Common Customs of the Czech Republic and Slovakia
You probably won’t find the Czech or Slovak way of life so foreign that you need to police your every action.
And unless you speak Czech or Slovak, don’t worry too much about tripping over your tongue. You should, however, remember that Slavic culture’s rich history has produced certain customs and modes of politeness that are worth observing. Consider the following:
- Opt for formality when addressing someone, especially if you don’t know them well. Use a person’s title followed by their last name. Remember that women’s last names end in -ova. For example, if a husband’s last name is Havel, his wife’s last name will be Havelova.
- Use the formal hello (dobry den) and good-bye (nashledanou) when arriving and departing. Ahoj, the more colloquial term used for both greeting and bidding farewell, should be reserved for friends. Handshakes are the common gesture of greeting no matter how well you know someone.
- When you are invited into someone’s home, you will likely be treated with great generosity and hospitality. If you can, bring some small gift with you (flowers or some wine) and be sure to offer thanks whenever you are presented with food or drink. You will also be offered a pair of slippers when you enter, so always take your shoes off.
- Czechs and Slovaks keep both hands above the table when eating. Follow suit (if you can break your parents’ admonishing spell over you).
- Though not as prevalent in the Czech Republic and Slovakia as in the U.S., tipping is customary. In restaurants, simply round up the bill by about 10 percent. Tip taxi drivers 10 percent, as well.
- When you are riding a subway train, bus, or tram, always give up your seat to an elderly person or a disabled person. If you don’t someone will surely point it out to you.