Fak jó! or f*** you! That is the question. (… or statement.)
Did you know that in Czech “fak jó” (pronounced exactly the same as a rather explicit English statement) means “really” in English? Now you might respond, “fak jó”? And to respond to that, yes, it really does.
All jokes aside though, as much fun it is to live in a foreign country for a semester and travel anywhere and everywhere in Europe you’d like each weekend, it is also incredibly difficult as well. Attempting to communicate in a language in which you are not at all familiar with, figuring out what local language people use with every new country you find yourself in– it’s like attempting to climb over a six-foot tall wall without a ladder or any tools to help you. And granted that I’m only 5’3″, that’s pretty challenging.
From the moment I arrived at the Prague Airport, I immediately knew I was up for a challenge. Random squiggles and dashes were sprinkled into strange combinations of letters that supposedly formed comprehensive words. Even when referencing an arrival guide provided by NYU, the formatting of my dorm’s location was unfamiliar and confusing. Addresses were formatted strangely and out of order, with the house number following the street name, a random space in the zip code, and even a number following the city specifying the area within it.
For those slightly confused, as following would be the NYU Prague address if it were formatted in an American fashion (perhaps):
2 Malé náměstí
Prague, Czech Republic 11000
And here would be the proper Czech address formatting:
Malé náměstí 2
Praha 1, 110 00
Pretty strange, right? But it doesn’t end there.
My cultural shock and language challenges followed me even to the supermarket, riddling me with uncertainty and confusion from trying to read a simple nutrition label. Having a vegan roommate and being a semi-health conscious person myself, reading nutrition labels is fairly important to me and was a frequent task in my daily life. But alas, the Czech Republic didn’t let me go easy on this task either. Even nutrition labels were formatted in completely different ways! The usual clear-cut formatting of the total number of calories in a serving along with the number of servings in a product was nowhere to be found here. Instead, calories were listed per 100 grams, while the total number of grams in a product was often listed somewhere else on the label. Not to mention the fact that the metric system is used here instead of the usual American empirical system. In addition, the ingredients on each nutrition label were never listed in English. Hungarian? Yes. Czech? Of course! German? Probably yes as well. English? Test your luck, so far my chances have been hovering in the 10-15% success range.
Yet, despite all these challenges, I have come to realize that language, isn’t really that much of a barrier. After having been in three different countries (Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary) which all speak different languages, I have realized that people are connected not necessarily by language, but by open-mindedness, effort, visuals, emotions, shared experiences, and much much more that, dare I say, surpass language.
Even furthermore, with the help of my trusty friend Google Translate, a few smiles and gestures, usually the intent of both parties are communicated pretty well. I’m not saying perfectly smoothly, but adequately enough. But in the end, there’s really nothing to complain about; after all, a challenge only makes for a better story to tell.
Until next time!