Czech Republic - Language, Culture, Customs and EtiquetteFacts and Statistics
Location: Central Europe, bordering Austria 362 km, Germany 646 km, Poland 658 km, Slovakia 215 km
Population: 10,246,178 (July 2004 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: Czech 81.2%, Moravian 13.2%, Slovak 3.1%, Polish 0.6%, German 0.5%, Silesian 0.4%, Roma 0.3%, Hungarian 0.2%, other 0.5% (1991)
Religions: Roman Catholic 39.2%, Protestant 4.6%, Orthodox 3%, other 13.4%, atheist 39.8%
The Czech Language
95% of the population speak Czech. 3% of the population speak Slovak, which is closely related to Czech. 2% of the population speak Czech but are also mother tongue speakers of German, Hungarian, Romani and Polish.
Czech Society & Culture
. The family is the centre of the social structure.
. Obligation to the family is a person's first priority.
. Czechs prize forward thinking, logical, practical, and efficient.
. Careful planning, in both one's business and personal life, provides a sense of security.
. Rules and regulations allow people to know what is expected and to plan their life accordingly.
. Czechs are private people until they get to know you.
. They are formal and reserved.
. Once you develop a personal relationship Czechs open up a bit, but they are never overly emotional.
. Although always polite, they seldom move to a first-name basis with people outside their extended family or very close friends.
. Czechs tend not to acknowledge people whom they do not know as they walk along the street or ride the train.
Czech Etiquette and Customs
Meeting and Greeting
. Initial greetings are formal and reserved.
. Most greetings include a handshake, direct eye contact, and the appropriate greeting for the time of day.
. Wait to be invited before using someone's first name or an informal greeting, as these are all signs of friendship.
. The offer to move to the informal is generally offered by the woman, the older person, or the person of higher status.
. Moving to the informal without an invitation insults the person and may be viewed as an attempt to humiliate them.
Giving and Accepting Gifts
. If you are invited to dinner, bring a box of good quality chocolates, or flowers to the hostess or a bottle of wine or good brandy to the host.
. In general, you should be cautious about giving flowers, since people over the age of 35 often see flowers as having a romantic connotation.
. If you give flowers, give an odd number, but not 13, which is considered unlucky.
. Do not give calla lilies as they are used at funerals.
. Gifts are usually opened when received.
If you are visiting a Czech's house:
. Arrive on time.
. Remove your shoes..
. Expect to be treated with great honour and respect.
. Dress modestly and well.
. Do not discuss business. Czechs separate their business and personal lives.
. Table manners are rather formal in Czech Republic.
. Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
. Table manners are Continental -- the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
. Do not begin eating until the hostess starts.
. Unless the meal is formal, the napkin remains folded next to the plate. At formal meals, the napkin is unfolded and put on your lap.
. The oldest woman or honoured guest is generally served first.
. Always refuse second helpings the first time they are offered. Wait for the hostess to insist.
. Compliment the meal while you are eating. This allows the hostess to discuss the food and the preparation.
. Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.
Business Etiquette and Protocol
. Appointments are mandatory and should be made in advance.
. Letters should be addressed to the company rather than a specific person. This prevents a letter from being held up if the person it is addressed to is away from the office.
. Do not try to schedule meetings on Friday afternoon as many Czechs leave for their country cottages after lunch.
. Many businesses close during August.
. Punctuality for meetings is taken extremely seriously.
. Initial meetings are scheduled to get to know each other and to see if your Czech associates believe that you are trustworthy. The first meeting may be with a gatekeeper rather than the actual decision maker.
. Expect some small talk and getting-to-know-you conversation before business is discussed.
. Maintain direct eye contact while speaking.
. Do not remove your suit jacket unless the highest-ranking Czech does so.
. Presentations should be accurate, detailed and thorough.
. Have charts and figures to back up your claims.
. Czechs are both formal and somewhat indirect in their communication.
. They try not to purposely offend and will often go out of their way to protect someone's feelings.
. Czechs are non-confrontational and often take an indirect approach to business dealings.
. If they lower their eyes and become silent they are uncomfortable with something you have said.
. Business is conducted slowly. You will have to be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol.
. Business is hierarchical. Decision-making power is held at the top of the company. Decisions are reached slowly.
. It may take several visits to reach a decision.
. Avoid high-pressure tactics.
. Czechs generally offer what they expect to get and do not often give counter-offers.