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What To Talk About? Questions to Ask Czechs to See their Soul

Nobody can accuse you of ignorance for knowing next to nothing about the Czech Republic and its history. Countries like US, China, Russia, Italy, Greece, Britain all get honourable mention at some point in school and constantly appear in the news as they push and pull in world geopolitics. So without effort, via osmosis, these countries keep filling and updating our mental entries. Not so with the silent Czech Republic - that entry stays empty.

A small country which has existed only since 1993, it sits amongst all the other little countries in eastern Europe: Slovakia, Hungary, Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine etc. Unless you have a map of Eastern Europe over your bed it is easy to get all these little countries confused. And unlike Serbia, Croatia and Ukraine which have made infamous appearances on the world stage, the Czech Republic lives mouselike.

But history did not have to be that way. Czech history could of been a lot more violent. Plenty has happened in the last hundred years that had it gone less peacefully Czech would of made its public appearance. Czechoslovakia was quietly created in 1918 after almost 500 years under the umbrella of the Austro-Hungary empire. Then without much fanfare, because the Czechoslovakians were forced to surrender without fighting, Hitler strolled over and occupied the country. Then the Russia’s marched in for their turn of occupation - again there was little resistance. Not until 1989 did the people invoke a peaceful uprising which resulted in sovereignty. A few years later with a handshake Czechoslovakia split into two separate countries - Czech Republic and Slovakia. The word that keeping appearing to describe these normally riotous events is peacefully. Czechs and Slovaks are aware and proud of their meekness and patience. It is because of their peaceful nature that you don’t know anything about them.

I hope I have sufficiently convinced you that Czechs are a peaceful people. You should not hesitant to engage them. They will not be offended, they have collectively been through worse than a stranger asking them a few questions over dinner.

The best way to find out about Czechs and their history is to talk to one. A conversation will not only tell you what happened but how the people feel about it - how it impacted their lives. But what to talk about, what to ask? You could ask questions of the ‘important historical dates’ kind. But why waste your conversation on facts you can find out on wikipedia. Get into their heads ask about what they care about.

Questions To Ask

Here is a list of questions to ask. These questions are recent and ongoing issues that every Czech citizen has a strong opinion about. Ask these questions and you will not only get a history lesson but a glimpse into the Czech soul.

  • Since the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 the two ethnicities of Czechs and Slovakians have been coexisting within the borders of one country. Then in 1993 Czechoslovakia was split into the separate countries of Czech Republic and Slovakia. Why did Czechoslovakia split? Has life improved for both the Czechs and Slovaks since the split? Was it better together?
  • At least 200,000 Roma’s, commonly know as Gypsies, live in the Czech Republic. The Roma’s are considered to be asocial and relations between the Czech’s and Roma’s are terrible. Most Czechs consider them a burden on society and claim they do nothing but steal, take advantage of generous social programs, live in squaller and destroy everything around them. The Roma’s on the other hand feel they are a persecuted minority. What should be done about the animosity between the Czech’s and Romas?
  • Right after the ousting of the communists in 1989 the capitalists arrived and started buying up public assets. Everything owned by the communists was up for sale - the utility companies, buildings, land and natural resources rights. Although an effort was made to make the sale fair with equal opportunities for all, it is almost unanimously believed that the process was corrupt and the politicians sold off the public assets for cheap to enrich themselves and their friends. To this day politicians are viewed as greasy palmed and corrupt. How was the transition from communist ownership to private ownership accomplished? Was it fair?
  • Czech people are capitalists at heart. Since the forced implementation of communism after the second world war most Czech people were eagerly waiting for return of capitalism. There was great celebration when that day came in 1989 and everybody agreed it was a good thing. But surprisingly, now almost thirty years later there are some people looking back at the communist times as the good old days. Things were less hectic and life was generally easier they argue. The communist party has been slowly regaining ground and its political influence is once again on the rise. Is life better under capitalism? What was better under communism? How is it possible, after all those years of struggle to get rid of it and the suffering it caused, that communism is slowly creeping back?
  • Czech joined the European Union in 2004 but it remains one of the few countries to not adopt the Euro. The Czech President at the time, an economist, was determined to keep Czech out of the Euro. He claimed that the Euro would take too much fiscal control out of the hands of the Czech people and place it into the muddled bureaucratic machinery of the EU. At the time he was opposed by most Czechs because they felt the right thing to do would be to adopt the Euro. But given the last couple years of the Euro performance and problems with Greece, Czech are starting to see the wisdom of keeping their own currency. Is Czech better off for keeping its own currency? Is the EU beneficial for the Czech Republic?
  • The Czech past was a religious one. Ancient churches are everywhere. Cities have cathedrals and small towns have chapels with holy ground cemeteries. Agricultural fields are protected with a statue of crucified Jesus. The large monument at the center of Old Town Square in Prague is of Jan Huss, the martyr who was burned for expressing his strong religious beliefs. Religion was once on the minds of all, but today Czechs are in the third spot as the most atheist group in the world behind China and Japan. Of course, the communism government did not encourage religion and let most of the churches rot but most people were not communists so it does not explain the current atheism. Why is there such a disproportionally high percent of atheists in Czech compared to other countries in the region?
  • Looking at the last hundred years it is clear that Czech people are meek and have strong ethnic ties to their shared heritage and culture. Occupied and controlled first from the Austro-Hungarians, then Germans, then Russians, they regardless persist as a solid ethnic group. It is like none of it happened and they continue doing what they do. How do Czech people explain the perseverence of their ethnicity?

Did I bring you pleasure? :)

I hope you find this website helpful. I created the website because I love Prague, I enjoy writing about it, and I get a weird kick out of helping you make your trip to Prague more enjoyable.

I wrote a book about local travel in Prague. The book is my pride, my joy, my unbiological offspring. It was written with a passionate heart. If you find this website helpful consider getting my book full of useful tips that will instil in you the confidence to wander the local streets of Prague. The book is included in the popular (proud to say over 1000 sold) Prague Local Explore Kit.

Thank you,
Roman : Prague 2023

Prague Local Travel Kit