Czech culture learning materials

Saturday, February 4, 2017

As a teacher, I'm constantly compiling materials for lessons, so I thought, why not gather some materials that I've used for learning about the culture here in the Czech Republic?

Anyone can jump on Amazon and search for books on Czech customs and culture. The list I've got here is comprised of things that have helped me understand the dark humor, the lean toward egalitarianism, the penchant for house-slippers, in a more holistic manner.

Of course, the best thing you can possibly do to better grasp Czech norms is spend time with actual natives (and you should make every effort to!); these items are only meant to be supplemental.

Things that have helped me understand Czech culture*
*And please do recommend more

1. Films. Ask your Czech friends for some suggestions. I've been directed toward, which are all comical yet disconcerting at the same time:

From "Closely Observed Trains"

  • Pupendo - about the difficulty of family life under Communism in the 1980s
  • Closely Observed Trains - a coming-of-age story set during WWII in German-occupied Czechoslovakia, based on a novel
  • Firemen's Ball - satire about Eastern European Communism, centered around a village's bumbling fire department

2. Literature, of course! (Sorry, Kafka, for not listing you.)

From the "Unbearable Lightness of Being" film adaptation, starring Daniel Day Lewis and Juliette Binoche. 
The book is better.

  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. Placed in 1968 during the Prague Spring, this philosophical book about the tangled existence of four broken people is one of the most transformative things I've ever read, and I'm not exactly sure why. 
  • The Little Town Where Time Stood Still by Bohumil Hrabal (also the author of "Closely Observed Trains). The story of a zany and delightful young brewer's wife in rural Czechoslovakia in the 1930s, and how political change impacts her village.
  • No Saints or Angels by Ivan Klima. Set in modern Prague, a divorced dentist must confront her family's Stalinist past whilst managing her difficult teen daughter, ex-husband and new love. It provides a frank picture of current drug culture in the city city, too.
  • Now that we're becoming parents, I've enjoyed perusing bookshops for Czech children's books, which I'm beginning to be able to read: Here's a list.

3. Theatre. I still can't understand theatre in Czech, but here are some good foreigner-friendly bets:
I couldn't find a theatre gif, so here is Tom Hulce as a young Mozart in Czech director Milos Forman's award-winning film "Amadeus"

4. Hiking. I've written about it many times on this blog - from a visiting parent hike to a hike where we found odd things

I love it because it gets us out of Prague and into various villages and landscapes; this country and culture is so much more than its capitol city. It forces us to use our Czech language more, too.

Are you an expat who has other tricks for learning about the local culture? Or are you a Czech who has suggestions for doing so? I'm always looking to learn more, so - again - please do share materials and ideas!

1 comment

  1. Hi Em - You are totally confusing me! As well as re-vamping the appearance of your blog, I see that you've stopped using 'Disqus' for comments and, as a result, lost all the comments I or anyone else have made previously. I went to check on which of your recent posts I'd commented on & whether there was a reply, and found a succession of zeros :-(

    I will leave a comment here on your most recent post, hoping that it too, doesn't disappear & might even get a reply :-)

    I concur with a lot of your suggestions as to how to understand Czech culture, particularly 'spend time with the natives' & enjoying Cimrman in English. My more general advice is to get out of the 'expat bubble'. It is amazing the number of English-speaking expats living in Prague, who never get out into 'the nature' and other parts of the Czech Republic. They spend their free time in British or Irish themed pubs, only mixing with their fellow English-speaking expats. I'm left wondering why they bother living here!


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