5 Czech-American Firsts

Last Thursday we left for New York-JFK airport, happy campers:


We had incredible views of the Andes mountain range:

(the white parts are clouds among the mountain peaks)

…and of the coast of Lisbon, where we had a one-day layover, from the plane:

The Lisbon airport is incredibly close to the city center, which explains our direct view from the plane and which makes for a convenient metro ride in. More on Lisbon, a beautiful and tasty city, in another post.


I have had so much adjusting, reverse culture shock, hanging with family, catching up with friends, and tour-guiding to do that I’ll save a longer post for another time, but I wanted to write a quick one about our first few days here, and some of the things which Ondra – a first-timer in the US – is adjusting to!

First American Beer

At Sidewalk Cafe in NYC’s East Village. Brooklyn Lager and Sweet Action IPA (both NY beers). Tapped without foam (that was a “reverse culture shock” for me). He liked them! (It’s hard to impress a Czech with foreign beer.)

First Full Day in NYC

It ended like this.

First Diner & Experience with American Portion Sizes

“I’ve never had so many different tastes in one dish.”

He had a gyro platter, but it included pita, Greek salad, two different sauces, and french fries. As for the family table, we had a “five”-course meal altogether – bread/coleslaw/pickles (typical diner stuff), appetizer, soups, main dishes, and dessert.

Also shocking: water is always free with restaurant meals. (I remember realizing for the first time that water is not free elsewhere, in Greece.)

A diner is the quintessential American restaurant. Funnily enough, they are (at least where I live) typically owned by Greeks. They don’t all look like they’re from the 50s, but they do usually have the stereotypical sitting counter, booths, and silver decorative touches. This one had an “underwater” theme.

First Thai Meal & Bill-Splitting Experience

Salty and sweet tastes in one dish are hard to find in CZ. Ondra had a Thai dish that basically everyone loves – Pad Thai. My friend Matt and I had spicier dishes. Everything was awesome.

Also, paying works differently in the US.

In CZ, the waitress keeps a tallied running list of food and drinks ordered at the table and then comes with a purse so that each person can pay separately, get change, and tip on the spot.

In US, a check is brought at the end of the meal and the people at the table decide how to split it and who is paying what. Especially considering tax is added (and not included, like in CZ),

PLUS we have to tip ~20%,

PLUS we have cents (CZ got rid of their version, halíř, a looong time ago, so everything is automatically “rounded up”), this can get complicated.

What’s so confusing in comparison with the Czech version, is that in CZ you don’t have to have exact change, as the waitress expects to be giving you back money. In the US, you either have to already have the correct change or make some deals/exchanges with the people you’re eating with.

First Petting Zoo-Type Pet Store

Most American pet stores have animals that can be picked up and played with. These silly, sleepy creatures are ferrets! 😀 I have never seen them in CZ.

They even have a toucan – more on that later!


  1. I remember travelling abroad and being shocked when I didn’t have to tip – it’s just such a part of our dining experience in North America (I’m Canadian, but we share a lot culturally with the US). And water isn’t always free?!?! We’re so spoiled here!!


    • they simultaneously love and hate Americans (I won’t include all Canadians in this 😉 because we don’t know/care about tipping rates and tip as much as at home. And hate because we think we can get and make substitutions for whatever we want in restaurants.


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