‘Ahoy!!’ in the Czech Republic
The formal greeting in the Czech Republic is ‘Dobrý deň’ (‘Good day’). The informal greeting is ‘Ahoy!’ The first time I heard this I had to scratch my head. ‘Ahoy’ is traditionally used as a word to signal a ship. So why do the Czechs use a nautical expression as an informal greeting? (especially strange since it’s a landlocked nation). Nobody knows why, although it seems to have its beginnings at the end of the First World War. But it gets weirder than this.
Czechs love going on the river. Every weekend you’ll see the rivers here full of canoes, kayaks, and inflatable rafts. They’ll be filled with families, friends, co-workers, as well as the favorite member of the family (the dog). You’ll never see Czechs as happy or animated as they are on the river. They’ll be wearing sailing shirts, yachting caps and pirate outfits. Some will wear conical Vietnamese hats, others Mexican sombreros. They’ll attach stuff to their canoes or boats; inflatable ducks, whales, cows or any other floatable device. And they’ll yell ‘Ahoy’. Canoeists salute each with ‘Ahoy!’. If you are crossing a bridge or walking by the river you’ll have Czechs on canoes shouting out ‘Ahoy!’ to you. You’re supposed to shout back ‘Ahoooooy!!’.
So don’t be shy and don’t stick out as a tourist. Take the initiative by yelling out, really loud, ‘Ahoy!’ to any Czech you see on a water-borne floatation device. Just don’t do it on dry land. Because that would just be weird.
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