Picture the scene: you’re in the Czech Republic.
You’re on holiday, visiting your sister/daughter/niece/friend/partner-in-crime, the esteemed blogger Ro Daniels. Blogging isn’t paying the bills so she’s gone down the mines. You’re all on your own.
You want a pint/coffee/postcard/doughnut. You head to the appropriate establishment, and on entering you’re met with the cheery smile and (you assume) friendly greeting of the staff. This stops you in your tracks – you want to reply, but you’re tongue-tied and you don’t know how!
Never fear. The subject of this Tuesday’s class is G R E E T I N G S. After reading this blog, you’ll be able to appropriately salute people from all walks of life. Hold tight!
Here are some phrases to deploy on meeting someone.
This is what I’d describe as the standard greeting. It literally means, “Good day.”
As a bonus, it’s a cognate with a bunch of other Slavic greetings, like Dzień dobry in Polish and Добрый день (dobry dyien’) in Russian.
I usually use this sarcastically, because I so rarely consider mornings at all good. (Not an ideal situation, given I’m meant to be bushy-tailed and ready to start pouring coffee at 6am.)
Incidentally, to my ear, all spoken Czech sounds passive-aggressive, so my early-morning sarcasm just helps me fit in.
Hello and Goodbye
Czech is nothing if not efficient: here are some words that can mean both hello and goodbye.
Yeah, like what pirates say!!! Which is especially brilliant since the Czech Republic is landlocked. I don’t think river pirates exist.
This is pronounced exactly like the Italian “Ciao.” Pretty sure that can’t be a coincidence, but I’m not an etymologist and my Googling fingers are tired.
“Hallo!” or, “Cheerio!” People give me slightly weird looks when I say this, but I don’t care because it’s just such a cool word.
Tricky for foreigners to pronounce. I tend to stick to the rather informal Čau, even when it’s not strictly appropriate, but I’m so scruffy and disarming that I reckon I pull it off.
For brevity, you can just throw out an offhand “Dobrou!”
Now get out there and start greeting people.