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Nemcova Scholarship Essays

Guest post: Paul Myers

For many considering working or studying in a foreign country, the Czech Republic might not be at the top of their immediate list. However, this Slavic nation is a hidden jewel in the heart of Europe and a favorite destination for those in the know. Tourists and professionals from all over the world come to visit, live, work or raise families in this fantastic country. But what should you know about living and working in the Czech Republic?

1. Czechs have retained some interesting traditions…

During Easter, Czech women can expect to be spanked on the backside with a willow whip and the men can expect to have cold water thrown on them. This is all part of the fertility rites which Czechs still strongly associate with Eastertime. Home-made Czech plum schnapps (slivovice) is also a much-loved part of the Easter proceedings, guaranteed to make any day run that bit more smoothly. 

Czechs also love music, and the country has a thriving folk tradition. Indeed, as is often the case, music, food and alcohol are the glue that holds the nation together. Try insulting the quality of Czech beer (pivo) or dumplings (knedliky) and you’ll see what I mean.

Another fertility rite takes place on 1 May, when the menfolk grab their woman folk for a smooch under the cherry blossom trees before heading to the pub (hospoda) for a refreshing beverage. Remember to look into your drinking partner’s eyes as you say ‘cheers’! This is very important. I don’t know why, but it is.

2. The country’s ex-pat community is huge.

There are around half a million foreigners living in the Czech Republic, and the country has myriad clubs and support groups for non-Czechs. The expat community is huge and you’ll find yourself with friends from all over the world and something to do every weekend. Choose from photographic and artistic exhibitions, theatre and music performances, festivals, museums, fantastic restaurants, clubs, pubs and sporting activities such as cycling, trekking, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking and much more. 

Czechs tend to trek, cycle and kayak during the summer; you can have a go at picking wild mushrooms in autumn; and winter is reserved for skiing and snowboarding. And all of these activities are available for a much cheaper price than you’re probably used to.

3. You can visit somewhere new every weekend!

The Czech Republic is smack bang in the center of Europe. This means there’s easy access to a number of major cities across Europe via rail, road or air. Berlin, Vienna, Milan, Munich, Krakow and Budapest are all within easy travelling distance and close enough to visit even for a weekend break.

And if you fancy staying within the Czech Republic, there are many beautiful sites to see. What about Brno with its friendly natives and abundance of students? Alternatively, you could head south into wine country and tour the traditional vineyards and villages by bicycle. Another possibility is Cesky Krumlow , a UNESCO-protected village which looks as if it hasn’t changed in 500 years, with a rushing river, medieval houses and winding  lanes, all watched over by the spectacular edifice of the town’s ancient castle.

4. Many international companies are based or founded here.

The Czech Republic is home to many famous international companies, including Deloitte Touche, Exxon Mobil and Zara. But the country also has its own homegrown large firms, such as Skoda, Budweiser Budvar, Pilsner Urquell and Bata. That’s a car company, a shoe company and two beer companies. Yes, the Czechs do love their beer…

5. Working hours and holiday allowance are similar to the UK.

The average working time is generally around 40 hours per week, not taking overtime into account. The standard amount of holidays is 20 days per year and Czechs also benefit from 11 additional national holidays.

6. Salaries average around 26,000 CZK per month (~US$1,000).

This can afford you a high standard of living, because the price of consumables is so reasonable. The Czech Republic is very affordable when compared to other European countries. Compared to the UK, a meal for two in a Czech restaurant will cost £10 instead of £50, while rent for a three bedroom apartment is around £280 per month as opposed to over £3,000 in London. And, did you know that the Czech Republic has the highest standard of living of any former Soviet Bloc country?

7. There are more famous Czechs than you realize!

Czechs aren’t famous for being famous… Nevertheless, they invented contact lenses and sugar cubes, so the visually challenged amongst you have Czechs to thank for being able to see how many sugar cubes you put into your tea! What’s more, they also invented the word robot, so if you’re wearing contact lenses while programming a robot to add sugar cubes to your tea then you’re really getting close to the essence of Czech-ness.

Famous people born in the Czech Republic include: Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl (tennis pros), Milos Forman (film director), Sigmund Freud (psychologist), Oskar Schindler (of Schindler’s List fame) and Petra Nemcova (supermodel).

8. Be careful not to call Czechs “Czechoslovakians”.

Although Czechs and Slovaks refer to themselves as ‘brothers’, they are quite different. Stereotypically, Czechs are seen as being far more placid and sanguine than Slovaks, who have a reputation as being quite fiery. When Czechoslovakia broke up in 1990 most of the population actually did not want to separate, but the politicians of the time decided to have what is called ‘The Velvet Divorce’. The name is given due to the smooth and peaceful nature of the split, and also refers to the event which ousted Communism – The Velvet Revolution, a peaceful affair which was also largely free of bloodshed.

9. The Czech Republic has two distinct regions.

These are Bohemia in the west and Moravia in the east of the country. In Bohemia the people are generally perceived to be more reserved and especially keen on beer, while in Moravia they are said to be extremely friendly, more rural and fond of the wine grown across the southern part of the area. Moravians also speak their own dialect of Czech and consider themselves to be a sovereign nation which, as yet, has failed to gain political recognition.

10. It’s the most castle-rich country in Europe.

As mentioned earlier, there are all kinds of outdoor activities on offer, so why not include a tour of Czech castles? You’ll need to allow plenty of time… There are over 200 castles in the Czech Republic, which makes it the most castle-rich country in Europe. Some of the most beautiful include Prague Castle (the biggest), Orlik (set on a volcano above a lake), Cesky Krumlow (perched on a sheer drop over a medieval village) and Cervena Lhota, a gorgeous red castle surrounded by gardens and a pond.

Paul Myers is internal recruitment manager at NonStop Recruitment, a specialist recruiter with offices across Europe.

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March 15 and 16   |   The Cinematheque (1131 Howe St. #200, Vancouver)

Join us for a very special program with Trinh T. Minh-ha:

Centre A and The Cinematheque, with support from SFU David Lam Centre and SFU Institute for the Humanities, welcome renowned Vietnamese-born artist, writer, and scholar Trinh T. Minh-ha for a special two-night program of her acclaimed film work. Subjective, self-reflexive, and intellectual; infused with feminism and anti-colonialism; and offering a dizzying array of sights and sounds, her award-winning “anti-anthropological” films represent a startling reinvention of the documentary form. Two of these nonfiction works – Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989) and Forgetting Vietnam (2015) – will screen at The Cinematheque on March 15 and 16.

Prof. Trinh will be with us on Friday the 16th to discuss Forgetting Vietnam in celebration of its Vancouver premiere. A Q&A session and reception will follow.

“The films of Trinh T. Minh-ha present an incisive critique of the structures of traditional Western documentaries, which so often depict ‘other’ cultures in a condescending way.  Rich, lyrical, fluid, her finely crafted cinematic style is distinctive.  It incorporates complex musical structure, performances, text, jump cuts, long poised silences, and other techniques of avant-garde cinema to create a new language for film.”  – National Gallery of Canada

Surname Viet Given Name Nam

USA 1989. Dir: Trinh T. Minh-ha. 108 min. 16mm
Thursday, March 15 – 7:00 pm

One of the best known works by celebrated film artist and theorist Trinh T. Minh-ha, Surname Viet Given Name Nam explores questions of identity, popular memory, and culture through Vietnamese women’s resistance in Vietnam and the United States. The film combines dance, text, folk poetry, and women’s testimony to call into question official histories and the politics of documentary and interview. “A challenging and rewarding work that places Trinh T. Minh-ha as one of the leading American independent filmmakers of the ’80s” (New Directors/New Films, New York).

Buy tickets for Surname Viet Given Name Nam 

Vancouver Premiere of Forgetting Vietnam
Talk and Q&A with Trinh T. Minh-ha

USA 2015. Dir: Trinh T. Minh-ha. 90 min. DCP
Friday, March 16 – 7:00 pm

Drawing on ancient stories of Vietnam’s creation, this lyrical film essay from Trinh T. Minh-ha moves between Hi-8 footage shot in 1995 and digital footage filmed in 2012. Images of contemporary life in Vietnam unfold in a dialogue between land and water. Through the experiences of local inhabitants, immigrants, and veterans, Forgetting Vietnam honours the survivors of the Vietnam War and commemorates the 40th anniversary of the war’s end.

Trinh T. Minh-ha will be in attendance to introduce and discuss Forgetting Vietnam, followed by a Q&A led by Professor Helen Leung (SFU). A reception will be held afterwards in The Cinematheque lobby.

Buy tickets for Forgetting Vietnam

Regular ticket prices will be in effect. Centre A membership cards will be accepted in lieu of Cinematheque membership at the door.

Image from Forgetting Vietnam courtesy of Women Make Movies, http://www.wmm.com

Trinh T. Minh-ha is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, composer, and scholar whose films have been given over fifty retrospectives internationally. She has lectured worldwide on film, art, feminism, and cultural politics. She is Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. Visit her website to learn more about Forgetting VietnamSurname Viet Given Name Nam, and her other works.

Special thanks to Y Vy Truong, Paul Crowe, Women Make Movies, and the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences Film Archive.

This event is possible with the support of the SFU David Lam Centre and the SFU Department of Humanities.