The Czech Republic is part of Central Europe, along with neighbouring Slovakia, Austria, Poland and Hungary. In Western Europe and North America it is often mistakenly referred to as an “Eastern European” country, and most Czechs react very sensitively to this – many even go so far as to anticipate the ignorance of some foreigners by asking: “In which part of Europe do you think the Czech Republic is located? Side with them by answering “Central Europe”, not the East!
Czechs do not like it when foreigners wrongly assume that their country was part of the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire – both of which are certainly false – even though it was part of the Soviet bloc and part of Austro-Hungarian territory until 1918. To say that “everything is pretty cheap here” is seen as condescending to the economic status of the country.
If you are familiar with the communist regime in Czechoslovakia after the Second World War, remember that this is still a sensitive topic for many people and it is easy to upset people by talking about it.
The Czechs are one of the most atheistic peoples in the world. This is especially true in the big cities in Bohemia. Do not assume that someone you do not know believes in God or has a passion for Christianity. Respect this and your religion will also be respected.
Always say “hello” (Dobrý den) and “goodbye” (Na shledanou) when entering and leaving a small shop because it is polite.
When you go out to eat with the host family, it is customary for the host family to pay the bill, which is the opposite of most Western standards. Do not expect them to do this, but do not be surprised if they do.
When you enter a Czech household, always take off your shoes. Czechs usually wear slippers or sandals when they enter a house and never their outdoor shoes. Depending on how traditional the host family is, they may insist that you put on slippers immediately for hygiene reasons, but this is rare. At least they will give you some to keep your feet warm.
Mentioning Czech cities and towns by their old German names when asking for directions (e.g. Budweis instead of České Budějovice) can be confusing and seen as insulting and disrespectful to the Czech population.
The vast majority of Moravians do not take offence at being called Czechs and consider themselves both. If you try to speak Czech, pay attention to the complexity and slight differences between the terms Čechy (Bohemia) and Česko (Czech Republic). Just as a Welshman would frown when his country is called England, the use of the term Čechy (Bohemia) for the entire Czech Republic cannot be appreciated by a Moravian. Since there are no separatist movements in Moravia and certainly no ethnic conflict, you are infinitely more likely to be showered with kisses and doused with alcohol just for trying to speak Czech.