I was glad to meet personally a few natives in local pubs/bars and I must admit that they all could speak Czech language and exclusively Czech language quite fluently.
Waiters in local restaurants, bus drivers, owners and staff of "Chata Studenicne" (mountain cottage), of local library and of groceries could speak exclusively Czech and sometimes... a little Polish and Russian neither English nor German or French. One exception: once a girl of maybe 14-15yo in a restaurant understood at least one my English word "ash-tray". More: they rarely offered menu in either German or... Polish, never in English in local "eating/drinking places".
Older folks could speak usually a little Russian as Russian language was obligatory in Czechoslovak schools till, I think 1990 or so.
This area of Czech belonged to Poland in the past and there were still quite a lot of people which used to speak Polish language (or mixed Polish-Czech :-) at home. Now, there are even Polish schools with Polish as basic language around (in nearby Jablunkov for example).
Why it was NOT tourist trap for me?
Czech language is similar to Polish and Slovak. The three languages form Western Slavic language group. And Czech is similar - although less - to other Slavic languages as well. But it didn't mean I could communicate fluently with my Slovak friends. Don't ask me how many times I ordered "wrong" food in Czech restaurants, haha!
Unique Suggestions: My suggestions:
1. Try to ask younger folks, even kids - they should learn English or German at school, although it often didn't work in Mosty u Jablunkova. Just in case... don't except good knowledge of any non-Czech language.
2. Always carry a piece of paper and a pencil by you to draw/write what you mean. For more up-to-date visitors maybe palmtop instead :-)
3. Always keep smiling and have your... hands and face ready :-))) Drink Czech beer to improve your "face-hand-language"!
Fun Alternatives: No way:
- learn at least basic words in Slovak - Foreign Languages for Travelers - click on Cesky, Czech below Czech flag. Check correct pronauncation at this page (turn your speakers on!) or/and ask the first Czech you meet.
- buy English-Czech dictionary easy available in most/all Czech bookstores.
It seems that police in Czech Republic is much better in contacts with foreign visitors that it was in Czechoslovakia in 70' and 80' but...
Just one event in 1994 or so:
We were living in a mountain cottage called "Chata Studenicne" in 1994 or so. To get there one had to pass by the Czech border check-up (towards seperate Slovak check-up) that meant to stop there and tell officer that he/she was going to go to "chata" and turn left-back just after passing the check-up. My friend stopped at the check-up and waited maybe 2 min. but there was... nobody there so he turned left-back and drove up to our mountain cottage. A few minutes later, border police jeep (on signal) arrived there and my friend was ticketed 1000 Kc fine (max. fine that time as I remember) for not stopping at the border check-up. No corruption proposals that time. My friend explained that he stopped, didn't cross the border etc. but the quite sympathetic policeman replied that... my friend would be arrested for years a few years before for illegal crossing border (hmm... maybe true!).
Unique Suggestions: After 1990:
As I know, foreigner must pay a ticket... by cash at place or police may take his/her car to guarded police parking lot till he/she pay the fine + the parking fee. Hmm... better pay at once. Don't you have enough Czech currency? I was told that Czech police was allowed to receive euro but I am not sure about it.
Fun Alternatives: Always obey traffic rules !!! Just in case... be sympathetic, keep smiling and... take it easy :-)
I had very, very bad impressions from my contacts with Czech police or better to say Czechoslovak milice (VB) as it was in late 70' and in 80'. I heard the same impressions from my friends and parents many times that time. That's why I didn't like drive through Czechoslovakia. Hopefully it changed for better in Czech Republic, I am almost sure about it :-))).
Just one very unpleasant event in 1981:
My father was driving approx. 50 km/h on a highway where only 40 km/h was allowed in 1981 (trip to Turkey). There were road warning signs "road in construction" there but... the road was OK and straight, it seemed someone forgot to remove the speed limit and warning signs. Never mind, there was VB car hidden behind a tree and unexpectadly 2 policemen came on the road and stopped us. One of them was very, very rude, he asked tenths of questions (like: what do you do for living, where have you been abroad, how many US dollars do you have etc.), he even wanted to take my father somewhere (to jail, I thought) and he was crying about messy Poland and crazy, trouble-making Polish people all the time. Hmm... it was time of Solidarity movement in Poland - anti-communist movement in opinion of Czechoslovak, communist mass media. The milicemen checked all our (numerous that time) papers a few times and our luggage as well. Finally one of them proposed to pay 50% of our fine and drive away immediately - no bills, no tickets. Usual corruption that time? Hmm... they were really in power that time.
Unique Suggestions: Before 1990:
The only "correct" behavior in contacts with Czechoslovak milice (never mind you was right!) was... silence and following all their orders (including corruption proposals). No discussions! Or... a lot of big problems for you and NO efficiency in changing things (Soviet style communist system).
Fun Alternatives: Always obey traffic rules !!!