Do Foreigners Know The Czech Republic?

Discussion in 'Culture' started by Zik, Oct 24, 2008.

  1. Zik

    Zik Well-Known Member

    „An average Englishman“, told us one day our English teacher, who lived few months in the United Kingdom, „don't know at all where the Czech Republic is.“ She said she likes Englishmen, but she also said they are not very good at knowing other countries. „One woman asked me: ,Are you injured by the pictures from Chechnya?' ,Why should I be injured by them? I'm from the Czech Republic, I'm not from Chechnya!' ,Well, the Czech Republic is near Chechnya, isn't it?'“, told she us another story.

    Of course we can't judge all Englishmen from this woman, but I heard we are really not very known there.

    This is quite painful for me as for a Czech, because there fought more than 500 Czech and Slovak pilots in the Royal Air Force and a lot of them were appraised for their bravery and the counts of destroyed German aeroplanes.

    I say to myself: are Czechs really so uninteresting? Is there nothing to see in the Czech Republic? Is not Czech culture rich enough? Are there not Czech scientors, who changed the world forever (like Johann Gregor Mendel)? I personally am no scientor or war hero or music composer or architect, but I think I can be proud of my country, as foreigners are proud of their countries.

    I don't know the situation in France, countries of Benelux, Spain, Italy, Russia, Austria etc. I trust we are quite known in Germany, especially in the eastern parts and I think it's also not bad in the United States of America, because the most of non-Czech people hire are Americans. There are also such Americans, like Scrimshaw, who learn Czech language and are very good at it. But back to what I was speaking about.

    What do you think about it? Is the Czech Republic known for average people in your nation? How well, what do they think about it? Is it just a little non-interesting poor country in Eastern Europe, or does the name have some respect? Or are they just not interested in that? Czechs are very proud of Prague - but is Prague as known as London, Paris, Moscow, Madrid, Berlin, Vienna, Roma, Athens, Budapest? And Czechs, who know the situation in other countries well, what do you think?

    Of course, sometimes also Czechs don't know other countries well, especially countries easterly from the Czech Republic. But it's for another topic.
  2. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    No, there aren't enough famous Czechs, at least not "world-famous" in the world's eye at the moment. For example, I'd bet that Petra Nemcova is probably the best-known Czech in the US right now. Mendel is not a name most Americans would recognize, much less recognize as being Czech. This, however, has little to do with the Czech Republic or with Mendel specifically, but rather with the fact that the average American knows 100 times more about public figures in pop culture, than about scientists, historical figures, etc.

    Still, Americans are probably more aware of the Czech Republic now than they were 10 or 15 years ago, but that still is perhaps not saying much. Back in 1996, having come back to the US after spending a couple of years in the Czech Republic, many an American asked me if I was near where the Allies were bombing (uh, that would be former Yugoslavia ...).

    Nowdays, the vast majority of my American friends with whom I talk about the Czech Republic know something about it, but then again the people I associate with tend generally to be more educated and/or well-traveled than the average American Joe. Still I don't know know enough about general perceptions/knowledge of the Czech Republic in other countries to compare what Americans know to say the British.
  3. Zik

    Zik Well-Known Member

    This is maybe because of the NATO, isn't it?
  4. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

    Dont be too optimistic.. about 50% Germans never heard of us and Austrians know CZ only with Temelin asociation...
    See it from brighter side, we are safe:

    Slováci vyrobí jadernou zbraň.
    Dzurinda říká: "Tak ji někde vyzkoušíme. Pošleme ji na USA, ti se rychle ozvou."
    Vystřelí tedy na Ameriku a čekají na odezvu. Nic.
    Dzurinda tedy povídá: "Asi to spadlo někam do pouště, Amerika je přeci jen velká. Vystřelíme tedy na New York, toho už si určitě všimnou."
    New York je tedy srovnán se zemí, ale opět žádná odezva.
    "To není možný. Zaměříme tedy přímo Bílý dům, to už nemůžou přehlídnout." povídá Dzurinda a vystřelí tedy třetí raketu. Zase nic. Nechápavě tedy volá
    Dzurinda Bushovi: "Nazdar Georgi, jak se máš? Vysvětli mi, jak je možný, že jsme na vás poslali tři atomovky a vy jste si toho vůbec nevšimli?"
    Bush odpovídá: "Jen počkej ty zmrde, až vás najdeme na mapě!"
    A až je najdou, tak si se Slováky prohodíme hymny - My budem zpívat "Nad Tatrou sa blýská" a oni: "Kde domov můj?";)
  5. bouncingczech

    bouncingczech Active Member

    It is a sad thing, but many Americans have very little idea about the world outside of the US. John McCain, our current presidential candidate recently placed Spain in South America. When I tell people that I used to live in Sweden, often I get "Oh yes, my brother lives in Geneva, did you meet him?". As for the Czech national accomplishments, yes, people will know Martina Navratilova, but they will not be able to say for sure that she's Czech. Nobody is aware of the fact that contact lenses were invented by professor Otto Wichterle. All is not lost, however. Vaclav Havel is reasonably known as a bright intelectual. And with so many Americans now living in the Czech Republic, the country is more visible then before. In an ideal world, there should be a constant marketing campaign. Perhaps there is some ministry of tourism that is meant to promote Czech Republic, but it's efforts are minimal. My local newspaper , Los Angeles Times, has a weekly travel section where I see advertisments by Spain, Ireland and other countries, but never Czech Republic. A simple thing can make a difference. When I came back from my alst visit to CR this year, I brought back a poster with many of the castles in Bohemia. My wife was totally amazed by the sheer number and the ages of these castles. So, I think a bit of marketing would pay for itself in the long run.
  6. Zik

    Zik Well-Known Member

    Thank you for your answers. Well, I think we self should show our country and its culture abroad. I heard Hungary makes as much money as the Czech Republic on tourism, but Hungarians invest seven times more money to advertise themselves.

    Well, it's better not to be known than to be knows as some poor country. I offten travel to western Europe and I think there are still smaller differences between the Czech Republic and for example Germany. I hope western tourists in Prague are satisfied with services etc. Our economy is quickly growing, till the communist era, we have been a very developed country. But for our economical growth, we have to do something - buy products from the Czech Republic or the European Union. Well, but this is not what this topis should be about.

    So, I'm looking forward to another opinions... :wink:
  7. Wicker808

    Wicker808 Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't be too hard on the Americans' geographical skills. After all, how many Czechs can find Idaho on a map, much less Guyana, Madagascar, or Indonesia?

    It's a big world, and it's natural that a nation's interest declines sharply outside of its own sphere of influence.
  8. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

    "!After all, how many Czechs can find Idaho on a map, much less Guyana, Madagascar, or Indonesia?"

    Madagascar and Indonesia are piece of cake even on "blind" plan, Guyana would take some time but at least noone would place it to Asia/Africa/Latin America.

    Idaho.. Is it guberny in Russia?;)
    Well does Idaho have its Special nation? currenci? Languague? Or is it just area with some authonomy like Bawaria has within Germany? Its state, not country...
    The reason why North vs. South was CIVIL war:)
  9. Zik

    Zik Well-Known Member

    Wicker808: Yeah, I spoke about it. I think an average Czech can locate Madagascar on the map, and I think Guyana (there is a lot of Guyanas :lol:) too. Idaho hardly. People all over the world should know other countries better.
  10. Tagarela

    Tagarela Well-Known Member


    Well, I don't expect Brazilians to know Czech Republic well... as probably Czechs do not know Brazil well.
    My mother, for example, usually says to othe rpeople that I'm planning to travel to Czechoslovakia - and then I must repeat it to her again and again that the country is already split.

    As for Czech famous people...well... I agree with Sova that people wouldn't link Gregor Mendel to Czech Land.
    Franz Kafka would be well know among those who like literature, but it will bring us to the endless question if he was Czech, German, Jew etc...
    Milan Kundera is another good option for those who appreciate literature =).

    Football fans for sure know Petr Čech and Pavel Nedvěd.
    You have also some good players in tennis..
    Mm..but as for pop artists..politicians and so on, I don't think that Brazilians know any Czechs.
    We learn almost nothing about Czech Republic at school, in the news, the last time I heard about Czech Republic was when our president visited the country.

    Czech language for sure is something completly strange for the major of people...

    But as a touristic site, Prague at least, is reasonable known. I know some people who have visited it, and I guess that people usually like it. But I guess that people do not visit other cities and really get to know the country.

    Ah...there is another interest event, again on Czechoslovakia. One day I went to the post office, I was sending two letters - one to a British friend and another to my Czech friend. The worker of the post office took the one to Britain first, and then when she took the second I said "The second one isn't to United Kingdom" and she replied smiling "I know, it is to Czechoslovakia" and then I thought with me "O, it's not going to arrive there".

    A friend of mine, who knows that I'm learning Czech, asked me "Don't you think on studying another language of global/worldwide importance?"

    So... the knowledge about Czech Republic in Brazil is low. Many people would say Czechoslovakia instead of Czech...some would know where the country is and another basic information...

    I guess that even if you ask the beer lovers what Bohemia and Pilsen type means... perhaps they don't really know.

    But it is hard to know very well about many countries...but I agree that there is a general tendency to know well always the same country.

    Na shledanou.:
  11. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Do you know everything about every other country in the world?

    Many people here think Ireland is part of Britain, no one had ever heard of the Irish language.. etc. etc. It's silly to get offended by these things, we are small countries, we are not very important on the world stage.
  12. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

    Ive tought Iruish is (allmost)dead language.. such as welch and scottish...

    Main point isnt to know about every country(usualy you can find it quickly), its not to talk nonsenses about other country..
  13. Tagarela

    Tagarela Well-Known Member


    Yes, kibicz said it, that's the point...
    For sure one or another person may know or less about some countries, but, I agree with Kibicz. I guess that it is good to have a well based general idea of the world to avoid speaking silly things.

    By the way, sometimes we even don't know too many things about our own country...

    But, of course, it makes me glad when I talk to a foreigner who is well informed about Brazil, who knows something more than the steryotypes and etc...

    Na shledanou.:
  14. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Well, I wouldn't take it personally. The fact is americans couldn't find a lot of countries on a map. Evidently England too.
    Students graduate with a very poor knowledge of the globe.
    Geography is not pushed enough in school. When I was in school geography
    was an important subject. I don't know how it rates now.
    I don't know if it's a little bit of ethnocentricism or what, but I think the schools should do a lot better job.

    In a nearby bookstore, there's a cafe, people sit, drink coffee, read, talk in hushed tones. One entire wall is a painting. In it are some of the more well known literary giants. One of them is Franz Kafka, and one fellow is holding a bottle of Pilsner beer.
  15. AxeZ

    AxeZ Active Member

  16. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    No it's not dead that's nonsense. It's still spoken as a first language by 70,000 people, and everyone in Ireland learns it in school.
  17. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

    Sorry, but 70.000 out of 4,000,000? .. its even worse than Czech lang. in 18th century.. on the other hand i dint know its learned in school - as main language?
  18. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    I just wanted to use this list to reiterate my point. As a scientist, I look at the list of Czech scientists on the above link, and almost none are ones known to me. Several that I know have German names, so in spite of being born in the Czech Republic, it may be a stretch or even inaccurate to call them (ethnically) Czech. The ones I do know, I only know from my stay in the Czech Republic (Otto Wichterle, Jan Komensky, etc.).

    No offense meant, but these scientists seem to be what I would consider 2nd rate scientists--by that I mean that they are not up to the par with the likes of Einstein, Newton, Copernicus, nobel prize winners, and such. I'm sure that they have made significant contributions to science, but I see no real groundbreaking/history-altering discoveries among them, at least not in my small sampling of their Wikipedia entries. By the way, I wouldn't consider myself to be in the league of 2nd rate scientists, so this label is by no means meant as degrading. Perhaps they are known by scientists in their specific subfields and/or in the Czech Republic, but I find it hardly likely that they are well-known among the broader international scientific community, much less among the lay people.

    Again, the issue is not whether or not there are talented/smart/noteworthy Czechs, but rather that there are very few Czechs at the top of internationally high-profile fields/organizations/etc. currently or historically, and therefore, few Czechs will be noticed as such by the broader international community. In other words, there's the best, and then there's the best of the best.

    Again, it's not meant as a slight or an insult, but rather take it in context--there are after all only approx. 10 million Czechs in a world of 7 billion or so. Language barriers only contribute to that, too--Americans have it easier in that regard, since English has become such an international language. Politics also has much to do with it, since in the arena of international politics, the Czech Republic has only a minor role, both currently and historically. The average world citizen, unless he or she chooses to take an active interest in Czech culture, history, or politics, will find no compelling reason to do so.
  19. fabik317

    fabik317 Well-Known Member

    just out of curiosity: does an average american know who Anton Cermak was?
  20. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Only if they're from Chicago. :wink:

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