Take my chocolate but don’t touch my mobile phone

Why Czechs tolerate nose picking but don’t mind offensive language in public

Why Czechs tolerate nose picking but don’t mind offensive language in public

You won’t see such a mix of fundamentalism and bottomless tolerance very often. This is a special Czech combination. Unlike in other European countries Czechs won’t tolerate public nail biting, but they don’t mind smoking, verbal offences and talking loud on the mobile phone.

Tell me how to behave

The recent survey conducted by Intel Corporation in sixteen countries (eleven from Europe, plus Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Egypt) explored what people living in these countries regard as impolite. The questionnaire asked general questions about life as well as modern technologies whose rapid development has had impact on etiquette. “We were interested in what people consider as acceptable and what not,” says Pavel Svoboda of Intel. “This area is somewhat unexplored and many people believe that there should be a definition of etiquette for using mobile devices in public,” adds Svoboda. “The results were surprising.”

The Czechs stand out in many aspects compared to other countries in and outside Europe. No other country – except for Germany - looks down upon nail biting or nose picking. In Britain or Spain, one doesn’t offend too many people if he bites his nails or picks his nose.  Other data and international comparison indicate Czechs are enormously tolerant to smoking and offensive language. Only a fifth of the Czechs surveyed minded offensive language used in public. This could explain the mystery why Czechs have always tolerated vulgar expressions of politicians – be it former PMs Václav Zeman and Mirek Topolánek, or finance minister Miroslav Kalousek.

Not in our bedrooms, please

Czechs also approve of smoking among non-smokers. Only Romanians and Turkish are more tolerant to this. Civic Democrat MP Boris Šťastný, who is trying to promote a full smoking ban in local restaurants, is far from being surprised. “But I wouldn’t say it is a sign of being impolite,” says Šťastný. “Czechs usually treat each other with respect. I think it is because Czechs aren’t used to stand up for themselves when they don’t like something. We can see this happening in public service offices, shops, restaurants,” adds Šťastný.

What’s more, the survey also indicates Czechs aren’t the most charming companions. Pavel Svoboda of Intel summarizes it this way: “There is an egregious gap between infantile and immature behavior and surprisingly high tolerance towards those who overlook others when using mobile phones or PCs”. All respondents from the rest of the countries consider it highly impolite when someone ignores them during a conversation. Czechs are bothered by this the least of all.

Czechs also hold a “record” when it comes to using a laptop in front of others. While nations with traditionally high table manners (French, Italians) prefer to go out for dinner, Czechs want to stay home with their PCs. The only place where Czechs wouldn’t tolerate any technologies at all is in the bedroom.

The statistics help to understand the mysterious combination of tolerance and fundamentalism – there are more phone devices than people in the country. As a tech-savvy nation, Czechs would prefer to give up a chocolate bar than their phones. In this, no nation can beat them.

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