Nationalities on the friendliness scale. Case study: Germans and Czechs.

Germans and Czechs on the friendliness scale

Germans and Czechs on the friendliness scale

It’s funny how things can be so different when crossing that imaginary political line called a border. Just 2 hours from Prague is Dresden in the former East Germany. We’d forgotten how rich everything feels in Germany. Everyone looks happy, healthy and full of life. The Germans dress well and, well, they smell great too. The shopping malls glitter, the people are smiling and friendly. There is an air, an atmosphere about Germany that is so much lighter and friendlier than what we that found in the Czech Republic. I don’t mean that as a slight against the Czech Republic – we’ve ended up really enjoying Prague and have met some very nice people along the way. But Germans are by nature so much easier to like.

Spanky mentioned to me on our 2nd day in Dresden that I seemed more comfortable and friendly in Germany. She suggested that it was because I was “in my tribe”; both my father and mother were born in Germany (Germans immediately spot me as one of them even though I don’t speak the language). I thought about what she said. And concluded that she’s wrong in her hypothesis. I’ll describe why with a couple of examples from just the past week.



Example 1. Last Monday we passed by the Franz Kafka museum. We had about 2 hours before we had to go back to the apartment. I went to the lady who sold the tickets and said the obligatory ‘dobrý den’ (‘hello”). She looked at me with that flat, expressionless face that we’ve frequently encountered in Prague. No ‘dobrý den’, no nothing. I ask her how long a tour of the museum takes. “45” she says, the only expression on her face being that “I’m so sick of dealing with f*ing idiots like you” look. “45 minutes?” I ask. “45” she repeats looking at me while rolling her eyes. I say thank you and go outside to get Spanky. I want her to witness firsthand how bitchy this woman is. We come back in and I give her my biggest smile and ask for 2 tickets. She takes my money and throws the tickets and change on the desk.

Would this level of service ever be tolerated anywhere else? I’ve written previously about this Czech state of fed-upness. In this case it was taken to a whole other level.

Example 2. Last Saturday. We are transferring metros at Florenc metro station, connecting between line C and B. Going down the escalator we see a ruckus on at the top of the escalator going up. There’s a baby screaming and parents yelling. I look over to see a baby carriage flipping over, an overweight lady and equally overweight guy falling to the ground at the top of the escalator. Behind them, and behind the baby carriage (which has fallen on its side) – and still on the moving stairs – are a baby screaming its lungs out while flat on its back and a young girl (maybe 7) also on her back but struggling to get up. I run over, throw the carriage out of the way, scoop the baby up with one hand, grab the girl’s arm with the other. I help them off the escalator. It was pretty much a Superhero move 🙂 . I look up to see what has happened to the parents. They had gotten off the ground and are busy arguing. If they’ve noticed me they’re not acknowledging my presence. I leave the baby with the girl and join Lissette. I see the family walking away, the parents still in a heated conversation. And I realized that nobody else had moved to help – there had been people before me on the escalator going down but nobody had moved towards them. I imagine either the baby or young girl getting clothing, hair, or fingers stuck in the moving escalator stairs. I shudder at the thought.  It reminded me of a couple of situations that we had been in, needing directions or help, where people just walked right on by without acknowledging us. What is that? I’ve seen so many examples over the last two months in Prague of people just turning their heads away to a situation. I don’t get it. Are they just embarrassed to get involved?



We came out of the wrong entrance when arriving at the Dresden-Neustadt station. We walked the wrong way for about 15 minutes before turning back. I could have asked someone for directions but I guess I was just too accustomed to being either ignored or shrugged at. I didn’t feel like asking. Back at the train station we spotted a city information stand. I told the man working there that we were lost and trying to get to the Altstadt (Old Town). He smiled, gave us tourist maps, and spent the next few minutes explaining the various ways to get to our hotel. We walked out of there remembering all the different reasons we’ve always loved travelling through Germany, chief among them the people.

This friendliness was a constant in our four days in the city. The girl who would smile and answer all my stupid questions at the reception desk of our hotel, the German-speaking Orientals at our favorite food court restaurant who helped translate the menu for us,  the young bartender at the Biergarten who explained the different beers they had on tap.

It wasn’t just the friendliness towards us. It was the feeling in the air while in Germany. Germans, generally speaking, just look happy and pretty damn satisfied with their lot in life.

Ps. Another set of examples; on both the trip to Dresden and on the way back to Prague I helped women get their luggage up to the baggage rack. On the way to Dresden it was an elderly German woman. She thanked me when I offered to help her but didn’t seem surprised. On the way back it was a Czech woman with a baby and a heavy backpack. She seemed shocked when I helped her, like it wasn’t something anyone would ever do. She was our best friend the rest of the trip. Just our experience or a reflection of customs in both countries?


Coming back from Germany you sense the mood-change when you step off the train. Czechs are a more serious people, they keep to themselves. You could say they are, generally, dour. We’ve had this conversation with a few Czechs we’ve befriended. Just a few weeks ago a young lady who works at the local sports store told us that she sometimes gets yelled at by customers because the store either; 1) doesn’t have what they are looking for or 2) because they judge prices are too high. “Why do they yell at you?” we asked. She just shrugged.

So why do different people act differently? I’ve written about Czechs and Germans. How about Italians? Or the Swiss? Again, they run the whole gamut on the friendliness scale.

I’ve said it before; it doesn’t mean the people from one country are better than the people from another. We believe that deep down people are the same all over. We’ve seen lots of examples of Czechs showing love and affection towards their families and their dogs. What is different is how people act outwardly towards others. And there are a lot of reasons that shape their behavior: history, language, and culture among them.


What do you think? What are your best/worst experiences when it comes to different nationalities?


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  1. I am a Czech citizen and regret to agree with the author’s observation. Not all Czechs are awful to deal with, of course, and not all Canadians/Americans are pleasant to deal with (I mention these two nationalities intentionally, I consider their “soul” to be the gold standard of friendliness). Fine people are everywhere. But it’s all in the numbers, and the sad truth is that too many Czech indeed are unpleasant folks. Too many to affect one’s every day life, at any rate. I am not really ashamed of this fact, because I am not responsible for other people’s conduct, but I am far from rejoicing either, especially since I too am annoyed by people who seem to derive some inner pleasure from being mean to a fellow human. Two things deserve to be said: (1) With respect to the history, Czechs had it rough as hell. The entire 20th century was a mix of wars, military occupations, humiliation, communist imposition. Our grandfathers were born into two wars and 40 years of dictatorship. This does affect the national soul. The society became cynical, defeatist, unpleasant, arrogant, mean, sarcastic, ironic (not in a good way). (2) With respect to the future, young Czechs (10 – 18 yrs) are virtually indistinguishable from young Canadians/Americans. Give the country 20 more years, if you can, and come back.

    1. Thank you Jan for your perspective. That last sentence is so right – young people all over Central/Eastern Europe are open to the world unlike their parents and grandparents. We see that almost everywhere. And to be fair – we went back to Prague this summer for a month and found that the people were much friendlier. But this time we were in District 10, which is younger, hipper, more multicultural than other areas we’ve stayed in the past. Big difference. Just know that the Czech Republic is still one of our favorite countries 🙂

  2. Interesting….. I’ve never been to the Czech Republic but I’ve been living in Germany for the past three years and you certainly have a limited touristic perspective on the country. People in Germany are known to be rather grumpy and rude, I’ve encountered a lot of unnecessary rudeness here. Do a quick google search and you’ll see tons of people complaining about the same thing!

    1. Funny enough I was talking to a couple of Americans who had lived in Germany for 4 years. They said the same thing I do. Maybe you’ve had bad experiences? But compared to many places (especially Eastern Europe) they’re friendly.
      Believe me, don’t go by what you find on google…

  3. I am ready to confirm every your word. Even the impression when we crossed the border on our way to Dresden was the same. I am ready for Germany (especially for Bavaria) in any moment, but I will never visit Prague again.

    1. Thanks Victor. Actually we love Prague and since I wrote the above we’ve been to Prague 4 more times for long stays (we were just there for the month of August). I think the trick is to meet the ones who don’t deal with tourists – maybe they’re just all fed up. They’ll never be as friendly as the Germans but we’ve gotten used to them and have actually had some nice experiences with people in our last few stays.

  4. Hello there! I am loving your blog! I’m going to Czech Republic, Budapest, Vienna and Poland in september and your posts are really helpful =)
    I have already went to Germany, spent one month backpacking there and loved the germans. And this is not the first time I read about the czechs rudeness, so I’m a little scared…
    Did you go to Karlovy Vary? We will go there and to Cesky Krumlov besides Prague!
    Congratulations on the blog!

    1. Thank you so much Ana!
      No need to worry about the Czechs. I don’t know if it is rude so much as just ‘aloof’. And we actually went back not so long ago for a month and actually found them a bit warmer this 3rd time…don’t know why, maybe winter (we were there in March this time) is when they’re at their best 🙂
      No didn’t see Karlovy Vary. Maybe sometime in the future.
      Enjoy your trip!

  5. I’ve been analysing Czechs for the last 24 years, conclusion, obnoxious arrogant self centred selfish primitive disrespectful narcisistic lazy bad mannred arseholes.

    Does that answer your question?

  6. Interesting post. I’ve never been to either country, but both are definitely on our radar. I’m 1/2 German (my maiden name is Schulz) so I figure I should visit the mother country one day – my grandfather immigrated in the late 1800’s. When we do get there, I’ll pay attention and report back. 😉

    1. Thanks Patti. Germany is great some fantastic geography, romantic towns, nice people and great beer. Lodging roughly the same as in North America but we find that food/booze bought at the supermarket actually cheaper in Germany. Overall though, prices still a shock coming from he Czech Republic – most things about double the price in Germany.

  7. I have had good and bad experiences with the people in Prague, and I think that’s partly because it’s a big city that went from practically no tourists to becoming one of the busiest tourist cities in the world. But the people in the countryside are much more outwardly friendly. I was met with incredible hospitality for months and months by the Czech people, especially in Moravia. Lovely people, faithful friends.

    1. Good points Jenna. We’ve actually experienced that in Cesky Krumlov and Kutna Hora. And we’ve been told by some Czech friends that people in Moravia even friendlier…we’ll be going there in the next few weeks. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Hello – I had a terrible experience in Prague my first day there with almost getting caught in a police scam. The officers were very rude and abrasive …almost made me want to leave Prague instantly …however at the hotel we stayed at the personel were extremely nice but then again they were from other countries …. I must say I was totally impressed with Germany and the Germans – the country and the people are beautiful and the Autobahn is a blast!

    1. Hey Chantal! I remember you telling me about your story with the Prague police. Yeah, I can see it happening. One of the things travelers don’t know is that they have the power to ask tourists for official ID – and can fine you on the spot if you don’t have it (up to the equivalent of $150). So keep your passport with you!

  9. Do you know what’s sad, Frank and Lissette? That I have to agree…I much prefer to go to Germany than asking anyone here for any kind of help. Sometimes I feel kind of awkward if I offer help to someone on the street. I love Prague and the czech republic, I’m proud of being czech but of course I’m not proud about the rudeness.

    One big but…it you get to know czechs better you can find our good sides…we can be the most faithful friends… But it takes a long time to take the concrete shell of us.

    By the way I was in Dresden 3 weeks ago and we had grumpy waiter so even the germans aren’t all the time great 😀 and it wasn’t about us being czech because I was there with my american friend and her father 😀

    1. Darn, you beat me Anna – I was going to say that he was rude because you are Czech! 😉

      As I’ve said, we’ve had a really nice stay here in Prague and you are right – the longer we’ve stayed the more we’ve appreciated the people or just acclimatized to their moods. You know what Lissette said last week? She said she wouldn’t mind coming back to Prague. And this is after 3 months here. So Czechs haven’t been so rude that they’ve kept us away…

      Thanks for your Czech opinion!

  10. I found this post to be quite fascinating! We spent an extended weekend in Prague two years ago, and now that I think about it, I never really analyzed the Czechs themselves. In retrospect they certainly weren’t friendly, and I remember a few waiters/waitresses who were downright unhelpful, sour, and even rude. Since we’d read before our trip that restaurant service is nowhere near what you experience in the States or elsewhere in Europe, it didn’t faze us. They certainly are more reserved than most Europeans we’ve encountered. As for Germans, well, it’s our European home so I could gush for hours about how great Germany and Germans are! It’s funny to me that a stereotype still lingers of Germans being serious, un-humorous, reserved people; our experience has been the exact opposite! We have family and friends who are German, so maybe we get to see a side that tourists don’t, but your post here seems to show otherwise!

    1. Hi Katrina – wow, I pressed that publish button about 5 min ago and that’s about the quickest comment I’ve ever received.
      Glad to hear it, so it’s not just our experience. I’ve been through Germany now 4 times and every single time its been a good experience. We find them warm, curious, and always willing to talk. I also think a couple of things that helps them is that a) they travel a lot themselves and b) they have a good command of the English language. Other nationalities can sometimes appear impolite but it can be because they feel uncomfortable speaking English. I laugh when Germans say “I speak a little” then they talk better then people back home.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

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