As with many Central and Eastern European countries, English language levels tend to be very high and this is especially true amongst the younger generation – many of whom have worked or studied outside their own country.
Therefore, it is unusual for the services of a translator to be needed but it might be politic to check in advance. (Remember that many senior managers are older and that their English language levels may be weaker than their younger colleagues. Senior managers remain senior managers however and will probably be the decision makers. Don’t ignore the senior people because their English is weakest.)
Czechs would see themselves as non-confrontational and their communication patterns reflect this psychological approach. Their speech patterns can be indirect and they will go out of their way to avoid hurting somebody’s feelings. It is, therefore, difficult to get a direct ‘no’ from a business contact. People would prefer to talk around the subject and prevaricate rather come out with an outright rejection. (This is in stark contrast to many of their neighbours such as Poland or Germany who are extremely direct and believe in saying exactly what they think at all times.)
When Czechs do disagree with you, they will often lower their eyes and become silent. Don’t push the issue at this point – move on and come back to it later.
As has already been stated, there tends to be very little visual or verbal feedback during meetings in the Czech Republic. People listen silently and with little obvious body language being displayed. People will tend to wait and think before responding to a point made to them – do not be impatient. Allow Czechs the time and space needed to consider your points and to reply to them at their own pace.
Titles are often used in business situations and are considered highly prestigious. Academic titles are often used before the surname and it might be seen as disrespectful to dispense with this formality.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
The Czech Republic’s economy has, on the whole, performed very well since the structural and political changes of the 1990’s. Although growth stalled after the banking crises, it seems to have returned through a combination of public expenditure and direct foreign investment. Key indicators such as inflation and unemployment levels show reasons for optimism going forward.
The Czech Republic also scores very highly on many key indictors around ‘well-being’ with personal security, work-life balance, education and skills scoring particularly strongly. In all, the country seems to have come through the transition from Soviet satellite state to modern social economy much better than some of its Central and East European neighbours.
These factors lead us to conclude that the future of the country is bright and that doing business in the Czech Republic probably makes sound commercial sense. The economy is relatively strong, the country is geographically well-positioned, there is an educated workforce and a buoyant consumer culture – all the ingredients would seem to be in place for you to make a success of the Czech market.
However, as with all new markets you really need to do some research before you start to make any plans and it is important to take Czech business culture into account. For example, generational issues will come into play when starting to work with people in the Czech Republic. Are you dealing with people who were educated and worked during the former Soviet era or are your contacts younger professionals raised in a completely different period? Approaches to business can differ significantly between these two groups – and that’s just one of several cultural issues you should understand in advance of starting any business dealings in the country.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Czech business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: