Dos and Don’ts: some more behavior guides you from the family meal to the lining up

In some respects, Czechs are perhaps more polite than they are always are given credit for. Here is the low down on some of the basic local manners.

The family that eats together…

Marrying a Czech has meant negotiating certain cultural differences. Christmas and Easter are minor ones, at least in our household. The one that has caused the most contention is the sanctity of meal times. At home, my parents were quite lax about this, and I don´t think, apart form the odd meal out, we sat down and had a family meal regularly. Now, meal breaking is deal breaking. I´m expected to sit down, without work, a book or any other distractions and have a family meal, dinner during the week, lunch on weekends. Over time, I´ve grown to enjoy it.

Something else I was castigated for, apart from my early attempts to sneak reading material to the table, was smacking my lips as a sign of satisfaction or hunger. This is not isolated to my house. Other Czech people I´ve quizzed on bad habits have placed this toward the top.

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Not all the assimilation has been prohibitive. When my sister came to visit me after I´d been here a year pointed out that I´d changed the way I held my cutlery. Without realizing it I had adopted the Czech fashion. I hadn´t noticed until she told me.

You´re Number One

When you´re in a Czech bar for the first time, you may notice people giving the waiters a thumbs-up. This is not in praise of the service. Czechs count from one to five starting with the thumb. On no account does the middle finger refer to number one, despite what former Prime Minister Topolanek said.

You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

Living in a fairly small town gives me the impression the Czechs are a pretty courteous bunch. I usually greet and am greeted by, my neighbors, whomever I share a lift with, and the waiter at my local, even if I´m not having a drink. The list for my wife is even longer. Most often I have to ask her, “How do you know them?” Regardless, the order of greeting is usually youngest to oldest. Plus the simple salutation is enough and everyone else goes on about their business.

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Friends and acquaintances will often ask you say hello to the person’s partners and immediate family (pozdravovat). Equally, people are pleased if you tell them the same or pass on a greeting.

In public places, it´s polite to say hello, ie. “Dobrý den” in these circumstances:
·    To the people in the train compartment or immediately opposite you on the train
·    Entering the waiting room of a doctor´s surgery
·    A small shop
·    The cashier at a supermarket
It is also polite to say good-bye (na shledanou) when leaving. Naschle is considered informal, but you will hear it.

Minding Your Queues and Queues

Even if there´s no line, there´s a line. It is common practice such as a doctor´s surgery to ask who was the last person, so you know to go after them. Some people will feign ignorance and try to push in, but stand your ground. No one will defend your place in line if you don´t. Even if there is the means to form multiple queues, such as in a post office, the tendency is still to form one single one.

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These are some of the basics. We hope this will smooth your transition into Czech life. If there´s anymore to add, please feel free to tell us.

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