#LifeInCzechia Culture, an intricate web of beliefs, values, traditions, and behaviors, defines the identity of a nation and its people. In this extensive blog post, we embark on a fascinating journey to uncover and compare the contrasting realms of Czech and American cultures. Czechia, nestled in the heart of Europe, and the United States, a vast melting pot on the North American continent, showcase unique social, historical, and cultural aspects that shape their respective societies. Join me as we delve into the depths of Czech and American traditions, social norms, language, cuisine, and much more, unraveling the intriguing disparities that contribute to their captivating identities.
Since I’ve traveled extensively, I feel as though I’ve been able to absorb bits and pieces of each culture I’ve come into contact with. In some cases it may not be much, however, living in Brno, Czechia for six weeks and then returning for another three months I feel as though I have a deeper understanding of what life in Czechia is like rather than just visiting on holiday. During my time in Czechia I’ve found differences and similarities, positives and negatives between Czechia and the United States. With every discovery that I make, I feel like I am a tree whose roots continue to grow deeper and deeper, connecting me with the country and the people, changing me and allowing me to grow into a new individual.
While I may not know Czech, I still have the ability to make connections with the people I meet. I’m often asked why I’m here. Why would an American be in Brno, Czechia? The question fascinates me. I understand the curiosity behind why I’m here but even after I give my answer I’m still questioned about why Czechia. It makes me wonder if Czechs don’t think that Americans or foreigners would be interested in Czechia.These questions have led me to observe more and through this blog post I’ll be delving into my observations and insights, the positives and negatives, and the differences and similarities.
To understand the nuances of Czech and American cultures, we must first delve into their historical backgrounds, as they play a pivotal role in shaping societal values and attitudes.
Czech Historical Perspective
American Historical Perspective
The foundation of a country is based on its history and values. Czechia didn’t become its own independent nation until 1993 and before that it was a part of Czechoslovakia which became a country in 1918. This may seem like the history of Czechia isn’t as deep as you may have thought however, since Czechia is a part of Europe and considered the heart of Europe the history is rooted very deeply. While the Americas may have been discovered in 1492, Czechia already had history because it was a part of Bohemia and even so the United States wasn’t founded as a country until 1776.
I’ve chosen three topics each from both Czech and American history that I believe played a pivotal role in shaping the societal values and attitudes of each country and embedded links so that you may explore each subject as the history of both countries is so rich that I could write several articles about them both and still not be able to cover everything.
- Each country has had their own wars, like any country.
- The elderly population is similar in both countries.
- Both countries had a rich history before they declared their independence.
- Czechia isn’t as advanced in some areas because there are still some radiating effects of Communism. Meaning some industries are still growing and learning due to not having access to the resources needed to develop the industry.
- During my time in Czechia I’ve felt as though I could see living history. There is an air of history about the architecture, museums, UNESCO sites, and more that I have not encountered in any museum or historical site in the United States.
Core Values and Social Norms:
The cultural fabric of a society is woven by the values and norms its people adhere to. Let’s examine the distinctive values and social norms prevalent in Czech and American societies.
- Collectivism and Community
- Respect for Tradition and Heritage
- Reserved Communication Style
- Individualism and Self-Reliance
- Entrepreneurial Spirit and Achievement
- Open and Expressive Communication Style
Once the foundation of a country has been established the core values and societal norms can be constructed by those living in the country. In each country you’ll find that core values and societal norms change. These changes could be caused by the historical factors that occurred during the country’s history. However, these changes could also be caused by the citizens of that country and how they interact with foreigners. There are many different ways that the core values and societal norms can change throughout a country’s history.
- Both countries seem to be following individualistic societal patterns.
- Both countries have entrepreneurial spirit, however due to Communism Czechia wasn’t able to develop as quickly as the United States. So now there are many start-ups especially in Brno which is creating a booming industry.
- The Czech people I’ve come in contact with are often friendly and open with communication, however at some points I’ve met people who are more reserved in their communication but I believe that is because they may not know English or may be nervous about their level of english.
- I know that when I try to communicate with simple Czech phrases I often feel nervous so I believe the same would apply to others in some cases.
- The United States has followed individualistic ideologies since the start of the country.
- Czech culture has more respect for tradition and heritage than American culture.
- American culture is a melting pot of traditions and heritages whereas Czech culture isn’t as diverse so Czechs have the ability to continue traditions that may have been lost otherwise.
- Americans are much louder and express themselves with confidence in most cases. Meaning that I often meet Americans with no filter when they speak, which means they say whatever comes to mind. Also when they have a specific opinion about something they’ll voice it to anyone who will listen.
Language and Communication:
Language acts as a window into a society’s culture, revealing its intricacies and nuances. In this section, we explore the divergent linguistic aspects of Czech and American cultures.
- Historical Significance and Slavic Roots
- Politeness and Formality
- Gendered Language and Pronouns
- English as the Dominant Language
- Informality and Pragmatism
- Cultural Idioms and Expressions
Language and communication are highly important in any country. The Czech language is a fusional language which has been influenced by several other languages including German, Slovak, and Latin. This differentiates from the United States because the US only has a dominant language and not an official language. During my time in Czechia I’ve noticed many differences and not nearly as many similarities, however this may be due to the fact that I only know a few phrases in Czech.
- Like most cultures both English and Czech have their own idioms and expressions.
- Czechia has an official language, Czech, whereas the United States does not have an official language.
- Like many other languages Czech uses gendered language.
- The English language used by most Americans is much more informal than if you were to speak to someone in Czech. It’s more common to not refer to superiors by their name until told you’re allowed to in Czechia.
- I learned this through my professor, Michael Elvasky, who told me a story about one of his friends who is from Czechia and asked him if it was alright to call him by his first name.
Cuisine and Culinary Traditions:
The flavors and culinary customs of a nation reflect its history, geography, and cultural heritage. This section celebrates the mouthwatering distinctions of Czech and American cuisine.
- Culinary Diversity and Fusion of Ethnic Foods
- Fast Food Culture and American Classics
- Regional Specialties and Food Festivals
One of my favorite things I’ve observed is the differences and similarities between Czech and American cuisine and culinary traditions. While the United States may be a melting pot of flavors I’ve found that most of the time the food is always best in the country of origin. I’ve eaten at numerous restaurants in Czechia that offer traditional Czech dishes which gives me some insight into what the food is like.
- I’ve been able to find a variety of cuisines in both countries. In Czechia I don’t find nearly as wide of a variety but that’s also to be expected.
- Both cultures involve beer in a way.
- Czechia has a richer history with beer due to growing and producing beer within the country and having several companies that have a beer legacy like Pilsner or the original Budvar, which you may know as Czechvar. There’s also the fact that Budweiser and Budvar have had several lawsuits over the years due to trademark disputes
- The US has a drinking culture that isn’t nearly as refined as Czeciha but beer is definitely popular in the US.
- There are markets for specific types of cuisine. I’ve found many Asian markets in Czechia which is similar to the US.
- Czechs will eat soup even when the weather is hot, which isn’t as common in the US.
- Czech dishes are often heavy and thick.
- The US is well known for fast food restaurants and chains, so much so that these chains have branched out all over the world including in Czechia.
- You’ll find many communities within the US that hold food festivals specifically for their community. These festivals could be small or large depending on the popularity and depending on how large the population is of that community.
- American food, in my opinion, is often very processed and unhealthy in large portions whereas the food in Czechia is refreshing and healthier in smaller portions.
- The culture of eating out at a restaurant is also different. In Czechia eating out is much more slow paced and social. Waiters and waitresses don’t check up on customers as much. Instead of spending a short amount of time at a restaurant like in the US, in Czechia it’s normal to spend 1-2 hours or longer at a restaurant as the food is enjoyed and you speak with the people you’re dining with.
- I’ve found more cafes in Czechia as well. Sitting in a cafe to study, have a meeting, or just enjoy the day is also much more common.
- In Czechia it’s normal to get an alcoholic beverage with lunch. Whereas in the US you may be thought of as an alcoholic if you want an alcoholic drink before dinner or after work.
- The drinking age in Czechia is 18 but young adults may start drinking before that so by the time young adults from America start drinking the buzz and excitement around drinking may have already faded for many of the young adults in Czechia. Several of the friends I’ve made in Czechia have told me they’re fascinated by the excitement Americans have about alcohol due to the legal age being higher.
Celebrations and Festivals:
Festivals and celebrations provide a glimpse into a society’s cultural expressions and communal spirit. Let’s explore the contrasting festivities of Czech and American cultures.
- Easter Monday and the Whipping Tradition
- Christmas Traditions and the Feast of St. Nicholas
- Czech Beer Festivals and Folklore Celebrations
- Independence Day and the Spirit of Patriotism
- Thanksgiving and Family Gatherings
- Cultural Festivals and Mardi Gras
After doing some research I was able to learn more about the celebrations and festivals that are important to the culture in Czechia.There are more obscure festivals and celebrations in Czechia than I realized. I don’t think that there’s been a weekend without some sort of event during my time here. Celebrations and festivals are important to helping shape the societal norms and traditions and also provide a glimpse into the history of the country.
- Holidays like Easter and Christmas are both celebrated in Czechia and the United States.
- There are many cultural festivals and smaller celebrations/events that are celebrated.
- Christmas is a big deal in both countries. However, Czechia has more traditions and a longer celebration period.
- Both countries have specific holidays that are based on the country’s history and culture.
- Other holidays like Halloween aren’t celebrated as much in Czechia. However, due to an increase in foreigners in Prague Halloween celebrations are getting more popular.
- The US has many holidays that revolve around patriotism. Especially the Fourth of July, which many people who aren’t from America find interesting due to what seems to be an obession around patriotism.
Czech and American cultures, though distinct, both offer a myriad of captivating traditions, values, and customs that define their respective societies. Through this journey, we have uncovered the historical, social, linguistic, culinary, and celebratory disparities that contribute to the vibrant tapestry of Czech and American cultures.
My observations and insights have helped me discover more about Czech and American culture that I hadn’t realized before. By recognizing and appreciating these differences, we can foster greater understanding and appreciation for the rich diversity that exists in our global community. My summer in Czechia isn’t complete yet so I hope to continue to learn more about Czechia’s culture and grow as a person.
Source of Photos: Canva