"How are you?" in Czech...How to use it!!??

Discussion in 'Culture' started by manuolda, May 1, 2008.

  1. manuolda

    manuolda Member

    English speackers vastly use the expression “how are you?” as a for of greeting and are accustomed to ask and be asked this question in all kind of situations. However, asking “how are you?” (Jak se máš?) to someone you meet for the first time or, let’s say, to the shop assistant is absolutely unusual in the Czech culture. Your interlocutor may simply gaze at you wondering why you are asking such a personal question

    DO YOU RECKON THAT THIS IS TRUE??would you say how are you to someone you meet for the first time or to a clerk?

  2. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    In Czech, customary greeting for people who aren't friends or family is "Dobrý den". Adressed person replies in same way. Literal translation of "Dobrý den" is "Good day!, but real meaning is more like "Hello".

    More info:
  3. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    One more remark - Czech language has two ways, how to say things, formal and informal. Informal way is for people you know really well, like friends and family. Formal way is for other people.

    "Jak se máš" is informal.
    Formal variant is "Jak se máte?" It is possible to ask strangers in second way, although it isn't common. Using of first informal way with strangers (particularly seniors) could be serious faux pas.

    And finally, in Czech, if you ask another person how he/she is, there isn't obligatory to answer well or good. People will tell you, how they really feel - which in case of ordinary Czech grumbler could be pretty colorful :)
  4. manuolda

    manuolda Member

    thanks so much for your help! i really appreciate it...I'm doing a "cultural report" on Czech Republic for my International Management course here in NZ and, day by day, my interest in your country increases. I really need to come and visit your country when I'll be back to Europe! :)
  5. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Not only is it interesting but its absolutely beautiful!
  6. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Oh this is something I really wanted to ask as well!

    In Ireland if you pass someone on the street and you make eye contact with them it's perfectly normal to say "Hi, how are you" not really expecting a response, though usually the person might say "grand... lovely day" not expecting a response either.

    It's just friendliness. I like it...

    The town I live in has about 20,000 people in it, and like that it is normal to say hello to people on a road where you don't see people that often, but not on the main road where you'd have to say it every 30 seconds.

    I am moving to Trebic (40,000 people), if it is a quiet evening and I say "Dobry Den" to people I pass when I'm walking down the street, are they going to think I am completely insane?

    Another thing is

    In Ireland we talk about the weather all the time. Nobody really cares about the weather, it's just small talk. We just like to hear someone agree with us. You never think outside the box, you never say "Sure it's January, what do you expect, you eejit!?" or "What are you complaining about, the sun was splitting the rocks yesterday!" You'd be carted off to a mental institute if you remembered a sunny day.

    A friend of mine moved to Germany recently, and everyone thought she was really boring and obsessed with meteorology.
    How normal is small talk in the Czech republic? Do you do it with strangers in shops? Only with your friends or co-workers? With no one at all ever? (as in Germany, it seems!)
    Usually there is no time for this in supermarkets... that is the exception.. although if a person serving or being served is over 50 or so you'll always chat with them, even if it means slowing everything down.
  7. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

  8. fabik317

    fabik317 Well-Known Member

    i absolutely hate the "Jak se máš?" question - when i just say "i'm well/not so well", i feel i'm being too terse and not willing to discuss things further. on the other hand, when i start to elaborate (got a bonus at work, cat died, car needs a new exhaust pipe, met a great girl...), i always feel like i'm reading a shopping list to the other person. not that i don't want to talk about anything of it at all, but it's better to do so spontaneously when the conversation goes the right direction rather then enumerating it all just to explain why i feel the way i do.
  9. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Kibicz: Thanks so much for the answers!

    What about...

    Je tady hezky, ze ano?

    One doesn't say hello to another person on a street, but does in an elevator! Wow! That would feel so awkward! I will just have to learn.
    What if someone sits next to you on a bus?
    Long ago everyone used to talk to each other, but these days people have been brainwashed by the news and are all terrified of each other.

    Fabik: I think if ""Jak se máš?" Is used in the same way as "How's it going?" is here, no one will wonder why you're not elaborating, just smile warmly and ask how they are, and if they go into more detail then you can sympathies/congratulate and share your own shopping list! But usually no one expects anything, not here anyway.
    That's what I'll be doing, but mostly because I am so limited in what I can say!

    If someone says "Jak se máš?" instead of "Jak se máte"
    Do I take it we are being informal and say ty?

    So would an appropriate reply to "Jak se máš?"
    "Dekuju, dobre, a ty?"
    "... ,, ,, ... a vy?"

    I assume if the person is older than me I should just go with vy all the time, even if they're saying ty?

    Sorry, I know it's a simple question, but "T-V distinctions" are a whole new kettle of fish for me.
  10. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

  11. bouncingczech

    bouncingczech Active Member

    Here are some observations. While walking on a trail in the country or in a village where there are not many people, it is customary in the US to acknowledge the person you encounter. "Hi, how's it going?" usually does it and the response is as appropriate. This is NOT the case in Czech Republic and some European countries. I took a few short hikes in Cesky Raj this spring and happily proceeded to greet everyone I met with "Dobry den". More then a half looked at me with confusion, like I was crazy. The rest responded in some manner or other.
    I have experienced the same behavior in Sweden, but NOT in the UK.

    As for asking "Jak se mas"? - I still do it out of a habit of asking "How are you" even though there is a risk in the Czech Republic that I may get an answer I was not expecting, like:" Weeell, not too well, you see my wife ran away with the postman last week and I have this back pain all time and my daughter is in prison....". In contrast, the same question ALWAYS gets a positive response in the US....
  12. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Hee hee!
    Thanks, it's good to get the perspective from someone from a similar cultural background to my own in this respect.

    If I see other Americans/British/Irish I'll be sure to say hello!

    I'd say it's probably mostly to do with the fact that most of our grandparents would have lived in very small towns where everybody knew everyone else by name, and we still greet each other in this way..
    A friend of mine grew up in a tiny village in Kerry, when she moved to Dublin for the first few days she was saying hello to everyone she passed on the street, without even realizing she was doing it, until someone told her she was crazy!
  13. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

  14. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Hee hee I doubt I'll be in Prauge too often, I want to see all the sights of course, and all the Art galleries! Should be great. I'm glad that's not where I'm going to live though, a friend of mine who was there said the thing that struck her most was "a disconcerting lack of Czech people" !

    What is the word for art gallery? Umění...?
  15. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    Mostly only: Galerie.
  16. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Great same as the German! I'll remember it.
  17. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    An advantage of being English. As has already been said, when we say: "How are you?", we don't actually expect people to tell us! Everyone just says "Fine" even if their mother's just died...

    From my experience, even here in Prague, everyone says "Dobrý den" before starting any conversation in a shop, for example, and similarly, "nashledanou" when leaving. It looks very rude if you don't. I've even had people say it to me when leaving a lift!
  18. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    Not true. It depends where you are. Right in the centre, around the tourists sights in summer, of course, there are mainly tourists. And if you live in the ex-pat areas like Vinohrady and Dejvice, there are lots of Brits and Americans. But in most places, it's very Czech. I'm in Karlín, in Prague 8, and no-one in our local shops speaks any English, which can be quite a challenge!
  19. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Wow! That's something they should warn you about in the guide books!

    So even if you don't buy anything you say goodbye as you walk out? Do you need to stop and turn and make eye contact? Or is it just when leaving the counter, after buying something, because that makes sense to me..

    Ah that is good to hear, she was probably just in the tourist areas as she was only there for a day or two, and I assume there are more French regions as well, she was traveling with French people.
  20. MK

    MK Well-Known Member

    "Pozdravit je slušnost, odpovědět povinnost!"
    To say greeting is decency, answer it is obligation.

    For Czechs is the greeting (Good Day/Dobry den) first "social action". On the other side "parting phrase - the farewell" (Good bye /Na shledanou) is last one, they come usually together.

    You can say good day to specific person(s) or to everybody who hear you (non specific). Non specific greeting/farewell is used when you enter/leave area (room) in which you could draw attention. So airport hall is not such place but small shop or lift are such areas. No eye contact is requiered.

    Simply - when nobody appreciate it then you will say nothing otherwise you should proudly and soundly say your good day/good bye :wink:

    Example 1.
    You meet somebody you know on the street (no chat)-> Dobry den

    Example 2.
    You meet somebody you know +chat->
    Dobry den
    small talk
    Na shledanou

    Example 3.
    You enter the shop/pub etc.-> Dobry den
    regadles you bought anything or entered it by mistake
    You leave the room/shop/pub -> Na shledanou

    Hope it helped

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