Every time I’m around other cultures, like when I’m on a plane full of French people, I realize how much I love and appreciate Czech culture. Of all the places in the world where I could have ended up, I feel like I found people who really get me. These are all the Czech habits that I think are particularly conducive to a happy and productive society. Habits that we could all stand to learn from.
Using indoor speaking voices
Americans get a lot of flak for this, but a lot of cultures are fucking loud – Italians, Chinese, Spanish. When people get together, the volume on their conversation goes up a few decibels. But not the Czechs. I find consideration to be one of the most admirable qualities in people and Czechs are super considerate.
So restaurants and public transportation are calm and quiet. Because you don’t have to scream for your friends to hear you. And anyone who is not your friend doesn’t give a fuck about your conversation. There are signs in residential areas reminding people to keep quiet after hours, because your night out shouldn’t interfere with someone else’s restful sleep. I relate to Czechs the most when I make eye contact with someone on the train in quiet judgment of someone else who is being unnecessarily loud.
The unfriendliness they’re famous for
One of the biggest misconceptions about the Czechs is that they are unfriendly or rude. But I’ve come to appreciate the fact that they’re just direct and respectful of others’ personal space and time. So when you’re out in public, particularly as a woman, you never have to deal with unwanted attention. And there’s nothing like getting in an Uber and not being asked your whole life story. Czechs tread very carefully about approaching strangers. But once you get to know them, you’ll find they’re fun and exceedingly kind.
They’re just very genuine in their interactions. I asked someone who gives me Czech lessons how you say “Nice to meet you.” And she told me there’s no translation for that kind of phrase because it isn’t commonly used. You wouldn’t tell someone it’s nice to meet them because you don’t know that yet. Isn’t that such a beautifully honest thing? I mean really… it’s only nice to meet like 10-15% of people. Why do we throw around empty niceties like that?
Appreciation for 90s pop culture
The Czech Republic was under communist rule until 1989 which means their media was controlled by the government until then. The opening of the flood gates during the time of Beverly Hills 90210 and Ace of Base left a lasting mark on the culture. They love the 90s pop hits that most of us never even think about anymore, because it marks a nostalgic time for them, like an entire culture experiencing their formative years in the same time period. So you might hear Chumbawamba at the bar. Or the likes of Brandy and Mariah Carey at the grocery store. And I make fun of it all the time, but I love it. The 90s were great and I’m glad the Czech Republic still parties like it’s 1999.
Devotion to animals
The Czechs love their dogs almost as much as they love their beer. Czech dogs are some of the best-trained animals in the world. They’re walked off leash at all hours of the day, being respectful to other people and other animals. When locals go grocery shopping, their dogs wait patiently in front of the store, even when they’re not tied up. And because of this good behavior, dogs are accepted everywhere from public transportation to tiny boutique shops and restaurants. People don’t go anywhere without their sharply dressed pups.
Around New Years, there were instructions circulating on how pet owners should handle fireworks so their dogs don’t become fearful. It suggested, in a nutshell, that you shouldn’t celebrate New Years if your dog will be distressed. Either put cotton in their ears and play with them until it’s over or leave Prague over the holiday. Because the Czechs understand that your dog’s emotional well being is more important than your New Year’s Eve celebration. Their devotion to their pets is a testament to the kind spirit of the Czech people.
Their no-bullshit restaurant etiquette
Is there anything worse than waiting around for the bill when you’re done eating and ready to go? When you think about it, it’s a totally unnecessary process. It’s only out of custom that the waiters are expected to bring the bill to the table. Because other than bringing you food, no other transaction is required at the table. So Czechs don’t bother waiting around for the bill. When you’re ready to pay, you get up and pay at the register. It saves the server a couple of trips to your table and it saves you having to wait around. Splitting checks is never a problem because you just tell the server what you want to pay at the register and you’re done.
Raising well behaved kids
The other day I was at an airport in Paris and three kids were banging on the piano in the terminal for 20 minutes as if it was their own personal toy. And I thought to myself, a Czech person would sooner die of embarrassment than let this go on. The same way they don’t like to bother others or be bothered, they raise their kids to do the same. You’ll never hear a mother getting into a screaming match with her toddler. And you’ll rarely hear a kid inconsolably crying in public. Czech parents are the perfect mix of comforting and intimidating that with just a little rocking and some hushed words, the kids get quiet again. As someone who is Hispanic and from Miami (home of the most obnoxiously misbehaved children in North America), I think this is straight up witchcraft and wizardry.
Good concert behavior
Czechs are the best people to go to concerts with because they’re so respectful of personal space. You could be on rail for the most famous band in Europe, and no one will shove you or push you around, or try to muscle their way into your space. That doesn’t mean they’re not lively concert crowds either. But they sing and dance in a way that doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s ability to enjoy the show. As someone who comes from a country where you have to watch concerts with your elbows at the ready, this is a breath of fresh air.
I’ve never been a fan of being fashionably late. Or rather being fashionably kept waiting. If I agree to do something at a certain time, I expect it to be at that time and not 45 minutes later. So I appreciate the fact that people in the Czech Republic always attend events, dinners, and get togethers on time. And if something were to come up, Czech people notify you accordingly. Telling people you’re on your way when you’re about to jump in the shower is not cute. And no one here has time for that.
Their love of travel
Perhaps one of the weirdest things about transitioning to life abroad is that I’ve gone from being the person that is always traveling to being the one that doesn’t travel enough. “You only spent a week in Peru? Did you even have time to see anything?” Maybe this is more of a European thing than a Czech thing, but whenever someone I know goes on vacation somewhere, they essentially relocate for at least a month. They don’t squeeze trips into their regular life; instead, they go live in Vietnam for eight weeks. And they don’t even plan the whole trip. They just show up, and then decide where to stay later. I hope to one day be that free-spirited and adventurous.