How to be Czech in 10 easy steps

Beer

Half a litre of Gambrinus Czech beer ยฉ Ricky Yates

A few months ago, a British friend who has lived in Germany for many years, alerted me to this online article entitled, ‘How to be German in 20 easy steps’. It is written by a British man who is obviously trying to become accepted in the country in which he is now resident. The article had both Sybille and I in stitches ๐Ÿ™‚ But ever since reading it, I have been formulating in my own mind, the equivalent article. So after nearly four & a half years of living as a cizinec / foreigner in the Czech Republic, here is my guide in ten easy steps as to ‘How to be Czech’.

1. Drink beer

The Czech Republic has the highest per capita consumption of beer of any nation in the world. The country also produces an abundance of excellent brews including Pilsner Urquell, the world’s first pilsner pale lager beer, Budvar, Kozel, Gambrinus, Radegast, Staropramen, Kruลกovice, Starobrno, Bernard and Svijany. In very simple terms, if you want to be Czech, you need to drink beer and enjoy doing so.

You also need to know how to drink beer โ€“ in particular to remember that in a Czech bar, your beer glass must always be placed on a beer mat. And going into a Czech bar, sitting at a table, taking a beer mat from the central container, and placing it in front of you, will frequently result in a half litre of Czech beer arriving, without you having to say a word! And be reassured โ€“ as far as Czech people are concerned, beer is not alcohol ๐Ÿ™‚

2. Get a title

The Czech people love their titles โ€“ and use them! Even a simple office worker seems to have Ing. (Engineer) in front of their name. My recent reminder to renew my car insurance came from Ing. Pavel and Ing. Annabella, who both work for the Czech branch of a well-known German insurance company.

I was tempted to illustrate this point by photographing the mail boxes on the ground floor of our apartment block, but decided for reasons of personal privacy, it would be unwise to do so. But you would be amazed how many Mgr., Ing., JuDr., etc there are in our neighbourhood. Therefore our mail box very firmly has ‘Rev’d’ in front of my name. For if you are going to be Czech, you need to have a title!

Short skirt ยฉ Ricky Yates

Short skirt ยฉ Ricky Yates

 

 

 

3. Dress Czech

Whilst recognising that I’m now setting foot where most angels would fear to tread, here is my advice to ladies as to how to dress Czech. Ladies โ€“ when wearing a dress or skirt, make sure that it is short โ€“ basically finishing mid thigh or even higher! And do not think that this is just restricted to young ladies. In the Czech Republic, you will frequently see a mother and her daughter out walking together, with the daughter pushing a buggy containing her new-born infant. You will then often notice that there is a competition between mother and the new grandma, as to which one has the shorter hemline.

 

 

Another aspect of the Czech female look is showing cleavage โ€“ usually plenty of it. Please don’t think to reserve such a look for a romantic evening dinner with your boyfriend or husband. If you are going to be Czech, showing plenty of cleavage &/or wearing a short dress or skirt is also the required dress code for going around town during the day and for wearing to the office.

 

 

Tight jeans, boots & high heels

Tight jeans, boots & high heels

 

 

When it does get really cold, then the correct Czech female look is spray-on jeans tucked into knee-high boots. And the boots really should have high, narrow heels, despite the cobbled streets and pavements of the historic centre of Prague and other Czech towns and cities. For part of being a Czech lady is being able to walk in such heels and not trip up on the cobbles.

Czech male pony tail ยฉ Ricky Yates

Czech male pony tail ยฉ Ricky Yates

There is far less of a dressing Czech code for men. But if any man wants to really be Czech, he needs to stop worrying about having his hair cut. A true Czech man has long hair and ties it back in a pony tail. As with ladies and short hemlines, the pony tail look is not just restricted to young men. Plenty of Czech men in their fifties & sixties have them too. Gents – you want to be Czech? Grow a pony tail!

4. Take your shoes off when entering a house or flat

Take off your shoes upon entering a Czech home ยฉ Ricky Yates

Take off your shoes upon entering a Czech home ยฉ Ricky Yates

Upon your arrival at the entrance door of a Czech home, you must take off your shoes. Your Czech host may well say, ‘Oh don’t worry about your shoes’. Ignore what has been said and still take off your shoes, leaving them in the entrance hall by the door. Failure to do so will result in you forever being known as the foreigner who didn’t take off their shoes. Nobody will ever think you are Czech.

Don’t just obey this rule when entering a Czech home. Adopt the same rule in your own home too. Then when Czech people come to visit you, not only will they take their shoes off upon arrival, they will recognise that you are also on your way to being Czech.

A happy couple roller blading

A happy couple roller blading

 

 

 

 

 

5. Be sportif

Despite Czech cuisine being somewhat unhealthy โ€“ if you can deep-fry it, they will ๐Ÿ™‚ – you still see remarkably little obesity. The reason is that in order to be Czech, you need to be sportif. Go out for a gentle walk in a city park or alongside the Vltava River, and you will be passed by a succession of joggers, cyclists, skateboarders and roller-bladers. To be really Czech, you need to be one of them.

Having a baby or toddler that needs to be pushed around in a baby buggy or stroller is no excuse. Just pop on your roller-blades and push the buggy/stroller in front of you. This is strollering – the ideal form of exercise to lose weight after giving birth. If you don’t have the confidence to try it, classes are available as this poster below explains.

 

Advert for learning strollering ยฉ Ricky Yates

Advert for learning strollering ยฉ Ricky Yates

If none of these sportif activities appeal to you, then try playing floorball, a form of indoor hockey at which Czechs excel. Or go ice skating in winter, play tennis in summer. Yes โ€“ part of being Czech is being sportif. See also what follows in points six and seven.

Chata ยฉ Zygmunt Put

Chata ยฉ Zygmunt Put

6. Go to the chata or chalupa for the weekend

One little frustration of living in the Czech Republic is the impossibility of getting anything done in most offices on a Friday afternoon. Why? Because everybody is busy packing up and clearing their desks so they can head off to spend the weekend in the chata or chalupa.

A chata is a (usually) wooden small hut or chalet, located out in the Bohemian or Moravian countryside. A chalupa is a bigger and usually more substantial version of a chata โ€“ a ‘country cottage’ might be an appropriate description in English. Particularly for any English-speaker who has fallen in love with a member of the opposite sex who is Czech, going to spend the weekend with the Czech relatives at their chata/chalupa, can be the make-or-break experience as to whether the new relationship will flourish and will certainly define whether, as a foreigner, you are going to succeed in becoming Czech.

Part of the chata/chalupa weekend experience is also being sportif, as in point five. Cars leaving Prague on a Friday afternoon will have bicycles up on the roof rack in summer, or skis/snowboards in winter. Some wealthier Czechs will have horses at their chalupa, ready for weekend riding. It isn’t just going to the chata/chalupa for the weekend โ€“ the real test for being Czech, is joining fully in the whole experience, including the various, mainly sportif, activities.

7. Enjoy being out in ‘the nature’

Even for those Czech people who don’t own or have access to a chata/chalupa, going out into the Czech countryside and being in ‘the nature’ as they tend to say in English, is deemed highly important. If you want to be Czech, you need to do so too, and be seen to enjoy it.

This means taking the train out of the big city to a small village or town, and then walking for many kilometres along one of the numerous way-marked paths through the forests and over the hills, to another spot where you can catch the train home at the end of the day. Or heading out of the city to where you can hire a canoe and paddle your way along the river, over a few rapids, to a distant location many kilometres downstream.

Slapy Lake ยฉ Ricky Yates

Czech people enjoying being in ‘the nature’ at Slapy Lake ยฉ Ricky Yates

In summer, these activities can also often include swimming in the many rivers and lakes that are part of ‘the nature’ in the Czech Republic. And for some Czechs, being in ‘the nature’ also means being ‘au naturel’. Certainly don’t expect changing facilities at river and lakeside bathing spots and be aware that many Czech women don’t believe in wearing bikini tops. If you want to be Czech, just join in doing what Czech people do when they are in ‘the nature’.

8. Get a dog

The statistic I’ve read is that 40% of Czech households, have one or more dogs. I often think it might be higher than that. But as I know from our personal experience with Sam the dog, if you have a dog, suddenly complete strangers start talking to you and, far more importantly, to your dog. You have a dog? You must be Czech!

A man walking through Letna Park, reading a book ยฉ Ricky Yates

A man walking through Letna Park, reading a book ยฉ Ricky Yates

9. Read a book โ€“ wherever you are

Czech people love books and love reading. The number of flourishing bookshops is testament to their love of reading. To be Czech, you need to be a bookworm too. But don’t confine your reading to fifteen minutes in bed before you go to sleep. No โ€“ read a book wherever you are.

What does that mean? It means reading on the tram, metro or bus and whilst standing & waiting for the tram, metro or bus. But don’t just restrict yourself to these locations. The real test as to whether you are Czech is being able to read and walk along at the same time! Yes โ€“ you need to be able to read a book, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

10. Speak Czech

The most obvious, but also the hardest. Whilst many younger Czech people, welcome the opportunity of speaking English with a native speaker, and will respect you for having adopted and practised points one to nine above, the final test is being able to speak their language. Which means getting four genders and seven cases correct, every time ๐Ÿ™

Did I mention ten easy steps. Sorry โ€“ I meant nine relatively easy ones and one that is extremely difficult.

Update December 2013

Following a further major upsurge of interest in this post, I’ve written and posted an update entitled ‘How to be Czech in 10 easy steps- revisited‘.

 

 

77 comments to How to be Czech in 10 easy steps

  • What a fun list! It had me giggling. I totally agree. Where is #11? To be a Czech you must smoke cigarettes, especially as you walk down the street so all other pedestrians have to keep you in their sights at all times so as to not burn their coats.

    • Ricky

      Very glad to know that I got you giggling Karen. And I suspected that sooner or later, I’d have suggestions of additional steps. The Brit who wrote about ‘How to be German’ which inspired my post, started out with ten steps, then added ten more, followed by a further five. I’m sure there will eventually be another post with the next ten steps ๐Ÿ™‚

  • A couple more! #12 To be a true Czech, passively complain about politicians yet don’t lift a finger to involve yourself politically whatsoever.

    #13 To be a true Czech, have “I am Sceptical” as your default facial expression.

    #14 To be a true Czech, loudly denounce Roma with nary a thought of how what you just said, sounds like something Nazi sympathizers would say during the Holocaust.

    #15 To be a true Czech, worry what your neighbors and friends and co-workers would think.

    #16 To be a true Czech, don’t be too optimistic. It means you haven’t done all of your research.

    • Ricky

      Thanks Karen – maybe I should invite you to write a guest post ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Marie

      Amazing article! I completely agree, although – being Czech myself – I fit only in number 9 and partly 7. Karen’s 11-12 are correct as well, though I don’t find myself in any of them ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Ricky

        Thank you Marie – It has been so nice to have so many comments from native Czechs in response to this post. However, being Czech, I assume point 10 isn’t a problem for you ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It’s that more negative approach which is happily mostly missing from Ricky’s post, but scepticism and “doing all your research” is something I notice in myself, especially online in comparison to other people – mostly from the USA. I think. I’m usually more reserved in my judgements, always leaving myself a leeway for “further research”. ๐Ÿ˜€ Both ways, though, not just the “optimistic” side of things.

  • I really enjoyed this post — thanks for the smile! My husband and I have visited Prague twice in the last 3 years and are returning in April (for Carodejnice!) and an extended stay. We’re hoping to move to Prague for a few years… guess I’d better get started on learning more Czech than “hello” and “goodbye.”

    Thoroughly enjoy your updates. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ricky

      Hi Melissa – and thanks for leaving a comment here for the first time. Pleased to know that I made you smile ๐Ÿ™‚

      I presume your extended stay from April will be no more than 90 days as that’s as long as a Schengen visa will allow you to be here as non-EU citizens. If you want to come for a few years, obtain your longer term visa & work permit before coming to the Czech Republic. Don’t come on a 90 day tourist visa and start applying once here. That’s what gets non-EU citizens, Americans in particular, into trouble ๐Ÿ™

      Glad to know that you’re enjoying the blog.

  • Greetings from Brno ๐Ÿ™‚ Nice post ๐Ÿ™‚

  • stan

    Hi Ricky,

    I was expecting a more offensive article ๐Ÿ™‚

    It is very obvious that most if not all of your observations were performed in Prague.
    Point 9 is strictly Prague thing. I believe most of the people read because they get bored in public transport and/or don’t want to waste those minutes. And if they happen to read a great book … well they don’t want to stop ๐Ÿ™‚ Even when walking or talking to other people.

    Point 6 is also more common for Prague residents. They just want to get out of the “dirty”, chaotic and stressful city. That is including myself.

    Btw. love the “nature” expression :DDD

    Great article, thanks.

    Stan

    • Ricky

      Hello Stan – how nice to have another new person leaving a comment here for the first time.

      I presume the ‘I was expecting a more offensive article’ comment was meant tongue in cheek, especially as it was followed by a smiley! I always try to be honest but not offensive, though sometimes the occasional person is offended by what I write.

      Whilst I live in Prague, I do also travel around the country, especially to Brno. So you could say that points 6 & 9 are more of a city/urban thing.

      Being in ‘the nature’ is an expression I’ve heard so often used by English-speaking Czech people that I thought it was the best description to illustrate the point I was making. Glad to know that you liked it. Please visit & comment again in the future.

      • Anna

        Hi,
        I’m not from Prague and I read wherever I am. And I see that a lot around myself and this point makes me especially proud for being Czech :).

        The taking off shoes is not truth in every household (for example in our family no one did this), but when you get to visit, it’s better to try it before you step into the flat.
        And the main difference between chata and chalupa is that chata was built for spending weekends in the nature ๐Ÿ™‚ and chalupa is mostly some building, that stood in the village or countryside long ago and people used to live there before (whether it is farm or just house).
        Thanks for this great article it really made me smile! And thanks for seeing us better than we see ourselves ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • Ricky

          Hi Anna – How nice to have another Czech person commenting here on my blog.

          Thank you for confirming that Czech people are great book readers, regardless of where they live. The Czech Republic is a very literate country & it is something to be proud of.

          I have to say that I’ve yet to visit a Czech home where there wasn’t a pile of outdoor shoes outside or just inside the entrance. But I accept that there are some exceptions. But thank you for your clarification of the difference between a chata and a chalupa. I do understand that sometimes the family chalupa is where babicka lives, in some small village from where the family originated a couple of generations ago.

          I’m pleased that I made you smile. And yes – I do see Czech people as being far better than many of them very often see themselves.

          • Anna

            Yes, that is possibly another point to your next article – how do the Czechs see themselves ๐Ÿ˜€

            And chalupa is term that I personally love. It is also because our family have an awesome chalupa, which my great great grandfather built and my family lived there for a long time. It ended with my grandaunt, who lived there until 1960’s and since then my family goes there for weekends and look after it. Sometimes even “city kids” call it chata and I have to correct them :D.

            Anyway I’m looking forward next episode and maybe even I will find out something new.

            • Ricky

              Yes Anna – How do the Czechs see themselves? – That could be very interesting but also a slightly dangerous topic to me as a foreigner to write about ๐Ÿ˜‰

              Thank you for the second paragraph of your comment which perfectly illustrates what I previously wrote.

        • Zdenek

          I am Czech and have family at several parts of the country, both in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia and can’t remember anyone who wouldn’t take their shoes off (or switch to slippers), so it must be some very local thing not to take shoes off.

          • Ricky

            Hi Zdenek – There are always exceptions as per Anna above. But your experience is the same as mine. I’ve always taken my shoes of in every Czech home & have yet to come across a case where the family didn’t all do so as well.

  • Karin

    Well, after spending some time in Prague in the past, (and returning again this April), I “think” I have 7 of the 10! I like the beer (never was a beer drinker EVER, before drinking Pilsner), have a title…known as Lady of the Swamp (by my Greek friends and Lady of the Manor here in Ireland). I do wear leggings (alas no heels, but walking shoes) ๐Ÿ™‚ Taking off shoes at the door and donning slippers, LOVE LOVE nature and even learned to be au naturel on the Greek beaches! (Don’t let my kids know!), and have been known to read a book while standing in line at the post office off Vinohradska. And am trying to add some more words to my very limited Czech vocabulary. You are right about the language, it is harder than Greek! Great post, Ricky and I expect you will get a lot of feedback and “help” thinking of more ways to be Czech!

    • Ricky

      Hello Karin – I’ll certainly grant you five of the ten. And you’re obviously heading towards six if you’re going to seek to improve your Czech vocabulary. But I’m afraid that leggings without heels doesn’t fulfil the lady’s fashion requirement ๐Ÿ˜‰

      However, I found your aside, ‘don’t let my kids know’ regarding being au naturel on Greek beaches, quite revealing (if you’ll excuse the unintended pun ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Why do Americans get so worked up about a bit of human flesh being revealed? As I remarked in an earlier post, when did a woman’s nipple ever kill anyone?

      • Marie

        Wearing leggings with walking shoes is usually noticed with a smile by the Czechs (at least the ones I know who care about fashion) and considered a London or British style ๐Ÿ™‚
        And I forgot to include the point about taking off shoes in my previous comment, as one that I fit in.

        • Ricky

          Hi again Marie – You certainly do also see Czech women wearing leggings. However, I’m never sure whether it is leggings with a woolly jumper or thick tights with a woollen mini dress. At times it is hard to distinguish ๐Ÿ™‚

  • tom

    Well spotted!

    For a change, these are some of the less stereotyped Czech habits (although the beer… ahem, yea, a must have ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

    I lolled several times at the “in the nature” mention :)). strange how it never occurred to me how funny it actually is. Then again, what would be the proper English way of putting it? Just the blunt “going outdoors”?

    Oh, at 6 & 7 you should’ve mentioned mushrooms!

    • Ricky

      Thank you Tom – and welcome to yet another new commenter on my blog.

      No – you can’t ignore the beer. But I did try to avoid stereotypes & instead, describe what I’ve observed.

      You’re quite right to ask the question, what would be the correct way of expressing in ‘the nature’ in standard English? Your ‘going outdoors’ would be one way. Going out into the ‘countryside’ or ‘natural habitat’ would be a couple of others. But I very definitely should have mentioned the mushrooms – a major oversight on my part ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Karin

    In answer to, “Why do the American’s get so worked up about a bit of human flesh being revealed?”….we blame it on the Pilgrims or Queen Victoria! Ha, ha! …and as to your remark about “when did a woman’s nipple ever kill anyone?” Good question. I think I read once that an old man died on a woman’s breast after a night of lust? (sorry, maybe that is out of line for your blog? If so, I apologize).

    • Ricky

      Karin – it is going back a bit to blame this on the Pilgrim Fathers ๐Ÿ˜‰ But you certainly cannot blame Queen Victoria as your fellow countrymen & women had kicked the British Royals out some decades before she came to the throne ๐Ÿ™‚

      My comment arose out of the way ever increasing violence is allowed in TV, films and video games in the USA, with little or no restrictions being in place on their availability to children & young people. Yet shock & horror is expressed at a woman breast feeding in public, going topless at the beach etc. My question always is, “Which of these injures or kills?” The answer is obvious, with the exception of your very unusual example ๐Ÿ˜‰ And don’t get me started on gun ownership, the NRA & the second amendment!

  • Ricky, this is an enjoyable run through some perceptions of Czechs.

    Czechs, when asked, often see themselves in a negative light so you could definitely add being envious, which has been the number 1 characterisctic cited in opinion polls, to your list. Here’s a story that the late, great Arnost Lustig attributed to late, great Josef Skvorecky: when a Czech has a goat, his neighbour does not want to have one as well but rather wishes his neighbour’s goat to die.

    I’d say Czechs are very funny as well and this comes partly from that dissatisfaction with things. Words are easier than actions and bringing someone down to size with a joke is simpler than seeing Businessman A in court, voting Politician B out or waiting for Occupying Force C to leave the country.

    The third thing you can put on the list is theatre. Czechs are mad for the stage and love clapping for hours after a show. In fact, theatre rather than reading.

    A few further points:
    You’re right about Czechs using “in the nature”. However, it’s no worse than spelling ‘au naturel’ as ‘au natural’. Both are understood when in context.

    There is an obesity crisis in the CR, which the government is seeking to address – http://www.radio.cz/en/section/news/news-2012-06-22
    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Overweight_and_obesity_-_BMI_statistics

    And, finally, for your British readers can you explain “apartment block” and “mail box”? I’ve seen you offer this service for Americans before when you’ve used Britisms.

    • Ricky

      David – I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

      I agree with all three of your additional suggestions. Czech people are prone to see themselves in a negative light – see the comment here from Anna. They are also very good at using ironic or black humour as a way of dealing with their dissatisfaction with the way things are. And yes – they do love the theatre as well as reading books.

      I also agree that in ‘the nature’ is perfectly easy to understand, hence I chose to use the term. And I have now corrected my spelling of au naturel. However, please forgive me for pointing out that you have incorrectly spelt ‘characteristic’ as ‘characterisctic’ ๐Ÿ™

      Obesity does exist here in the Czech Republic, but my point was & still is, that you see far less of it than in the UK & certainly less than in the USA.

      As to your last comment, you know very well that every British reader will fully understand what I wrote. Despite being a great defender of British English, I actually feel ‘apartment block’ sounds better than ‘block of flats’. As for ‘mail box’, I fail to see what is the problem. After all, in the UK, letters are delivered to homes, not by the ‘Royal Letter’, nor by the ‘Royal Post’, but by the ‘Royal Mail‘. Or in your part of the UK, by ‘Post Brenhinol‘. And that mail, is put into a series of metal boxes on the ground floor of the building in which I live.

  • The most charming (and funny) stories are written by our human behavior — whether we’re Czechs, Bavarians (me), Texans (me, too), or Inuit. Great writers like you, Ricky, hold up the mirror and show us our common ground. Basically, we’re all nuts by nature, which is good. Denying it only makes war. Thanks for the great read.

    • Ricky

      Hi Chef – Thank you for visiting & commenting. There is an expression from Yorkshire that, “There’s none so queer as folk”. Glad you enjoyed the read & I appreciate your kind words.

      • Hehe, I love that saying! And “we’re all nuts by nature” as well.
        I think we Czechs and you British do have – in a very gross generalisation, mind you – an eye for that queerness and a shared aptness for portraying it in a tongue-in-cheek way that’s sometimes difficult to translate to other cultures. Which, of course, is why we Czechs enjoy posts like this one from people like you. ๐Ÿ˜€

        • Ricky

          Thanks Hana, for your most interesting observation about similar characteristics of Czech & British people. And thank you too, for your very complimentary last sentence ๐Ÿ™‚

  • A great post, Ricky, which had me chuckling throughout. I’d certainly fail on points 3, 5 and 10 for starters. ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t get over how Czech women can negotiate the cobbles of the Old Town and Mala Strana in 4 inch stilettos. I kept waiting for the sprained ankles or snapped-off heels, but they never happened.

    • Ricky

      I thought you would enjoy it Perpetua – and you’re not alone as you can see by the number of comments this post has garnered in the 24 hours since I posted it. Not that I can compete with the number of comments you get for each post on your blog ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’ll let you off on point 3 as I can’t really imagine you in a thigh-high mini ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ . And I share your consternation at the way Czech women do negotiate the cobbles of the Old Town & Mala Strana without coming to grief. But it is a skill that can apparently be learned. There was an English lady who was part of the St. Clement’s congregation for eleven years who was pretty good at ‘dressing Czech’, including knee-high boots with serious heels, who never came to grief so far as I’m aware.

  • Well, I’m Czech and I fail at most of these…
    1. Not a beer drinker; which reminded me: if you’re a “not a beer drinker” in the Czech Republic, it’s imperative that you love Kofola. Kofola on the tap is preferable, and pubs and restaurants that have it rate higher than those that don’t (father told me how he and his colleagues plagued the restaurant they went to lunch about Kofola for so long that they finally gave in and carry it now); many of them boast of the fact that they have it.
    2. Title: not yet.
    3. Clothes… no comment, except for: I don’t.
    5. Sportif: um. Hiking counts, doesn’t it? Though that’s point 7…
    6. I fail on the account of my family owning neither. Not exactly my fault, so far, though I don’t see myself owning one in the foreseeable future…
    8. I’m a cat person, currently owned by five cats. But you’re making a good point here. A certain American lady living in Brno purposefully named her dog in Czech, so that she could call her in Czech and fit in.

    But I’m all about points 7, 9 and 10.
    My favourite recent experience with point 9 was a young lady I saw on a train, with a huuuuge book by Stephen King (Czech translation) that did not fit into her purse, so it was just sitting on the top of it. And I can say that yes, I have read while standing on a bus and while walking.
    I can tell for sure that point 7 is something foreigners are often puzzled by, while it’s most natural for us Czechs. 20 kilometres in a day? A normal walk. Some can do 50 easily, though that’s extreme for me (and most people, I think); my record’s about 33. Cycling’s also hugely popular (though less so than in, say, Netherlands, I guess).
    Canoeing down a river – “jet na vodu” (literally “go on the water”)
    – is an integral part of our culture, too. I don’t swim, so I’ve never dared undergo that long trip, but canoeing is something I’ve tried as well.
    Somewhere there, you must also experience barbecuing “ลกpekรก?ky” over a campfire.
    Also, Czechs are known for visiting somewhat extreme “natural” places around the world. Like Iceland. A minister who also makes expeditions to Iceland once told a story of picking up a hitchhiking photographer there (I think he was British) who, upon learning they were Czech, said “You Czechs are such an impossible nation. I’m in Iceland, in the middle of nowhere, I meet a group of people and you’re Czech. Last year, I was in Borneo. In the middle of a jungle, I met a group of people. And they were Czech.”

    • Ricky

      Hi Hana & thank you for this very detailed comment.

      I’m sure you are Czech, even if you don’t pass all ten tests ๐Ÿ™‚ Drinking Kofala is certainly very Czech & walking 20 km in a day fulfils being sportif. As I wrote, points 5, 6, & 7 do somewhat overlap.

      I was originally going to broaden point 8 to include other animals, especially cats. Some time ago, a maintenance man was carrying out repairs to outside door of our apartment block over several days. Each time we passed him working, we said ‘dobrรฝ den’ & got little more than a grunt in return. But the day we walked by with Oscar, our elderly cat, in his travel basket on his way to see the vet, suddenly it was ‘Ah kocicka, kocicka’ ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thank you for the confirmation of my other points in the latter part of your comment. As for Czechs travelling to remote places, I think this is partly a reaction to most Czech people not having been able to travel very far during the Communist era.

      • It sure is a reaction to that; the point I was trying to make, however, was what kind of places they choose to travel to! After all, it’s been more than 20 years after the fall of communism now, and Czechs still do visit those places! ๐Ÿ˜€
        So let me put it this way: take a look at this list.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_stations_in_Antarctica

        • Ricky

          Yes Hana – it’s not the only reason for sure. However, whether Czech people are more likely to travel to unusual or out-of-the-way places, than those of other nationalities, is a question to which I don’t know the answer.

          • Neither do I, admittedly. After all, there was a guy of another nationality to meet them there in the story… But there are hints that in some places at least, Czechs are more likely to visit. I hear in many places in northern Norway, there are signs in several languages, including Czech, because there are so many Czech hikers visiting there.

            • Ricky

              How interesting Hana – Yes, Czechs enjoy their mountains and most know how to be well prepared when seeking to climb them. So I don’t think it is surprising if they then turn up in northern Norway ๐Ÿ™‚

  • George/Jirka

    Ricky, you nailed it! I only hope the British Empire did not send you to our country to gather intelligence about us for the MI6! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sam

    Ricky,

    I’m distinctly surprised that being a big Coventry City fan you’ve not mentioned your clubs recent appearance in the Northern Final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Is this because of the Geographical error in being in the “Northern” section or because you got royally trounced by a much better Crewe side?

    • Ricky

      Sam – Welcome to my blog but you are, as we say, totally ‘off topic’ ๐Ÿ™‚ Geographical error – yes. But trounced – there was a one goal difference ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • pauline

    Which is the fourth gender? male/female/neutral… and? thx

  • As a fellow Anglican in Prague your article made me smile. Can’t help but feel like you missed one important aspect though, an unwavering love for Karel Gott ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Similar humour to the book “Czechs in a nutshell”, mandatory reading for any Brit trying to fit in! I’ve got your blog bookmarked now and look forward to reading your other posts.

    • Ricky

      Hi Iain – As a ‘fellow Anglican in Prague’, I look forward to seeing you joining with your fellow Anglicans, and many non-Anglicans, for worship at 11.00 on Sunday morning at St. Clements ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m very pleased to know that I made you smile!

      Karel Gott – now there you raise a most interesting issue/person as not every Czech has ‘an unwavering love’ for him, though some do. Certainly if you are going to be Czech, you should know about him, but it’s probably best to keep your opinion of him to yourself. My wife & I once voiced ours and ended up in a very tricky social situation ๐Ÿ™

      The book, ‘Czechs in a nutshell’ is extremely good, though inevitably now, is a little dated. But it is still well worth reading as you suggest. Thank you for bookmarking my blog & leaving this comment.

  • Ricky, On walking and reading.

    In his 2012 diary Alan Bennett writes:
    25 October. Joe Melia, who has died, was an intellectual actor. Clown though he also was he bubbled over with ideas. Regardless of the circumstances in which one met him โ€“ (in my case) generally walking on Primrose Hill โ€“ he always had a book on the go and was the only person I know who could read as he walked, though Pepys used to do it, reading all the way from his office to Greenwich. And maybe today itโ€™s less unusual in that people can walk nowadays while glued to their iPads much as Pepys (and Joe Melia) did glued to their books.

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n01/alan-bennett/diary (worth reading but might be subscriber only – if so, sorry)

    and in the most recent edition of the magazine there’s this letter:
    Who He Was
    Alan Bennett says that Joe Melia was the only person he knew who could read as he walked (LRB, 3 January). Those of us who were undergraduates at Oxford when W.H. Auden was professor of poetry there can hardly forget stepping off the narrow pavement into the Turl as that non-stop reader loomed ahead: not so much in deference to Who He Was as to that deeply graven brow signalling the direst intent. Besides, he was bigger than most of us, and moved faster.

    Murray Biggs
    Yale University

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n04/letters

  • Tom

    Hi, I think you forget one thing. It’s similar to point 7 and it’s mushrooming ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ricky

      Hi Tom – I’ve already acknowledged my sin of omission to your namesake in response to an earlier comment. Mushrooms and the Czech love of going out into ‘the nature’ to find them, is certainly an important aspect of being Czech.

  • Jonathan

    Hi Ricky
    Most blogs Iโ€™ve ever come across written by Anglo-Saxons about the Czechs are incredibly superior and patronising. This particular post is much better balanced and you only allow yourself the odd slight dig, although I imagine quite a few women might be bemused by or take exception to the high hemline section.

    The trouble with stereotypes is that they tend to be negative (this is a generalization in itself). Hence, many think of Spaniards as idle so-and-sos, Russians as vodka swillers, EU institutions as populated by meddling bureaucrats, the French as arrogant, Americans as … er, Iโ€™d better stop there. Even attributes normally viewed as admirable become targets of criticism; for example, Germans are considered to be annoyingly โ€œpunctualโ€ and โ€œefficientโ€.

    Itโ€™s hard to argue with anything youโ€™ve included, although I do get the impression that beer drinking and chata visiting are rather on the wane. Taking your shoes off has always seemed a very sensible thing to do when you enter a house, if only for hygienic reasons, but it seemingly never ceases to amuse foreigners.
    Just one other thing, to give the expression its full dimension, Yorkshiremen say โ€œThereโ€™s nowโ€™t so queer as folkโ€. I suppose none must be a word used by southerners ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Jonathan

    • Ricky

      Jonathan – Thank you for your most thoughtful comment. I certainly did not want to be patronising, nor did I want to be negative as I very much enjoy living here, except for the language and my constant run-ins with Czech bureaucracy ๐Ÿ™ Your observation that stereotypes tend to be negative, as in the examples you give, is sadly, very true.

      However, I certainly haven’t noticed beer drinking being on the wane though there is a growth in drinking ne alko pivo, especially if people are driving. Likewise, the housing development where I live, does empty considerably at weekends, especially in the summer, so my assumption is that most are off to the chata or chalupa, especially when they drive off with the bicycles on the roof rack.

      Finally, I’m most grateful to you that, as a true Yorkshireman, you have rightly corrected the saying I previously slightly misquoted ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Hi Ricky,

    I think Jonathan may be correct about beer drinking. One of my students has a serious interest in alcoholic drinks – he works at the Ministry of Agriculture and is responsible for the labelling of spirit drinks. One subject we’ve talked about is consumption and Czech beer drinking is in slight decline from a high of 163.5 litres per person per annum in 2005 to 144.43 litres per person in 2010, the last year for which he had figures. Moreover, this marked a 20-year low. How much this was a result of the economic crisis is an open question as wine consumption increased from 16.9 litres per person per annum to 19.4 litres per person per annum over the 5 years to 2010.

    This is one of the reasons behind the introduction of Radlers (in my opinion, filthy drinks) here in the last couple of years, to expand the market beyond its traditional base. Unfortunately, I can only see a further deterioration since our mutual friend Bruce Loxley has left the country.

    Of course, what you wrote about beer/pub culture is on the money. However, I would disagree that Staropramen is an excellent brew. Nice big up for Svijany, though, and if you haven’t tried it yet, your reasonably local Uneticky pivovar makes a cracking 10 and 12.

    Keep it up and will you be wearing your clerical outfit every time you drive from now on?

    • Ricky

      Hi David – Thank you for your informative & entertaining comment. Most interesting stats about the reduction in the consumption of beer, but the contrasting increase in the consumption of wine. I wonder whether the ne alko pivo consumption is included in the beer figures? Certainly Mr Loxley’s return ‘down under’ will reduce beer consumption in the CR considerably ๐Ÿ˜€

      Whilst not my favourite Czech beer, I don’t think Staropramen is too bad & I’m certainly a fan of Svijany. I’ve never heard of the Uneticky pivovar so thanks for the info. Not so far away as you rightly say.

      I think I’ve made my point by now about losing ‘Rev’ off my driving licence so clerical shirt will just be worn when I’m on duty.

    • The increase in the drinking of wine is certainly interesting! I wonder how many of them were Moravian wines – I hear that the only reason Moravian wines are not well-known outside the Czech Republic is that we drink our produce ourselves! ๐Ÿ˜€

      • Ricky

        I think what you say Hana, about Moravian wines is probably true ๐Ÿ˜€ The white ones are particularly quaffable!

        • Yes. My sister regularly took some to her teacher in Latvia who allegedly said they were as good as Hungarian ones which get exported quite a lot, at least in Europe, while the Moravian ones… I guess we really just hog them, or something.

        • Father just informed me that there’s no special tax on wine, unlike other drinks with higher percentage of alcohol, so that it’s now the cheapest way to get drunk, basically. Thus, I guess, the rise in its consumption…

          • Ricky

            I would hope that people wouldn’t drink wine in order just to get drunk. I would put the increase in wine consumption being at least partly due to ever increasing quality of the wine produced in the Czech Republic, particularly in Moravia.

  • Iva

    Oh good, I am Czech ๐Ÿ˜€
    Well, I scored 9 points… I don’t really dress as written above, but the thing about male ponytails is completely true. ๐Ÿ™‚ I would say it is true more about the teenage boys at grammar schools. I remember half of my classmates having it, but they mostly got rid of them by now (six years later).

    The Radlers (as mentioned in discussion) are also a huge part of the ‘sportif’ thing. Especially in summer, when a lot of people hire a canoe for a week or so and go down the stream of the Czech rivers. You just have drink only beer for the whole week. And I think Radlers started to substitute for ‘regular’ beers in a few past years. ๐Ÿ™‚

    *proud to be Czech*

    • Ricky

      Hi Iva – I’m glad you passed the test ๐Ÿ™‚ With regard to ponytails, they probably are more frequent amongst younger men. But you do see many on guys who are in their fifties & sixties.

      Thanks for the information about Radlers. They are effectively what I would know in British English as Shandies. Glad that you’re ‘proud to be Czech’ – none of this inferiority complex ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Iva

    And I have to add one thing about the ponytails ๐Ÿ™‚
    My boyfriend’s dad has really looooong hair as well, but he doesn’t wear a ponytail at all, instead he just leaves his hair as it is and his head looks really huge ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Zdenek

    Being a Czech living abroad I have to laugh at such articles written by foreigners, cause it’s usually strikingly precise. ๐Ÿ™‚ (Of course, it’s so much easier to see it when you come from outside – I also created incredible amount of stereotypes about Scandinavians after living in Norway for few years. I could write a book. :-))

    There are two things have to disagree with
    – being sportif – there are way too many obese people there. The Czech national sport is sitting in a pub, watching football / ice hockey. Sorry, that’s not being sportif. ๐Ÿ™‚ Fortunately there are still many people for whom sport is a way of life and love to be outdoors.

    – reading books. I think it’s more common in big cities because of boring time in public transport. Not that people on countryside wouldn’t read at all. But they usually either don’t or don’t do it publicly. (But your observation may differ. :))

    Oh, and you forgot about national sport called mushrooming. People waking up at 5 am just to be in the forest the first, so the others don’t pick up the new mushrooms.

    • Ricky

      Thanks for the compliment Zdenek. Why don’t you write a book about the Scandinavians? ๐Ÿ™‚

      I agree with you, as I said in response to an earlier comment from David Hughes, that there is obesity here in the Czech Republic. And some of it does I’m sure, stem from sitting in the pub only watching sport, rather than participating. But you see far less obesity than you do in the UK & vastly less than what you see in the USA. And the reason is that participating in sport or going for long distance hikes, is a far more common activity here than in the UK or the USA.

      Likewise, I agreed with another earlier commenter, that publicly reading books is probably more common in Prague & Brno, than in small country towns or villages. But overall, the Czech Republic is a very literate nation.

      As for mushrooms, I’ve already had the issue raised twice previously & I’ve duly acknowledged my sin of omission. It is very much part of being in ‘the nature’.

  • Diana

    There are no sandals and socks on the list? Really?

  • Dona

    Thumbs up, very funny article. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • The mention of sandals reminded me of a funny story my father told about one of the times he and his friends visited the UK… They were sitting on a train (they’re all railway enthusiasts, so of course they travelled by train) and across the aisle from them was a young lady reading a women’s magazine with a headline on the cover reading “Would you trust a man wearing sandals?” And my father and his friends took a look at their feet, and they were all wearing sandals. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Sarka

    That was funny, I really enjoyed your article ๐Ÿ™‚