Cultural Differences – Czech Republic

The most important rule when dealing with Czech business partners is to be aware of the state of the personal relationship at all times. In the Czech Republic, the relationship level is the most important level. A good personal relationship with a business partner always counts for much more than a joint project. In order to establish a stable personal relationship, it is necessary to invest a lot of time in small talk and mutual exchanges. This includes divulging private and personal information – right from the outset. Inquire about family, hobbies and personal interests. Take every opportunity to bring small gifts with you. Knowledge of the national language or Czech culture will also bring you important advantages.

Indirect and polite communication

Conversations with Czechs are characterized by politeness. This also includes expressing yourself more indirectly and not offending your counterpart with harsh words or criticism. Verbal arguments should be avoided at all costs. This is because when differences of opinion arise, Czechs can rarely separate the factual level from the relationship level. If you argue with your Czech business partner about a project detail, you will inevitably insult them personally.

Negotiations are personal

In Czech business culture, business and personal roles cannot really be separated. In a conflict situation, it is therefore important to ensure that the atmosphere between all participants is as harmonious as possible, before problems are addressed directly and conflicts can be settled openly. Likewise, if negotiations are deadlocked, they can only be revived if the relationship is cultivated and nurtured with a lot of personal exchange before returning to the negotiating table. It is important to repeatedly highlight the possible advantages for both sides in order to maintain the positive atmosphere at every stage of the negotiation.

Working together in a relationship-oriented way

The same can be said of project collaboration. To develop and evaluate a project on a factual basis is never enough. In the Czech Republic, partherships are only successful when a good, long-term business relationship has already been established. Here, too, it is clear what the priorities are. Mutual trust outweighs mere figures by far. Collaboration must therefore be personalized in order to achieve joint goals.

Polychronic thinking and working

It is also important to know that Czechs think in a polychronic way. They do several things at the same time easily. Some foreign business people might interpret this approach, which is based on the Czech understanding of time, as chaotic because they are more used to working through one thing after another.

For polychronic cultures such as the Czech Republic, it is essential to have as much leeway as possible for unforeseen events. Their focus is on the present; they don’t like to plan for the future. Czechs will therefore avoid detailed project plans and feel that a meeting is productive even if all you talk about are topics that just come up on the spur of the moment.

One of the reasons for this is that Czechs are able to collect information that is spread throughout the conversation and subsequently combine it into an overall picture. Foreign business people who are used to a more disciplined way of working and communicating are sometimes completely overwhelmed by this way of distributing information. While they call what is happening around them chaos, Czechs are busy separating the important from the unimportant and gathering all the information they need for the task at hand. In contrast to their business partners from a different cultural setting, they have the “knack” for interpreting the flow of information.

The Czech obligation to collect

There might also be a big difference in thinking when it comes to the question of who has to inform whom. In many business cultures around the world, people take it for granted that if difficulties arise, all those concerned will be kept up to date. There’s an obligation to deliver. In the Czech business culture, and many other cultures as well, the principle of the obligation to collect applies, i.e. you are responsible for getting any information that you might need. If a deadline is exceeded during the course of the project, you will have to collect the relevant explanations from your Czech partner or colleague yourself.

A flexible approach to planning

Time planning is also often a cause for conflict in any international collaboration. In the Czech Republic, people show up for business appointments more or less on time. Long-term dates and deadlines, however, are generally regarded more as a rough framework than a definite schedule. Efforts will be made to keep to the timetable, but where the circumstances warrant it – a discretionary assessment – the timeframe is extended as needed. Things just happen the way they happen. Business partners who are used to a more rigorous timeline are advised to trust that everything will be all right in the end.

Katrin Koll Prakoonwit

+49 (0)711 722 468 44
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