During the TEFL course we will provide you with opportunities to meet native Czechs thanks to our unique “Czech Yourself” program. To many the Czech people seem distant and can come off as cold, but once you get to know them they become very friendly. You are bound to learn that Czechs have a great sense of humour, like to play games and can manage in every situation. And they also like to sit in a pub, drink beer or wine and, most of all, have a really good time.
The Czech language
Czech has a reputation of being one of the most difficult languages and it is difficult to learn. Still, our TEFL trainees study it with determination during the “Survival Czech“ lessons, which are a part of the TEFL course. And a few weeks later they can already order beer in a restaurant and be able to do the necessary shopping in Czech. Most Prague people can communicate in English without a problem and so you will not get lost even if you cannot speak any Czech. Even so we recommend you learn at least the very basics of Czech – this will give you an insight into how your students of English feel!
Czech is very similar to Slovak – it is not a coincidence that the Czech Republic and Slovakia were one country from 1918 to 1993. So if you hear a language similar to Czech in streets it may be Slovak since many Slovaks live or study in Prague. And it may be also Russian which shares the same basis with Czech, though the alphabet is different.
Czech feasts and national holidays
Just as in other parts of Europe it is Christmas that is the most important feast in our country. Prague is dressed in a new colourful robe and it is a time when the city displays its most romantic side. Although in general Czechs are not very religious people, at this festive time they go to midnight mass or visit nativity scenes in local churches at least. The custom is to give presents to one another at Christmas, however it is understood that they are not brought by Santa Claus but by “Ježíšek” (i.e. baby Jesus) – the presents are put under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, the 24th of December. On the other hand, you will come across Santa in Prague shops too.
Three weeks before Christmas families are visited by a mythological threesome – Saint Nicholas, a devil and an angel. Children get either some sweet treats or potatoes and coal – it all depends on how they have behaved during the last year.
Foreigners tend to like the Czech approach to another Christian feast, Easter. Since pagan times we have observed the custom of colouring eggs which girls present to boys after they have been properly “whipped” with the Easter stick (traditionally made of interwoven willow sticks). So when you see somebody whipping a girl’s bottom with a cane made of twisted twigs with a bowknot on the end, do not be afraid this is not violence committed on women, most likely it means that Easter Monday is here. ☺
Since Czechs like to celebrate almost anything, they quite willingly accept feasts from abroad. Therefore in Prague you may also experience traditional St. Valentine’s Day, Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day!
- At first you may have the impression that Czechs are somewhat reserved and unemotional. Do not let this impression confuse you: although we do not keep smiling at each other on trams it is deemed proper to let elderly people take your seat or help a mother with her pram on board. Czechs are reserved until they meet in a pub to drink beer together or when the Czech ice-hockey team qualifies for a play-off at the world championship – then Czechs turn into devoted fans. By the way, ice-hockey and football (meaning soccer) are matters of the heart for most Czechs, almost everybody has a team they support and when an important match is taking place you will meet in the city fans dressed in the strips and shawls of “their” team. Come and see for yourselves who our TEFL team roots for! ☺
- Living in the Czech Republic you should always have clean socks without holes. Why? If you are invited into a Czech household you will learn another local custom, namely changing shoes. For most Czechs it is normal to put on slippers when they arrive home and a spare pair may be ready for visitors. And if not, they will let you go around their flats in your socks, and so it is good to be prepared for that.
- Czechs are champions at queuing. They learnt this during the decades under the communist regime when goods on the market were scarce and so one often had to stand in a queue. Queues form everywhere – in the post office, at the doctor’s, in shops or at a skiing slope. You had better keep your place and not jump the queue – Czechs will have difficulty putting up with such behaviour.
- Czechs have a specific sense of humour. They like to have fun, they often stop at the very line of political correctness or even cross this line. Gallows humour is popular and so are political jokes and satire. This is again rooted in the period of totalitarianism when political jokes went through the grapevine, which was one of the few options of how to express dissent in relation to the regime. Therefore do not be surprised if you do not understand jokes made by your students or Czech friends – probably the topic in question is one of those specifically Czech.
- The surname of Czech women is different from that of their husbands/fathers. Or at least this may be the impression of visitors from non-Slavic countries. Why? Because male surnames are adjusted by a suffix -ová or -á, which used to express that the woman belonged to her husband/father. So do not wonder if Mr Novák and Mrs Nováková tell you that they are a married couple. They may be having rows all the time but still they belong to one another through their name! ☺