Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category


Czechs & Halloween: mostly for fun

In Culture on November 2, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged:

Several days ago Czech flower shops and fruit and vegetable stands were orange, selling Halloween decorations and pumpkins, even though this holiday has nothing to do with Czech myths, legends, traditions and customs. Ironically, as this “American” holiday is new here, it is observed on at least four levels:

Level 1: Expats living in the Czech Republic: Halloween is observed by Americans living in the Czech Republic, either entire U.S. families or mixed couples with children. They usually get together with their expat friends. They usually have parties for kids who, unfortunately, cannot go trick or treating (see below).

Level 2: Companies with American employees: Multinational companies where many foreigners work often have parties for employees which reflect different customs and observances. Halloween costume parties are often held and employees from countries where Halloween is not observed, including the Czech Republic, are encouraged to participate for the sake of team spirit and teambuilding efforts.

Level 3: Enthusiastic teachers in schools: English language teachers often engage kids in Halloween activities, mostly related to movies and cartoons where spooky events and characters are prominently feature, such as Scooby Doo etc.

Level 4: Czechs who want to be “in” and “trendy”: Foreign holidays, traditions etc. are often adopted by Czechs who want to appear trendy and moderns, often knowing nothing about the origin of their new hobby. Many of them do it for their kids. However, they cannot include the favorite trick-or-treating, because it is virtually impossible in the Czech Republic. Most Czechs live in apartment buildings where the door-to-door activity cannot be done. 

Level 5: Just the pretty decorations: And finally, many people only buy the decorations because they are pretty and in line with the fall season atmosphere. Falling leaves are also orange, as are other fall decorations which have nothing to do with Halloween.


Malkovich promoting the Karlovy Vary festival

In Culture,Media on July 2, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged:

Several celebrities promote the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The black and white ads are excellent. If you want to see one featuring John Malkovich, click on the headline to see the video posted within the article, as this template does not allow direct sharing within the front page. I wonder if Malkovich is still made about the burglary in his Prague hotel a few weeks back, and whether or not the Prague police have managed to collect some evidence on the suspect, considering the fact that it was a four-star hotel.


Protestfest: a festival of alternative culture

In Brno,Culture on May 21, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka

Fans of “alternative cultures” once again met in Brno and marched across the town to meet in a park next to the exhibition centre where a series of concerts and DJ performances is planned for Saturday night. I must say I don’t understand what they want. According to their website, “people have been losing their rights, ideas and public space” – and yet this event has been given plenty of time and space, even the busiest streets of Brno on a Saturday afternoon. They claim they fight for open discussion on current social and environmental problems. We already have that. They claim this event was not a place for advertising for private companies – and yet they had a Stella Artois parasol. They claimed that this festival was the venue for various opinions – and yet several banners carried by the march participants declared several business-related phenomena are inherently bad. So where is the tolerance and discussion?


Easter: girls’ tasks forced upon boys

In Culture,Life,Religion on April 22, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

It is Easter! Michal Kasparek of went to a famous square in Brno to drink green beer along with thousands of people. And many Czech elementary school boys learn how to dye eggs. Ironically, it makes perfect sense to get wasted from drinking way too much green beer. However, it does not make sense to teach boys dye Easter eggs. That is women’s job.

I think I wrote about it last year. In case you are not familiar with Easter traditions in the Czech Republic, Easter eggs are a one-way thing: they are collected by men from women. Men are allowed to bear arms on this particular day: ponytail-like whip made from willow branches and decorated with some ribbons. Men travel door-to-door, visiting family members, friends or neighbors, sometimes even total strangers in the neighborhood. Each woman, when visited by men, must patiently stand or (if she wants to play along) run and scream, while being whipped. Said whipping is accompanied by traditional Easter chants or “poems” – more or less childish.

Anyway, elementary school children learn how to dye eggs when Easter is about one or two weeks away. Boys are included, even though it is totally inappropriate. It is like forcing boys to play with dolls in kindergartens. True, many boys learn how to make the aforementioned whips. I spoke to several mothers whose kids go to elementary schools, and only one of them said that her son did actually try to make a whip. The explanation seems to be simple – teachers are not manually skilled enough to be able to teach and show to kids something they cannot do themselves.


Downtown Brno for sale. Nobody wants it

In Brno,Culture,History on April 19, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

Some of the most valuable buildings in downtown Brno are for sale. Five historical houses in Dominikanska street can be yours for thirty-nine million. So far there have been three involuntary auctions but nobody has bought them yet. The auctions were proposed by the mortgagee, as the owners of these buildings failed to pay mortgage instalments. They must be heirs of some sort, because one of the owners is only 34 years old. (Better photos coming up…)

 It is interesting that these five buildings can cost less than one single luxurious house in the borough of Ivanovice that is for sale for fifty million (according to an ad in the Real City magazine). The truth is, however, that not everything about these buildings dates back to the 16th century. The Brno Encyclopedia writes that only basements and outer walls do, the rest was rebuilt.

 The owners of the buildings owe sixty-four million to the bank, so even if the auction goes well the total proceeds of thirty-nine million will not be enough.

Plus, the complex is connected by corridors and passages (built in 1940’s), so the new owner will have to buy them all – i.e. it was not possible to divide the auction “item” into several separate items.


Family movies and the Santa Claus existence dilemma

In Culture,History,Life,Religion,Winter on December 25, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

Christmas on network TV stations in the Czech Republic (i.e. non-cable stations like Czech Television, TV Nova and TV Prima) is represented by two separate avalanches of movie production: one, an avalanche of Christmas-themed “family movies” about separated families getting together, about children meeting Santa Claus whose existence they questioned, or about men being with wrong women and finally meeting and falling for the right women.  And two, an avalanche of classic Czech non-cartoon fairytales from the 1970’s and 1980’s – with kingdoms and princes and ordinary peasant girls they fall for… etc.

The programming schemes are often very odd in terms of the whole Christmas message 🙂 For example, at 8:30 a.m. there was a family movie about a father who spends hours searching for the perfect gift he knows his son wants. Ergo, the movie says there is no Santa Claus and that presents are purchased by parents. The entire movie almost ignores the figure of Santa… And two hours later the same TV station offers the typical Santa movie.

Kids who spent all day watching TV and who are still convinced that there is no Santa Claus must be really confused. Naturally, it is not the role of TV programs to tell them the truth.

Moreover, practically all American family movies feature families living in houses with huge bay windows and chimneys/fireplaces, which of course confuses Czech kids even more… Most Czechs live in apartment buildings with central heating…

Photo downloaded from


Bazinga! Television catchphrases are good for business

In Culture,Economy,Entertainment on December 18, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

I don’t think there has ever been a U.S. TV show that would be so popular that it would stimulate secondary business activities in the Czech Republic. But now there are two hugely favorite programs that are amazingly good for business: How I Met Your Mother and especially The Big Bang Theory. Catchphrases from these two shows made their way onto T-shirts. And there are at least four small companies that offer them for sale. Not surprisingly, the “companies” are in fact small businesses owned and run by enthusiasts. And their T-shirts are unique and their owners stick out in their respective crowds. is one of them (the photo above is theirs). The T-shirt motifs are, well, geeky. One would expect they would be total rip-offs, but they are not. True, two of them imitate the actual T-shirts worn on the show (Leonard/Sheldon), but that is not illegal. And then there is that focuses, of course, on HIMYM. The T-shirts sold by are more the Barney-style (they are tighter and they seem to look good together with Tommy Hilfiger jeans).

Sure, one could argue that these businesspersons are just milking other people’s cows. But you can say that just about everything that is related to showbusiness, even a hot-dog vendor who sets up his cart across the street from Universal Studios.


Christmas markets: hot wine, hand-made products, skating

In Culture,Winter on December 17, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

The Christmas market in the city of Olomouc is traditional. A “tiny city” of wooden booths is built and vendors can move in to sell Christmas-y stuff (decorations, candles, hand-made jewelry…) and tasty “fast food” products (fried curled potatoes, hash browns) …and especially hot wine of various flavors (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). In some cities, including Olomouc, this holiday scenery is improved by a temporary ice skating rink. The one in Olomouc can take up to thirty skaters who pay a small per-hour fee. There are three rinks in Brno, but not directly next to the Christmas market(s).

In the past years, some municipalities failed to keep the markets and their organizers under control. Some booths sold underwear and pyjamas and low-quality Chinese toys. People complained, so this time it is really just Christmas-y merchandise, food and beverages and artists’ own products.


Communist song used in TV Prima’s Polar Express teaser

In Culture,Entertainment,Music on December 8, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

TV Prima’s “secondary” channel named Prima Cool is known for unorthodox visual style, so as to appeal to younger audiences. However, today I saw a teaser trailer for Polar Express, which is a family movie, if not a Christmas fairytale for children. For some reason, the background music for the teaser was The Internationale, which is the official “anthem” of social democrats, communists, the former Soviet Union (1922 to 1944), etc. I will have to ask the spokesperson of the TV station about it…



PF: a unique Czech version of Happy New Year

In Culture,Life,Winter on December 3, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , ,

It is almost time to start sending out Christmas cards. In Czech, the phrase “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” is often abbreviated as PF 2011. The abbreviation is French and stands for “pour féliciter” – which is a phrase that is not used anywhere else. Not even in France…

at least according to Wiktionary. The origin of this phrase in the Czech language is disputed. One theory says that it was first used centuries ago when noblemen spoke French (it was a part their “higher education”) and it somehow survived.

However, the problem often arises when companies send out their corporate greeting cards to their foreign partners – and they leave the “PF 2011” in the foreign-language version, along with the proper “Merry Christmas…” wish. Foreigners have no idea what the initialism means…

%d bloggers like this: