When trawling through on-line comments and over-hearing conversations, it doesn’t take long to encounter remarks along the lines of “Czechs are so…” or “All Czechs do…”
But how true are these generalizations?
I’ve turned to personal experience and Czechs I know who have shared the stereotypes they hate (in the words of one Czech friend, “Beer, ew!”) to bring you this list of worn-out clichés it’s time we laid to rest:
Socks with Sandals ≠ Fashion
This one has long puzzled me. I’ve heard it said, but looking around I can’t say I’ve seen too much evidence of it on the streets. Then it dawned on me. Do people mean the house slippers? In which case, isn’t it more of a custom than a stereotype – a custom I’m partaking in as I write this.
Today’s Mood, not Necessarily Unhappy
Sure, I’ve met unfriendly Czechs. But I’ve also met some genuinely gregarious, affable people here, too. If the question is the lack of smiles on the streets, I’m not sure if – personally – this is so much of a problem. Do our teeth have to be on permanent display to show contentment?
As for public offices – I can’t help but think a little understanding on our part is necessary. The government clerks who are dealing with us in English may not always be proficient (though I’m sure some are), and lack of confidence in a language can cause stress.
I’ve found clerks to be more accommodating if I use Czech. This even extends to them dealing with paperwork on so-called ‘non-office days’. But it may not just be a question of language. There are subtle cultural differences in communication. Failing to catch those cues can lead to misunderstandings which can dial up the unease.
They’re Awful Service Providers
Which leads me to this one: Customer service in the Czech Republic doesn’t exactly have a stellar reputation, but that doesn’t mean that everyone’s doing it wrong – when you want better customer service it sometimes it pays to be a better customer.
Czechs Lack Vision
It’s a stretch to claim that the country is devoid of vision when it is currently a Central European hub of tech activity, particularly in second-city Brno, long known for its burgeoning start-up scene. Award-winning game-design, 3D-printing innovation, and critical medical research are all taking place here. Czechs have proven time and again that they are thought leaders on a global scale.
Indifference Is Part of the Cultural Identity
Check out a comments section of news websites. I’ve seen one commentator criticize another for his misuse of a comma. Then there’s domestic politics, other European nationalities, the EU, football teams, which mustard is preferable and not to mention which beer is best.
On a larger scale, one need only look to the myriad protests that swept the nation this year and last or the anti-government hijinx of Czech guerilla artists Ztohoven to see the importance of speaking out to the Czech national character and history.
Everyone Is an Atheist…
Some of those opinions even stretch to the spiritual. Despite the country’s reputation for atheism, there hasn’t been a sphere of my life – work, family or social – where I’ve not met either an outright member of the faithful or someone spiritually inclined. And I’m a non-believer, so it’s not that I move in these circles. Czechs may not always believe in organized religion proper but, be it numerology or mysticism, they believe in something.
…But Nothing Is More Sacred than Beer
I’m not suggesting that the Czech Republic isn’t a beer drinking nation. At over 150 L per person per year, clearly devotion to the amber fluid remains strong. But it’s ridiculous to assume there aren’t some apostates out there. Among colleagues, family and friends I’ve met quite a few who opt for wine or even cider over beer. And a few, a tiny few, abstain in general. This is not to suggest beer’s position is under threat – just don’t be surprised if beer isn’t everyone’s beverage of choice.
In fact, new research from the Czech Wine Fund says that Czechs are actually drinking more wine than ever before and spending on quality bottles.
Tightfistedness Is a National Trait
This research speaks for itself: Last year, Czechs, including individuals and and domestic firms, gave the largest amount to charity in the history of the nation – over seven billion CZK, according to tax records.
Czechs Hate Foreigners
Though this point has long been debated here, new research has emerged that delves into how Czechs feel about foreigners in their midst. And the results might surprise you: The majority of Czechs approved of immigrants who arrive to their country for a number of reasons, including religious persecution, family reunification, and study.
Though given the country’s current stance on refugees, this is one debate that will continue to rage on.