Meeting expectations and leaving a good impression on a business partner from a different culture depends on knowledge of proper etiquette and customs of the particular country. This will greatly facilitate mutual communication. The course of a business meeting in the Czech Republic does not generally differ from meetings in other European countries. Differences can be found in the Czech mentality, however, reflected in the entire process. Czechs tend to be much more careful when making decisions, moderate in manifesting their emotions and generally more reserved than Slovaks, Poles or Hungarians, despite belonging to the same region – Central Europe.
Very individual choice of the meeting venue
In most cases, choice of the meeting venue depends on the nature of the meeting and capacities of the business partner. It can be the office of one of the parties, or you may book a nice table in a café or restaurant. If you can find out what your partner likes and adjust the venue accordingly, you get “extra points”. For example, the following venues in Prague offer representative premises with a pleasant atmosphere:
Aligning the communication language
Of course, Czech is the national language. In addition to Czech or Slovak (Czechs and Slovaks understand each other), you may frequently encounter English in the world of business. Especially in some regions of the Republic, Czechs also speak German. They are far from having top language skills, however. If you are not sure about the languages spoken by your business partner, always offer inviting an interpreter to the meeting.
Pleasant atmosphere and sympathy as the key to success
Czechs prefer a type of communication that allows them to gradually deepen their relationships. They can appreciate others’ sympathy. Their specific traits are flexibility, ingenuity and adaptability. They like to improvise a lot in business negotiations. They do not respond positively to loud demonstrations of emotions accompanied by expressive gestures. They rather maintain sufficient distance at arm’s length (25 to 40 cm) and avoid physical contact. It is good manners to keep moderate eye contact throughout the meeting.
First impression is important
Especially during the first contact it is vital to keep in mind the proper way to address your business partner. In the Czech Republic, we first address another person with his or her surname. Particularly, when dealing with the Authorities, using the person’s title or role is important. Female business partners are always addressed as “Mrs” to show due respect. “Miss” is only used for very young girls – or women explicitly requesting it.
Handshake accompanies greeting
Many people shake their hands automatically when they greet. A woman or the hierarchically higher person offers her or his hand first and it is her or his exclusive right to decide to do so or not. The hierarchically lower person must wait for the other person to offer her or his right hand. When this happens, it should be followed by an adequately firm handshake lasting about one second. The handshake is accompanied by saying “it’s my pleasure” or “nice to meet you”. Keeping eye contact during the handshake is a matter of course. Similar rules apply to offering a more informal way of addressing each other (second person singular as opposed to second person plural). It is offered by the woman or the hierarchically higher person.
After greeting, it is not advisable to talk business straightforward. Instead, a brief small talk is suitable to “break the ice”. In the Czech Republic, informal topics such as ice hockey, football and sports in general are good small talk topics. Much alike Brits, Czechs like to talk about the weather. Recently, gastronomy-related topics are on the rise. Politics and particularly the era of communism are definitely topics to avoid during conversation.
Exchange of business cards
Before the formal negotiation takes place, thank for the meeting and hand over your business card. Business cards are usually handed over with the right hand. Briefly read through the received business card to show respect. If the business card exchange is followed by business negotiations, the cards stay on the table. They help in remembering the names and roles of the partners to avoid any unnecessary faux pas. At the end of the meeting, put the received business cards in a case, wallet or your breast pocket.
For further information on the Czech Republic and Prague, check out the official travel site.