Culture can be defined as the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. The Czech Republic has a very rich culture. It is made up of the historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia where some of the greatest houses, churches and tourist locations in Europe can be found. Many buildings were built by wealthy Renaissance magnates and affluent nobility of the Habsburg Empire, they reflect Bohemia’s power and influence from the Middle Ages. Architectural heritage sites include Karlštejn Castle, eský Krumlov and the Lednice–Valtice area, which is one of the registered monuments protected as World Heritage by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Stone architecture in the Czech lands dates from the second half of the ninth century to the thirteenth century, the Romanesque style was then replaced by Gothic style, which reached its peak during the reigns of Charles IV (1346–1378) and his son Václav IV (1378–1419). Prague has thousands of architectural and artistic monuments of every style demonstrating its long history. The palaces and mansions of Prague are small, but what they lack in size is compensated for by their intimacy and their setting in old Prague’s narrow, curving streets. Many foreign visitors consider Prague one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
The Czech language belongs to the West Slavic sub-branch of the Slavic Languages and is an Indo-European language. It is also mutually intelligible with Slovak and Polish. Spoken Czech has several regional dialects, the differences among those dialects mainly involving the pronunciation of vowels and the names of local or regional dishes, plants, and costumes. Interestingly, Czech has many words which do not include vowels and is also the only language with the letter ‘ ř ’ which is a sort of soft r, making it very difficult for foreign speakers to pronounce.
Christianity was brought to the area of the Czech Republic during the ninth century by missionaries from Germany to the west and the Byzantine Empire to the southeast. However, today the majority of the Czech population are uncommitted, atheists, and agnostics with about 40% being Roman Catholic and only 5% Protestant and 1% Orthodox. Many Czech Catholics tend to be lukewarm in their faith but Moravian Catholics are known to be more committed. Religious sentiments have always been strongly felt and expressed in rural areas. The Roman Catholic Church has archdioceses in Prague, founded in 1344, and Olomouc (Moravia), founded in 1777. The archbishop of the Prague archdiocese is the only Czech cardinal. In addition, there are six dioceses headed by bishops: four in Bohemia and two in Moravia. The Protestant churches usually referred to by a term translated as “Evangelical” are small, less hierarchical, and diversified.
Since the end of World War I, strong secularist tendencies have been evident. The forty-one years of communist rule (1948-1989) further undermined religious practices and expression; for example, those who regularly attended religious services were discriminated against in terms of professional advancement. After 1989, a resurgence of religious beliefs and observances became noticeable, especially among young people. Before World War II, about 120,000 Jews lived in the Czech lands. Except for those who married non-Jews and the relatively few who were able to emigrate, most Jews—about 80,000—died in Nazi concentration camps. After the war, only a very few of those who escaped the Holocaust returned.
Social interaction in the Czech Republic is not much different from that in other central European countries however, compared to that in the United States, it is rather formal. This formality is partly caused by the Czech language where the “familiar” form is only used to address a member of the family, a good friend, or a child addressing another child and the “polite” form is used in all other situations. Additionally, the tendency toward formal behavior is strengthened by the tradition of using titles. The use of someone’s first name is limited to older family members addressing younger ones and to very good friends. It usually takes daily contact over a number of years before people are on a first-name basis. Much less informal contact reinforces the social distance between people. Czechs will stand at arm’s length from each other unless they are conveying information that should not be overheard. Czech apartments are usually small meaning invitations to visit and casual dropping by occur only among good friends and the Czech emphasis on cleanliness means that many individuals remove their shoes before coming in. Like other Europeans, Czechs do not show as much consideration as you may find in Britain or in smaller cities in the United States. For example, when several people are boarding a bus, or train or waiting to be served in a store their tendency is to get ahead of others.
Czech food has been influenced by German and Hungarian cuisines, as well as long winters without fresh produce, which explains why it may seem heavy and quite demanding of digestion. However, fresh produce are now available throughout the year and healthier trends are emerging. Czech cuisine consists of fresh and smoked meats, pickled vegetables, onions, potatoes and a lot of animal fat. A Czech meal will traditionally start with a soup, often followed by a meat-based main dish, and occasionally end with a dessert or compote (type of preserved fruit). The popular dish Guláš is a stew made from beef, pork or game with onions and spices, and sometimes with cabbage or potatoes. It can be served with knedle or bread. Knedle are steamed wheat or potato-based dumplings, which are sliced like bread and served as side dishes and is the main staple food of Czech cuisine. Czechs eat in the Continental style, with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right, and there is no special attempt to converse at meals.
In the Czech Republic, music is the most popular art, and Czech music is well known in the rest of the world. The old saying “Co Čech, to muzikant” (“Every Czech is a musician”) is a succinct characterization of the Czech disposition. Renaissance vocal polyphonic music was composed and performed during the sixteenth century, Italian operas were presented not only in Prague but in smaller towns in the eighteenth century, and at the time when the Baroque was giving way to classicism numerous musicians from the Czech lands were active in many European countries.
Furthermore, every May since 1946, music lovers from many countries come to Prague to attend the concerts, recitals, and other musical events offered every day. Not only the best Czech musicians but foreign ensembles and soloists take part in this music festival known as Prague Spring (Pražské jaro). Drama and ballet are well represented not only in Prague but also in several Bohemian and Moravian cities. There is also a long tradition of puppetry, ranging from well-known nomadic puppeteers in the eighteenth century to a professional network of puppet theatres today. -Mary-Claire
The Geert Hofstede model was used to profile the Czech Republic. The model consists of six elements: power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation, and indulgence. According to the Hofstede model the Czech Republic has a moderate level of tolerance for power distance.This means that the Czech Republic is generally accepting of a hierarchy. They believe that society should have structure that puts each individual in place.The overall structure of society is more important to the culture of the Czech Republic than the inequality that results because of it.
Both the U.S and the Czech Republic have a high emphasis on masculinity within their cultures. Both cultures are also very competitive and driven by success. Work, and a strong work ethic is considered to be of high importance, and is something that is instilled in children at a young age. The United States and the Czech Republic are considered to be individualistic cultures. The United States however, is rated to be much more individualistic when compared to the Czech Republic. When a culture is said to be individualistic, the people within that culture place more focus on themselves and their families rather than society as a collective unit.
In terms of Hofstede’s model, the biggest cultural differences can be noted when comparing the dimensions of uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation, and indulgence. The culture of the Czech Republic is one that seems to adapt and transition well with change over time, which gives it a high rating in terms of long term orientation. While there is no doubt that tradition is an important part of every culture, the Czech Republic culture is not tied to tradition so strongly that it is unable to transition with time. The ability of the Czech Republic to adapt more easily to change differentiates it from United States culture, which struggles more with transitioning. It seems somewhat surprising that while Czech Republic culture is more easily adaptable to change, according to Hofstede’s model it has a high rating of uncertainty avoidance. While the culture of the Czech Republic easily adapts it tries to avoid the unknowns of the future as much as possible. On the contrary, the United States culture struggles to evolve its traditions with time,but does not feel nearly as threatened by the unknowns of the future. One of the biggest differences between the United States and Czech Republic culture can be viewed in terms of indulgence. Hofstede’s model defines indulgence as “the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses” (Hofstede). Based on this definition, it may be easy to infer that the United States has a highly indulgent culture, which helps to distinguish itself from the culture of the Czech Republic which is hardly indulgent. One might view the culture of the Czech Republic as conservative when referencing the cultural dimension of indulgence.
Using Hofstede’s model to make cultural comparisons, a conclusion can be made that there is a significant amount of distance when comparing the cultures of the United States and the Czech Republic, as there are major differences in four of the six cultural dimensions. -Jessica
Looking at, and understanding culture really emphasizes the distance is between the Czech Republic and the United States. First off, subtle details about how and when people represent themselves is a huge part of being respectful to the Czech Republic culture. This can be an added cost if training is required of foreign employees who may not know how to be respectful to this culture. Another reason culture causes vast amounts of distance is because of the food. As previously mentioned, there is quite a difference in the types of foods prepared and the order of which they are served. When one is expanding a restaurant to the Czech Republic, he or she must be able to not only understand what types of foods are acceptable, but also must be able to know when and where a restaurant can be located, as it may not be acceptable to put a cheap restaurant in a high-end historical area.
Cost becomes a huge factor in distance when it is being assessed in term so culture. There will be higher costs to properly train and educate employees about the culture and what is acceptable as far as body language and gestures and what is considered rude. There would also be a cost of teaching the language to employees, or a more indepth hiring process to find individuals who speak the native language and dialects. Supplies for the food options can also be more expensive, depending on what kind of restaurant is being opened. – Jerric
Overall, the Czech Republic is filled with many wonders and could have many benefits to an expanding restaurant. The costs and risks between the Czech Republic and the United States have more similarities than differences. Both the United States and the Czech Republic have a strong approach towards culture in the workplace. Both cultures are very ambitious and individualized. If starting a restaurant in the Czech Republic from a cultural perspective not much would change other than they type of foods that may be served, the language and certain gestures and body language. Ideals and beliefs could also be a factor of cultural difference between other countries, but the Czech Republic and the United States have fairly similar ideals and beliefs with the biggest difference being religion. Depending on the type of restaurant, it may or may not need to consider the cultural foods. If the restaurant wants to serve a local dish, there will be an added expense of learning and training employees to cook it; but if the restaurant is wanting to have a bit of an ‘exotic’ flavor and server American foods, the added cost would be the costs of importing the ingredients needed. -Jonathan
Advameg, Inc (2016) Culture of Czech Republic Forum.
“Cultural Dimensions:Czech Republic vs. United States.” Geert-hofstede.com. Itim International, 2016. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.
Zimmermann, K.A. What is Culture? 2015.
Editing: Rebecca Glenn