Every country has a specific set of rules that you should follow and that you only discover after living in the country for some time. Want to have a head start over other foreign students and make some Czech friends? Then read on!
What you should do:
1) Take your shoes off in houses or flats of your friends.
Your hosts will probably have a pair of slippers that you can borrow, but wear a pair of nice clean socks, just to be on the safe side. Sometimes, people wear house shoes even at work which is considered acceptable at many places (usually somewhere where you don't work with clients directly, or at the hospitals or doctors' offices).
2) Greet a lot.
Upon entering a small store (not a supermarket though), a restaurant, an elevator with other people in it, a compartment in a train, the waiting room at a doctor's office...and when leaving as well. The phrases "dobrý den" (hello) and "na shledanou" (goodbye) are going to be your new best friends.
3) Shake hands.
Hugs and kisses are only reserved for close friends. Czechs tend to be a little more conservative and like their personal space, so it's better to wait and see what is the person you're meeting up to.
4) Be ready to show your ID at a pub or at a supermarket when buying alcohol.
The legal drinking age in the Czech Republic is 18. They usually only check people who look much younger, but it can happen. There's nothing rude about it, the bartender could get a high fine for serving alcohol to youngsters, so sometimes they just want to make sure.
5) Respect elder people.
And offer them your seat on public transport if all seats are occupied. The same applies to pregnant women or disabled passengers. And since not all the trams or buses are low-floor, it's also polite and nice to help moms with prams get on and off the means of transport, if necessary.
Made some Czech friends already? Congratulations. And what you should never do if you want to keep them?
1) Call Czechs "Eastern Europeans" or the Czech Republic "Czechoslovakia".
Czech Republic is in Central Europe and the Czechs are really touchy-feely about this subject. The same applies to Czechoslovakia which fell apart in 1993, creating two independent countries: the Czech and the Slovak Republic. The Czechs probably wouldn't tell you this in your face but they do feel irritated. Most of them would think that when you travel somewhere, you should at least know where.
2) Say that Czech sounds just like Russian.
I would never think of writing this one down but I actually heard it from a foreign friend who tried to be funny. Well, the Czechs will not appreciate the joke, although they have to admit that the languages are similar. After all, they come from the same language family (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_languages), so it would be strange if they weren't. But don't say that to the Czechs.
3) Give an even number of flowers.
Flowers are given on many occasions and are the perfect gift (for a woman, giving flowers to a man is strange). There should be an odd number of them, though. Although in the US roses are sold in dozens, in the Czech Republic even numbers are only for the deceased. Giving an even number of flowers might even be taken as a death wish. The same applies to Chrysanthemums, that are usually used only for funerals or for graves.
4) Be late.
Things like lectures, talks, and all sorts of events usually start sharp and you're expected to be there on time. The same actually applies to parties, diners and even a coffee break with your friends. Seven means seven, not seven-ish or even eight.
5) Cross arms with other people while making a toast.
While making a toast, you should touch glasses with everybody (or at least everybody close to you). Always look the other person in the eye and never cross arms with other people when touching the glasses, it's considered bad luck.
(Picture by thea0211, sxc.hu)