wear their jersey to school or invite people to see their games. Here, it is almost unknown whether or not someone is playing a sport, unless you are on their team. There was a survey done (forgive me for not having citation…) for 15-23 year olds in the Czech Republic. Results showed that most of the youth spent their free time watching TV, listening to music, chatting with friends, reading magazines, relaxing, dating, going to pubs and cafes, playing computer games, and travelling. I completely agree with this! In comparison with Canada, I found that with any free time, students usually had a part-time job to go to. I also find that there is definitely less time spent with friends on a daily basis… Or maybe that was just my life (haha…).
Based on my observations, friend groups are mainly formed by boys who share common activities whereas girl groups are less common. This is surprising and almost the opposite to Canada. I remember in elementary school we had to watch educational video clips on what “cliques” were. These cliques were always exclusive to girls. Other girls prefer to have close relationships with only a few other girls. I have definitely experienced this here as well. I have very close relationships with just a few girls. But I often spend time with more of my friends that happen to be a group of guy friends. Friend groups of course are different depending on the people within; it is like this anywhere you go. Personally, I have friends all throughout the school. Many of my friends are very academic, but I also have a group of friends that like to skateboard and enjoy fashion and having a good time.
This week, I went to several of my friends and other teenagers in my school. I asked them a series of questions. The hardest one was when I asked them what they think about their culture and about their country. I got a wide variety of answers, but many revolved around the same thing. Many people appreciate the tolerance for alcohol in this country. The drinking age is eighteen years old, but it is common to be offered a drink by your parents when you turn fourteen or fifteen. They would describe their culture as being very liberal amongst the younger generation, but far more traditional in the older one. Many people commented that Czech people sometimes “show-off” in every way and pretend that they are more than they are. I was surprised at how negative some of my classmates described their culture. They mentioned that many people are lying about themselves and complaining about anything that they can find. Also that people tend to talk about each other behind each other’s backs a lot. One of my favourite quotes from one of my friends I interviewed went something like this:
“How would you describe Czech culture?”
“Alcohol, eating, and bitching about everything.”
When I asked them what they would change about their culture, almost everyone wanted to change the negative attitude and the negative view from Czech people about their own country. I found that was very interesting.
I didn’t exactly receive any very positive descriptions from my friends about their own culture. It is very different because if I were asked to describe Canadian culture, I would probably speak about how multicultural, progressive, diverse, and open-minded we are! I think that the history of the Czech Republic really plays a role in the thinking of its citizens. Also, as young people are growing up in a world full of globalization and influence from the Western world, there are several sub-cultures that are starting to emerge. Of course, not all of them are political such as the skin-heads, but they are definitely growing up with their own opinions and want for change! As for my own personal opinion, I think that Czech culture is very interesting and different. Since most of the Czech Republic wasn’t damaged by any wars, there are some of the most beautiful buildings and cities that I have ever seen. Its history and traditions are very unique and I hope that they will be preserved as time goes on. The people are definitely a lot more tolerant to a lot of things. I do agree that a lot of things are very negative. For example the news is very often negative. As for the teenagers, I haven’t noticed too much complaining about everything in their lives. Our conversations never tend to be negative and whiny.
I was speaking to a teacher at my school, and he described teenagers in the Czech Republic as “Not Czech, but European…multicultural.” About 90% of them can speak very good English and are very influenced by the Western world.
In the future, I will write more about some of the questions that I asked my friends. I think that being on exchange to the Czech Republic could be very challenging. It must be up to you how much of an effort you want to make to have a good experience. I would say that the stereotype that Czech people are cold at first is true (with some exceptions of course). If you are yourself and you are kind, then people will start to open up and will eventually become the best friends you could ever ask for. In my opinion, Czech teenagers are very important to their country and it is up to them to save their culture and their traditions.
I hope that you found this to be interesting, and if you have any questions about anything that I wrote about, please feel free to shoot me an e-mail or write me a message! Thanks for reading this far!