As the Czech language only has around 12 million speakers worldwide — the vast majority of which live in the Czech Republic — more often than now Czech citizens will speak a foreign language, usually English or German. In fact, if you stay in the city of Prague, it is perfectly feasible to get by without speaking a word of Czech.
In the business world, fluency in English is usually sufficient if you work for one of the multinationals in Prague. For positions in Czech companies, however, a sound knowledge of Czech is likely to be essential.
Attempts to learn their — admittedly difficult — language are generally met with much enthusiasm by locals. Speaking at least some Czech will definitely give you a leg-up with your Czech neighbors and colleagues. Also, if you plan to visit some of the Czech Republic’s more rural regions and smaller towns, a basic knowledge of Czech is generally indispensable to get around.
Opportunities to learn Czech in Prague are plenty. Many language schools offer Czech classes for foreigners. Private lessons are also available. It is a good idea to ask your fellow expats for references, as the quality of language classes may vary tremendously.
When you are visiting someone at home in the Czech Republic, never show up empty handed. Even if you are simply stopping by a friend’s house, it is polite to bring some chocolate, flowers or a bottle of wine. If you are invited to a formal dinner in someone’s home, it is common to take off your shoes inside the house. Usually, there are slippers available for guests.
Czechs tend to be rather formal and reserved. The public and private spheres of life are strictly separated. Getting to know people may take a while. Similarly, people rarely move to a first-name basis with people who are not extended family or close friends. Therefore, always wait to be invited to use a coworker’s or business contact’s first name.
Business is conducted relatively slowly. Initial meetings are often merely intended to get acquainted with each other. Only in later meetings, once your Czech negotiation partners have had a chance to get to know you, will actual decisions be made.
To get off to a good start, always be on time for meetings. Tardiness is considered extremely impolite. Appointments should always be made well in advance. Avoid Friday afternoons, however, as most people from Prague will already be on their way to a weekend at their chata — a cottage in the surrounding countryside.
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