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Expats moving to the Czech Republic may experience some degree of culture shock. Although the country has one of the most open and Westernised cultures in Central Europe, it also has practices and traditions that new arrivals need time to get used to.
Studying some of the nuances of the culture can make the first few months in the Czech Republic not only more tolerable but also more enjoyable. Keeping an open mind will certainly help new arrivals to accept certain realities and ease culture shock.
For the most part, expats are won over by the “art culture” that the country has to offer, as well as the relatively low cost of living. However, genuine friendship (achieved with a little persistence and patience) and dependability in business are also qualities that endear foreigners to the Czech Republic.
Language barrier in Czech Republic
The vast majority of people in the Czech Republic speak the Czech language, and many, particularly the older generation or those outside major urban centres, don't speak English at all. Therefore, an expat who does not know the language or doesn’t have any Czech ties – be it a friend, relative or relocation company – may have a difficult time settling in. Before moving to the Czech Republic, expats should learn a few basic phrases or key Czech words to help them get around. Road signs are also generally in Czech.
When looking for employment in the Czech Republic, knowing the language is a great advantage and may even be essential in some cases. Most public offices only offer forms and instructions in the Czech language. On top of that, television shows, movies and radio are all in Czech or are dubbed in Czech.
Meeting and greeting in Czech Republic
On a personal level, it can be quite difficult to make friends with Czechs. The usual greeting is a handshake with eye contact, and it may take some time to graduate to being on a first-name basis. When meeting a local for the first time, they may seem cold and unwelcoming because Czechs don’t generally smile or make small talk. In time, they may open up but still aren't likely to openly express emotion in the way some expats may be used to.
Dining in Czech Republic
When dining at a restaurant, or in a social setting, it isn't unusual for complete strangers to say "dobrou chuť" (enjoy your meal) to others at a table. The appropriate response would be to say “dobrou chuť” if the other party is also about to enjoy their meal, or “děkuji” (thank you) if they are not eating.
Religion in Czech Republic
There is no single predominant religion in the Czech Republic, and in fact, most of the population is not religious. However, the influence of its predominantly Catholic culture during the early part of its history can be seen in its historical architecture, sculptures and other pieces of artwork.
In general, Czechs are very tolerant of different religions and lifestyles. As a result, expats living in the Czech Republic should find it easy to practice and embrace their faith without fear of being criticised.
Communication in Czech Republic
Czechs are usually straightforward and direct in the way they communicate. When doing business, it is important to put everything on paper. Czechs often do business through verbal communication and a handshake. This is mostly due to the non-confrontational manner typical of the Czech people. When things go wrong, though, this makes it difficult to determine who is at fault. Thus, if it is a matter of great importance or involves a lot of money, getting a contract in place is necessary.
Bureaucracy in Czech Republic
Although most private firms now conduct their business online, the Czech Republic is still a country of paperwork. Whether opening a bank account, buying property or sorting out a legal matter, an overwhelming number of documents and signatures are still required.
Family in Czech Republic
Family is important in Czech culture. Family gatherings are a common practice during the weekends or on special holidays and are often the centre of the social lives of locals.
When a child reaches adulthood, they customarily move out of their parents’ homes, but it is still common for children to live in the same town as their parents. Thus, the closeness between grandparents and grandchildren is maintained.
►Learn more about work culture by reading Doing Business in Czech Republic
"Most of the people here value being straightforward over being polite, which I'm still learning to adjust to." Read Expatova's interview to learn more about her experiences of Czech culture.
"The locals are not very friendly in the beginning but once you become a familiar face, it is easier to approach them and make friends." For more insight into making friends with locals, read Grace's interview.
Are you an expat living in Czech Republic?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Czech Republic. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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