Three Cultures, One City

When a Lebanese woman attends an American study abroad program in Prague, it makes for an unusual but rewarding cultural collage.

Knowing that I still had a long summer vacation ahead of me, I took advantage of my presence in Europe and treated myself to a mini-Euro trip. I visited golden Vienna, the lively Berlin, the diverse Amsterdam, the bella Italia and calm Switzerland. My stays ranged from one day to 11. Day one was Switzerland and day 11 was Italy, but I’ll leave my Euro trip adventure for another time.

Mid-Pedalo cruise through the Vltava River in Prague. Photo by Paula Naoufal
Mid-Pedalo cruise through the Vltava River in Prague. Photo by Paula Naoufal

I also visited some local Czech cities, including Kutná Hora, where the renowned bone church Sedlec Ossuary is located. The interior of the church is entirely made of human bones.

I also toured Sigmund Freud’s birth house in Příbor, and finally tasted some Moravian wine grapes in Olomouc. These local tours were part of the program’s trips to help us indulge in the Czech culture.

But somehow the Lebanese culture always caught up with me somehow. I once stumbled upon a woman who was asking me for directions in English. Upon noticing her three Cartier bracelets, I assumed she was Lebanese and replied to her in Arabic. She was surprised that I knew where she was from. Whether it was the Cartier bracelets that gave the woman away or not, I always had a sort of radar for Lebanese people.

The thing is that Lebanese people’s appearances are not that similar to Arabs. The Lebanese have diverse extremes, ranging from blondes to brunettes. It was just one of those unexplainable situations where us Lebanese people would immediately recognize each other. I would stumble upon them frequently, but would just have small talk and leave. It was my way of avoiding my recurrent homesickness. After a while my two best friends stopped by to visit and they really hit it off with my new American friends. They also expressed a keen liking to the city.

No matter how severely I missed home, the beautiful horn-free streets of Prague were there to comfort me. Noise-pollution free, actually, something a Lebanese resident needed time to get used to. Another thing in Prague that was alien to me were all the animal-friendly zones, which did not play out so well for me since I have Cynophobia (fear of dogs), and boy, did they have dogs.

Taking a cliché picture in front of the John Lennon wall in Prague. Photo courtesy Paula Naoufal
Taking a cliché picture in front of the John Lennon wall in Prague. Photo courtesy
Paula Naoufal

Beyond that, what I loved the most about Prague was the easy transportation mode in trams and metros that linked the city, which surprisingly the Americans found complicated. The walking was also very beneficial and exuberant, except for the day I decided to go to the opera in my Louboutins, unaware that some of the streets were riddled with cobble stones.

All in all, my experience in Prague was truly enlightening. Not only did I gain insight into different cultures, but I also learned to appreciate the differences rather than dismiss them. Prague is quite the captivating city and I can’t wait to go back again.

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