From the concrete jungle to the cobblestone maze

New York vs. Prague

Silence was the first thing I noticed when I finally was able to set down my luggage in my bedroom upon arriving in Prague. There were no sirens, no honking horns, no people shouting and no music playing, there was no noise creeping into my room from the outside world. This is a far cry from what I am used to back home, in my downtown Manhattan apartment.

While many people from around the world idolize New York City as a cool amazing city, there are some aspects of New York that I don’t exactly miss now that I’m in Prague. For one thing, New York City is a lot dirtier than you might think. The streets of Prague, and the Czech capitals metro are remarkably clean compared to New York City. Most of the New York City subways by contrast have a distinct unpleasant smell once you walk underground, and you can often see rats in the subway. By contrast, the subways and trams in Prague are extremely clean, and I have yet to see a single rodent.

Walking through the littered streets of New York is a very different experience as well, because you have to be very careful when you’re walking. It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is or who you are walking with, you can still get approached by strange people who will try to scare you, yell at you, or hit on you. There’s also the danger of promotional people, who try to get you to stop and buy their product. The only thing that I can think of that is similar in Prague are the people on Segways in Old Town Square who are constantly asking you if you would like to pay for a Segway ride. Other than that, I have not been harassed by any Czech people, everyone keeps to themselves a little bit more.

When you’re crossing the street in New York, the danger is being hit by a car, or even worse, a bike. I’ve found that a lot of cars will slow down and stop for you in Prague, especially when there is a crosswalk, but in New York, pedestrians have to be a lot more assertive about walking in big herds, or else a car that is turning onto your street will probably not stop for you. Since New York City is so much more crowded than Prague, the streets are extremely congested with cars, bikes and people. The bikers are even worse than the cab drivers in New York, as they don’t seem to stop for anyone. I know several of my friends have gotten hit by bikes before, and it’s a mess. In contrast, there doesn’t seem to be as many people biking the streets in Prague, and the streets themselves are a lot less crowded.

If only the streets weren’t made of cobblestone. I appreciate all the old-town beauty of Prague, and one of my favorite things about Prague is being able to see elegant buildings in all different architectural styles. I even enjoy the charming aesthetics of the cobblestone streets, however, they can be quite hard to walk on, especially if you’re in a rush. There are times that I miss the concrete flatness of New York City, if only because the level sidewalks enable my speed walking to reach maximum efficiency. There’s also no danger of accidentally twisting my ankle in New York because of a missing or loose stone, unless I’m on some of the older streets that haven’t been repaved.

Another thing I miss about New York is the 24 hour availability of everything. In New York City, I can grab a pizza at 4 a.m., or even go into a pharmacy and get medicine in the middle of the night. For almost anything I need, there’s always a place that is open. By contrast, when I caught a cold a few weeks ago, I tried to go to a pharmacy to get medicine after my classes ended. The problem was that after 8 P.M. I couldn’t find a pharmacy near me that was open!

I’ve noticed that I’ve lost a few pounds here in Prague as well, and I think this is because of a difference in food. In America in general all the food stores have several aisles of chips, cookies, pretzels, cheesy puffs, candy, and other various sugary, salty and fatty snacks. In Prague however, I can’t find many of my favorite junk foods, and the snack aisle itself is significantly shrunken down. To make up for this however, the produce is a lot cheaper than it is in America. In New York, a box of strawberries can cost me about 120-150 CZK, whereas here it costs 20-30 CZK. It’s never been this cheap for me to eat my favorite food before.

Along with the cheap prices, the standard of living seems a little higher in Prague. There are a lot less homeless people on the streets of Prague than in the streets of New York City. On the ten minute walk that I take from my apartment to my classes in New York City, I typically see about five or six homeless people. I’ve rarely seen them here though. Overall, it seems more affordable to live in Prague than it is to live in New York, where the prices can be just as high as the skyscrapers.

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