Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette
Facts and Statistics
Location: Central Europe, bordering Austria 362 km, Germany 646 km, Poland 658 km, Slovakia 215 km
Population: 10,627,448 (July 2014 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.
- It will take several meetings for your Czech business associates to become familiar with you and appear comfortable and . Politeness prevents many Czechs from giving an absolute 'no'. However, statements such as 'It is difficult' or 'We will see' are often negatives.
- 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.
Test yourself - can you hit 85% or more in our Quiz on the Czech Republic?