Working in Prague?
Language and Business Etiquette in Prague
The Czech Language
Only around 12 million people worldwide speak Czech — the vast majority of which live in the Czech Republic. Often, Czech citizens will speak a foreign language, the most common being English or German. In fact, if you stay in Prague, it is perfectly feasible to get by without speaking a word of Czech.
In the business world, 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.
Czech: A Difficult Yet Useful Language
Any attempt at learning their difficult language is generally met with 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 where English is less widely spoken, a basic knowledge of Czech will be helpful.
There are plenty of opportunities to learn Czech in Prague. Many language schools offer Czech classes for foreigners, and 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.
Local Customs and Etiquette
When you are visiting someone at home in the Czech Republic, never show up empty handed: 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 are rarely on a first-name basis with people who are not extended family or close friends, so always wait to be invited to use a coworker’s or business contact’s first name.
Business Etiquette: Timing Is Key
Business is conducted relatively slowly in the Czech Republic. Initial meetings are often intended just to get acquainted with each other. Only in later meetings, once your Czech partners have had a chance to get to know you, will decisions be made.
To get off to a good start, always be on time for meetings; being late is considered extremely impolite. Appointments should always be made well in advance; avoid Friday afternoons, however, as people from Prague may already be on their way to a weekend at their chata — a cottage in the surrounding countryside.
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