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Czech Culture (Česká kultura) | More on Czechs (Více o Češích) | What is Czech (Co je české)

Slavíková, J.: WHAT IS CZECH? A research paper, Joint Masters of Arts - Migration and Intercultural Relations (JMMIR), Jihočeská univerzita v Českých Budějovicích, 2010.

1.        What Surprised Them

What surprised you most when you arrived and started living in the Czech Republic or when you first met Czech people?

"For me, what surpries me is when seeing the Czechs blow their noses in public very loudly when having a cold (for example). It seems like they are blowing the air from inside their mouth to fill up the balloon!! Then, when trying to ask the way/bus number ect, they (the Czech) immediately refuse with ' Ja to nevim' even I sometimes just opened my mouth to ask but did not start what to ask.” (Thailand)

"I was surprised by how soft-spoken Czechs are. At first, I thought that it was directed at me as a foreigner, but I quickly realized that they are soft-spoken and somewhat reserved in general! It's hard for me to make a thorough assessment of Czechs, even though I've lived here for a year, because almost all of my interactions with them are in shops or restaurants, which is a bit limited. It feels difficult to make friends with locals here, not because people feel unfriendly, but more because of language and cultural barriers. As an American and a Filipino, I'm quite used to more verbal, highly social cultures, and being able to just chat someone up informally. This doesn't really happen easily here. It takes much more time to get to know people here. I have very few Czechs that I know in a more truly social capacity, but the ones I know a little bit are all quite nice.” (USA)

"Official clerks - they are much more friendly than Russian ones. The period of time you should take in advance to complete any target - get any paper, receive an order - whatever. You should plan at least 30% time for redundancy, may be even more.” (Russia)

"The attitude to money - I did not expect so much of an awareness of how every crown is spent. smile For example, it amazed me (it still does) that people would save 2 crowns on a beer and drink it in a horrible dive rather than pay only the extra 2 crowns and sit in a nice comfy pub. For me, the whole experience is the important thing, not just the physical cost of the item.” (Australia)

"They seemed very reserved, not willing to be open or share their thoughts so much. I was surprised at how polite they were ! Greeting everyone who entered a store or got into the lift.That was strange to me. And taking off your shoes when you entered someone's home - I was shocked and kept asking why ? why ?” (South Africa)

"Openness, communicativeness.” (Ukraine)

"Dogs and their owners. I mean - happy dogs. Two or three per one owner. The relation to animals. Veterinary clinics on each street.” (Russia)

"People are much more serious that in my country. The silence and good manners in the public transport.” (Bolivia)

2.        What They Miss

What do you miss when living here, or what do you find better than elsewhere? Is there anything that bothers you? What's the best and worst thing?

"What bothers me is when thinking about going to the post office as I have had many experiences about their service.Up to now, as remembered, I have lost my contacts to get parcels from abroad 5 times!! with no reasons from Czech post office. Then going to the city office with all of legal documents written in Czech. Better things: not too crowded population; convinient transportation and cheap as you can travel as much as you like within the time specified in the ticket not the distance you make.” (Thailand)

"This is related to the above response. While for the most part, I truly love how soft-spoken and mellow Czechs are, the flip side of this can make things a bit hard, at times. I think the hardest thing about living here are those same language and cultural barriers, based on my cultural background in Asia and the USA. It feels difficult to make friends with anyone other than other foreigners, and Czech can sometimes seem mistrustful of foreigners' behavior. And since my Czech is still quite limited, and Czechs seem uncomfortable speaking English, it makes it even harder to make new friends. It has been very lonely at many times, being a foreigner here.  Learning Czech is definitely making things easier, but it will be a very long time before I can even have a proper adult conversation with someone, which is frustrating. The Czech Republic is an absolutely lovely country, and Prague is completely stunningly beautiful. I love being able to go to classical music venues like Narodni Divadlo or the Rudolfinum for incredible performances. I work part-time in Mala Strana, which is such an unbelievably lovely place to work. And I love the many cafes of Prague, like Slavia and Lucerna. Petrin and Vyšehrad are two of my favorite parks. And I feel lucky to get to live near the Vltava, and see the river from my window every day.” (USA)

"Alien police is a real nightmare. I asked people in other EU countries - looks like CZ is a champion here. A lot of "best" things - less daily aggression, safety, normal policemen, friendly people around, who do not bumping into you though - I'm comparing with Russia, for sure.. Can't say anything about "worse" - except for Alien Police :)” (Russia)

"I love the friends I have here. I like their need to have both work and rest. So time off with family/friends is essential. The comment below would sum up the hardest thing. Unless you are already friends with someone, Czechs do not seem to go out of the way to make new acquaintainces. In Australia and most other places I have visited, general courtesy incorporates newcomers - don't need to be their new best friend, but they are included 50 % of the effort coming from both sides. Here there seems to be alot more of the effort expected from the foreigner. So more investment from me, less from the new Czech I am meeting.” (Australia)

"I miss my family of course and my friends.Especially when I have to explain myself and I feel it's because of the different mentality that people don't understand me or my thoughts or actions.At home, I would be understood. I like the feeling of safety, the almost non-existence of serious crime, the fact that I can walk almost anywhere, at any time of night and not feel threatened. I think that is almost unheard of in other countries in the world. I also like how easy it is to get around.That you don't have to have a car. One of the worst things would definitely be that there are still foodstuff that I can't get here.I miss that. It's getting better though, as more foreigners come into the country and open food stores that stock the spices and food we know and love.” (South Africa)

"Good laws, functioning more or less, I’m not afraid to go out, and it’s good. It’s bad that Czechia is not very open to foreigners.” (Ukraine)

"I miss nothing. I like the city - very clean and old. I like the trees - very big an old. The one thing I miss - strong coffee and "Exellent" tobacco. And yes - seafood. There is not enough fish In Czechia.” (Russia)

"I miss the food and the nightlife of my country. The good things are: The city is absolutely safe and clean. I like the order of the city and also the timeliness of the people. In my country everthing is tomorrow.” (Bolivia)

3.        What is Difficult for Them

What do you still find difficult to get used to or understand? Why?

"The middle-age people's opinions/ ways of thinking. I dont know that much of what made them unfriendly to foreigners because from my experience these people look and treat foreigners unfriendly. I dont mean that all of this generation but lots of them as I haver observed.” (Thailand)

"Can't say anything here. I did not feel anything like this, but I'm mostly abroad. Alas.” (Russia)

"The lack of general, unasked for friendliness. Generally, of course there are exceptions, people do not extend a welcoming smile or give out small acts of kindness with graciousnes. It does not cost anything to the giver but it makes the world go round better and makes all people happier. - a smile, noticing someone and moving out of the way instead of making all others do it. Holding the door open AND acknowledging the person you have done that for. Nothing big, just giving people a little something nice in their day.” (Australia)

"The racism and the unwillingness to admit it. Whenever someone says "I'm not racist, I just don't like gypsies." They can't see how racist that statement is. I also find it difficult that most Czechs can't see how lucky they really are, what great lives they actually have, how rich they are. They just complain and complain. How fortunate to be able to go on holiday at least once a year, to a different country. Wow ! That's not an easy thing to do. Neither is the opportunity to eat regularly in restaurants. And yet they still can't or won't smile. For no reason, just a friendly smile to a complete stranger. When I smile at someone they think I want something from them, they immediately become suspicious. That's sad.” (South Africa)

"I can’t understand why the Czech Republic prefers Gipsies than for example Vietnamese or Ukrainians?” (Ukraine)

"I believe, nothing. Maybe, it must take  time :)” (Russia)

"The hardest thing, (although I got used) was the timing of meals.” (Bolivia)

"To me Czechs are keeping too much distance. They are not that much willing to make friendships. They strictly separate work and private life. In Hungary we have a saying "the stronger dog gets to have sex" and this is true for most life situations. If you want to get on the bus and have a seat, you will have to push your self through. Noone bothers to stand in a line which would represent the order in which people arrived to the station. So basically order I miss in Hungary. Nightlife and friendships I miss in Czechia.” (Hungary)

4.        Close Relationships with Czechs

Do you have close relationships with any Czechs? Have you had any experience in this close relationship when you felt the difference between you and them?

"My husband is a Czech. I still feel very different between the Oriental and Western when listening and talking with him; how and what he thinks.” (Thailand)

"Not really. Jana is the person I know best, and I'm so glad that I do! I have a number of casual acquaintances, but 1+ year into living here, I still have no authentically close relationships with Czechs.” (USA)

"Unfortunately, we just do not have such relationship.” (Russia)

"Yes, I have a number of Czech friends. Approach to question and answers would be the biggest difference I have noticed. ie, in Australia I might ask: Where would you like to meet? Answer in Australia would be something like: "Cnr of Smith and Jones street at 5:30pm". Same question here get the following responses: "I have to go to work that day". or "The movie starts at 8 pm" - with no follow up giving time and place to meet. I seem to be direct in my approach to problems wanting an immediate solution. My friends are happy to play with ideas longer and wait for someone else to come up with a solution.” (Australia)

"Most of my friends are Czech and I was married to a Czech guy. There were always cultural differences and differences in our way of thinking and behaviour. Most times, it isn't a problem, because I refuse to let it be but sometimes, it causes conflict. Lots of times I had to explain my behaviour and my ideas. And I still feel like I'm different and I've been here for almost 11 years !” (South Africa)

"Yes, no problem, but they’re not 100% open, they always leave a gap.” (Ukraine)

"I believe, it must take  time too. I I think, people in general are very similar. Anyway, european people would always find common language.” (Russia)

"Most of my friends are Czechs. They are very sincere and trustworthy they provide a true friendship.A Czech friend is a friend forever. In my country everbody it is  extremely friendly and you can not recognize who is your really friend.” (Bolivia)

5.        Czech Character

What are Czechs like? What is specific about them?

"Not sure that it will correct or not: I found many Czechs are friendly (their average ages are lesser than 40s).This means this generation has chance to see outside world and once was living / travelling abroad and understand how foreigners feel (from their experience).” (Thailand)

"Again, I can't really say with authority, since I don't know them well. Czechs can seem reserved and a bit unsure of how to deal with all of the foreigners and tourists that have invaded their land, and so I don't know how open they are to any of it. I honestly don't blame them, either! A lot of change has been forced on them because of this that they weren't perhaps ready for or interested in. That said, Czechs seem to enjoy a relaxed life as much as they can (despite the economy), and don't seem to get too worked up about much. Even if they don't speak to me much, they are impeccably polite with their dobry den-s and nashledanou-s. They do seem to have a good sense of humor, from what I can tell.” (USA)

"My frein who's living in Prague for 10 years, compares Czechs with hobbits. I find it pretty accurate smile For instance:

    * Excellent hearing and sharp eyesight

    * No understanding of machinery more complicated than the watermill, forge bellows, and the hand loom

    * A delight in wearing bright colors, particularly yellow and green

    * A love of food and drink (especially ale), eating a mere six times a day on average

    * A love of laughter, jests, games, and celebrations

    * A love of peace and quiet and "good tilled" earth” (Russia)

"They stay around longer - once friends the drop off rate is practically zero. smile Other places, I have had friends for a while, but people drift. My friends here from 7 years ago are still my friends. Socks and sandels. Bags...what is with all the plastic bags carried around?! Love of getting out of the city and spending time in the woods / skiing etc. viewed as part of my friends identity.” (Australia)

"Their insistence on polite behaviour, in terms of addressing people, how formal they can be ! Their etiquette in public. How you take off your coat and hang it up, how you have to dress up to go to the theatre, correct way of sitting, eating, talking,the whole ritual of the maturita exams and the maturita ball. I find Czechs very formal. It's like they are holding themselves in check, unwilling to just let go and have fun, scream, laugh, go crazy. What is also specific is their use of titles before their names. why ? They would even put it on the buzzer of the building and it would be used in addressing each other. The only person we use a title for, is the doctor, the medical doctor.” (South Africa)

"Beer, dumplings, no stress...” (Ukraine)

"They are like hobbits. I'm seriouse. Fond of an unadventurous sweet life of farming, eating (seven meals a day), and socializing, although capable of defending their homes courageously if the need arises. I like it so much :)” (Russia)

"They are serious, friendly, modest, cultured” (Bolivia)

"As described above. They are silent, polite, follow the rules. They keep distance. Men don't like to use deodorants.” (Hungary)

6.        Welcoming Czechs?

Do you think that Czech people welcome / accept foreigners? Why (not)?

"I think it depends on who you are and what you will do in Czech Republic. I see Czech seem not to welcome people from such countries like Ukraine, Romania, Vietnam ect. compare with the more Western ones.” (Thailand)

"I think that Czechs are mixed about this. It seems as if it's been a bit easier for them to accept other Europeans and white Americans, but I think they still don't quite know what to do about the non-white foreigners. It concerns me that the Vietnamese community, which has been here for quite a long time, still seems completely segregated from Czech society. And the Roma seem universally hated (although this is true almost everywhere in Europe). I don't like seeing skinheads here. It makes me very nervous. I have had a couple of uncomfortable moments with them: nothing violent, just some rude things said to me and some dirty looks. Still, it's not something I've ever experienced anywhere else. Perhaps Czechs accept foreigners, but don't welcome them. I wonder whether there is a national conversation about this here, or whether this gets discussed in schools. If no one is talking about it directly, nothing is likely to change. In the US, we have an ongoing national conversation about foreigners and diversity, and we discuss it in schools...but we still have enormous problems with prejudice! If absolutely no conversation is being had about this in the Czech Republic, it can only make it more difficult for change to occur. To be fair, I don't think that we as foreigners are any better educated in how to bridge this cultural gap, nor are we always respectful of Czech culture. We can be quite loud and self-centered, ourselves, which doesn't make us easy to like, at times! We don't always know how to mix with Czechs, either, so it's partially our responsibility, as well.” (USA)

"Never met any problem here. I'm totally feeling welcome or at least not rejected.” (Russia)

"Like most places, some yes, others not. Language does not appear to make a difference. Even when my fluent czech speaking friends are discovered to be foreign

I notice that many oCzechs I know at some point need to retire from foreigners and spend time with only Czechs...to recharge their batteries I think :)” (Australia)

"It differs. I've experienced both the positive and the negative. Some are glad to have us here, they find us interesting and want to know where we come from, why we came here etc. Others are upset that we are "taking " jobs from them or living on their building. I think that most Czechs honestly don't want a foreigner as a neighbour, they think we are weird and too loud. Lots of stereotypes about foreigners. Most landlords don't want to rent flats to us.I've had experiences where the landlord changed his mind when he saw my face or alternatively increased the rent. Lots of adverts for flats in the paper have a postscript that foreigners shouldn't apply. The younger people, especially children are more welcoming than the older ones. I think a lot of it has to do with ignorance. Most Czechs don't know so much about other cultures or religions, so when they meet a dark-skinned foreigner, they can only stare and expect the worst, i.e they will be robbed or attacked because that's what we do.” (South Africa)

"Not very, it depends on from what country. But mainly, they want to profit from everybody )). But it’s fine more or less, it can be understood.” (Ukraine)

"I cannot speak about ALL Czech people and about ALL foreigners. I feel I'm welcome enough :)” (Russia)

"I think that in general they don´t have any problem to acceot foreigners, but it is my opinion because I haven´t had a problems in this aspect.” (Bolivia)

"I think Czech don't really have a problem accepting foreigners, they just don't bother getting to know them. So mostly, Czechs and Foreigners live next/parallelt to each other. Partially this is cultural difference. Partially the fact the the proportion of foreigners is not high enough so that locals would not be able to avoid interaction (as in London for example). And partially because there is a huge difference in the salaries that locals get vs. what expats get - this pretty much predestines how they live their lifes (e.g.: Czech round up the end amount in a pub, expats give huge tips because the prices are ridicuolusly low to them)” (Hungary)

7.        "Half-Czech”

How would you describe your identity and nationality? What do you think is Czech about you and what is not? How has life abroad influenced you?

"My mom is Czech, my father is Hungarian but from a German minority. I grew up in Hungary in a german village. I have travelled a lot around came to the conclusion that I'm Eastern European. That's the closest I would be able to narrow it down. I think I'm too "Czech" for Hungarians and too "Hungarian" for Czechs. Meaning I'm far more willing to obey laws and do things by the book as most Hungarians, and that I'm way too emotional for most Czechs.” (Hungary)

8.        Final Comments

"I think that the Czech Republic is a truly lovely, if not necessarily easy, place--it just requires time, patience and a real commitment to learning the language and the culture for a foreigner to be able to fully appreciate it.” (USA)

"As I said before, that there are some things that worry me or upset me sometimes about Czech people, like when people are rude to me and I can feel their hatred and I'm not just talking about the skinheads either, even though I have also had several experiences with them.Times when I was told to get out of this country, that I don't belong here, that they will kill me etc.I think a lot of Czech people don't know or aren't aware of stuff like this and that's sad because they should know and do something about it. Czech people are very passive aggressive. They would rather not know and look the other way then confront a situation because then they would be involved and they don't want to be. The customer service is also really bad. Some waiters and shop assistants can be extremely rude, it's shocking. That would not be tolerated in my country because for us the customer is always right and you must smile and be pleasant.I think managers should train their staff in this.” (South Africa)

"I love Czech Republic” (Bolivia)

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