Stage review: How to Become Czech in One Hour

A few humorous tips may help expats to fit in better to their adopted home

Everyone who moves to the Czech Republic quickly realizes that they are not in Kansas anymore. Many people encounter a steep learning curve in trying to fit in when they first arrive.

The one-man show How to Become Czech in One Hour at Royal Theatre and Club Chic in Vinohrady makes good sport of some of the peculiarities of Czech culture. The next performance is Dec. 18.

Whether you have been here for a long time or just arrived, you can probably identify with many of the issues raised.

And you will find out you are not alone in your experiences navigating the pitfalls of the country, its language, and people.

French native Jean Christophe Gramont, who has lived here 14 years, wrote the one-man play. It is performed by actor Tomáš Vaňek, who explains some of the cultural pitfalls from the Czech point of view.

The attitude of restaurant servers, for lack of a better term, does not miss scrutiny. But the play is not all moaning about shortcomings. The play’s narrator offers some tips on how to actually get service by adopting just the right air of indifference and superiority. 

The language also is rather difficult, and phrases like “Fakt, jo!” tend to cause some confusion. But a few basic phrases said with the right conviction and hopefully, a proper accent can help you fit in.

Something that isn’t overlooked is the singular Czech fashion of socks with sandals. Czech fashion sense, in general, gets a good once over.

Beer, knedlíky, Karel Gott and Czech women’s attitude to sex are not overlooked either.

The show, living up to its titles, is brief, clocking in at about an hour. This keeps it from belaboring its points so the project comes off as good-natured fun.

While the observations in the script come from an expat, having them delivered by a Czech actor who is trying to help people pretend to assimilate puts a positive spin on the material. It wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if it was an hour of an expat complaining about the same topics.

Tomáš Vaňek has experience from the Czech stage in plays such as Rent, Phantom of the Opera, Much Ado About Nothing and Ray Bradbury's 2116. He has also appeared in Czech films such as Gympl, Cesta do lesa and Vejška. On TV he has appeared in the series Svatby v Benátkách on TV Prima.

He has fun pointing out the quirks of his own culture and turning the tables to show how Czechs perceive expats. Pay attention. There might be a pop quiz.

Most of the shows sell out, so check in advance for tickets.

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