A non-Czech friend of mine recounted a story of seeing an attractive young girl suddenly stop and, in his words, “hock a loogie” on to the footpath. He told this to a group of us to give an example of supposed Czech acceptance of this habit. This doesn´t, however, appear to be the norm, or acceptable behavior; the Czechs among us were as shocked by this story as the rest.
If the tolerance of one bodily fluid is a matter of debate, another is accepted more, at least if it comes from children. Admittedly, the sight of kids peeing freely in public kind of shocked me the first time I saw it. I would say it still shocks me. So what exactly are the ‘rules’ here?
It seems that if you’re young, you’re given a free-pass, or pee-pass, though it doesn’t mean that children can relieve themselves wherever. Greenery appears to be the preferred location. For those of us who should have a little more bladder control, we’re expected to wait. However, along the motorway it´s, how to put it, like a return to childhood.
Where the Nose Blows
With its cool moist air, the Czech Republic is ripe for the sniffles, which is probably why people will blow their nose in public. It is equally true during the hay-fever season. It is considered respectful to turn away when doing so.
What is frowned upon is sniffling loudly. I’m embarrassed to say I was struck by a leaky nose without any tissues, and so spent a train ride sniffling loudly to the consternation of the passengers. One irate woman eventually handed me a travel pack of tissues. At least that explains why my wife always insists on carrying a pack of tissues wherever we go. They’re obviously to distribute to us forgetful foreigners.
Whose Seat is it?
Speaking of trains, a common act of courtesy is to allow elderly people or pregnant women sit down. I’ve also noticed that many people also vacate their seats for very young children, too. It seems that if you’re between the ages of six and sixty, and the metro is full, be prepared to stand.
While we´re on the subject of public transport, specifically in the metro, there are a few other things to remember. People are expected to stand to the right of the escalators to allow others to pass on the left. To get by someone, either on the escalator or on the train, a polite “s dovolením” usually works.
Hanging on the Telephone
The phone has become so ubiquitous that people in the Czech Republic, like everyone else, seem to tolerate its use. Some of the older generation may frown at your loud recount of last night’s exploits, but you’re unlikely to be told to end the call.
Where you are not permitted to use a telephone is in certain public buildings such as the post office, banks, hospitals and libraries. Usually, there is a sign with a phone and a red circle, if that is the case.
Generations will also differ on that more rudimentary form of communication – shouting and whistling to your friends. Older generations aren’t going to be too pleased, and if they know you they might chastise you for it. The young, though, are hardly going to bat an eye-lid. They probably won’t hear you over their iPods anyway.
To recap: spitting and peeing (if you´re over a certain age) in public may be witnessed in the Czech Republic, but are generally unacceptable. Loud sneezing is accepted, but sniffling is frowned upon. And shouting or talking loudly on a mobile may be tolerated, but are generally considered rude.