Czech Republic

Cultural Information

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view.

Cultural Information - Conversations

Question:

I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?

Local Perspective:

At first contact Czechs may often seem cautious and impersonal and/or indifferent, but with a tactful approach they might become effectively engaged. You have to consider the language barrier if you don’t speak reasonably fluent Czech. However, even a few words of Czech will make a good impression. Not too many Czechs are able to communicate in English or French at a comfortable level.

Czechs almost never go straight to the point and meetings start with some small talk. They like very much negotiating and the first meeting is usually just for discussion on a general level. After the first meeting, they decide whether to continue or not. You should be well prepared and remember to allow enough time.

As in most parts of the world, topics such as weather or "where are you from" are safe to begin your conversation with. Explanations regarding the purpose of your visit might also work as an ice-breaker. No special taboos exists, except that vulgarities/obscenities should be avoided as in any other country. Otherwise, anything positive that the person can relate to can break the ice; for instance, it is advisable to know at least a couple of names of Czech players in the NHL.

As Czech culture is characterized by the relatively strong sense of masculinity, other suitable general topics for a conversation are sports, beer, and politics with man, or shopping or prices with women. Czechs are usually critical of politicians but foreigners are not supposed to volunteer their opinion on Czech politics. If you want to speak about politics, remember to be neutral. For instance, don’t get dragged into criticizing the former communists (or the communist regime) unless you are sure that this is not controversial topic with you’re the person you are talking to; remember that he or she might be one of the former or current communists. (Even now, one in five Czechs votes for the not-too-reformed Communist Party.)

Humour is part of traditional Czech culture, sometimes this is a "wetter" kind of humour than British or Canadian "dry" humour. This does not necessarily mean a "black" humour; at the same time, it is often a humour without any political correctness, sometimes containing "racial slurs." It is also extremely important to realize that Czech have two modes of speaking to one another: a) "vykání" or "polite form"—using the 2nd person plural when talking to an adult; and b) "tykání" or "familiar form"—using the 2nd person singular when talking to a good friend, family member, or a child. When talking in Czech to an adult in the Czech Republic you must always use the polite form (vykání) unless the person asked you to use the familiar mode.

Czechs have, perhaps, a stronger sense of etiquette than Canadians. Coughing or yawning without covering your mouth, spitting in public, littering, chewing a gum when talking to another person, or not offering a seat to an older person or woman on public transit, etc. are considered impolite if not socially unacceptable. Don’t forget to behave with a special courtesy to women.

Canadian Perspective:

When encountering a Czech person for the first time from the country they will instantly make you feel welcome. If you tell them that you are from North America the locals initiate a conversation with you. They want to have the knowledge of our culture and determine the differences between us and their own culture. Conversations topics are usually on how the country is filled with cultural richness, arts, music and food. You’re always surrounded by humour (lots of dirty jokes). Laughter comes from their history of overcoming hardship and winning victories. The one topic of conversation to be avoided is politics which always leads to debates about communism and the fall of communism. This topic always seem to leave people very bitter.

Cultural Information - Communication Styles

Question:

What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?

Local Perspective:

Regional /local background, level of education, and individual temperament are key factors in determining peoples’ level of comfort with touching and gestures.

Although Czechs generally have quite a developed sense of space in personal dealings with one another, the actual distance depends very much on the context of the situation and the individual inclinations of persons involved. Distance is usually greater when speaking or dealing with not-yet-familiar people. The best guidance here is to observe. After an initial obligatory handshake, gauge each person’s degree of comfort with touching and their preference for personal space, and then adjust as needed while maintaining your own level of comfort.

Regular eye contact is required if you want to be judged as trustworthy. Czechs will not necessarily maintain continuous eye contact (especially when they take their time to "think through" their response), but it is considered a sign of ill or "suspicious" intentions if a person refuses to make or is avoiding eye contact.

It is customary to shake hands with both men and women when greeting them. There are set rules for initiating a handshake. For example, it is expected that one should wait until an older person or a woman offers a handshake. In a familiar setting it may be customary that men and women will give each other a hug and /or kiss on each cheek; however, foreigners are advised not to initiate such actions. While talking, men generally do not touch other men unless they have reached a fairly high level of familiarity and comfort with that person. If one of the two persons is of significantly higher age or prestige, he/she might initiate occasional touching to show his/her assurances or for emphasis. This practice applies to a lesser degree for contact between men and women and it is usually considered a test of "good manners" that a man does not initiate any touching. The rules for a woman touching another woman are similar to those for men.

Czechs make relatively little use of gestures, though perhaps they use them slightly more than Canadians. It is interesting to note that they find a lot of gesturing annoying and ill-mannered. There are some gestures that are considered rude: waving a lifted fist, waiving a pointed index finger, pointing at someone, and especially pointing one’s finger to one’s forehead. A common, if not overly polite way of showing disapproval is by moving one’s head from the right to the left while frowning.

Canadian Perspective:

In the Czech culture, hand gestures are a part of who they are. A non-local may sit and watch a conversation and actually know what is going on through movement and facial expressions. When my husband visited the country for the first time, he had no knowledge of the language at all and he managed to haggle the price of a pair of shoes to half its price simply through the use of hand gestures.

Though they are very accepting of visitors it is important to be more soft spoken to the older generation. Form of verbs and pronouns are the same in Czech as in French, to be formal you use third person (similar to vous) and not as formal you use (the equivalent of tu). Czech people are very loud and expressive and yet very formal and well spoken. They will get very insulted if a person is not well mannered. A simple handshake at every gathering is well received.

Cultural Information - Display of Emotion

Question:

Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?

Local Perspective:

Public displays of affection or anger might be more frequently observable in the Czech Republic than is the case with English Canadians but it differs significantly from one individual to another. It is not a matter whether such displays are "acceptable" but rather that they are tolerated to a larger degree than is the norm in Canada.

Canadian Perspective:

I find it ironic that such an expressive culture can be so evasive towards public affection. Pornographic magazines are on full view on every newsstand, television is very explicit with a lot of nudity and the younger generation is very uninhibited in its fashion statements. Public affection is almost taboo, but getting angry in public or loud is just a way of being demonstrative.

Cultural Information - Dress, Punctuality & Formality

Question:

What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?

Local Perspective:

Work styles and dress code differ between workplaces but it is important to be punctual, orderly, and clean. The norm of working relationship at workplaces is slightly more formal than in Canada. Generally, Czechs are becoming increasingly informal. Women tend to dress nicely and wear sophisticated makeup in the "white-collar" workplace. The bigger the organization and the higher placed officials you visit, the more formal dress is expected, especially if you are to meet people for the first time in their official capacity.

Supervisors, colleagues, or anybody whom you meet for the first time must not be addressed by the first name, unless there is a mutual agreement to do so - which can sometimes come at an informal party but, more often than not, never. Using a person’s professional or academic title - "Pane Profesore", "Pane Doktore", etc. - or "Pane", "Paní" (Mr. or Mrs.) with the last name are the only appropriate ways of addressing an adult until otherwise agreed.

In most Czech workplaces deadlines usually come with the expectation that they will be met; although there is often some degree of flexibility. When meeting the deadline is uncertain, people will often negotiate in good faith and/or try to explain or apologize. It is rather uncommon to work considerable overtime in order to meet a deadline, though the nature of the workplace, significance of the task ahead, or institutional custom may sometimes require it. The approach to time in terms of productivity awareness, absenteeism, etc. differs significantly between workplaces. In some of them, attitudes inherited from the former communist regime might prevail; in such workplaces disregard for the time factor is rather high and morale rather low. Also, on average, Czechs call in more paid "sick days" than in most other countries in Europe, if only to take advantage of very generous social provisions in this respect.

Canadian Perspective:

In the workplace, people are addressed formally, e.g. Good Morning, Mrs. Krivankova. This means you use the third person rather than the non-formal second person. Formality is a must with the older generation. The dress is more formal amongst the generation that grew up under communism. A gentleman would usually wear a dark [navy blue or black] suit. Women usually wear a skirt, a blouse and a blazer. They will wear brighter clothing than the men. Women, even though they dress conservatively, will look as if they are going out for the evening. If working with a younger company [younger generation] casual slacks or semi-formal skirt is quite sufficient.

People tend to associate North America with capitalism. They view capitalism as the key to wealth. Their view is that the more they produce and meet deadlines, the better chance they have to live like North Americans.

Cultural Information - Preferred Managerial Qualities

Question:

What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?

Local Perspective:

A superior is usually respected for his or her level of experience in that profession but his skills in dealing with people and "natural authority" are also very important. It is crucial that a superior be viewed by his or her employees as fair, approachable, decisive, and hard-working. (A distant superior, uninterested in his /her staff and their opinion and needs could probably not expect a high degree of effort and cooperation.) In most cases he or she is expected to have a personal, individual "rapport" with his or her subordinates. Mastering the art of listening to others and being open to ideas brought up in broader discussion are also valuable qualities.

Expatriates who don’t face a language barrier in communication and who are not seen as too self-important or "arrogant" might in fact be in a better position than local management, since the very fact of having Western experience still counts; expats also might have an advantage of being free of often complicated local relationships (professional jealousy, etc.)

In most cases, a superior who is not respected and /or trusted would not be told so directly, but it is quite likely that he or she will encounter a higher level of inflexibility or low morale among his staff. That person may also experience open resistance relatively early on, since Czechs have always been "a little bit rebellious".

Canadian Perspective:

People in Prague take pride in having a job; non-local supervisors are not cast out as long as they speak the local language. A non-local who has the ability to speak Czech will receive the same respect and privileges as the local would. They are very open minded towards the cultural background of other people, e.g. non local supervisors. The Czech people as a whole are hardworking, primarily because of the fear of job loss and oppression suffered during communism and secondly because of their enterprising nature and spirit. Because they are fearful of reverting back to poverty and have a zeal to push forward into the new century they are more eager to learn about a different culture and style of doing business.

Education is not given as much importance as it is in Canada. The reason for this is probably that necessity forces Czechs to put their skills to work quickly. The trend is to pick up either a trade or a skill that would allow the individual to become an expedient contributor to society and their family. Nevertheless, the Czech education system is excellent.

Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making

Question:

In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?

Local Perspective:

Most workplaces have a very hierarchical chain of command, sometimes more formalized than in Canada (Czechs emulate to a certain degree the so-called "German model") but, increasingly, more upstart companies, especially small companies have more relaxed structures.

To a certain extent, the legacy of the communist period can also be seen in organizational business culture. There are two types of leaders with very different competing visions. One is an old fashioned director, who gives orders without questioning the boss. New leaders are mostly managers who share the power they wield and support independent work. The problem is often that many ordinary (especially older) employees are still used to someone who gives orders and might look for a boss who is both a respected person and one whose decisions it is better not to challenge.

In general, there is no major obstacle for anybody within the staff to come up with a good and feasible idea that would benefit the company; such an idea will mostly be taken into account, discussed, and tested if it proves promising.

Canadian Perspective:

Teamwork has a great influence on the workplace. Decisions are obviously the final say of the supervisor. The Czech people take pride in feedback and their attitude can be summed into the following saying "strength in unity".

Cultural Information - Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender

Question:

Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?

Local Perspective:

Gender: Women are considered the "weaker gender" and are treated with particular respect. They command certain privileges in most workplaces and other situations. (This does not mean pay equality. Women are generally paid less than men, but even on this account they might be slightly better off than their Canadian counterparts.) One is expected, both at workplace and outside it, to open the door for a woman and let her enter first, help her with her coat, stand up when she is standing, etc. In a less formal situation, one is expected to pay a compliment to a female colleague and/or bring flowers to a woman host.

Religion: The Czechs are one of the most religiously uninvolved people on the planet, the fact supported by all available statistics. Despite the fact that almost half of the population admit that they belong to some faith (namely the Catholic Church), most do not attend church services or follow any religious practices. At the same time, more than 40 % of Czechs declare that they are "non-religious" or "atheist". With only a very few exceptions, this issue has no significance at all in the workplace.

Class: No class distinctions are being made. However, this does not mean that in certain situations money and status cannot "talk".

Ethnicity: The Czech Republic is among the most "ethnically homogeneous" countries in Europe (some 95% of the population are ethnic Czechs or "Moravians"). Czechs themselves are usually able to recognize other people as "Czechs" or "non-Czechs", by their appearance and /or language. Ethnic identification plays a certain role in the workplace, especially where non-western "foreign workers" (mostly Ukrainians) or Roma (gypsies) are employed. In the latter two cases, the tendency to treat such workers in a way that could be viewed by a Canadian as "xenophobic", "racist" or "discriminatory" might be evident, though often such tendencies are more latent than outright. Visible minorities may often be seen as "exotic" and sometimes the target of derogatory or "racist" remarks and behaviour, but very rarely with violence.

Canadian Perspective:

Gender: Gender is a difficult issue in the work place. Unfortunately, even though both sexes need the income, men look at women as being a step below them. Women are expected or even considered to play the role of a mother figure or a wife. My experience as a woman from Canada has been that they are in awe of women from North American whom they treat with more respect that then Czech women.

Religion: Religion has no impact on the work place. They have overcome so much history with the Jewish and Catholic cultures that there is a sense of unspoken respect for religious diversity.

Class: Although the wealth of the rich or the poverty of the poor don’t equally translate well to the Canadian society [e.g. Rich in Czech Republic does not mean that the person is equally rich in Canada]. An individual who is, say, a Baroness by birth or of royal descent working as a shopkeeper would still consider herself better than say a farmer who is now a multimillionaire and an executive of a large company. Her hereditary role in the Czech culture places her, in her mind, a step above those of lesser status, even though they might be better off financially.

Ethnicity: The Czech culture is very homogeneous from a bird’s eye view. On the narrower scale however, one will surely find a few different ethnicities formulating the Czech whole. These "minorities" are so small in number that the Czechs have embraced them into their society and they do not face any sort of discrimination. Additionally, because of the country’s geographical location and history, the Czechs have encountered many different national backgrounds over time, which has opened their minds to diversity. They view the new culture as a means to bettering themselves and increasing their knowledge.

Caution should be taken if one is gay or lesbian because the culture is not too open-minded to alternative sexual preferences or lifestyles.

Cultural Information - Relationship-building

Question:

How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?

Local Perspective:

It is quite important to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business—or at least to establish a friendly and non-adversarial atmosphere for the meeting, since Czechs often make decisions based on personal impression. As there are no fixed rules in Czech culture regarding this, the best approach is to observe your colleague or client carefully and adjust accordingly. Generally, if you can do it Canada, you will very likely be able to do it in the Czech Republic. Try to take your college for a beer and follow the advice given under question 1.

Canadian Perspective:

The Czechs are a very close-knit community. Because the disparity of wages between North American jobs and jobs in the Czech Republic is very well known in Czech society, just the fact that you are working in the Czech Republic is taken to mean that you are there for a cause other than monetary gains. This belief makes the Czechs very warm and open towards you as a foreigner in their country. They view you as someone who is selfless and helping them in bettering their future.

Personal relationships are the backbone of a good working relationship. This is unlike the Canadian work environment where if one has a good working relationship with someone, it is usually kept as a work relationship and not a social one. The Czechs would rather get to know you first as friend and if that friendship is accepted then they will gladly welcome you as a colleague.

Being friendly and jovial is a good start to forming a friendship with a Czech. Suggested activities would be: taking a colleague out to lunch, drinks or coffee/tea.

Cultural Information - Privileges and Favouritism

Question:

Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship

Local Perspective:

Yes, he or she would expect so, as almost anywhere in the world, including Canada. However, since he or she might be a reasonable person, such a colleague would not expect any privileges that go beyond what is generally considered reasonable given that blatantly preferential treatment might spoil the relationship, the perception of fairness, and morale among other staff. This is to say that such preferred treatment should not violate rules and practices accepted in the company or, of course, the law. It is easier said than done, but one should always take care in selecting close friends among one’s colleagues.

Canadian Perspective:

As mentioned in the answer to the question above, the Czechs base their working relationships on the friendships that they have established outside or work. That being the case, it is expected that nepotism and favoritism would play a big role in the dynamics of the work environment. Most hiring decisions are made solely on the relationship that the person has either with you or your boss, secondly by their friendship, and thirdly by their qualifications. The bigger multinational companies that operate in the Czech Republic have more North American standards of hiring and promotions etc; however, the relationship aspect is predominant in smaller companies.

Being a North American, it would be okay to speak to your boss or superior who might be suggesting a friend for a promotion and who clearly lacks the qualifications. If your superior is adamant and determined to hire such a person then the best thing to do would be to accept their decision only because going against it would alienate your boss and might jeopardize your own project, your job and your social aspects.

Cultural Information - Conflicts in the Workplace

Question:

I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?

Local Perspective:

In such a case, it is advisable to make an attempt to discuss and amend the problem, directly and frankly, with the colleague in question and in private first. If the incident was the result of a mistake or misunderstanding, most Czechs would be open to such a conversation in order to sort out the problem. It is recommended to never object to a person’s behaviour in public. If your colleague has problems with you rather than objecting to your particular behaviour, you would learn this soon anyway, since it is very likely that more of your colleges would be of the same opinion. In the latter case, follow the advice above and try to meet the colleague in private and clearly explain your behaviour to him or her. It is also advisable to meet with a "senior" and /or commonly trusted member of the staff /team to discuss problems of this nature with him or her.

Canadian Perspective:

The Czech people are very open and expressive in their opinions. They are always confronting one another or are being confronted themselves for something that they might have said or done. It is in their blood and a part of their culture to be boisterous and polemic. It would not be considered offensive if one was having a problem with a colleague to confront them directly in either public or private context. If your colleague is having a problem with you or is offended by something you’ve done, you can be sure that they will let you know and voice their opinion.

Cultural Information - Motivating Local Colleagues

Question:

What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?

Local Perspective:

As in Canada, this could differ very much among workplaces and individuals concerned. Job satisfaction would generally be the strongest "motivator"; however, some other factors, as financial and status promotion, would also contribute to the level of motivation and performance.

Canadian Perspective:

Czech people are hardworking by nature and they are eager to better themselves and their country. Many are motivated by wealth and riches, and capitalism is a big motivator for the Czechs as well. Riches and wealth being the goals, they are not ashamed of what they do to achieve them e.g. a janitor is proud to be a janitor and would openly tell everyone about what he does and how it is helping him achieve his dream and supporting his family.

Cultural Information - Recommended Books, Films & Foods

Question:

To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.

Local Perspective:

Books to read: For an excellent introduction to the Czech culture and customs as perceived by a foreigner, see Czech Republic (Culture Shock! Guides) by Tim Nollen (1997). For an insight into the Czech history and culture, see The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History by Derek Sayer (1998). Reading any book by novelists Karel apek, Bohumil Hrabal, and Jaroslav Hašek would be time well spent with the revered icons of the Czech literature. (The Good Soldier Švejk by Hašek is a must; Cecile Parrott’s English translation is a good one).

Films to see: "Kolya" (an Oscar-winning film, available in Canadian video rental stores); "Divided We Fall"," Dark Blue World" (the latter two also available in Canada), or a classic fairytale "The Princess with a Golden Star on her Forehead" (Princezna se zlatou hv zdou na ele, 1959) Unfortunately, most of excellent films of Czech production are in Czech only.

Websites to visit: An excellent and comprehensive site on the Czech Republic is at: http://www.czech.cz/. For a brief but good survey of the Czech history, see: http://www.travel.cz/travel/history3.php3#today.

Canadian Perspective:

Cultural Information - In-country Activities

Question:

When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?

Local Perspective:

Places to visit: Depending on your time available and other possibilities, try to see:
1. Prague
2. esk Krumlov (a city in Southern Bohemia),
3. Karlštejn (a castle close to Prague)
4. esk r j (a region in North-East Bohemia)
5. Tel (a town in Moravia).

Food to eat: Unless you have a really compelling reason, it is considered impolite to refuse a meal you are offered. Most food /dishes are safe and of good quality. Also the level of cholesterol in some traditional Czech dishes is not as high as sometimes alleged. (But the latter could be a good excuse if you really don’t like something, especially because the Czechs themselves have become more calories-aware.) The Czech traditional cuisine is rich in meat, usually served with dumplings or potatoes. Among the most common meals are various kinds of goulash, beef with special cream sauce (sv kov ) or other sauces with various flavors (dill, tomato, etc.), and especially "vep o-knedlo-zelo" (pork, bread dumplings, and sauerkraut). The real Czech specialty, dumplings filled with fruit, are not often included on the menus of most restaurants. In the centers of big cities, even the lower grade restaurants serve select meals from international cuisine including fish and poultry meals. Venison is popular, too. Groceries are mostly cheaper than in Canada and the selection is of the European standard. Also, a decent meal in a decent restaurant or pub can be twice as cheap as a similar meal in Canada, if you avoid restaurants in Prague’s historical core. A tip for grocery-shopping: buy cheaper Czech products, they are often also better in quality (taste, etc.) than corresponding West European products, no hazards are involved.

For cultural tips, see English weekly "The Prague Post" (available at almost all newsstands in Prague) or visit one of the above websites. For musical events in Prague, check this site: http://www.czechsite.com/music.html. In Prague you can find information on culture events at Tourist Information centres (one of them is at the Old Town Square). Check also the Culture sections in Czech dailies, esp. "MfDnes"; this daily also carries regional editions where you may find listings of all cultural event in the region you are in.

Canadian Perspective:

Places to Visit: Ancient Castles e.g. Prague Castle, President Haval has an office there. The Golden Lane, a street lined with shops. Churches—The church of Saint Nicolas is the oldest and most beautiful church to see. The church hosts classical music concerts. Old Town—the original Prague located in Prague city, is filled will cobble stone streets, cafes, street musicians, bars, theater and so on. Old Jewish Quarter—Kozi Street - a WWII heritage site and the Old Jewish Cemetery. The Small Quarter has beautiful gardens. Charles Bridge—a personal favorite of mine, is lined with statues and cobblestones. Make sure you touch the statue of "Neponuk" and make a wish: it is said that your wish will come true.

Bring your walking shoes when you go to the Czech Republic.

Food: I am a vegetarian and found that a vegetarian diet was very difficult to maintain. Most of the food there is very fatty and full of pork and duck and other meats. For quick snacks there is Frankfurter vendors. Dumplings, sauerkrauts and deserts are what the Czechs are known for.

Newspaper: Prague Post—An English Daily.

TV Shows: Travel Travel gives a great view on Prague... keep an eye out for Czech-related programs.

A good starting point would be enjoying a classical music performance in the Old Town Square. Other activities are walking and exploring the city and heritage sites. Taking the time to see or hear street performers. Sampling local food and deserts. Basically, the Czech Republic is bustling with activities and one does not need to go anywhere in particular to get the Czech experience. Spontaneity would serve you well in Prague.

Cultural Information - National Heroes

Question:

Who are this country's national heroes?

Local Perspective:

The most famous traditional Czech heroes with a long-time historical standing are: Praotec ech, P emysl, Svat V clav (these three figures are from legendary beginnings of the Czech history); Král Karel IV (King Charles IV, the famous Czech king in the 14th century, also called the "father of the fatherland" for his contributions to the development of the Kingdom of Bohemia); Jan Hus (Czech patriot, scholar, and religious reformer, burnt at stake in 1415 for alleged heresy); Jan Amos Komenský (or "Comenius", Czech patriot, scholar and man of letters, also known as the "Teacher of Nations"); TomᚠG. Masaryk (1st President of the independent Czechoslovakia, 1918-1935); Karel Havl ek-Borovsk (patriot and journalist, criticizing the Austrian-Hungarian regime); Emil Z topek (four times Olympic gold-medal winner in track-and-field); Jan Palach (a student who immolated himself in 1969 protesting the Soviet-army occupation); and Václav Havel (dissident playwright, 1st President of the Czech Republic). Some famous artists or athletes may have a status which would be closer to that of a star than hero, e.g. "the golden boys from Nagano" (refers to the Czech golden Olympic hockey team), Karel Gott (for decades the post popular Czech pop singer), etc. Most, if not all, are perceived to have contributed in some way to the national cause, especially in the face of foreign confrontation and other national tribulations.

Canadian Perspective:

Havel Vaclav: President 1989—1992 of Czechoslovakia and then of Czech Republic in 1993. He was imprisoned twice for alleged obstruction and sedation and was known for defending human rights and for his role during the fall of communism.

Jan Plach: Poured petrol on himself and set himself ablaze in Wenceslas square in protest against the soviet occupation. He is known as a philosopher who did not believe in communism and stood up for his beliefs. This happened in the 60’s.

Cultural Information - Shared Historical Events with Canada

Question:

Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?

Local Perspective:

Yes, Hockey, hockey, and again, hockey (i.e. "ice hockey"), especially Czech hockey players in Canadian NHL teams. Otherwise Josef Škvorecký (a Czech born Canadian writer), Oto Jelinek (a Czech born former Minister in the Canadian government), and Tomas Bata, a legendary Czech born entrepreneur in the shoe industry.

Canadian Perspective:

There have been no major events that have materialized between Canada and Czech Republic that affect the relationship between the two countries.

Cultural Information - Stereotypes

Question:

What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?

Local Perspective:

Canadians are perceived as one of the most popular nationalities in the Czech Republic (following Scandinavians). This leaves the individual Canadian with an opportunity that is best not to squander.

Canadian Perspective:

In the recent past between, 1998-2001, the Canadian government deported a few Gypsy refugees from Canada but aside from that, there are no stereotypes that I have encountered in Canadian society about the Czechs.

Cultural Information - About the Cultural Interpreters

Local Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Semily, Czechoslovakia, the oldest of three children. He was raised in this town in Northern Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic) until the age of 19 when he moved to Prague (central Bohemia) to continue his studies. He graduated with Ph.D. in Philosophy and Literature from Charles University in 1979. In 1988, your cultural interpreter immigrated to Canada for political reasons from what was then communist Czechoslovakia. He is currently living in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, where he works as a researcher and teacher of the Czech language. He also translates between Czech and English and travels frequently to the Czech Republic both for personal and professional purposes, regularly publishing articles in Czech newspapers and academic journals on issues in culture and politics. He has two children.

Canadian Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Montreal the youngest of two children. She was raised in this city and studied graphic arts/fashion design in Montreal and Toronto at the College Lasalle Academy of Design. Your cultural interpreter has traveled in North America and visited countries such as Pakistan, Cuba and Mexico. She lived in the Czech Republic for two years. She is currently living in Toronto.

Disclaimer

Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.