Italians are outgoing and sociable. Swedes are quiet and reserved. British people never show their emotions in public. Of course, it’s always dangerous to make general statements about how nationalities behave: there are many reserved Italians, loud Swedes and emotional Britons. But it’s possible to describe national characteristics to some extent, and it helps visitors understand a little better the country they’re visiting. So what are Czechs like?
Tourists often say that they find Czechs to be quiet and reserved. Generally speaking, Czechs do not tend to be as expressive as southern Europeans, and when interacting with others, their body language is less animated than that of Italians for example. Czechs are also more likely to keep themselves to themselves. For example, when waiting at a bus or tram stop, they won’t strike up conversations with strangers.
However, if you are entering an enclosed space where others are present, for example a shop, a train compartment, or even a lift, it’s polite to greet them by saying hello: “Dobrý den” (pronounced “DOB-ree Den”). And when you leave, you should say goodbye: “Na schledanou” (NA skle-DAN-ow).
Another characteristic is that Czechs, particuarly the older generation, are more formal towards people they don’t know. Unlike the American culture of first name terms, even between people who don’t know each other well, Czechs often address colleagues or neighbours or others that they meet regularly as “Mr X” or “Mrs Y”. This is the case even then they’ve known each other for a long time. The reason is partly due to the fact that the Czech language has a formal word for “you” – vy – and an informal word – ty. Of course, there are exceptions, and the presence of numerous international companies in Prague is introducing more informal ways of interacting.
If you bear the above points in mind, and make sure you don’t address the old lady at the tram stop in informal English, you should make a good impression.