There’s a Chinese idiom that goes by “读万卷书不如行万里路 ” which broadly translates into travelling enriches one’s life much more than reading ten thousand books. This phrase kept ringing in my head while I was in Prague because all my preconceived notions of Prague were invalidated by what I witnessed in the city in 2022. I have not travelled beyond the Prague city centre in my trip in September 2022. Therefore, I can’t speak for the state of development beyond the capital city. However, I must say that Prague is much more modern, clean and developed than I had imagined before I set foot in the city. 

Just like in Singapore, Czech’s Public transport is very efficient and affordable. The city has remarkably preserved its old charm by restoring many of the heritage buildings. Yet, there were still many new and modern developments sprouting up all around the city. As compared to many cities I visited in Italy in June 2022, I would think that Prague is more developed and the streets are cleaner even though you may still spot human faeces occasionally in September 2022. So watch your steps!

I did not really know much about Prague except through some YouTube videos which called out scams in the city. Furthermore, my impression of Prague was shaped by books such as the Prisoners of Geography and YouTube videos of Russians sharing about their lives in a post-communist country. According to several Russian YouTubers in 2021, the cost of living as a percentage of their average wages in Russia is very high and many of them aspire to move to countries that pay higher wages in the service sector. Therefore, by extension of this information and the Czech Republic being a post-communist country, I thought that the average wages and standard of living in the Czech Republic would be low as well. However, I was so wrong. In fact, the Czech Republic has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe in May 2019 at 2.2%. 

Several YouTubers had also come forward to share about their lives in the Czech Republic in recent years. 

 

Personally, I think that the government of the Czech Republic has done a great job in steering the country towards progress and improving the standard of living of the masses in the last 30 odd years post-Soviet Union rule. 

These are 2 YouTube channels that I would highly recommend you to check out before making a trip to Prague. I really love both of their videos and I am sure you will find them inspiring and entertaining as well!

  

As I was attending my Singaporean friend’s wedding in Prague, I had the opportunity to interact with the locals during her wedding party. These Czechs whom I had mingled with really love their country. When asked which is their favourite country in the world, the unanimous answer was their motherland. If they had asked me, I would not have been able to answer it. Deep in my heart, I know it is not Singapore right now as I experience living in different European countries. Perhaps, I would like to think of the World as my home and every country having something special to offer. 

When you get to hang out with the locals, you get to peek into what their childhood was like and the coolest places that they used to hang out. Drinking and smoking are deeply ingrained in the Czech culture. Almost everyone I met at the party drinks and smokes, regardless of gender. When we gave a toss to the couple, I was glad that my choice to clink their glasses with water instead of beer was respected. I hoped my choices and habits were not interpreted as an unwillingness to experience and assimilate into the cultures of the locals. I had not been made to feel this way among these new Czech friends. Nevertheless, I do not dismiss the likelihood that I may meet people who are less open-minded and more assertive and proud of their way of life in the future. 

A view from Prague Castle with my friend. We finally met up in person after 3 years.

Another notable difference between the upbringing of Czechs and Singaporeans is the emphasis on developing a passion and life skills beyond academic achievements. Most of the groom’s friends who attended the wedding are his childhood pals who are part of the Scout community. The groom’s father was an active member of the local Scout community and they would go camping as a family with these friends since the groom was 6 years old. I can’t help feeling envious that the groom grew up in the Czech Republic where there are more mountainous terrains than Singapore. As a result of this exposure, the groom is usually the one who plans camping trips for the couple who are currently residing in Australia. When he visited Singapore, he was amused to see people camping in West Coast Park with a Macdonald’s outlet just a stone’s throw away.

Personally. I would love to spend more time hiking and camping in the wild but I am not surrounded by like-minded people right now. I believe I would if I continue to seek out this dream. While the groom was an active member of the Scout, his younger brother was enrolled in a dance school when he was 6-year-old. Today, his younger brother is a professional and competitive dancer who proclaimed to me that he dances at least 3 times a week. I believe these life skills served them well into their adulthoods and helped them build friendships that would probably last for lives. 

My trip to Prague certainly exceeded my expectations and broke down all my preconceived notions of the city. I am planning to make another trip back to Prague next year with my parents. I would like to show them this wonderful city which is paradoxically old and modern at the same time. 

The view from Letna Park on my way to Letensku Sady Outdoor Pub.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *