How Not to Piss off the Czechs in Prague
“Prague? That’s in Czechoslovakia, right? I mean, I always wanted to visit Eastern Europe! Those guys there are like Russians, I’ve heard they drink absinthe every day. I guess that’s because they’re depressed all the time…”
Stereotypes – we’ve all heard these before. However, if you want to be on good terms with the locals in Prague, you should probably let all the bias go. Maybe we are not the most cheerful lot, but if you try not to piss us off, we can actually be extremely friendly.
Learn your geography
Before you hop on the plane to Prague, make sure you have a quick look at the map of Europe. This country is called “the Czech Republic” for more than two decades now. Or Czechia, if you wish. NOT Czechoslovakia.
And no, it’s not in the east, not even close to Russia. In fact, the Czech Republic never was a part of Russia. It was occupied but not part. It’s still a bit touchy subject with the Russian army taking over during the Prague Spring of 1968.
As for today, we are an independent country and we like to think of ourselves as being right in the middle of everything. In fact, it’s for good reasons that Prague is called “the heart of Europe.” Forget about all the stores that try to sell you Russian souvenirs in the midst of the city. We are CENTRAL Europe.
Prague is a constantly growing city, with more and more tourists coming each year. During the summer days, it might get a bit crowded. If you don’t want to be dismissed by the locals as just another annoying tourist, you should be thoughtful of your surroundings.
Czechs have their own set of petty rules that must be obeyed, especially within public transport. What will definitely piss us off is an eager tourist trying to get on the tram without letting anyone else get off. Once inside, you might be very happy to seize an empty seat, but if there is any elderly person around, you can as well forget about it. However, the worst sin you can ever commit is to stand on the left side of the escalator; that’s just a big no-no! For some more tips on how to move around the city, check our article How to be a responsible tourist in Prague.
In the souvenir shops in the city center, there are many purchases that are distinctly Czech, such as amber, garnet, glass, marionettes and even a little stuffy named Little Mole (Krteček), that is steadily becoming a national symbol. However, as I have already mentioned, even in the center of Prague you might come across shops selling traditional products, that are everything but Czech.
I will even forgive the Trdelník being called “Czech traditional,” even though it is fairly late to the party and not Czech at all. It is a soft, doughy treat with sugar and cinnamon and so who cares what you call it. They are yummy, not Czech but yummy. However, with that said don’t go buying Matryoshka dolls (also called Russian dolls) and call them Czech. They are not. They are Russian… just like the name. If you want to bring something nice from your trip to Prague, check our tips for some traditional souvenirs.
Come with the right attitude
Another failing that is nowadays spreading among tourists is the comparison attitude: “Oh, in my country we do it this way…” Now, this isn’t too bad if it’s just a discussion, but I have often been sitting in a restaurant and hear a customer want something different then what is offered: “Where I’m from, we replace the potatoes with rice.” Well, but you are not in your country, you are here, and one of the reasons you came might have been to learn about different cultures. You should accept the fact that the food (among other things) here is not like what it is in your hometown. Eating local meals is just another part of the overall experience you get while traveling. And oftentimes it is the best part of it!
Speak a language… some that we might understand
Let’s be honest, Czech is not exactly an easy language. The good news is that, unless you are planning to move to the Czech Republic permanently, no one will expect you to speak it. We are not crazy and we do realize that the Czech language is completely useless beyond our borders, which means we are not going to frown at you if you are not fluent in it.
English is becoming more and more popular in our country. It is compulsory in our schools already at the elementary level and most of the inhabitants of Prague speak it without any struggles. Still, for some tourists that’s just not enough. It’s no exception that an Italian lady stops me to ask for the way, in Italian, expecting me to answer… in Italian. Well, we are simply not that far ahead yet.
If you are planning to communicate with us on your trip to Prague, feel free to speak English, and if you want to add something extra, learn a couple of basic Czech phrases. It might not facilitate the discussion, but at least it will make us smile at your funny accent.
Enjoy our beer, or pretend that you do
Visiting the Czech Republic without trying one of the local beers is considered a heresy. We are awfully proud of our beer. You might not be fond of this beverage in general, but you will be fond of the Czech one. And if not, you will have to pretend you are. Nothing can piss us off as much as tourists despising our number one product (it’s not our number one product, but we like to say that it is).
If you are still not convinced, why don’t you try our popular Prague Beer and Czech Tapas tour? Our knowledgable guides grew up on this drink and they have the reputation of transforming every beer-objector into a beer-lover. You better prepare your taste buds for a load of bitterness, we won’t let you escape without a proper share of our national treasure.
There is one simple rule to get a tourist visiting the Czech Republic on the right track – just as you want visitors in your country showing respect, please show the same while in this country. A little respect goes a long way. But don’t worry too much; we are human beings just like anyone else. All you need for a friendly visit in Prague is an open mind and a bit of common sense. And a beer, of course!
August 26, 2019