The Slovak Republic

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Slovak Republic business culture

The Slovak Republic, also known as Slovakia, is strategically situated in the centre of Europe surrounded by five countries: the Czech Republic to the northwest, Poland to the north, the Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south and Austria to the west. The Slovak Republic was formed in 1993 with a land mass of 49,037 km2, when Czechoslovakia separated into two sovereign states. Slovakia joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the Euro as its currency on January 1st, 2009.

The population of the Slovak Republic is 5,483,088 million inhabitants (July 2012), with the capital Bratislava being the largest city with 425,533 inhabitants, followed by Kosice with approximately 235,281 inhabitants, Presov with 92,147 inhabitants, Nitra with 86,138 inhabitants, Zilina with 85,278 inhabitants and Banska Bystrica with 81,961 inhabitants. There is a growing volume of movement of people in the Slovak Republic, both from internal migration between regions and immigration from abroad.

The Slovak Republic had to implement many structural reforms before they could join the European Union and start using the Euro as currency, which was beneficial to the overall growth of the economy. The Slovak government has maintained a series of incentives to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to help maintain the upward trajectory of the economy since joining the EU.

The Slovak Republic also enjoys a well educated, skilled and cheap labour force, a flat rate of taxation for corporations and individuals, no dividends taxes, liberal labour laws and a favourable geographical location, compared to Western Europe. This has helped to increase foreign direct investment by about 600% in the last 10 years.

Since joining the EU, the Slovak Republic has attracted a lot of investment in various sectors, notably in industries like car manufacturing, metallurgy, chemicals and food processing. The main sectors of the Slovak economy are the service sector, industry and agriculture.

The official language of the Slovak Republic is Slovak and its official currency is the Euro. The Slovak Republic is in the Central European Time Zone and adheres to CET (UTC +1) during the winter and CEST (UTC +2) during the summer. The climate is characterized by mild, humid summers with occasional hot spells and cold, cloudy and humid winter with occasional arctic winter spells. Winter months are very cold and temperatures can drop as low as -25C under extreme conditions, but generally tend to stay between -5C to -10C under normal circumstances. In summer, temperatures average between 25C to 35C and can reach 40C in extreme conditions.

Xenophobia: being a foreigner in Slovak Republic

Slovak attitudes to foreigners in business are that of mutual respect. They respond well to foreigners when they see that they can learn from them, but can be intolerant of those who do not appear to deserve their position. The days of blind adulation for everything foreign are long gone. Slovaks have utmost respect for expatriates working in the Slovak Republic, but now that respect is more for the knowledge of the individual rather than just because they are foreign.

International business in Slovak Republic

When you visit another country on business, you can expect some differences in how business is conducted. However, you do not always have sufficient time to learn these differences through personal experience. Sometimes, you will find yourself in a meeting only a few hours after your arrival, where your lack of local knowledge leads you to make basic cultural mistakes, which can have serious repercussions on your efforts.

This section is intended to equip you with the basic ‘ground rules’ for doing business in the Slovak Republic to ensure that you are sufficiently able to deal with most of the business situations that you may encounter.

General educations

It is useful to be aware of the educational and linguistic competencies of your business partners to help you prepare for your meetings and negotiations. Can you expect to find people who will speak your language or should you bring an interpreter? What is the general level of computer literacy?

The Slovak Republic, just like the Czech Republic, has a high level of basic education and a long standing tradition in engineering and manufacturing. Slovak managers tend to be well educated with most having university degrees and the majority of those having a postgraduate degree in management or their specialist field of expertise. Younger managers often travel to Western Europe or the USA to study for their Master’s degree and gain practical experience.

Basic state education at the pre-school, primary and secondary school levels are free of charge and mandatory for every child born in the Slovak Republic. The first step of schooling starts with pre-school level and every child has the right to attend kindergarten between the ages of 3 and 6. Sometimes places are limited, so parents have enrol their children in a school that may be slightly further away or pay for a place at a private nursery school.

Primary school starts at the age of 6 or 7, depending on the child’s ability, and is divided into two stages. The first stage of primary education takes 4 years and then the parents have to decide whether the child continues to the fifth year in the same school or changes to a different school. The reason for the change is that there are two types of schools at this level; comprehensive schools (Gymnasium) and vocational schools (technical). The comprehensive school is further divided into several specializations such as language, mathematics and science; vocational schools are divided according to trade. A higher percentage of students that attend a comprehensive school go on to university than those attending vocational schools.

Most students finish their secondary education around the age of 18 or 19. After graduation, the students going to university continue with their education while the other group joins the workforce.

University education takes a minimum of 4 years for an undergraduate degree, depending on the course and 5 years for a specialist engineering degree, which is accredited at the same level as a postgraduate qualification. Many local managers will go on to study for a postgraduate degree, either locally, in Western Europe or at an American university, even after their acquiring their local masters degree (Ing.).

Education standards

Education is the fundamental right of every citizen in the Slovakia Republic and every child is mandatory to go to school from pre-school till they are 18years. The standard of education in the Slovakia Republic is quite high and the university standard is also quite high.

Cultural taboos

It is important to avoid mixing business with pleasure. Specifically, it is important to avoid asking questions about intimate personal subjects, such as your host’s financial status, discussing confidential business matters inappropriately, as well as racial and sexual jokes.

Slovaks might sometimes overstep the acceptable level of making jokes during business meetings. However, you can talk generally about politics, the economy and important sports events.

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