It goes without saying that visiting people in their home is the most intimate way to experience living in the country. It is also an enjoyable and inexpensive way to spend time with friends. So what should you do when you go?
What to Bring
If it’s a casual night in with wine, nibbles and conversation you probably won’t be asked to bring anything. If you do want to contribute, say with a bottle of wine or some cheese, it would be appreciated. Don’t go overboard. Your friends won’t be thrilled when you cater an evening for them. Like anywhere, your host wants to show off his or her skills and taste as much as you.
On special occasions such as family lunches, birthdays, large housewarmings, engagement parties and so on, the host or hosts will provide everything, including drinks. Especially, for the older generation, hosting is a matter of pride.
How to Behave
What is laid on the table is to be taken, and you should take something. In fact, expect to be forced to eat. However, unless you’re accepted into the family, you should always ask for whatever you want, e.g. water, coffee, a window open.
When eating at a person’s house, it is necessary to compliment the cook on his or her cooking skills as well as choice of food and beverages. As for drinking, expect alcohol to be offered. If toasting, it is polite to take a drink. Of course, if you refuse you will usually be left alone. Men who refuse may receive a few comments or be needled a bit.
What is acceptable on some of these occasions is a small gift, usually for the hostess. Chocolates and flowers are a safe bet. You will often see people holding flowers upside down. This is not from superstition. It is merely to prevent the flowers from being damaged. If the florist wraps them, you should unwrap them before giving them to the hostess. Most importantly, it should always be an odd number of flowers; even numbers are for funerals. For a casual evening, one flower will do. Of course, if it a birthday party, a gift is expected.
One of the most commented aspects of Czech domestic culture is that they remove their shoes and wear slippers inside. When visiting, assume that this is the norm. All of my Czech friends, in-laws and members of the extended family do it. People will inform you if it’s not necessary.
Punctuality is not only appreciated, it is expected. If people invite you for seven, they expect you to arrive at seven. It is polite to text or phone if you’re going to be really late. Seven doesn’t mean eight or thereabout.
Equally, if you invite your Czech friends, expect them to come at the time you say. Sure, sure, we all know exceptions, but most of the time my hosts have expected me to be at the time they said. This is true for parties as well as lunches or even casual get-togethers.
Now we hope you will be able to settle in for a comfortable evening at home with good food, good drink and any faux pas averted.