If you’re reading this article, you are probably considering a study abroad. I remember when I was in the same position a year ago. The idea of a new challenge, an adventure, and supposedly “easier” classes for a whole semester was enticing (Easier classes? No. Less pressure? Certainly.) But like everyone, I feared the pain of losing what I knew to the pleasure of what I could gain. Thankfully, my friends, family, and academic advisor made the path easy to say “yes” to studying abroad. It was scary as heck, but I’m so grateful that Kira eleven months ago accepted the challenge of living abroad with faith, determination, and an itch for exploration.

In this post, I will share three things that I learned about “conducting business and engaging with individuals” in Prague. Really, these three tips are helpful for embracing the culture, accepting different perspectives, and building meaningful relationships.

  1. Research and understand Hofstede’s CultureDimensions
    • In my Intercultural Negotiations class this semester, we learned about cultural differences, specifically in a corporate context. The link above compares the US with the Czech Republic in six cultural dimensions. When preparing for an international trip, this tool can be useful in understanding the values and paradigms that shape the decisions of people from other cultures. For example, the US and the Czech Republic have opposing scores in Long Term Orientation (LTO) index. Reading the description below, I learned that the US has a low-level LTO index: Americans measure success on a relatively short-term basis (i.e., quarterly profit reports) and judge situations as right and wrong, good and evil. The Czech Republic has a high LTO score: Czech people value investing and thrifting and determine truth as relative in each situation. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with this tool. Knowing our own cultural background will allow us to appreciate people from different cultures in our abroad experiences.
  2. Know what is taboo
    • In addition to knowing how other cultures think, it is important to understand what topics to promote and what to avoid. Here is a short list, specific to the Czech Republic.
      • Things the Czech are proud of:
        • King Charles IV and St. Wenceslaus (many things are named after them)
        • The word “robot” was invented by the Czech (just the word, not the technology)
        • The inventor of contact lenses, Otto Wichterle, is Czech!
        • Pilsner beer (and any Czech beer, for that matter)
        • The hockey star Jaromír Jágr, composer Antonín Dvořák, and author Franz Kafka
      • Touchy topics to avoid:
        • Referring to the Czech Republic as “Czechia” (they prefer the original and full name)
        • The old communist regime and influence of the USSR
        • The expulsion of Germans in the 1940s
        • The three emigration waves
  3. Learn the communication style
    • From my experience, Czech people are quieter and more reserved than the average American. The typical US greeting of “How are you doing?” is treated as a question and not a “howdy.” I noticed that instead of saying “no,” the Czech tend to postpone, delay, or use any other means to deny your request without explicitly saying it. They like to complain (especially about the weather). Where it is common to share your job as part of an introduction in the US, Czech people do not really care what your title or position; it is not relevant when meeting someone new. Lastly, when entering or leaving a store or café, it is expected to say hello (Dobrý den) and goodbye (Na shledanou) to the employees.

Thanks for reading my closing article. I hope I have inspired you to pack your bags and take a leap of faith to a new country. Feel free to reach out to me with questions about Prague (even if I have already graduated- I’m class of 2023) Also read my first entry on the CIBS blog and my personal study abroad blog!