In any cosmopolitan city, it’s the little things that separate the locals from the tourists. These unwritten rules for living in Prague will help even the newest expat blend in with the crowd in no time.
1. Reservations are essential. Not just for meals, but an afternoon coffee as well. If it’s a place worth going to, it’s booked by those in the know. If there is tons of space, it’s likely overpriced and awaiting tourists.
2. BYOTP. Women, it’s a good idea to carry a packet of tissues to the toilet, particularly if you’re at an outdoor festival or a bar after 9:00 pm. Replenishing TP seems to be just below smiling on the customer service priority list, and paper towels are most definitely a luxury item.
3. Pets will show up in the unlikeliest of places. Czechs have more dogs per capita than any European country, but you can relax about attacks because they’re usually very well trained. However, if you’re allergic you may want to avoid public transport, restaurants and possibly your office.
4. Keep right, glare left. When riding an escalator, stay to the right and stand still. If someone does pass on your left, feel free to stare and wonder what could possibly make hurrying more important than this brief moment of relaxation.
5. You will always forget your shopping bag. Planning on picking up just a few things? You’re sure to find an entire cartful of must-haves on the one day you left your supply of shopping bags at home.
6. Exact change is a religion. Whatever note you’re paying with had better be within 20% of the price. Exact change is preferred, additional coins to make the change a round number are expected, and glares are guaranteed for anyone using a 2,000 CZK note, ever.
7. Filing papers? Take 2 days off. There’s no chance they’re in the same building or even on the same street. One office is likely to be open only two days a week (during normal business hours) or restricted to appointment-only transactions on Fridays, and the cashier only accepts on-site payments in stamps from 10:57-11:13 on Thursdays.
8. If you want to speak English, you’d better be spending money. Want to work at Starbucks, McDonald’s or in any of Prague’s shopping centers? Fluency in at least three languages, including English, is a must. Want to work for the foreign police? Just Czech is fine, with conversational German or Russian a plus, but not required.
9. The day before a holiday is a holiday. Don’t count on a response to emails or phone calls after 12:00pm on Friday (especially on a long weekend). If the public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, 60% of your office will probably take a 4-5 day trip out of the city with their family.
10. Weekends are for getting out of Prague. Any day with decent weather for skiing, cycling, hiking or rafting should be spent outside the city limits. And if the weather isn’t ideal for outdoor activities, you can expect to hear complaints about it throughout the office on Monday morning.
11. Nude is the norm. One additional warm-weather warning – in public parks, bathing suits are optional for anyone under 10 or over 50. If you’ve fallen asleep while sunbathing, you may want to open your eyes slowly… (The entire city doubles as a men’s toilet as well.)
12. Drinking at lunch is acceptable (but not required). Though you are still expected to perform your duties upon returning to the office! But don’t feel compelled to have a pint just to keep someone from drinking alone. Enjoying a beer is more about taste than taboo, so you won’t lose any cool points for ordering a coffee, tea or water.
13. Construction will wake you up more often than your alarm. There don’t seem to be any limits on the hours that road construction can start during the summer months, other than it’s guaranteed if you really need to sleep or you’re hungover.
14. Hot and cold is a mystery. If your faucet has a single lever rather than two knobs, the direction of hot or cold is a mystery. I personally have lived in two flats and worked in two offices where the temperatures were opposite, and have absolutely no idea which one is “normal” anymore.
15. The post will be maddeningly unpredictable. Any package sent from outside the EU will arrive on time, but require three extra weeks to track down which post office it was sent to, plus five pages of forms. If you send both a package and a postcard to the same non-EU city on the same day, they will arrive ten days apart with no consistency on which one takes longer.
16. 80s music is a guilt-free pleasure. If either “Greased Lighting” or “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing comes on at Lucerna Music Bar at least half the room, regardless of age, is required to sing along and demonstrate the choreography.
17. Develop your own Prague laundry system. All clothing, particularly coats and jackets, should be divided into two categories: acceptable-to-wear-for-a-night-on-the-town or reserved-for-non-smoking-establishments-only.
18. You will see (or be) one of three types of people on the night tram. Sleepers, singers, or couples one step away from starring in soft-core porn (minus the camera crew).
19. A margarita is not a respectable drink order. Ordering a vodka soda, a gin & tonic or a margarita in a pub is the fastest way to label yourself a tourist. Prague does have a few good cocktail bars, but they’re few and far between.
20. Keep your favorite pub to yourself. Always keep one traditional Czech pub to recommend to visitors and tourists as “where the locals go”, but share the true hidden gems with only your inner circle.
21. Calm down, it’s only Wednesday. That siren blaring across the city at 12:00pm on the first Wednesday of each month is simply a test of the city-wide warning system used for emergencies, not the beginning or WWIII. Although if an invasion or disaster ever does happen at exactly that time, the city might be in serious trouble.
22. Select your večerka carefully. If there is more than one in your neighborhood, you must carefully weigh the selection of snacks and specialty items, with special preference given to any open after 11:00pm.
23. When in doubt, ask Crowdsauce CZ. The members of this sassy Facebook group are full of local knowledge. But be warned, no matter what your question, someone will always bring up kale in the comments.
Which unwritten Prague rules do you live by?