All the boys are named Honza
Any attempt to explain Czech culture and customs in one blog post offensive generalization and gross over-simplification. But here are just some fun facts that I have noticed about language, culture, customs and etiquette.
Czech Culture 101
- My first week of school I realized that there were an awful lot of Honzas, Jakubs, Katkas, and Terezas running around. In some classes, I had three or four students with the same name! Czech parents are very conservative when it comes to names. In the past, parents were not allowed to choose just any name for a child. This has changed, although it is still common to choose the name from the name day “calendar” and any highly unusual name has to be approved by a special office. Asha is not on the calender (go figure), but Nikola is celebrated on the 20th of November!
- When you are in an elevator, it is rude to stand with your back towards anyone else. This mean you must stand face to face when you are riding the elevator with someone. Awkward…Don’t worry, you do not have to maintain eye contact the whole time!
- When eating you should always hold your fork in your left and your knife in your right. This is particularly difficult for me because I am used to eating the other way around. To signal to the waiter that you are done eating, you must place your fork and knife side by side. Leave them crossed if you want to keep eating.
- Czechs use their thumbs when counting on their hands, so for the number 2 they use their thumb and index finger. For three they hold up their thumb, index finger and middle finger.
- Always use a cart or basket when shopping and pay attention to the flow of the supermarket. In most places you should enter at one in and work your way through the isles in a logical order. Shopping assistants tend to get agitated when you “improvise.”
- Tip wait staff, hairdressers and taxi drivers.It is not necessary to tip 10-15 percent but it is common Czech practice to round your bill up from, for instance, 44 Kč to 50 Kč. When the waiter comes by you should tell them how much you would like to pay. Not tipping is a sign that something was wrong with the meal or with the service.
- When you visit a Czech household you will be expected to remove your shoes. Most times you will be offered slippers. In the school, students must also remove their shoes when they enter and wear slippers to class (teachers don’t have too). For those of you who knew me in high school you know that I would not have minded this rule at all because I loved me some house shoes.
- The drinking age is 18 but not really enforced. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a pub and ran into one of my underage students. That being said, its not cool for Czech to be drunk in public so that means although they drink young, they drink responsibly. There is also a zero tolerance when it comes to drinking and driving. If you have one beer you cannot drive of face a heavy fine.
- No means yes. The Czech word for yes is ano or no for short. It is very common to hear people say no no no while nodding their head. Ne means no.
- Teachers come to the class after the bell has rung. On my first day I came before the bell and experienced an awkward 5 minutes staring at my students and wondering why they didn’t sit down. In the Czech Republic, students stand when the teacher enters the room and only sit down once the teacher tells them it is okay.
- It’s really cold here. I did not pack well.
Well that’s all I have for now. More to come later!