‘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.
Related: Travel Guide – The Best of the Czech Republic
Related: Budapest: The time I was almost punched in the face at the Hummus Bar
Related: A Review of the “Xenophobe’s guide to the Czechs”
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My heritage is Czech (mom’s side), and my mom grew up speaking Czech but her parents’ generation didn’t have “ahoj” yet. When I moved to the Czech Republic, I started learning Czech and would speak/write in it to her. When I started saying “ahoj” she was completely baffled. She said the same thing, “But it’s a landlocked country?!” Oh well, I love saying it!
Interesting Dana. I’m impressed you learned Czech, I’ve heard some people compare the language to Chinese in its complexity.
I think it’s actually amusing to hear them say ‘Ahoy’ – so unusual and unique and its one of those little things that you’ll always remember about a destination. That and the ridiculous little sailor outfits that some of the men wear while out there canoeing 😉 .
Now that’s a great idea for anyone planning to spend time in the Czech Republic this summer… get out on the water!
Yes, I think it’s something we do one weekend…