Do Foreigners Know The Czech Republic?

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

  1. hribecek

    hribecek Well-Known Member

    You're right Zik that most English tourists go to Prague just to drink for stag weekends or drinking weekends. Older English people go there too for the sights but they're not really interested in culture, language etc.
    Where do Americans go for bachelor weekends? Do they just stay in the States? Have they got a drinking reputation in any foreign countries?
  2. McCracken

    McCracken Well-Known Member

    Hi Zik,

    Maybe you don't have to worry quite so much.

    I took a straw poll amongst 40 or so friends and work colleagues here in England this week. Everyone knew where the Czech Republic is and all of them except two recognised the work that Czech (and Slovak and Polish) pilots did during WWII (the Battle of Britain took place over the fields and villages where I live, so local history might explain that).

    Lots of them were able to name a few famous Czech people. I will concede that most were sports stars but Vaclav Havel came up a few times, as did Dvorak and Kafka. Some even knew that the word "robot" originated in Czech.

    Some older people will still refer to the Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia but that is just how they were brought up and educated - for over 40 years the countries behind the "iron curtain" were very much a mystery to many people. When I was younger, the job that I did meant that I was not allowed to visit any of those countries.

    England has a seafaring and trading history and so it is not surprising that a land-locked nation such as the Czech Republic is not a country that gets much mention in the history or geography taught in our schools.

    I always recommend that friends who are visiting Prague should try to go during the week in order to avoid the weekend "stag" tourists but Prague has to take a share of the blame for that - it has not discouraged that type of tourist or industry (at least it didn't when it might have been effective to do so).

    I think that you will find that many English people are interested in local culture (although maybe not so much local language as we are spoilt by English being so widely spoken).

    Personally speaking, I have travelled to 5 continents, many, many countries and I have been lucky enough to visit many beautiful places (but I could only remember 4 of Scrimshaw's Great Lakes!). There are 3 places in the world where I would happily spend the rest of my days, including my own home, and one of the other two is a beautiful village in the Czech Republic :D .
  3. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Could be right, Zik. World is pretty big and full of attractions, a small part of it of the size of the Czech Republic could be hardly supposed to attract a lot of attention. You needn’t be worried about it, it is not so important. After all, you know the Czech saying “Všechna sláva - polní tráva” (= All the fame - just the field grass ~ fame is short-lived), right?

    We Czechs should be much more concentrated on the quality of our fame and on the areas of our fame. I definitely prefer the ignorance of the average Joe, which in fact is fairly unbiased, over the prejudices of… Let’s say of the Frenchmen to be up-to-date, see here :).

    We should concentrate on dispelling the prejudices and misconceptions, the simple confusions, like McCain’s words about Czechoslovakia or Pakistani confusion of the Czech flag, are not dangerous. This could be fixed in a second.

    As I said, I don’t consider the measure of our fame to be of crucial importance, but since Zik raised the question, we could discuss it a little. My impression from the whole thread is that you all are mostly focused on the fame of the Czech countrymen, but I guess Zik’s question was aimed rather at the fame of the Czech country. And that is a completely different question. My wild guess is that an average American knows much more about Sweden that about the Czech Republic, and that all in spite of not knowing of both Swedish and Czech famous people.

    It’s also useless to discuss the mutual public awareness in countries of incommensurable sizes. Czechs naturally know much more about the USA than the people in the USA about the Czech Republic (the same applies for Brasil, Tagarela). We should rather compare the fame of two comparable countries in a country with comparable ties to both of the countries. I think the comparison of the Czech Republic and Protugal is ideal. The countries are of pretty identical size in terms of all land area, population and economical power. And the ties to the USA are similar as well.
    Also the mutual awareness between the Czech Republic and Portugal could be interesting. I admit I know very little about Portugal. (In Czech we have an idiom “Španělská vesnice” [= Spanish village] with the meaning “unknown area”, in English one would say “sealed book”. I think it demonstrates that we know little about the Iberians, but at least that we are aware of our lack of awareness.)

    Don’t be too cruel to us, Sova. :)

    But I still think there are some world famous Czechs. I read somewhere that the three most famous Czechs are John of Nepomuk, Saint Wenceslas and Antonín Dvořák in this order. John of Nepomuk was surprise to me, it’s pretty unimportant guy, but he was a fovourite martyr of the Jesuit missionaries which made him popular in a lot of the colonies.

    I think you Brasilians should know one (partly) Czech - he is called Kubíček, but you spell it in the German way.

    Put out the commas, and you have the correct answer. :)

    This is not good list of scientists, it’s just a compilation of people related to science who are for some reason possibly unrelated to science mentioned in Wikipedia.

    The German name doesn’t matter here. For example Kurzweil is a completely German name, a typical Bohemian one, but Jaroslav Kurzweil is trueborn Czech. (BTW, it is the guy from the Henstock–Kurzweil integral.)

    And the list seems be pured off the purely German/Austrian Czech-born Germans (like Sigmund Freud or Kurt Gödel). Also the foreigners with strong ties to the Czech country are not mentioned (Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Doppler and Einstein just from the Sova’s field of study).

    I aggree, most of them are of lower rate. On the other hand, not all of them. There are some people who are definitely 1st rate scientists in their field of study, but either the field is of local importance or the scientist from this branch are not known in public. Jaroslav Hájek was a 1st rate statistician, but how many 1st rate statisticans do you know? Jan Evangelista Purkyně was a 1st rate biologist but how many 1st rate biologists do you know?

    If I should pick out two men from the list, I would choose Jan Jánský and Bernard Bolzano.

    Jan Jánský deserves much more popularity, and not only abroad. I consider him the only Czech worthy of two Nobel prizes, one in physiology for the rigorous classification of blood (or preferably in medicine for the discovery of the quick blood group test) and a Nobel Peace Prize for his effort in propagation and organization of blood donation. Unfortunately, Karl Landsteiner was awarded for the incorrect classification, and in medicine, unlike in physics, it is not common to award two people for similar contribution.

    Bernard Bolzano is another story, a sad one. His phenomenal discoveries in mathematics (in short, he found the way to deal properly with infinity) were totally ignored for political reasons and later rediscovered. But whole generations of mathemathicians were needed for it.

    Not dead at all, it was only disregarded by the elites.

    Actually, the scrimshaw’s questions were very good. The students in Czech grammar schools are told all the correct answers.

    I don’t know how you see it in America, but here in Europe it is commonly accepted that republic is a form of state, while democracy is a form of government (or possibly a society with such a form of government).

    And I don’t think it is generally accepted that democracy is an absolutistic rule of majority.

    This problem is overrated by foreigners. Even some of the Czechs resist to use the new terms.

    And by the way, Czechoslovakia still exists, albeit not anymore as a state, but as an international organization. For some time it was a customs union. Right now it is an organization for economical a cultural cooperation. Both countries are entitled to use the phrase “Made in Czechoslovakia”, for example.

    In other words, to refer to the Czech Republic as to the Czechoslovakia is as bad as to refer to the Netherlands as to the Benelux.
  4. hribecek

    hribecek Well-Known Member

    Mcracken, could you tell me what type of industry you work in? Whatever it is, I don't think your group of 40 is very representative of English people in general.
    I work in a restaurant/department store and I know whithout asking that my results would be the complete opposite of yours, the same goes for the places where the rest of my family work. I think a place with mainly men over say 50 odd might have a chance of coming up with your results.

    I didn't say they weren't, I answered them too so I must have thought they were worth answering. :?

    How do you quote people properly when doing post replies?
    I'm not very technically minded :oops:
  5. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

    John of Nepomuk, Saint Wenceslas

    Truly sad, both of them are just PR products..
  6. Tagarela

    Tagarela Well-Known Member


    Wer... ah, the Brazilian Kubíček was Juscelino Kubitschek, I guess that he grandfather was Czech, I have read it in the page of Czech Embassy in Brazil once... But I don't think that we know that, I my self have forgotten about it, and only remembered now that you've is not written in our history, if you want to talk about it, say "JK" or President Bossa-Nova ...

    I am doing a quick survey here with some people... I have already some results, but I'll wait to gather answer from more people before publishing here. The questions I'm using are these one:

    1)Qual é a capital da República Tcheca?/ What's the Capital
    2)Qual é a língua da Rep. Tcheca?/ What's the language
    3) Nome de três tchecos famosos (vivos ou mortos)/ 3 famous people (dead or alive)
    4)Cores da bandeira /colours of the flag
    5)Países que fazem fronteira /bordering countries
    6)Duas grandes regiões da República Tcheca /Two big regions
    7)Duas cidades (além da capital) /two cities (besides the capital)
    8)Evento histórico de 1968 /historic event in 1968
    9) A Rep. Tcheca tem a)Apenas presidente, b) Presidente e primeiro-ministro, c)Rei e primeiro-ministro /Czech Rep. has a)only president, b) president and prime-minister, c) king and prime-minister
    10) Moeda da Rep. Tcheca /the name of the coin/money)

    I read other day inRadio Praga that Chilean poet Pabló Neruda took his pen name from a Czech writer, Jan Neruda. See here:

    Na shledanou.:
  7. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Is this for us? It's not really a fair cross section of the population is it?

    *1. Prauge
    2. Czech
    *3. Miloš Forman, Vaclav Havel, Martina Na Bratilová (Just the first three that came into my head
    4. Blue White and Red
    5. *Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, *Slovakia
    6. Bohemia, Moravia (... you said two)
    7. Brno, Olomoc
    *8. Prauge Spring
    9. President and Prime Minster
    10. Crown

    Stars mark things I actually knew before deciding to come and live here.
  8. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Well Irish is used in all those ways.
    My point is everyone is ignorant of this. You know just as little about us as we know about you.

    Not mine, but for many people yes.

    It was not directed at you but at the ridiculous nature of the entire thread, which you supported, saying the important thing was not to spread nonsense about other nations, when you yourself were happy to voice your misconceptions about Ireland.

    I am not annoyed!

    You completely misinterpreted what I said.. I will put it down to the language barrier! Maybe some day I will be able to explain myself in Czech.

    My point that we shouldn't be annoyed!

    And since you asked

    'It's part of Britain.. '
    'The south is part of Britain'
    'Irish.. is that a dialect of English?'
    Someone had watched the Magdalene sisters and got an idea that the mothers of illegitimate children were still been kidnapped from their homes by nuns and having their children taken from them. And there's a general idea that we live in fear of the Catholic Church.

    But I don't mind, I just explain the truth to people. It's a way of making conversation.
  9. Tagarela

    Tagarela Well-Known Member


    Four Crowns, o, it isn't for forum members, but be free to answer. It is for some Brazilians friend of mine... I've only asked three people to answer it, when I'll try to give the questions to 10 people and then I say the results here.

    Only two little correctisn, the tennis player is [Martina] Navrátilová .. .and Hungary is not in the border of Czech Republic.

    Thank you anyway for answer, if you want to try it among your Irish friends =)

    As for Ireland and Irish language... what part of the population really consider Irish as mother tongue or as an important mark of national culture/identity?

    Na shledanou.:
  10. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Oh dear so it is! When did they move it?

    They're a bit far away right now hee hee!

    As I already mentioned there are 70,000 native speakers.. which means it is their mother tongue.
    And most of the population consider it 'an important mark of national / cultural identity' however they're pretty much too lazy to make an effort to bring it back like the Czechs did. There is Irish radio and Irish Television, a good 30-50% of the population have a reasonable understanding of it... And as I said, it is an official language of the state, all government papers documents pamphlets and legislation must be written in both Irish and English, etc. etc. That includes E.U. documents by the way.
  11. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    Very well said, wer.

    My intent was not one of cruelty, but rather to put things in context, similar to the two paragraphs you wrote that I quoted above. But let's look at your list of the three most famous Czechs listed above.

    First, it will be an extremely rare American who recognizes the name of John of Nepomuk, perhaps only the most devout of Catholics. Even then, will they recognize him as Czech? I'm not sure.

    Second, Saint Wenceslas, or as we know him "Good King Wenceslas" is known to most Americans only by a Christmas carol. Few Americans will recognize him as Czech, given the only form used here in the USA is the Germanicized version of his name.

    Third, among Americans, likely only musicians and fans of classical music (which are few here) will recognize Dvořák. Most Americans will however recognize Beethoven and Mozart, maybe Strauss, Handel, Brahms, and a few others. Dvořák is not well-known here, as classical music, music history and composition is not broadly taught or appreciated here in the US. The one bright point about Dvořák is that likely those Americans who know of him, know he was Czech.

    Never heard of Kurzweil--I do know Lebesgue.

    As for the others, granted Brahe and Kepler worked in the Czech Republic for 2 and 12 years, respectively; Doppler and Einstein for 7 and 1 years, respectively. Yet, Brahe and Kepler were funded by the Habsburg emperor Rudolph II (not exactly Czech), and it's unclear to me what role (if any, outside of building their observatory) ethnic Czechs played in their research. To say that Einstein was greatly influenced by a single year at Charles University would be a stretch--he was more productive working alone--even though during that year he did publish his paper on gravitational redshift. I'm not sure about Doppler's work, but again I can't find readily any evidence of ethnic Czechs doing significant work with him.

    In short to attribute the works of these scientists to the Czech Republic or to Czechs is a huge stretch (I'd say "preposterous," but I'm trying to be politically correct--oops did I already say it :) ). "Strong ties" definitely doesn't apply here to Einstein--he has greater ties to the USA.

    I don't mean to say who deserves or doesn't deserve international recognition, but who has achieved international recognition. No one here is claiming that achieving such is based on rules of fairness. For example, the divergence theorem, is often known as Gauss' Law, Ostrogradsky's Law or the Gauss-Ostrogradsky Law, when in actuality it was first discovered by Lagrange some 50 years before Gauss and almost 70 years before Ostrogradsky.

    There are tons of people who make meaningful contributions to society, science, politics, etc. Generally speaking, it is difficult to give all these people their due credit internationally because of the vast number of such people. Yes, politics plays a role in it, too, but then again what isn't affected by politics of some sort or another? Only the cream of the cream seem to float to the top.

    Apparently I should have said that the USA is a constitutional republic (either they've changed terminology since I was in school, or else my memory is fading :) ). And actually our government was set up this way specifically to avoid the so-called "tyranny of the majority" which is inevitable in pure democracy (the word democracy has since taken a broader meaning, although the original idea was rule by majority, period). The fact is that we have a constitution which outlines how the government is established, what powers are granted to which branch of government, and what rights are "inalienable" reserved for the people, i.e. the Bill of Rights. Whether you define a republic as a type of state and a democracy as a type of government is merely a semantic. The aspects of a constitution and representation are not present in pure democracy.
  12. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Ok, constitutional republic, I will go with that.

    Some rights given in the constitution to the federal government(defense, treaties, foreign affairs, running the postal system, making money, etc.),
    some rights reserved for the states(maintaining state highways, trade, law enforcement, etc.), matters of upholding law reserved for justice system, and individual rights protected by the Bill of Rights.

    I don't know if there are any pure democracies in existence today.
    Last one might have been in ancient Athens under Pericles. And then only free men of wealth could vote.
    But the idea was so radical to anything that had proceeded it that it changed the world, that and the republican system created by Rome before Julius Caeser took power.
    After a thousand years, when such ideas were forgotten relics of the past, they again appeared. Some ideas are to good to die.

    Kepler, without his contributions would there have been the eurekas of Gallileo and Newton.
    Newton řekl, 'Vidím tak daleko, protože stojím na ramenech obrů.'
    Nebo něco podobného.
  13. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    That’s not my list, I just sell as I have bought. (Do you use this Czech phrase in English?)

    Not surprise at all. But in the world there is not only the USA. (BTW, Wenceslas is Latinized, the Germanized form is Wenzel.)

    This just proves you are a physicist. Only physicist ignore the differences between integrals. :twisted: :twisted:

    These were examples of types of people who are NOT in the list above, and for good reason. I never claimed them to be Czech. That would be rather of Hungarian style :roll:. I just tried to point out that the alikes (= foreigners with strong ties) are not in the list as you hinted when you wrote about the German names. The list is actually pretty Czech.

    Brahe and Kepler were better paid for the horoscopes for people like Wallenstein or Lobkovic, king’s payments were modest. As protestants, they both sided with Czech confession against Catholics (in other word, with Czechs against Germans). Both were fully integrated into the academia of the Prague University (that means into the Czech academia, Germans were united around the Jesuit College). It is well documented they were repeatedly in troubles for close scientific contacts with the representants of the University, since the University was the political center of Czech nation. Kepler was even nominated for rector of the University, but his nomination was canceled for he was married. And it is not accident that Brahe is buried in Týnský chrám, in the very center of Hussite revolution. The Czech who influenced Brahe and Kepler the most was Tadeáš Hájek, he tutored both Brahe and Kepler long before they arrived to Prague.

    The nationality of Rudolph II could be topic for a diploma thesis. Among his ancestors there were people of a lot of nationalities including the most ancient of Czech rulers. He definitely was not German, maybe Spaniard or Austrian, but Spain is a little of Central Europe and his unconcealed hate to Austria made him to move to Prague. That time, he was the spiritus movens of the Czech culture, hence I don’t hesitate to claim him to be at least partially Czech, after all – he was the Czech king.

    Yes, Einstein is linked to Prague rather culturally (e.g. for close contact to Kafka and Brod) than scientifically, but at least, he found the general theory of relativity in Prague.

    Doppler’s link to Prague is really very weak.

    On the other hand, Ernst Mach, albeit born as Moravian German, was fully assimilated into the Czech society and is rightfully included in the list.

    (BTW, none of them worked in the Czech Republic, but in the Czech Kingdom.)

    OK, if your “1st rate” means “famous”, I have no problem with your statements.

    Very true, but it could be interesting that the famous Czechs tend to be PR products, as pointed out by kibicz, while the best of Czechs tend to be unknown to the world. The question is whether it is evidence of Biblic “A prophet is without honour in his own country” or of the academic morale “Publish or perish”.
  14. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    No.. What does it mean? What is it in Czech?
  15. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    Jak jsem koupil, tak prodávám.

    And it means "I only repeat information I got somewhere else"
  16. Yerusalyim

    Yerusalyim Well-Known Member

    Most Americans would recognize the names Jan Hus, Sigmond Freud and Ivana Trump. Most Americans would not know these folks came from the Czech Republic. Most Americans would recognize the military marched entitled "Entrance of the Gladiators" though they wouldn't know the name, however, most would not know the composer was Czech (the march is now associated with the circus). Some will know, others won't, that Madeleine Albright was born in Prague.
  17. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    Actually, almost no one I have talked with about Jan Hus knew who he was. Ivana Trump, okay, they'll recognize her, and perhaps recognized that she's Czech. Sigmond Freud, everyone knows, but like you say, they wouldn't know him as born in Czech lands.
  18. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    I recall having a graduate-level class in linear spaces, which was taught by a math professor. Since all the physicists in the class were well versed in quantum mechanics, we all knew the math of linear spaces anyway, so we thought the course was a waste of time. Anyway, one day, the professor asks us to prove a theorem, one which was so easy and transparent. After a few seconds of disbelieving silence, one of the Indian students in the class finally got up the guts to say what everyone else in the class was thinking (to be read with an impatient Indian accent): "Well, it should be intuitively obvious!" After about thirty seconds of silence, in which the only sounds were a few strained attempts among the students to keep from laughing out loud and the jaw muscles of the math professor working furiously, the prof turned back to the board and derived the theorem himself! :lol:
  19. pedro1974

    pedro1974 Well-Known Member

    most of italians dont know much of CR.
    many go to praha, as is getting famous and one of the favorite destination, but they'll spend their days looking for a mcdonaz or a pizzeria and enjoying in a disco instead of a tipicall czech pub.
    almost all of them will go back in italy without even tryied to say a czech word and maybe they will tell to their friends they went to chekoslovakia...

    to be honest before I came to CR I didn't know anything.
    I red kundera and kafka, but I didn't know about their origin.
    I knew about the praha's spring but...just as a word
    of course nedved and for me jankulowsky, coz he played in my italian team for first (Napoli).

    I would suggest to new visitors and members of the forum a "test"...

    the main food?
    5 czech words or a phrase?
    do you know the czech coin and its change?
    main economy or famous "brand"?
    do CR has nuclear site or industries?
    other 3 cities in CR?
    is CR in nato or involved in any "peace" action all around the world?
    how many czech are living in CR?
    do you know what is a "panela" (or panelka)?

    little OT.
    4 koruny, IMHO, in dublin nobody care about irish languagge(for what I know just in connemara, is the only region where is not dead languagge).
    at school is not a main course and especially the youngsters dont pay such attention at.

    sad to admit...slantie!
  20. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    As Czech, I don't.

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