New in Prague by Christine Thompson (USA)
One thing that puzzled me when I first moved to Prague was that I noticed people would speak to me whenever they entered or left the lift. I come here from quite a large city and had been conditioned not to ‘talk to strangers’ without good reason. I therefore found it a bit unnerving that people repeatedly seemed to address me in the lift and then without waiting for a response, would immediately turn around to face the door. They proceeded to ignore me until we came to their floor where they would then say something else and leave. I had not studied any Czech at this point so I couldn’t understand why so many people made attempts to engage me in conversation but subsequently didn’t follow through. I later learned that they were in fact saying ‘Helllo’ and ‘Goodbye’ upon entering and leaving the lift. Greetings are customary here when one enters a room, any room, even a space as small as the lift. I am still not completely at ease with the custom but whenever possible, I try to continue the conversation so that it feels, at least to me, less awkward. I have had mixed responses but no one can really complain, after all they started it.
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