Before even coming to Prague to study abroad, I, as well as everyone else who was planning to come study here, had to go through an extremely strict, as well as stressful, student visa application process. While my friends, who were studying abroad to London, did not require a student visa and only had to worry about what clothes they were going to bring abroad, I was worrying about submitting my application in on time, waiting for the Czech Republic to accept my application and then for them to give me my student visa.
I never really thought much about how people in the Czech Republic viewed foreigners/minorities in their country until I actually came to Prague. While Prague has a surprisingly large number of foreign cuisine restaurants scattered around their city, ranging from Vietnamese banh-mi sandwich shops to Korean restaurants, as well as various Indian and Mexican restaurants, there is still a clear distinction between Czechs and foreigners in this country. In a survey conducted in 2015, which was sponsored by the European Commission, their survey found the Czech Republic to be “one of the least tolerant countries in the EU when it comes to foreign nationals, the members of various religions, national minorities and sexual minorities.”
During my first week in Prague, we had different talks during our orientation week. These talks ranged from learning about the Czech Republic’s history to learning how to speak Czech; however, one of these talks was labeled “Contemporary Political and Social Issues in the Czech Republic.” During this talk, our speakers spoke about various political issues, about the recent presidential election that had occurred in the Czech Republic, as well as what the situation of minorities is in the country. In the presentation, we were showed a chart with the most to least liked groups of minorities from the point of view of Czechs. Their least favorite group of minorities were Romani people, with other minority groups following closely behind.
Additionally, in the survey, the researchers asked questions such as rating, on a scale from 1 to 10, how comfortable one would be if their child were in a relationship with a person in the following group or rating how comfortable one would be working with a person in the following group. The groups were: a White person, an Asian person, a Black person, and a Roma person. The Czechs had one of the lowest percentages for how comfortable they would feel if their child were in a relationship with an Asian, Black, or Roma person. And, for all of the questions, Romani people were ranked the lowest from the Czech Republic.
While there haven’t been many instances where my ethnicity has caused me to feel extremely uncomfortable while being here in Prague, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve at least felt a slight discomfort from time to time. During my second week in Prague, I had an older Czech male scream “ni hao” in my face repeatedly until I told him “I’m Korean,” to which he then proceeded to scream “annyeonghaseyo,” in my face instead. However, this one instance is just one bad experience out of the many amazing moments I’ve had in Prague, and I am choosing to not dwell too much on these small negative moments. While there are many articles and surveys that reveal the Czech Republic to be less receptive of minority groups than most, the people I’ve met during my time here have been nothing but kind and respectful, and these articles and surveys definitely do not define everyone in this beautiful city.