Etiquette

Social interaction is not much different from that in other central European countries; compared to that in the United States, it is rather formal. This formality is in part caused by the Czech language, which has two forms of the second-person personal pronoun. The "familiar" form is used to address a member of the family, a good friend of long standing, or a child or by a child addressing another child. The "polite" form is used in more formal situations. It is not uncommon for colleagues of similar age in neighboring offices to use the formal form when talking with each other.

The tendency toward formal behavior is strengthened by the tradition of using titles. The use of someone's first name is limited to older family members addressing younger ones and to very good friends. It usually takes daily contact over a number of years before people are on a first-name basis. Much less informal contact reinforces the social distance between people. Because Czech apartments are small, invitations to visit and casual dropping by occur only among good friends.

Czechs stand at arm's length from each other unless they are conveying information that should not be overheard. Like other Europeans, Czechs do not show as much consideration as one finds in Britain or in smaller cities in the United States when several people are boarding a streetcar, bus, or train or waiting to be served in a store. Their tendency to get ahead of others may reflect the experience of the socialist years, when people had to stand in lines for scarce goods.

Because there are no significant differences in social equality by virtue of position or ethnic background (with the exception of the Romany, who are disapproved of for allegedly committing petty thefts), the rules of etiquette are alike for all members of the society. Because Czechs emphasize cleanliness, most remove their shoes when entering private homes. They eat in the Continental style, with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right, and there is no special attempt to converse at meals. When attending cultural events, Czechs dress for the occasion, and young women try to follow the latest styles. Younger people tend to be more informal and self-confident than their elders.