I’m Here for the Beer! Prague Night Life

You’ve just landed in a new country.  Whether you’re an expat planning to stay a while or a tourist just passing through, you’re going to want to know about the night life.  Of course one of the first things I noted, as an American, was freedom from US liquor laws and the 2am curfew for alcohol-serving establishments.  It seems in most parts of Europe alcohol is served, and can be imbibed, pretty much around the clock.

Though there is a different attitude about drinking in Europe.  It’s more about a nice wine to compliment a meal or particular spirits served as apertifs as opposed to intoxication.  The drinking ages vary from country to country, but I’m pretty sure the US has the highest legal drinking age of 21.  I think this limitation can cause what I call an effect of ‘holding the beach ball under water.’  Once released it shoots in the air in a disproportionate fashion.  In other words, if drinking wasn’t prohibited until 21 it perhaps wouldn’t be such a mystery – forbidden fermented fruit – and lead to young adult binge drinking, popular on so many American college campuses.

Czech Republic is touted as the beer capital of the world, with the highest beer consumption per capita.  There are numerous studies, and depending who’s reporting the top marks may vary.  I’m citing this source backed by Wikipedia and my personal  experience.

Beer is Food!  Or at least it’s a common saying in the Czech Republic.  And many locals think it, and too often expats and tourists try to live it with often not so pleasant results.  It’s rare to see a Czech drunken and disorderly in public (rare but not unheard of).  The Czechs tend to take it more in stride, like the French and Italians with wine.  My second day here my friend D said if I see drunken people throwing up in the streets, they’re likely British stag parties.  (Please my British friends, know that I’m not stereotyping or slamming your people.  I’m sure we would be saying the same for American frat parties if it wasn’t a longer and more expensive trek here than it is from UK.)

Of course night life, even in Czech Republic isn’t all about the beer or even drinking per se.  It’s just that beer is literally cheaper than water here.  I was more of a wine or vodka girl back in the States.  I probably didn’t have a cocktail for a year or so upon arriving in Europe, mostly due to my limited budget.  (And again, it’s the lure of the very delicious Czech beers – Gambrinus, Pilsner Urquell, Svijany, Kozel are some of my favs.)

You’re going to want to pace yourself if you want to enjoy some Euro lifestyle, given the basically unlimited drinking hours in the day.  Many clubs for dancing and socializing don’t get cracking until midnight.  Sure some of the smaller pubs will close down around 1am or so, due to neighborhood traffic.  But there are also plenty of after-hours and late-night clubs that keep the party going until well into the next day.  Much the same as my freshman year in college where kids would tend to go a bit too wild their first year out from under parents’ guardianship and then drop out, some expats can’t pace themselves in what seems to be an adult Disneyland of drinking.

I’ve tended to stay away from the numerous ‘hernas’ or small gambling establishments.  They’re also referred to as ‘non-stops’ though that basically is a term for any shop or pub open 24 hours.  These places aren’t nearly as glitzy as Reno or Vegas, but do cater to legal gambling and serve alcohol 24/7.  I also couldn’t write about night life, at least in the Czech Republic without mentioning that prostitution is also legal, though usually kept within the numerous brothels.  While not my cup of tea, they are a segment of tourist attractions (see above-mentioned stag parties).

And would you believe that there are night life alternatives to drinking?  Prague hosts an annual Museum Night where numerous city museums are open until 1am.  Cinemas have late night showings.  Expat English speaking live theatre is growing and thriving here.  I’m on the Board for A Broad’s Way Productions and will be writing more about that and the expat theatre scene in an upcoming post.  I’ll also just briefly note here that there is a small but thriving gay scene in Prague, as with most (unfortunately not all) European countries.  But as the 2nd Annual Prague Pride is just around the corner, that’s more than enough for another post.

Finally whereever you are whenever you go out, be safe.  I feel pretty safe here in Prague, perhaps due to my stature and that my mother always taught me to ‘walk like a woman with purpose.’  That’s not to say women are not attacked.  There is a local branch of an international organization here, Hollaback! to address the issue and empower women.   Pickpockets are prevalent on trams, metros, clubs and pubs as well.  Within my first few months here, I went to a club to dance with a few friends.  I left my bag at the table for a moment, and didn’t realize until the end of the night that my wallet was stolen out of my purse.  Then I didn’t realize until I got home that I had forgotten to take my rent money out of my purse before going out!  It’s the kind of mistake one only needs to make once.

So be mindful, try to stay relatively sober – at least in public – and have fun!