As a European citizen, you have probably noticed there is little difference between Czech culture and other European countries and maybe even non-European countries. However, these are the little details that make Czech culture so unique. Have you seen the impressive number of dogs in the streets or the famous socks in sandals the locals wear basically any season of the year? In this article, I share my experience as a French expat in the Czech Republic. Let’s dive into these particular Czech traditions together!
The Czech Republic is the ultimate dog country
The Czech Republic is unquestionably the most dog-friendly country in Europe. Some foreigners have even compared the Czechs’ relationship with their dogs to the Hindus’ worship of cows. Our four-legged friends are allowed inside many restaurants, cafés, and bars here. What blew my mind when I arrived was that there are almost no dogs and even fewer stray cats in the streets. Additionally, dogs are very well-trained here and I even saw a cat walking with its owner without a leash!
However, as you may have guessed, there are a couple of things you should know when moving to the Czech Republic with a dog. As in many other countries, your dog will need to be microchipped, have an EU pet passport, and be vaccinated for rabies at least 21 days before traveling to the Czech Republic from another EU country. That said, pet passports are generally not checked when crossing the border by car or train.
With the exception of small dogs carried in a bag, dogs must be kept on a short leash and muzzled in public transport and you’ll have to buy a basic (26 CZK) ticket for them. It’s actually a lot more common to see dogs wearing muzzles in the Czech Republic compared to other countries.
Socks in sandals
In addition to dogs, another thing that is very fashionable in Czechia is socks in sandals. But in all seriousness, socks in sandals are not considered very esthetically pleasing but rather practical here. In fact, the sandals give your toes more freedom and the socks protect you from unwanted blisters!
The Czechs aren’t the first to enjoy this curious combination. The earliest evidence of wearing socks in sandals was discovered at an archaeological site in North Yorkshire, England. This discovery suggests that people wore socks with sandals in ancient Rome over 2000 years ago.
For some people, the combo of socks and sandals is the biggest style of crime on earth! In the Czech Republic, some people prefer to wear sandals with socks and others without socks. Even if the Czechs laugh a lot about it and some of them would not choose this extravagant fashion for anything, you can still see a lot of sandals with and without socks in the streets! Even in summer, when it’s scorching hot outside, some people still wear socks in their sandals. Which is nonsense when you are looking for comfort, if you ask me.
First Names and Surnames
Czechia also has an interesting relationship with first names and surnames. Let me share with you a funny story that happened to me when I arrived in the country to do an internship at Foreigners. On my first day, my manager told me that I was going to work on a project with a colleague called “Anička”. I spent quite a time looking for Anička in the email list with little result. As a matter of fact, my colleague’s name is Anna, a traditional international name. But so far, I have never heard anyone call her that. At work, my colleagues call her either Anni or Anička.
I guess that when you are used to it, you don’t tend to think about it. In Czechia, it is common to call people by their nicknames, or to be more precise, by a short version of their name. For example “Tereza” goes by Teri, “Daniela” by Dani, etc.
In France, we also use shortened versions of names, but only between friends and family. However, in Czechia, these “nicknames” are something very common, even at work.
Czech surnames are also unique. Much like in England and France, when women marry, they adopt their husbands’ names. But did you know women change the ending of that name because of their gender here? In the Czech language, the ending “-ová” is added to the majority of women’s surnames. Therefore, Mr. Novak’s wife becomes Mrs. Nováková. This also applies to foreign women. For example, a Czech-born American public official Madeleine Albright will be called Madeleine Albrightová here.
However, in the last few years, women in the Czech Republic have been requesting to drop the “-ová” ending. Just recently, the deputies backed this change of bill which was finally accepted. At the beginning of June, ninety-one MPs voted in favor of allowing women to choose whether to take a gendered or non-gendered form of their surname, with 33 against. As of January 2022, Czech women will be able to keep the non-gendered versions of their surnames and parents will be allowed to decide for their children.
Fun fact – women in Slovakia are already allowed to change their surname.
Did you find these facts as surprising as I did? What else has shocked or amused you when you moved here? Do you want to learn more about the Czech nation? You can for example check out our article on the tolerance of Czechs.