Situated in the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic allows visitors to experience the rich history and tradition of Old Europe in a modern setting. Gothic castles, dramatic ruins, and the beautiful countryside add to the charm and mystique of this historic country.
Housing is a benefit that is not usually included in ESL teacher contracts, but assistance to find accommodations is sometimes offered.
While salaries in large city centers can be much higher than what they are elsewhere in smaller centers, so too are the costs of accommodations. A one-bedroom flat in Prague, or other city center, costs approximately 15,000 CZK per month; while the same flat in smaller centers could cost as low as 7,000 CZK per month.
Some ESL teachers choose to share accommodations with colleagues, allowing for a larger living space and shared utilities. A three-bedroom apartment in Prague, for example, costs approximately 27,000 CZK per month, or 9,000 CZK per bedroom .
Below are some tips to follow when signing a rental contract:
- Always negotiate - it is common and expected. Decide which items are important to you and negotiate until you reach a satisfactory agreement. Being overly demanding, however, could backfire, so it is best to maintain a reasonable attitude.
- Do a walk through of the flat or house with the landlord or appointed agent before signing the contract. Ensure that repairs will be addressed and that any damage is recorded so that you don't have to take responsibility for it at a later time.
- Ensure that you are aware of all fees associated with the property. In addition to utilities, there is often a maintenance fee for common areas of the building, which is not generally written into contracts.
- Ensure that all utilities are transferred to your name so that you are not responsible for any fees incurred by a previous renter.
- Familiarize yourself with the area in order to discover proximity to public transportation and shopping.
Airfare is seldom included in ESL teaching contracts in the Czech Republic.
Proof of health insurance is required for entry into the Czech Republic. It is advisable to have private coverage from one's home country for the first few months of stay to ensure continuous converage should it be included in a contract.
Long-term residents working for a Czech company will automatically pay into a health-care plan and as such have the benefits of the Czech health-care system. Some expatriates still choose to have private coverage so that they can take advantage of services from private hospitals and clinics.
The quality of health care in the Czech Republic is said to be in line with some of the best systems in all of Europe and continues to improve with government reforms and initiatives.
In recent years a decision has been reached to gradually move toward raising the Czech Republic's official retirement age to 65 years of age, with full implementation by 2030. Teaching positions for candidates over 60 do exist.
The Czech Republic is slowly becoming technologically connected. Public demand for more advanced technology and affordable costs are helping the country to become more forward-moving in this area.
Payphones are either coin or card operated. Phone cards can be purchased at newsstands, department stores, hotels, etc. throughout the Czech Republic.
Many foreigners choose to purchase a cell phone once in country. Pre-paid SIM cards are convenient, economical, and easily accessible. All incoming calls are free.
Internet usage in the Czech Republic has grown from less than 10% of the population in 2000 to over 88% in 2016, with access now largely available in people's homes via computers and other devices. Internet cafes are also accessible at reasonable prices. A web search for local Internet cafes prior to arriving in the Czech Republic would allow immediate connection with family once arriving there.
Most American restaurant chains are found in Prague and are slowly becoming more commonplace.
Some American restaurants to choose from include:
- T.G.I. Friday's
- Hard Rock Cafe
- Burger King
Some locally-based restaurants have sprung up that offer American cuisine, including Bohemia Bagel and Jama Bar & Grill.
Transportation in the Czech Republic
There are a number of great options for public transportation in the Czech Republic, with Prague having one of the best systems in all of Europe.
Taxis in the Czech Republic, unfortunately, have gained a bad reputation. Many drivers are known to be rude and dishonest. If you are inclined to use a taxi because you are carrying a lot of luggage, travel after scheduled bus or tram hours. If you need to go to a location where there are no bus or tram routes, using AAA Radiotaxi is the most often recommended choice.
Tips When Traveling By Taxi:
- Don't use one of the taxis parked outside the train station or at a tourist attraction.
- Ask other foreign teachers which taxi companies are safe and reliable.
- Choose a taxi that is registered. Look for TAXI in black letters on both sides of the roof lamp and the company name, license number, and rates listed on both front doors.
- Ensure that the rate on the meter matches what is listed on the front doors.
- Ensure that the taxi can issue a receipt.
- Order a taxi by phone if possible.
- Choose a taxi driver that appears to be well-groomed with a well-kept car.
- Make note of (and use) the driver's name.
- Follow your instincts. If you feel unsafe, remove yourself from the taxi and get another.
- Carry a map so that you can point to the location to which you are traveling.
Train and Subway
The Czech Republic railway system is extensive, reaching most cities and towns in the country at very reasonable rates. One can choose express trains with direct routes to major centers, or trains that are slower, stopping at smaller centers. Access to neighboring countries is available through the Czech railway system.
Prague's Metro (subway) is fast, efficient, and transports over 500 million people a year. Rates are reasonable and tickets easy to obtain. Similarly, the tram system (trolley car) is popular, with approximately 300 million passengers a year. Its routes are extensive, covering most of the city.
Other major cities in the Czech Republic, such as Brno, Liberec, Ostrava and Plzen, have tram systems.
Travelers can use buses to travel between cities within the Czech Republic and to travel to neighboring countries. This mode of transportation is a good choice for those who want to enjoy the sights of the countryside at a reasonable cost.
City buses are found in large city centers. Prague's city bus system operates primarily on the outskirts of the city, away from the center. As well there are bus services between the airport and the Metro at reasonable rates.
Other Modes of Transportation
Other modes of transportation that are available for ESL teachers include:
Scooters & Motorcycles
Using a scooter or motorcycle is a popular mode of transportation in the Czech Republic in light of the low cost and ability to get around quickly in traffic.
The European Union has standardized rules and regulations for operating scooters and motorcycles; however, each country within the European Union follows them to a lesser or greater extent. As well, rules and regulations change in individual countries as they progressively adopt European Union standards. As such, it is important to be up to date and vigilant in understanding requirements for operating them.
Tips When Using a Scooter or Motorcycle:
- Wear a helmet.
- Wear reflective clothing if riding at night.
- If purchasing your own scooter or motorcycle, take care to ensure that yours was not stolen and resold.
- Ensure that it is secured while it is parked or stored.
- If you are a first-time scooter or motorcycle driver, practice in a safe area before using it on the main roads.
Cycling has become a popular mode of transportation in the Czech Republic, and especially in Prague. Once a very dangerous city for cyclists, Prague has made great efforts to make its streets safe and to reduce automobile traffic. It has built cycle lanes and is encouraging this type of transportation through printed cyclist maps and through organized group rides with police protection.
Tips When Riding a Bicycle:
- Wear a helmet.
- Wear reflective clothing if riding at night.
- Take extra caution when leaving a bike lane to join other traffic.
- Ensure that your bicycle, if purchased in the Czech Republic, was not stolen and resold.
- Ensure that your bicycle is well-secured when parked or stored.
- Foreigners should write their name, phone number, and work address on their bicycle.
Car rentals are accessible and great for touring throughout the Czech Republic and into neighboring countries in the European Union. Those who wish to rent a car while in the Czech Republic must be at least 21 years of age and have held a driver's license for at least one year. Some rental companies enforce a surcharge for those 25 years of age and younger. As well, some companies enforce a maximum driving age of 70.
Etiquette in the Czech Republic
While it is difficult to generalize a nation as a whole, Czech people tend to be formal, reserved, and private and show little emotion outside of close family or friend relationships. Once relationships are established, Czech people are known to be fun-loving and proud of their heritage.
The following are some helpful guidelines for etiquette. Taking the time to learn common etiquette is a compliment to the culture in which one is living.
- A firm handshake while making direct eye contact is the most common and expected greeting. Good friends and family will typically exchange a light hug and kiss on each cheek. Mere acquaintances may simply give a slight nod.
- Being too familiar with a Czech person, unless invited to be so, is usually unwelcome and can be viewed as an attempt to humiliate. Typically the woman, eldest person, or person of highest status is the one who should initiate more familiar interaction.
- Direct eye contact during conversation is expected and appreciated and communicates that you are engaged in the conversation and are being respectful.
- Address others by using their title and surname. Using one's first name is usually done when there is a greater level of familiarity. It is best to wait until invited to use the first name before doing so.
- Generally speaking, the length of an arm is a typical distance when considering personal space.
- Greeting shop owners and clerks when entering and exiting small stores is considered polite and is the norm. This is less expected in larger stores.
Following are some helpful dining hints:
- Arrive on time and dress well and modestly.
- Remove shoes when entering someone's home. Slippers are sometimes provided, but it is best to take a pair of socks along with you when visiting.
- A box of chocolates or bottle of wine would be welcomed hostess gifts. If giving flowers, avoid chrysanthemums or calla lilies, which are associated with funerals.
- Wait for the host to assign seating and to begin eating.
- Table manners are typically formal.
- The phrase, "dobrou chut' is similar to "Bon Appetit" and is commonly used to begin a meal.
- Complimenting the cook on the meal is always appreciated.
- Placing the knife and fork parallel across the right side of the plate indicates that you are finished eating.
- Conversation about sports or family is good, while talk about the former communist regime should be avoided.
- Take care not to stay too long into the evening on your first visit to someone's home. Only upon the host's insistence should you stay longer than a few hours. A 10:00 pm departure is a good guide to follow.
Language in the Czech Republic
English is becoming more commonly spoken in the Czech Republic, and especially in city centers like Prague; however, it would still be a challenge to communicate day to day without knowing some of the Czech language.
As the Czech language is known to be difficult, using an audio tutorial is a good learning approach to use in order to succeed with challenging pronunciation. A great beginner's resource with common Czech phrases, along with audio pronunciation, is available at: myCzechRepublic. Another great resource for the serious learner to learn the Czech language is, Teach Yourself Czech by David Short, published by Teach Yourself Press.
Following is a list of common Czech phrases. As in most places, any attempts made to learn the local language are appreciated.
How are you?
Jak se mate
What is your name?
Jak se jmenujete?
My name is
Do you speak English?
Where's the toilet?
Kde jsou toalety?
A pocket phrasebook would be a valuable purchase. Even if pronouncing a particular word feels unrealistic, pointing to the word in a phrasebook may prove very helpful.
Eating in the Czech Republic
Traditional Czech cuisine has its own unique characteristics, but has also been influenced by regional fare. Meals are generally heavy and centered around meat, typically pork, beef, or chicken, with complementary starchy side dishes. Because the country is landlocked, and because winters are long and cold, there is not an abundance of seafood or fresh vegetables, with the exception of root vegetables. There is however, an abundance of traditional Czech beer (pivo), available everywhere.
Popular food choices include:
- Svikova: Marinated beef sirloin served with a creamy sauce, root vegetables and dumplings
- Vepro-Knedlo-Zelo: roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut
- Knedliky: wheat or potato based dumplings
- Roast goose or duck
- Goulash soup: thick tomato-based meat soup with spices
- Smazeny Kvatak s Bramborem: cauliflower fried in breadcrumbs, served with boiled potatoes and tartar sauce
- Variety of soups: garlic, leek, potato, mushroom, lentil
- Fruit filled dumplings
- Strawberry dumplings with cream
Climate in the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic enjoys a moderate climate with regional variations.
For such a small country, temperatures can vary considerably. For example, temperatures in Cheb, in the far Western region of the Czech Republic, can drop to 1F (-17C) in the winter, while summer highs in Prague can reach 91F (33C) in July. Variations in temperature and climate are mostly due to the diversity of topography, specifically, differences in elevations between the regions of the country. The mountainous regions of northern Czech Republic experience the most extreme temperatures and can have up to 50 days of snowfall during the winter.
The country experiences four distinct seasons and can generally be characterized by: cold winters, cool springs, warm summers, and chilly autumns.
Summer - June through August; July experiences the hottest temperatures
Fall - September through November; November can experience light frosts
Winter - December through February; January experiences the coldest temperatures
Spring - March through May; spring temperatures rise quickly
Flooding and extreme windstorms are the most common natural disasters that the Czech Republic experiences. Statistics gathered from a thirty-year period in recent history show that approximately 550 people have been killed, and almost 325,000 people affected, from the combination of flooding, storms, and extreme temperatures.
Holidays in the Czech Republic
Below is a list of the primary holidays celebrated in the Czech Republic:
Czech Independence Day/New Year's Day - January 1
Celebration of the creation of the Czech Republic in 1993 after an official split from Slovakia
Good Friday - March or April, Friday before Easter Sunday
Commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ
Easter Monday - March or April
Celebration of the resurrection of Christ
Labor Day/May Day - May 1
Celebration of the advancement of workers' rights and interests
Liberation Day - May 8
Celebration of the liberation of the Czech and Slovak peoples from Germany in 1945
Saints Cyril and Methodius Day - July 5
Commemoration of the religious teachers who translated Christian literature into the Slavic language in the ninth century
Jan Hus Day - July 6
Commemoration of the religious reformer Jan Hus who was burned at the stake in 1415
St. Wenceslas Day (Czech Statehood Day) - September 28
Commemoration of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech Republic, who was killed by his brother in the 900s
Independent Czechoslovak State Day - October 28
Celebration of the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918
Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day - November 17
Commemoration of the November 17 demonstrations in 1989 which marked the beginning of the end of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia and the beginning of the Velvet Revolution
Christmas Eve - December 24
Christmas is typically celebrated the evening of December 24
Christmas Day - December 25
Celebration of the birth of Christ
St. Stephen's Day - December 26
Commemoration of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr