In the Czech Republic there is no law which would impose a ban on smoking in the restaurants. However you can find completely non-smoking restaurants and pubs or those which have separate sections for smokers and non-smokers. In vast majority of restaurants smoking is prohibited during lunchtime (usually from 11 AM to 2 PM) and dinner time (from 4 PM to 7 PM). There is a ban on smoking in enclosed public areas like bus stops, railway stations, waiting rooms or public transport.
Czechs tend to eat lunch at about 12 AM an dinner at about 6 PM. In smaller towns, it may be hard to find place to eat after 9 PM. People usually wait until everyone is served before eating. Vast majority of Czechs doesn’t say a prayer before meals because they are not very religious, (there is about 40% of atheists). They wish always „good taste“ (in Czech „Dobrou chuť“). Most meals are eaten with a knife in the right and fork held in the left hand. Normally lunch consists of two or three courses that are served in a strict order – soup, main course and occasionally desert/salad. When done eating, lay your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate. Consumption of alcohol is considered normal (beer or vine is often consumed during or after the meal).
Appointments & Visits
If you have an appointment, it’s polite to arrive on time or untill 5 minutes later. 10–15 minutes delay should be still tolerated but in business dealings it is inappropriate to be more than 5 minutes late. If you are invited to Czech family’s apartment or home, you are supposed to take your shoes off. Taking shoes off before entering is a common practice respected by most of the Czech households. Most likely you will be asked to leave your shoes on as you are a foreigner. There is small dissapearing tradition bringing something as a gift - box of good quality chocolates, bottle of good wine/spirit or flowers.
Until they get to know you Czechs are quite formal and reserved. If you develop a personal relationship they will open up and you find out that most Czechs are very friendly. Because we are not overly emotional you can encounter some unusual situations. If you are lost and trying to get oriented, do not expect that someone will stop by and help you without asking. Most likely you will have to actively ask but you should get good help then. We are good in orientation so most of the ways that you will need are right! Czechs tend not to speak with people whom they don’t know. Cashiers in stores may not seem very happy and helpful – they will not give you too much smiles but they will do their work properly. Czech people generally do not smile a lot and they don’t like initiating contact with strangers. In the Czech Republic people very rarely say “I love you” to their parents or relatives. On the other side a sense of humor and an ability to take things less seriously are very important for most people. Czech irony and ambiguity is legendary!
Meeting & Greeting
Initial greetings are quite reserved (usually including handshake and direct eye contact only); do not expect any hugs or kisses. If you ask question „How are you?“ (in Czech „Jak se máš?ˇ) a lot of Czechs will express that they are not content and they will not automatically answer with a positive response „fine“ (in Czech „Dobře“). Wait to be invited before using someone's first name or informal greetings; it is a signs of a friendship. Deep friendships rarely result in a short time. Punctuality for meetings is very important. Before the meeting gets started you should expect small ice-breaking talk. Czechs are not confrontational and they quite often prefer indirect approach to business related negotiations. It can take long to agree on final decisions.
Czechs generally do not greet or acknowledge strangers on the street. If you want to sit down at a table or in a train/bus with strangers, you should ask first. Czechs separate their business and personal lives a lot. Do not discuss business related issues or career developments. Politics is not also very good topic for discussion unless you want to hear many complaints. Good topics are usually leisure time related – like hobbies, sport, travelling etc. People in the Czech Republic are trying to avoid confrontations therefore their discussions may be indirect sometimes. “We will see” (in Czech „Uvidíme“) or “Maybe” (in Czech „Možná“) often means no. They often underestimate themselves and hate boasting.
For your comfort and better entry to Czech language, we prepared a dictionary with basic vocabulary that you will for sure use during your visit in the Czech Republic.