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MOVING TO CZECH REPUBLIC

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KEY FACTS

Official Name: Czech Republic

Capital City: Prague

Official Language: Czech

Area: 78,864 sq. km/30,449 sq. mi.

Population: 10.2 million

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Hussite

Currency: Koruna (CZK)

Number of Time Zones: 1

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus 1 hr.; Eastern Standard Time (EST) plus 6 hrs. Daylight Saving Time is observed from late March to late September.

Weights and Measures: Metric system

Country Domain: .cz

Country Tel Code: 420

AT A GLANCE

Politics

The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy with a 200-member House and an 81-member Senate. Parliament has full legislative powers. The president, who is the head of state, is elected by a joint session of the legislature for a five-year term. The president appoints the Prime Minister, usually the leader of the largest political group in the legislature. Together with the President, the Prime Minister appoints a Council of Ministers, which must have the approval of parliament.

Economy

Following the 1993 separation of the Czech and Slovak Republics, the Czech Republic raced toward capitalism, privatizing approximately 1,000 businesses per month. However, there remained too much government influence on the private economy. The country still had a low wage, low-tech economy often dependent on out-of-date equipment and an inefficient industrial base.

A financial crises ensued in 1997. Due to a series of reforms initiated by a government restructuring agency formed in 1999, the Czech Republic weathered the crisis and currently enjoys a strong, stable economy. Privatization of banks and utilities, further restructuring of industries, and encouragement of foreign investment all served to promote positive economic changes, while readying the country for European Union (EU) membership.

The Czech Republic is clearly oriented toward the West. Germany is one of its major trading partners and investors, but demand for its products is increasing from other EU fronts as well. The country has a highly qualified workforce. It became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in March 1999, and in May of 2004 achieved its goal of joining the EU.

UNDERSTANDING THE PEOPLE

Following the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the Velvet Divorce of 1992, the Czech and Slovak people formally became what they had always been, two separate nations. Very different in temperament, the Czechs generally are orderly, thrifty, and unemotional, while the Slovaks are warm, spontaneous, and outgoing.

Traditional costumes are worn for festivals, weddings and other special events, but Czechs dress in European fashions for business and everyday activities

The population of the Czech Republic is about 10.4 million with a growth rate of 0.26 percent. Life expectancy is approximately 73 years.

The Czech Republic is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe with a high concentration of people in and around Prague.

Culture

The Czech and Slovak Republics have a long history of development as separate entities and only a short history of union. The Czechs have tended to be more urban and industrialized, while the Slovaks have remained more agrarian and rural.

Czechs highly value education, modesty and humor, but the Czech sense of humor is dry and ironic.

Czechs cherish their traditions. The Czechs value their musical heritage represented by composers such as Smetana and Dvorak. The earliest Czech literature is from the 14th century, with a tremendous number of epics, lyrics, and dramas produced.

Some of the Czech Republic’s greatest writers include Václav Hanka, Karel Hynek Mácha, Karel Havlícek-Borovsky, Bozena Nemcová, Karolina Svetlá, Vitezslav Hálek, Jaroslav Hasek, Ladislav Mnacko, Franz Kafka, Milan Kundera, Vladimír Páral, and Jirí Medek.

The Czechs also have made important contributions to all areas of filmmaking, from directors to cameramen, scenery, and script writing. This tradition goes back to the 1920s and continued under communist suppression.

Ethnic make-up

The Czech Republic comprises a number of nationalities within its boundaries, periodically creating tension and unrest.

One highly visible minority are the gypsies; they prefer to be called Romanies because they consider the term “gypsy” denigrating and inaccurate since it is a corruption of “Egypt” where they were once thought to have originated. They number at least 500,000 and have been increasingly visible in large cities. The relationship between the Romanies and the rest of the population has historically been quite tense throughout Europe; they are often the victims of discrimination and do not integrate into the culture of the country. In the Czech Republic, groups of Romanies are often involved in street crime and have been subject to racist attacks by young white-supremacist skinheads.

The Czech Republic is 94.4 percent Czech, 81 percent being ethnic Bohemian and about 13 percent being Moravian; and 3 percent, Slovak. The remaining population is composed of Polish, Germans, Gypsies or Romanies, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Russians, and Greeks.

Education

The Czech Republic respects and emphasizes education and research; the literacy rate is 99 percent.

The Czech Republic has initiated tuition for all new students at university.

Most preschool children attend nursery school and kindergarten; compulsory education begins at age six and continues through age 19. Secondary schooling lasts for eight years and offers a choice of academic, technical, or teaching tracks.

Religion

As in other former Communist countries, religion has undergone a revival in the Czech Republic, but a nearly 40 percent in the Czech Republic regard themselves as atheists. Freedom of worship is guaranteed.

The major religion is Roman Catholicism – 40 percent. Other religious affiliations in the Czech Republic include 4.6 percent Protestant, 3 percent Orthodox, and 13.4 percent among other denominations, the largest of which is the Hussite Church.

The Jewish population numbers less than 10,000.

Languages

Czech is a Western Slavic language, belonging to the Slavic language group that includes Polish, Croatian and Russian. Both use the Latin alphabet and feature special accent marks.

German is widely understood, and English is a popular language with younger people and with those who are interested in business. Russian is also spoken, particularly by the older generations.

The Romanies speak Romany, an unwritten language with Indo-Aryan roots, as well as Czech.

Attitude towards foreigners

Czechs welcome foreign investment in their countries to help promote the transition to a free-market economy; they are eager to work for foreign concerns. Czechs are proud of their centuries of participation in the economic and cultural life of Central Europe and appreciate an attitude of patience and mutual respect.

The Republic has changed laws and regulations to make foreign investment easier and more profitable.

Attitude towards women

Foreign businesswomen are taken seriously, but they may have to be more forceful than they would normally be.

Equality of the sexes is guaranteed, but the underlying reason for equality had to do with a need for the maximum number of people in the workforce during the communist era. The Czech Republic is still a male dominated society.

Feminism is stronger in the Czech Republic than in many other countries in the region, but does not equal that in Western countries. Women have equal access to education; and they are found in all professions, but generally in secondary and mid- to low-level positions. Those, however, who do achieve higher positions are very impressive.
Women make a substantial contribution to the Czech economy almost half the labor force is female. Female employment – 77 percent of women work – is among the highest in the world. There is, however, a significant wage disparity that favors men over women.

Day care was provided under Communist rule, but many centers have had to close recently due to lack of funds. Lack of adequate day care poses a hardship for many women with small children.

Attitude towards work

The Czechs admire professionalism, whether of a degree type or of skilled manual labor. Education is valued. They do not hesitate to express their opinions, but also conform to their society’s expectations of cooperation.

There are occasional traces of the old communist attitude of service, but most attitudes are easily conforming to the new capitalist environment

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CITIES

Brno

The Czech Republic’s second largest city, Brno is located in the southeastern section of the country. Located where the Svitava and Svratka Rivers, it an important industrial area and a center for exhibitions such as the International Engineering Fair and the International Consumer Goods Fair.

The Brno Exhibition Center draws an estimated million visitors to its trade shows. More than half of Brno’s working residents are employed in the city’s various industries, including metalworking. It is also home to Czech Technology Park, a growing commercial development, and the Brno University of Technology.

People have inhabited the Brno area for approximately 100,000 years, as evidenced by archaeological finds. The current population is approximately 370,000. There are a number of worthwhile sights in the town, and activities such as the international music festival, which is actually a yearly series of four distict musical events, which are based around a theme and contain an academic element. The city’s historical center is accessible and quiet, having been pedestrianized for the most part.

Prague

Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, was once known as the Heart of Europe. It is a venerable city of golden domes, palaces, haunting castles, archaic bridges, churches, spires that seem to brush the heavens, and about 1.2 million people. Today it is vibrant, changing with the times, and taking its place as one of Europe’s most beautiful and cultured cities.

Much of the city’s architecture dates to the reign of Charles IV, who ruled the Holy Roman Empire during the mid-1300s. Charles doted on his Czech lands in the time known as the “golden age of Bohemia,” establishing Prague as his political capital and beautifying it to fit the role. Fittingly, Charles built the first university in Central Europe as part of a plan to make Prague the region’s cultural center.

Spared destruction during World War II, Prague continues to preserve its rich heritage with periodic bursts of scaffolding and restoration. The Old Town section is especially well preserved, displaying examples of architecture from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century.

Of all the city’s medieval nooks and crannies, towering vistas and cathedral perches, perhaps the best place to absorb the ancient architecture is at night from the 14th-century Charles Bridge – a favorite nocturnal gathering place of folk musicians, artists, and lovers inspired by the moonlit glimmer of the Old Town.

The Czech Republic’s population traditionally has been somewhat homogeneous, but business opportunities have attracted expatriates from around the world to Prague, changing the face of the city.

CLIMATE

The Czech Republic has moderate continental climates, with cold and snowy winters, especially in the mountainous areas, and hot and humid summers in the southern lowlands. The average temperature in Prague ranges from -1º C/30º F in January to 19º C/66º F in July, and in Bratislava from -5ºC/24ºF to 25ºC/77ºF.

Although spring and summer are often quite rainy, May through September is generally pleasant.

There is an almost continual haze in the air, partly due to climatic conditions, but also as a result of pollution. In winter, air pollution in Prague is especially pronounced because of inversion and the use of soft coal for fuel.

Information provided in association with Living Abroad