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Lesson Transcript

Gabriella: Hi, and welcome back to CzechClass101.com! I'm Gabriella. This is All About, lesson 8: Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Czech Society!
Martin: Hi everyone, I’m Martin. In this lesson, we are going to tell you more about life in the Czech Republic.

Lesson focus

Gabriella: There are so many interesting aspects of Czech society, it's hard to know where to begin!
Martin: Well Gabriella, the clue is in the title "Top 5 Things You Need to Know About the Czech Society". I just picked five topics!
Gabriella: (laughs) Alright, what are they?
Martin: Major cities and city life, family life in the Czech Republic, Czech work culture and economy, politics, and generational trends.
Gabriella: Great! We’ll start with major cities in the Czech Republic.
Martin: Ok. Let’s talk about the three largest and most developed cities in the Czech Republic - Prague, Brno, and Ostrava.
Gabriella: We have learned that Prague is located in the northwest of the Czech Republic and is the capital city.
Martin: Yes, Prague is the country’s largest city, in terms of both its land and population.
Gabriella: Currently, the total population in Prague is almost 1.3 million people. Over the last 20 years, Prague has undergone great urban development changes that reflect important social changes - these took place after the 1989 Velvet Revolution, a period of upheaval and non-violent transformation of the then communist Czechoslovakia into a democratic state.
Martin: From a relatively gray and dead city surrounded by the cement walls of uniform blocks of flats, Prague has changed into a popular metropolis that attracts many tourists and businesses from all over the world.
Gabriella: Freedom in business and architecture especially are reflected in the latest urban development, with both positive and negative consequences, right Martin?
Martin: That’s right. As a city with more than thousand years of tradition, changes have been carried into the urban and architectural development, showing many layers of time. Each period of time has more or less left some marks on the picture of Prague.
Gabriella: If Prague is a city with a long history, does the city of Brno reflect a different picture?
Martin: Just a little bit. Located in the south-east of the Czech Republic, Brno is the second largest city in the country, and the capital of South Moravia. Brno too has been very modernised, with plenty of business going on, but it still preserves Moravian customs, such as national costumes worn at festivals, folk music, dance and related exhibitions or other traditional activities.
Gabriella: Brno also has a World Heritage Site listed by Unesco, and other historical buildings worth seeing. As it is the centre of Judicial Authority, the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court and Supreme Administrative Court are all located there. Brno has about 400,000 residents, but if you add in the nearest surrounding areas and villages, the number goes up to 730.000.
Martin: Yeah, Brno is also a city of education and has the second largest university in the country, with about 90,000 students and 190 departments.
Martin: So now that we’ve given you an overview of Prague and the city of Brno, let’s talk about Ostrava, the country’s third largest city.
Gabriella: Ok. Where is it located?
Martin: It’s around 360 km north-east from Prague, and is the third largest city in the Czech Republic. It’s close to the Polish and Slovakian borders.
Gabriella: Oh, near the border of Poland? It must be an important city for business.
Martin: Actually, in the past, Ostrava was a center of heavy industry, such as coal mining and steelmaking, which attracted many migrants from Poland and Germany, who came here to work. The city was nicknamed ‘’the steel heart of the republic’’. Due to the political and economic changes after 1989, the heavy industry gradually diminished, with the exception of the iron and steel industry, which now focuses on machine engineering.
Gabriella: Oh, really? The city must have an industrial feel even now.
Martin: Yes, it has many technical sights and historical museums too, but the city has much more to offer. There is the great 13th century Silesian-Ostrava Castle, where you can see permanent exhibitions showing the story of Ostrava, and The Johann Palisa Observatory and Planetarium. There is also the Ostrava Zoo and Botanical gardens.
Gabriella: I see. So it is a place with a long tradition, and a vibrant university city.
Martin: Yes, It is! The cities we just mentioned are the three largest cities in the Czech Republic. Each of them are a mix of modern and traditional.
Martin: Ok, we’re going to continue now with the next topic – family life in the Czech Republic.
Gabriella: We’ve learned that the Czech Republic is experiencing the recent phenomenon among young people and families, of fewer people getting married and families having fewer children.
Martin: Yes, marriage and having children is getting postponed to a later age, and nuclear families these days usually consist of only 3 members. It’s not unusual to see couples cohabiting and bringing up children out of wedlock. In Europe, the Czech Republic now has the second lowest child birth rate.
Gabriella: I see. So what are the reasons for these changes?
Martin: These dramatic changes appeared after the fall of communism, mainly because of the new opportunities in life that are directly in competition with having a family. Young people now spend more time in higher education, and finally finding a work opportunity has also become a challenge. The economic instability also plays an important role: young people worry about being able to support themselves, let alone a whole family.
Gabriella: So that’s quite different from the previous life style. The economy has been quite worrying everywhere. Why don’t we move on to Czech economy and work culture?
Martin: Sure. What can you tell us about it, Gabriella?
Gabriella: Well, since the Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004, its economy has been stable and prosperous.
Martin: That’s right. However, in 2012 the Czech Economy fell into a recession because of a decreasing demand from other Western European countries and relatively small domestic spending. Because the Czech economy heavily depends on export to Germany and Western Europe, any negative changes in the western economy have an impact on Czech production.
Gabriella: To revive the economy, the Czech Republic needs a more stable foreign environment and general stabilisation among the eurozone. For now it is making a gradual recover.
Martin: Okay, now let’s talk about the culture.
Gabriella: What can you tell us about the Czech work culture?
Martin: Czech people are generally hard working and seem to have a good work ethic. However, family values are deeply rooted in Czech culture - family has top priority over anything including work. This is why through the eyes of other nations, Czechs may not seem to have such a strong work drive. At work, the communication is more formal than in, for example, Anglo-saxon countries. Czechs tend to keep more distance from their superiors. It also seems that those who work at flexible rates and bonuses tend to stay at work longer, than those who work for fixed rates.
Gabriella: Interesting. Okay, now let’s move onto an overview of the country’s politics!
Martin: All right. The Czech Republic is a sovereign, integrated and democratic state with a democratic political system. Its guiding principle is that the State of the Czech Republic abides by the rule of law, based on respect for the rights and freedoms of humankind and citizens.
Gabriella: The Czech Republic has a multi-party system with the Socialist Democracy party usually having the majority, but new parties are appearing all the time. Function-wise, It can be compared to the British Labour Party.
Gabriella: The President of the Czech Republic is the head of state. The President gets elected for a 5-year term, and can be re-elected only once. There’s also a prime minister, who, along with the Czech Government, executes supreme power in the country. The Czech Government has full control of other main ministries and their administration, central bodies and legislation within the country. It also controls the state budget. So what about the presidential power then?
Martin: The President is the head of state and also Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, but he only has limited power.
Gabriella: Ok, we’re getting to the last topic now...
Martin: …Generational trends.
Martin: As a consequence of consumerism, the Czech Republic has been exposed to quick technological developments. Although the Internet still remains an important technological advantage, what is changing for the Czech people is the way they use the internet.
Gabriella: More and more people are turning to mobile or another form of portable Internet because they need to use it outside of their homes.
Martin: That’s right! The rapid development of technology has enabled them to use smart phones, tablets, ultra mobile PC and other wireless portable devices on a daily basis. 67% of the Czech Republic has Internet networks and Internet access, and there are 2.6 million mobile Internet users. About 23% of Czech people own smart phones, and 5.5% are tablet users.
Gabriella: According to research done, activities that are more and more popular include online shopping, listening to music, using search engines to find information, mainly Google, Seznam or Bing.
Martin: Yes. And as for social networks, although they are still very popular, instant messaging on social sites such as MSN or ICQ has been decreasing since 2010. Instead, a new application called Whatsapp, which enables international instant messaging, is gaining popularity.
Gabriella: Ok, Well, now we’ve covered 5 important aspects of Czech society.
Martin: We hope you learned a lot and enjoyed this lesson.
Gabriella: Yes, and be sure to join us to learn more about the Czech Republic in the next lesson!


Gabriella: Thank you for listening everyone. See you next time!
Martin: Ahoj!