Culture Shock in Czech Republic

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 one accept certain realities and help ease culture shock.

For the most part, expats are won over by the “art culture” that this country has to offer, as well as the 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, 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 lines or key Czech words to help them get around. Road signs are also almost always 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. When meeting a local for the first time, they may seem cold and unwelcoming because Czechs don’t generally smile or spend time chatting. In time, they may open up but still aren't likely to openly express emotion in the way some expats may be used to.

The usual greeting is a handshake with eye-contact, and it may take some time to graduate to being on a first-name basis, if at all. Kissing and hugging between acquaintances is quite rare, but may only be appropriate if between close friends.


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 will 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. In most instances, do not expect them to make an extended effort to be polite or accommodating – there are generally no pretences.

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. Paperwork must include an official stamp to make it legal. Furthermore, it is necessary to save every piece of paperwork received from an official, as they may ask for it later on.


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. It is normal to see older people pushing strollers on the streets, as grandparents often babysit their grandchildren.

Grace Bantol

Grace was born and raised in Bukidnon, a province in the Southern part of the Philippines. Driven by ambition and a relentless search for greener pastures,  she migrated to the United States several years ago for a job opportunity. It was there where she met her Czech husband, got married and had a son. In June 2011, she moved with her family to the Czech Republic. Read her blog at www.czechtheflip.com.

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