Given the Czech Republic’s geographical position it is hardly a surprise that Czechs are often seen as the most deal-oriented business people in east-central Europe.
Often dubbed “the Germans of east-central Europe” (not a comparison the Czechs themselves find flattering), Czechs share with their western neighbours a strong sense of privacy, punctuality and a preference for directness rather than indirectness in speech. Indeed, urban Czechs are almost as direct as the Germans, Dutch and Swiss-Germans.
The Czech communication style also tends to be more reserved than that of their more outgoing, expressive Polish and Hungarian neighbours. They rarely smile at people they do not know or as a gesture of social politeness. This is not a sign of unfriendliness, it is simply not expected. Czechs in fact are well-known for being quiet, calm and moderate with a dry and subtle sense of humour. Like Scandinavians and Germans, they tend to get down to business without the elaborate preliminaries expected in more relationship-oriented cultures.
Traditionally, only family members and close friends addressed each other by their first names. While young people are using first names more frequently, particularly those working in large global businesses, older business people may prefer to be called by their title or surname.
It is important to use professional titles when talking with lawyers, architects, engineers and other professionals. When speaking to people who do not have professional titles, it is a good idea to use Mr, Mrs, or Miss and the surname:
Mr Pan (pronounced “Pahn”)
Mrs (or Ms) Pani (“PAH-nee”)
Miss Slecna (“SLEH-chnah”)
In many English-speaking cultures people add “how are you” after saying “hello”, even when meeting people for the first time. This is simply a greeting ritual. The Czechs, in common with many other Europeans, do not ask strangers how they are feeling. Your local counterpart may be a bit startled by such a personal question unless you already know each other.
While Czechs are known for their hospitality, they may take a lot of time to establish a close business relationship. Historically, business meetings have been confined to offices. Business lunches were rare; the only meal one shared with a business associate was a celebratory dinner. A good way to get to know your colleagues is socialising after hours, in part because Czechs are structured and tend to compartmentalise work and friendship as very separate things.
Czechs usually prefer a low-key, non-confrontational approach to negotiations. Visitors need to read nonverbal signals to understand what is going on. As with Germans and Scandinavians, your opening offer should be realistic: the high-low tactic common in some business cultures is likely to backfire with the Czechs. Patience and a soft-sell approach will get you the best results.
Business visitors with a sense of humour and, a down-to-earth mentality and obvious modesty are likely to make the best impression with potential new customers.
It is polite and expected to greet people you do not know when you walk into a meeting room, but not necessarily to engage in small talk with them.