Maybe no one among us will cop to wearing socks and sandals, but when living in a country that consistently ranks high in terms of healthcare, well-being, and for the overall quality of life, certainly, some of its habits are worth making your own. These practices have made me a convert to certain aspects of the Czech way of life; which ones do you most appreciate?
Eating a Light Dinner
There’s a Czech saying that goes like this: Snídej sám, obědvej s přítelem, večeři dej nepříteli (Eat breakfast alone, have lunch with a friend, and give dinner to your enemy). Most Czechs I know do just that, skipping the solo desk sandwich in favor of a hot meal with colleagues at lunchtime followed by a light dinner.
They may be onto something: a major new study has determined that eating a big breakfast, medium lunch, and small dinner is the key to a lower BMI. Guess what? The lead researcher in the study was Czech Dr. Hana Kahleova who says those looking to lose weight should “Eat like a king, lunch like a prince, and have dinner like a pauper.”
Doing a Whole Lot of Walking
2017 has been a big year for studies that reflect the healthier aspects of Czech life. A recent one involves how many steps people around the globe take in a day—and the Czech Republic stepped to the top of the rankings.
The activity inequality index, released last week by Standford University, analyzed the daily step counts of 700,000 people across 111 countries using a smartphone app. Czechia came in #5, with Czechs taking an average of 5,507 steps a day, indicating more evenly distributed patterns of physical activity which correlate with a lower prevalence of unhealthy weight gain. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Prague is one of the world’s most walkable cities so lace up and go for a walk.
Making Recycling a Priority
In Europe, the Czech Republic is a recycling leader. According to Eurostat data from 2015, the country has doubled the volume of plastics being recycled in less than a decade. This puts Czechia in second place when it comes to recycling plastic PET bottles and in fourth place when looking at overall packaging recycling performance. The city of Prague has even begun to implement public composting bins in some of its neighborhoods. (For a helpful how-to on recycling see our article here).
Developing a Religious Devotion to Forest, Garden, Cottage
The Czech love of the great outdoors is well documented. Perhaps the greatest symbol of the national passion is its extensive system of well-marked hiking trails that encourage everything from serious treks to casual rambles. My own family has come to cherish our weekend walks in the woods and that’s to say nothing of the canoeing, skiing, cycling, and mushroom hunting that occupy most Czechs’ free time. I also seriously admire the way that Czech moms take their kids outside every day.
Becoming a Much More Relaxed Parent
It starts with leaving them outside to nap alone and continues with the annual shipping off of your babes for a week-long excursion to the mountains with their preschool, followed by regular solo trips to the playground. Nearly every expat friend I’ve spoken to at one time or other has found these Czech practices inconceivable. And yet most of us quickly come around to the local way of thinking. These trips nurture independence and confidence in kids, not to mention (hello!) providing precious free time for parents.
Sitting Through Film Credits
If you are new to the movie-going experience in the Czech Republic you might notice some differences in audience behavior (depending on where you are from). The first is assigned seats—some cinemas still adhere to them. We all have tales of silver-haired Czechs wielding ticket stubs and demanding you surrender their seat. The second is a bit more pleasant: The tendency of local audiences to sit through the credits. And not just the art-house set—on a recent trip to the multiplex I noticed that everyone stayed put til the lights came up, except for the American friend I was there with. We can chalk this tendency up to a cultural appreciation for film, perhaps, but it’s also a life attitude. What’s the rush?
Learning Ballroom Dance From a Young Age
The tradition of Czech dancing lessons or “taneční”, is a holdover from the First Republic. Even today, the number of annual balls held in Prague rivals that of Vienna! While the lessons aren’t experiencing the same popularity as they once did, ballroom enthusiasts still very much exist today with Czech teenagers donning gowns and dancing shoes after school to master their steps before the annual Maturitní ples, the Czech equivalent of the high school prom. And many Czechs hold onto those skills well into later life.
Stocking Up On an Insane Amount of Tea
Sure the Brits win out when it comes to afternoon tea and making a proper cuppa but the Czech love of Čaj is nothing to shrug off. The country’s numerous tea rooms (Čajovny) and shops specializing in everything from oolong to flowering are the first indications of the Czech love for tea culture. Also: the local tradition of giving sweet pink tea to school children, the use of tea for its healing properties, and the fact that when you visit a Czech home you will immediately be asked (after putting on house slippers): Would you like some tea? Read about the history of Czech tea houses here.