No worries, you don´t have to change your appearance or learn Czech language just for one pro-longed weeekend in Prague. If you want to blend in with locals, I am happy to share with you several practical tips how not to look like a tourist and be more like Prague local.
My name is Dana and I am actually Prague local 🙂 Born and raised. I am also founder of Prague Behind The Scenes, small local business offering unusual tours of Prague downtown. Since I want everyone to feel comfortable in Prague I always teach my clients couple of tricks how to act like Prague local. Here are few of them. Enjoy!
1. ESCALATORS: mind the fast track
This is something what locals are very sensitive about. When you travel by the subway and use escalators (moving stairs), please never stand on the left side. Left side is a „fast track“ for walking up/down, while the right side is for standing. Locals tend to be a bit nervous if people are standing on the left side when others are rushing. And yes, we are rushing often 🙂
2. TIPS: never leave your money on a table
So how does it work here? First of all: tips are never included in the price (shouldn´t be!!) and it is entirely up to you how much you wish to leave. It all depends on your satisfaction. Usually it is between 5 – 10 %. But this is not a rule or mandatory. Important thing is not to leave tips on a table and go away. When server comes with your bill, just include your tip in the total price and say how much you want to pay (e.g. your bill is 362 CZK, then just say you wish to pay 400). Rounding the bill up is highly recommended. Don´t let the staff to give you back the small change. In Czech language we call tips dýško, spropitné or tringelt. To learn more about tipping in Prague, check my article.
3. BEER: never drink a „ventilator“
Do you know what we call ventilator in terms of drinking Czech beer? It is a beer without foam which was too long standing on a table or at the bar. Or was wrongly tapped, or was too cold when tapped. In some countries it is quite common to serve beer without a „white cap“ but when you are in the Czech Republic, foam is a must. If you get a beer without proper foam (and you didn´t order it like that), there is always something wrong. You should ask for a new one because you will not drink something what we call in Czech „větrák“ (ventilator). Don´t accept a beer served without a foam!! Foam is the best indicator of freshness and quality of the beer.
4. SOUVENIRS: big no to matryoshka dolls from souvenir shops
Matryoska doll is cute but no way a typical Czech souvenir (it is Russian!). Matryoshkas are commonly sold in downtown souvenir shops together with fur hats holding Soviet symbols and other so called fun stuff related to Soviet era. Locals don´t find it funny. It is actually very offensive. Please don´t buy matryoska in Prague and please don´t wear USSR fur hats. You will look like total ignorants. Be caution about Prague such tourist traps.
5. A BIT OF CZECH LANGUAGE: it is fun and locals will like you
It is always nice to learn several basic words in a language of the country you are visiting. Every Prague local really appreciates the effort when you switch from English to basic Czech. We don´t expect you to be fully fluent but you can show your talent and tell us something 🙂
6. FOOD: step out of your comfort zone and forget about food chains
You didn´t come to Prague to check local McDonald´s menu or the difference between Starbucks latté here and in you country, did you? I know it is comfortable, but you are traveling and you should challenge yourself and explore something new, local and a bit bizarre: have you ever heard of Olomoucké syrečky (super stinky Czech cheese), Prdelačka blood soup (literally translated ass soup), Květákový mozeček (literally couliflower brain) or Utopenec sausage (literary drown man)? Don´t be afraid and try them.
7. DISCOVER REAL PRAGUE: blend in with the city
Following travel books can sometimes be a bit stressfull. There are so many information, so many must-to-see tips and you only have two days in Prague? Believe me, it is often much easier just to leave books and maps at home, take a light backpack, camera and go to roam around the city, enjoy the atmosphere, have a beer and get yourself surprised around every corner. Prague is very touristy place especially during the high season (April – October, December) and only locals know how to avoid crowds of visitors. If you have just limited amount of time in Prague, you can enjoy Prague Behind The Scenes tour which was designed by Prague local for all who want to see Prague sights and off-the-peaten-path places in one tour and in a small group of max. 6 people, or during a private tour.