Group 4: Improve Communication Between Cultures: Czech Republic
Eugene Mullens Jr -
Holidays and Traditions
Sue Medlin -
Governmental Philosophy and
William Middlebrook -
Government and Law
Mayya Kupchenko -
Religion, Marriage, and Gender
Zack Paukert -
Welcome to the Czech Republic, a society not unlike our own but
containing enough differences to send the average traveler into culture
shock. Like most cultures around the world, the Czech Republic has
distinct differences in world views, politics, food, literature, and history
that make this country unique. When studying the cultural practices of
countries different from our own, it is extremely important that we
take a culturally relative approach when observing how they live their
lives. Whether we are conscious of our bias or not, we all are subject to
ethnocentrism “the belief that one’s own cultural traditions and
assumptions are superior to those of others (Beebe, Beebe, & Ivy, 2010).
We challenge you as a viewer of this presentation to put aside any
ethnocentrism, so you can fully comprehend the rich culture of the
Czech Holidays &
By: Eugene Mullens Jr
Holidays are times to spend with family and friends
celebrating holy days or commemorating events of
importance. Many traditions are built around these days.
These traditions vary from culture to culture, but can be
similar as well. Communication relating to these days
ranges from special greetings, to practices such as lighting
candles or decorating trees. Understanding similarities as
well as differences between cultures is key to improved
Hromnice (pronounced HROM-nyi-tseh) falls on February
2nd, the same day as America’s Groundhog Day is celebrated.
Both holidays are based on the same ancient Celtic tradition.
The Czech word Hromnice (hrom = thunder) is derived from
sanctified "hromnice" candles that are lit on the night of
February 2nd if there is a thunderstorm ("Czech holidays and,"
). Weather is believed to signal the duration of winter and the
coming of spring. This is similar to the American tradition
focusing on the groundhog’s shadow.
By taking the time to understand how other cultures observe
holidays, we may discover that they are more similar than
different to our own. In some cases, the origins of many
cultural practices could actually have the same genesis.
In America we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The Czech St. Joseph's
Day is a holiday comparable to that. It is celebrated every year on
St. Joseph's Day is a
feast day for Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary ("Czech
holidays and," ).
Historically, Josef is one of the most common and popular Czech
first male names. The village of Josefovice used to have at least
one Josef living in every one of its houses. Today, around 266,000
Czech men are still named Josef ("Czech holidays and," ). The
Josef name day is still celebrated across the nation and mentioned
on the news every year.
This holiday remains important to some people in the Czech
Republic still and they realize its purpose. St. Patrick’s Day is
celebrated by many in America, but most don’t understand it’s
background. It’s helpful to know that some cultures appreciate their
history. Acknowledging this will help improve intercultural
communications because we can make a more educated
St. Joseph's Day (Den Svatého
Josefa) March 19
Czech Christmas (Vánoce)
The Czech people celebrate the Christmas holiday over three days. For many, December
24 (Štědrý den) is the most enjoyable day of the three. Its Czech name literally means
"Generous Day", probably for the wealth of food that has traditionally been served for
Christmas dinner. The Christmas tree is decorated with traditional Czech Christmas
ornaments in many households and preparations are made for the most festive dinner of
the year ("Czech holidays and," ).
In America, Christmas Eve is considered a festive day in anticipation of Christmas.
The Czech Republic Christmas stretches over December 25 and 26, which are also
referred to as the First and Second Christmas Holidays, or the Christmas Feast (Boží hod
vánoční) and St. Stephen's Day (Sv. Štěpán). On St. Stephen's Day, children, students,
teachers, and the poor used to go around people's homes singing Christmas carols.
Nowadays, families stay at home and relax or visit relatives and friends to share the
special time ("Czech holidays and," ).
Most cultures celebrate the same holidays, with slight differences in how the holiday is
practiced. If we recognize the commonalities between our cultures, we could better
understand them. Considering perspectives of other cultures instead of brushing them off
as inferior to our own, vastly improves our ability to communicate. America and the Czech
Republic relations could be improved by simply taking the time to learn that we’re similar
in some ways that both cultures value.
Beroun, their small farming town
Prague, their capital
A young couple’s journey
to escape communism
and the Soviet invasion
of August 1968.
Sue Medlin, group 4, page 1
From Stalinist socialism
to American democracy-
1948 saw the communist coup and the
implementation of the Planned Economy.
Peter and Hana were children of
kulaks; land owning farmers. The
planned economy established
collective farming (kolkhoz) on an
industrial scale that resulted in the
confiscation of land from the kulaks
and the redistribution of wealth among
the proletariat (Wikipedia 2010)
Stalinist socialism ruled their world
during their formative youth. The
new constitution for the Czechoslovak
Socialist Republic promised the right
to work, leisure, health care, and
the reality was something
altogether different for them and their
Sue M, pg.2
Soviet propaganda poster “Comrade, come join our kolkhoz!”
1956: USSR eased Stalinism, but the communist
Czech government retained it, abolishing all private
enterprise using hired labor (Eurozine 8/2008)
• Peter’s father had lost his farm
and livelihood to the collective
and he was forced into menial
labor. He became a member of the
writer’s underground, a movement
of dissidents willing to protest this
oppression at any cost.
• The Writer’s Rebellion in April of
that year was suppressed by the
communists but not destroyed.
1965 saw political reforms but the
communists pushed back hard in
• Sue M. pg. 3
1968: Political turmoil caused a massive Soviet response with
several Warsaw Pact armies invading the Republic. Many
dissidents were killed or sent to Siberian prison camps.
Peter and Hana were wed among this chaos and
were urged by his father to flee to the west. They
took what little they could and motorcycled cross-
country to a mountain pass where they hiked into
Austria, and eventually made their way to America.
Forty-thousand others emigrated that year to
America and Canada (Wkipedia, 2010).
Hana stands by the border crossing
near where they had escaped over
forty years ago.
Peter’s father was killed during the ensuing violence
against the writers. One of them, Vaclav Havel, was
to become the president of his new country during
the Velvet Revolution in 1989. This marked the end
of the country called Czechslovakia and established
Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
A visit to the grave of Peter’s father.
Sue M. pg.4
Peter and Hana Medlin are my parents, but I don’t
understand their politics…could it be that-
They didn’t trust the messenger, so the message itself must be
Stalinist socialism hurt them and their families deeply.
Any talk of redistributing wealth meant the loss of their farm and
The communists were “leftists” and their state-run media
controlled all information.
Planned Economy meant state control of industry, finance,
healthcare, work conditions.
Being “other oriented” (Beebe, 2010, ch.6, pg.164) is the key for
me to understand my parents’ reality filter. They are a product of
their environment and experience-as are we all-and have a hard
time separating fact from fiction.
Under American Democracy:
The messenger is suspect because the message sounds the same as
with communism, i.e. Right to work, healthcare, education?
President Obama has been labeled a socialist by the cable talking
heads, so is he a commie?
Eliminating tax cuts for the wealthy is redistributing wealth to the
The political right has labeled the American media “liberal or leftist”,
so it’s better to trust the right-wing whackjobs?
Government Stimulus Plan mirrored these controls, but for a
different reason and a different end. Is this attempt at saving our
economy to be equated with Stalinism????
I will endeavor to use social decentering, empathy and patience when
conversing with them on all subjects. I will try to help them
understand that not all those in control are to be mistrusted.
Sue M. pg.5
Comparison of the
Governments of the U.S. and
the Czech Republic
Good Intercultural Communication cannot be achieved
without understanding the culture you’re attempting to
By Bill Middlebrook
One of the key principles of Intercultural communication is
Adapting to Others. Developing Knowledge is the first step.
US Government Czech Republic Government
Government Type. Federal
Consisting of Executive Branch,
Legislative Branch and Judicial
Major Political parties-3
Legal System-Federal Court
system based on English
Government Type. Parliamentary
Consisting of Executive Branch,
Legislative Branch and Judicial
Major Political parties- 11
Legal System-Civil Law system
based on Austro-Hungarian
The US and Czech governments are very similar, the legal systems though different
have common roots in both of our European pasts. At first glance one would think that
communicating with this culture would be simple and straightforward.
This is not necessarily true, one of the barriers to bridging differences discussed in the
text was “assuming similarities” and this is a classic example. One of the main communication
barriers found during our research was that although both countries have vibrant, active
political parties, these parties are worlds apart. What the Czech people call their right wing, or
conservatives, we here in the US would call a Democrat, or Liberal. They have no party to
compare to the US Republicans. The American right wing doctrine is unknown in Czech
politics. They also have an active Communist party, who ruled the country for many decades
before the new constitution was ratified.
Avoid ethnocentrism when
communicating about politics
The Czech people are very proud of the new country and
government they have created. Practicing Other-
oriented communication, where we take into account the
others needs and motives can help us overcome our
ethnocentric feeling about our own political system and
allow us to bridge our differences. We have a great
political system and it’s very easy to become ethnocentric
when discussing it. When discussing politics with them
keep in mind that when we talk about the founding
fathers they are long gone. The founding fathers of the
Czech republic are alive and well.
Religion, Marriage, and
Of the Czech
Precise numbers of the members of
various denominations are not available;
approximate percentages are Roman
Catholics, 40 percent; Protestants, 4 to 5
percent; Orthodox, 1 percent; and
uncommitted, atheists, and agnostics, 54
percent. Many Czech Catholics tend to
be lukewarm in their faith. Moravian
Catholics are more committed. Religious
sentiments have always been more
strongly felt and expressed in rural areas.
Since the end of World War I, strong
secularist tendencies have been evident.
Family and Marriage
For much of the twentieth century, the
selection of a spouse has rested with
the young couple. Before World War II,
socioeconomic standing and education
were of considerable importance in the
selection of a husband or wife. Middle-
class men usually did not marry until
they were launched in their careers,
typically in their late twenties or early
thirties; women usually married in
their early or middle twenties. More
recently, men have begun to marry
earlier. There are no legal restrictions
on who can marry except for marriages
between close relatives. The number of
legal marriages in 1996 was 5.2 per
1,000. This number is low because the
percentage of young adults in the age
range 15–29 is among the lowest in the
For urban Czechs, the effective kin
group is limited to the closest
relatives. For most people,
collateral relatives more distant
than uncles, aunts, and first
cousins are seen only on special
occasions such as weddings and
funerals. However, most villagers,
especially in Moravia, continue to
maintain relations with more
distant relatives. Descent is
bilateral, that is, through both the
mother's and the father's lines, but
the husband's surname becomes
the family name.
Women have made significant strides since World War II in
terms of employment opportunities and participation in public
life. However, a disproportionate number of women are in the
lower half of the pay scale. Women remain concentrated in the
traditional sectors of female employment: retail sales, health
care, elementary schools, and social work. While the concept of
equality between men and women is recognized, the husbands
of women who are fully employed seldom perform half the
household duties. Because a number of the mechanical
conveniences taken for granted in the West are not widely
affordable, most women work harder at home than American
women do. However, women have a large say in how money is
spent and how the family uses its free time and are becoming
increasingly active in political life, business (banks and
insurance companies), and civil service (post offices).
Visiting the Czech Republic
Understanding etiquette through Intercultural communication competence
The Importance of understanding
When visiting any country, just like being a visitor in a guests home,
you must show respect to be taken in and accepted by the group. Without
showing appreciation and sensitivity towards a persons culture you will not
be able to communicate successfully. By having an ethnorelative cultural
perspective you are able to experience the culture, co-culture and
worldviews of the people you encounter, thus increasing your ability to
communicate with them.
Meeting and Greeting
Initial Greetings are formal
Involve handshake, direct eye contact
Never use first name until invited to do
so (these are signs of friendship.)
Moving to informal without an invitation is
considered an insult or attempt at
Appointments are mandatory and made in
Never on Friday afternoon, many Czechs
leave to their cottages for lunch.
Punctuality is taken seriously.
Maintain direct eye contact while talking.
Whether you are visiting on a business trip or simply for pleasure,
respecting ones cultural differences is the best way to achieve successful
communication in any interaction you may encounter.
Dining across all cultures holds
a high value in the minds of
people. Across cultures it is a
chance to bring loved ones
together to share in the fruits of
their labor and is an opportunity to
socialize. Each culture has its own
values and traditions associated
with dining, one must practice a
relativistic approach when
encountering dining practices
different from their own.
While visiting a Czechs Home
Arrive on time
Dress modestly and well
Never discuss business as Czechs separate
personal lives with that of work
Remain Standing until invited to sit down
Do not begin eating until hostess starts
Always refuse second helpings the first time
offered, wait until hostess insists.
Compliment the meal while eating, this offers a
chance for hostess to discuss the food and
As with our own culture, we
have certain expectations about
behavior in public settings. These
are some concepts of Czech
culture to be aware of when
interacting within their society.
Rudeness: It is custom to maintain
distance from people you don’t know very
well. Once you get to know someone, they
Watch Your Volume: Czechs tend to
speak quietly in public areas and are
annoyed by loud foreigners.
Nudity: Nudity around swimming pools
and beaches is acceptable.
Public Urination: Is generally frowned
upon however is not uncommon among
How Can We Communicate
Ethnocentrism is “the belief that one’s own cultural traditions and
assumptions are superior to those of others” (Beebe, Beebe, &
Ethnocentrism may be part of our way of thinking whether we
know it or not. It's possible that on a subliminal level we have
grown to believe our own culture is superior to other
cultures. This could be manifested in many ways including the
belief that our holidays and traditions are "better" than all others.
That maybe our customs and practices are the best way and all
others are just weird and inferior.
It is crucial though, that we eradicate this way of thinking and
open our minds up to other cultures ways, if we want to improve
communications with them. In order to do so we must try and
better understand their practices. We may then find less of a
contrast between our cultural similarities and differences. That
change in mindset can open us up to greater communication.
This process begins after first removing the "ethnocentric veil" on
a conscious level, because our cultures are more alike than we
References•Hana Medlin, in-person interview, November 2010 All photos courtesy of Hana and Peter Medlin. October 2006 visit to Czech
• Abraham, A (2008) Writers Rebellion. Eurozine. Retrieved from http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2008-08-21-abraham-en.html Richard F.(1982). ed. Czechoslovakia: A Country Study
• Agnew, H.L. (1994). Origins of the czech national renascence. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
• Baranik, Laura. (2006, June 11.) Sticking to the Rules: A guide to cultural etiquette in the Czech Republic. Retrieved November 7th, 2010, from http://www.expats.cz/prague/article/czech-
• Beebe, Steven, Beebe, Susan J., & Ivy, Diana K. (2010). Communication: principles for a lifetime. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing.
• Bradley, J.F. (1972). Lidice: sacrificial village. New York: Ballantine Books.
• Czech holidays and traditions. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.myczechrepublic.com/czech_culture/czech_holidays/
• Czech republic flag. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://wwp.greenwich-mean-time.ca/time-zone/europe/european-union/czech-republic/flag.htm
• Emigration From Czechoslovakia (n.d.) Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadians_of_Czech_ethnicity
• Hermann, H.A. (1975). A history of the czechs. London: Allen Lane.
• Molinari,Christine.(2010).Countries and their cultures.Retrieved from http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Bu-Dr/Czech-Americans.html
• Neuroscience abroad. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://global.tulane.edu/studyabroad/programs/images/map_of_czech_republic.gif>
• NyropCollective Farming (n.d.) Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_farming
• U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. (2010). The World Factbook. Retrieved October 29th,2010 from https//www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook.
Open Ended Questions
• The Czech Republic does not have a political party
similar to America’s conservative Republican Party.
How could you approach a discussion about this part of
their culture in a non-offensive way?
• How is a better understanding of Czech holidays
beneficial towards improved communication?
• How do the differences in our respective culture’s family
values impact intercultural communication?
• How does etiquette between America and the Czech
• How did the change in government philosophy of the
Czech Republic alter their relationship with America?