Business Communications in Czech Republic
Communication is perhaps the most important aspect of doing business, yet we tend to take it for granted in our own country, because we are dealing with people from our own culture.
This section is divided into three areas: communication, working practice, and dining out. It explains the differences between face-to-face communication, and dealing with people via the telephone or by letter/fax etc. How important is it to address people by their correct title? How should you introduce yourself? Should you always give your business card at the beginning of the meeting? How important is it to get things agreed in writing?
We think that this covers most business situations. By reading this section, you should be sufficiently well equipped with the basic ‘ground rules’ for doing business in the Czech Republic.
http://www.worldbusinessculture.com/Czech-Business-Communication-Style.html (world business culture)
Face – to – face communication
Czechs are not talkative by nature, tending to be indirect and cautious in their approach, to the point where it is necessary to read between the lines. This does not mean that the Czechs are trying to hide something, but that they are just not used to speaking their mind to a total stranger. In the case of non-verbal communications, Czechs are known for their cool heads and reserved attitude. Communicating with their hands or wild gesticulation is not typical of Czech behaviour.
Be aware that maintaining eye contact is an important part of communicating your intentions in a business meeting; it shows your level of interest in the discussion and that you are listening. On the other hand, not making eye contact could be interpreted as deceptive behaviour and lack of interest.
In the Czech business community, most members maintain a strict division between their work lives and their personal lives, which means they do not socialize with each other after working hours. This is a legacy of the political climate during communism and the situation is changing, with the younger generation adopting a more open approach to business.
Many of the people in management positions in the Czech Republic are multilingual. Most speak English, Russian and/or German. On average, people above the age of 50 can speak a little bit of German, Russian and English whereas the younger generation mainly speak English, although French and German are also popular. University graduates will tend to speak more foreign languages than the general population.
Most of the younger managers speak English fluently, which should negate the need for an interpreter. The foreign business partner should always confirm before a meeting if an interpreter is needed. It advisable that you learn a few greeting phrases to break the ice at the beginning of the meeting.
Czech society is characteristically very formal and it takes time to develop a personal relationship. Too much familiarity is not welcome at the beginning of a business partnership. However, the level of formality lessens as the relationship develops towards a friendship based on trust.
The Czech language differentiates between the singular and plural forms of address, and the plural pronoun is also used as a polite means of addressing someone that you do not know and showing respect to someone you do not yet have a personal relationship with. Czechs appreciate when a foreigner makes an attempt communicate in th Czech language, but it is important to use the correct forms of address and not to call someone by their first name or singular pronoun until invited to do so.
Czech small and medium sized enterprises welcome every opportunity to do business with foreign partners. For the majority of SMEs, it is assumed that a written agreement has priority over a verbal agreement. As it is always difficult to substantiate and refer to a verbal agreement, written agreements are always recommended.
In order to find information about potential business partners in the Czech Republic, it is recommended to start with the following organizations:
- www.spcr.cz Chamber of Commerce, Industry Trade Unions
- www.czechtrade.cz Trade departments of Czech Embassies abroad, Czech Trade
- www.czechinvest.cz Czech Invest
You can also meet representatives of Czech companies in seminars and conferences abroad.
Foreign partners are advised to make their first contact in written form, preferably by email. Communications should be addressed directly to a specific person who is able to make a quick decision, i.e. the Managing Director. If, after the first contact, it is discovered that the Czech manager speaks English, then the best and fastest way to make a more direct contact is to arrange a face-to-face meeting. Czechs prefer to have one-to-one negotiation.
Czech companies are still very hierarchical, which is why there is still a strong tendency to address the individual by their job title. In conversation with local business partners you should always address them by their job title first, or their academic title if that is not possible. Therefore individuals might be addressed as Mr. Engineer, Mr. Magister, or Mr. Doctor, pronounced docent.
For example, if the name of the general manager of the company is Prof. Ing. Jaroslav Novák, DrSc., he should be addressed as ”Mr. General Manager“ rather than “Mr. Professor“. The use of academic titles in the business environment, for example professor (Prof.), docent (Doc.), doctor of science (DrSc.), raises the level of respect for the individual (especially within the older generation).
In small and medium sized companies they do not put too much emphasis on positional titles, they prefer to use academic titles. Moreover older managers are used to calling each other with their titles, but the younger generation prefer to be addressed by their surname. In a business meeting held in English, both Czech and foreign partners will follow the English norm, i.e. Mr. Novak for men or Mrs. Nováková for woman and Ms. for a younger woman. In the Czech language, the surname for man and woman varies according to grammatical rules. For women you would add “ová” or “á” to the end of the name i.e. Mr. Novák becomes Mrs. or Ms. Nováková and Mr. Kyselý becomes Mrs. or Ms. Kyselá. This naming convention is the thing that confuses most foreigners when they are communicating with their Czech partners, because it does not translate into an English way of thinking. In the Czech language, the postpositions of ová or á are used only for surnames when addressing women.