Sometimes students ask me why the Czech so often say hello – „Dobrý den“. They wonder how often they can hear this and I wonder their questions. So what do you know about Czech culture and greetings?
My student R. and his wife went on a trip by train. They got on the train and entered a compartment where a man sat reading. They didn´t know the man so they didn´t say hello as it is not characteristic in their culture. The man closed his book and said in Czech: „Don´t you know how to say Dobrý den?“ The student and his wife were wondering and didn´t understand what was wrong. Next lesson R. was telling met his story asking: „Why do you greet foreign, unknown people? Where should I say hello when I want to respect Czech tradition?“
Yes, Czech culture and tradition „says, “ people say hello when they share space even if just for a while. When you are traveling in a compartment with someone you say Dobrý den and when you are getting off – Na shledanou. It is not necessary to keep any conversation your greeting is enough. The same situation happens in a lift although we spend there only a few seconds. Even though we live in a big building and don´t know each neighbor we greet people we meet in a corridor because they probably are our neighbors. Similarly to this, we behave at work. When we come to a small shop (pharmacy etc.) we say Dobrý den or answer the shop assistant. In a supermarket the cashier usually greets us – we are his/her respectful client and we are in contact for a while. We greet in an office, at the doctor, etc.
A man greets a woman first, an employee greets his/her boss, a younger man greets the older one, who comes greets people being there first. Remember the difference between a formal conversation (Dobrý den, Na shledanou) and an informal (Ahoj, Čau).
Saying hello is a door open to people and other communication. When I was a child my grandmother told me: „Better to say hello twice than not at all.“ I follow her advice and I recommend it to you too. If it is not typical for your culture keep a close eye on the Czech how they behave. You will see where we say Dobrý den and then just copy us. It is not difficult and you may be awarded a smile from the Czech 😊.
Read also other articles about Czech culture and history:
29th May 2018