The Czech Republic is known for its open and friendly culture. Due to the country’s strategic location in Central Europe, it has been influenced by many other cultures too. The people speak a Slavic language, but are also influenced by European and western economic and social trends. However every country has its own unique customs and practices, and expats will encounter this first-hand as they begin to settle down here. Here’s what new expats can expect in the Czech Republic.
Most people in the Czech Republic speak Čeština, a West Slavic language that is the official language of the country.There are people who also speak English, but it’s helpful to know the basics of the Czech language. A few useful words and phrases can go a long way in helping you get around the local area. Knowing the local language is also an advantage when it comes to job opportunities, especially in local companies. In public offices, the instructions and paperwork may be entirely in the Czech language. Since the Czech Republic is in regular trade with Germany, native German and English speakers may be preferred for certain positions. Also due to a growing tourism industry, there are many jobs that require speakers of other languages besides Čeština. A good way to familiarize yourself with the Czech language is to watch the local television shows or listen to the radio.
Czechs tend to be reserved and slightly formal initially, but this eases once they get to know you. However, they always maintain a polite formality and do not show much affection to people beyond their family and close friends. Greetings usually include a handshake and direct eye contact. They tend not to use someone’s first name in the early stages of an acquaintance, as it is a sign of informality. It’s advisable for expats to behave in a similar manner and move into a more informal form of communication only after being invited to do so.
It is quite common for Czechs to rely only on verbal communication in business dealings. Therefore it’s advisable to insist on having everything down on paper to prevent any future complications. Avoid scheduling meetings on Friday afternoons, as this is when many Czechs take off for their country homes for the weekends. Some businesses are also shut during the month of August. Punctuality is important and should be taken seriously, especially when doing business.
Due to their inherently non-confrontational nature, Czechs prefer to perform business dealings with a more indirect approach. The nature of business is hierarchical and therefore only those at the top take important decisions. This may lead to some delays and you may be called for several meetings before a decision is made.
It is customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home. Avoid discussing business matters, as Czechs like to separate their business life from their personal. They follow Continental table manners wherein the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right. It is tradition to wish everyone a good meal or dobrú chuť before you start eating. When making a toast, na zdravie (to your health!) is the appropriate greeting. It’s polite to refuse a second helping initially and accept only after the hostess insists. Placing your fork and knife parallel across the right hand side of the place indicates that you are done with your meal. When dining at restaurants, it is not customary to leave the money on the table, but to hand it over to the waiter once he shows you the bill. The amount can include the tip.
The Czech Republic is a bureaucratic country and foreigners often get frustrated and confused about how to maneuver through all the red tape. Paperwork is involved when opening a bank account; obtaining an identity card, identification number, permit or license; and also when re-registering a telephone number or applying for an internet connection.
These processes are deemed legal only after they have an official stamp. It’s also necessary to keep all the documents as the officials may ask for them at some future time. The good news is that many private companies are now doing much of their business online.