If you’re looking to study and live for some time in the Czech Republic it might not be a bad idea to learn a few things about the people. Though it probably won’t be anything special, since Czechs are pleasant and friendly people under a tough exterior, which is not hard to see through.
1. Czechs can seem a little grim
However, don’t follow first impressions. It is a national custom to look grim on the street and complain about the bad day you’re having, and in general Czechs don’t smile just for the sake of it. The fact is Czechs are a relatively sincere people and they just don’t smile at strangers for no reason. In contrast, when you get to know someone closer, get ready for a friendly relationship full of laughter, jokes and invitations to go for a beer, to go to the cinema or to find entertainment elsewhere. Czechs can be a little reserved toward foreigners, but once they open up it is really worth it.
2. Czechs drink beer. A lot of beer
Yes, the way friends most often get together in the Czech Republic is over a beer in the pub. Even though recent years have brought many cultural novelties (wine has begun to be drank more frequently, especially in the region south of Brno), Czechs are still one of the nations that drink the most beer per capita. It is not unusual to drink several beers in an evening, even for ladies weighing 50 kilogrammes. Beer is simply a natural part of most local social activities and drunk by almost everyone.
3. Czechs care about planning and punctuality
Many foreigners are surprised at how organised Czechs can be. In this, the locals are similar to the Germans – they frequently have not only the working day but also their holidays perfectly planned out and divided into clearly framed time units and are often running from one to another. To arrive five or ten minutes late is a real no-no, not even if it is just going to the pub.
4. Czechs wear casual clothes everywhere – except the theatre
Even though things have moved on a bit, you can still be surprised by the number of people you will meet in town wearing casual clothes, as if they are off to the countryside or ready for an expedition. Not that the Czechs are great sportsmen, it’s just that fashion isn’t such a priority as in the surrounding nations and many people who are not forced to follow a company dress code just wear comfortable and practical clothing. It is no revolt against convention; on the contrary, people wear relatively strict formal clothing when going to a larger theatre.
5. Czechs use public transport and travel on foot
Most Czech cities, including Brno, home to Masaryk University, are relatively compact and Czechs are used to getting around on foot, using municipal public transport for longer distances (in Brno, we mostly use the tram, locally called a “šalina”). Czechs are also a nation of hikers, often going on long expeditions in the countryside, where you will find perfectly marked tourist trails and can gather mushrooms, blueberries, wild strawberries and anything else you can find among the trees and paths – which here people then really do eat or further process.
6. Czechs have a great sense of humour - just a bit dry
Though Czechs can seem a bit grim on first impression, once you get past the surface you will find they happily laugh, tell jokes and are generally quite loud in the evening, when the beer flows. You may be slightly shocked when you find that the local humour can be rather dry (a bit like British humour) and on occasion a little ‘incorrect’.
7. Czechs love ice hockey, even though they are no longer that good at it
The national sport here is ice hockey, and though they still have one of the world’s best teams, the days of the victory at Nagano in 1998 are long gone. However, Czechs still hope that success will return. If you visit the Czech Republic during the world cup, you will see that even people who normally don’t care about sport suddenly go to pubs to watch matches and support the team from basically everywhere. If you’re going to be studying in Brno you certainly won’t avoid ice hockey because of the famous local team, Kometa Brno, which now holds historically the most titles in the highest Czech ice hockey league.