How different are Czechs and Slovaks?


What are the Czech and Slovak nations like ten years after the breakup of Czechoslovakia? The differences and similarities between them are revealed in a study released last week by the Median research company.

In the 1980s Czechs and Slovaks earned almost the same amount of money, but now Slovaks earn around a third less than their Czech neighbours. And that is one difference that both nations can agree on: Czechs and Slovaks each recognise that the Czech Republic has been the more successful country - both economically and politically - in the last decade.

This is one statistic to come out of a study released by the Median polling group last Wednesday, which looks at how the Czechs and Slovaks live ten years after the breakup of Czechoslovakia. The study was led by sociologist Milan Tucek from Prague's Charles University and his colleague, mathematician Hana Friedlaenderova. I asked Ms Friedlaenderova which results she found most surprising:

"The generation which grew up together, the parents' generation, is more different than the younger generation. It's surprising, because the young generation has lived in the two different countries for a huge part of their lives, but in spite of that fact they are closer than the generation of their parents."

To further explore the differences and similarities between the two nations, I approached two Slovak students who also worked on the study, Maros Krivy and Michal Osusky. I asked them what they thought about the statistics that tried to gauge national mentalities - take, for example, the figures that indicate that Czechs are more extroverted and sociable than the Slovaks. Having lived in both countries, did the students really think this was the case?

Michal Osusky: "Well, this is really hard to explain because if you compare graphs that follow these statistics you can see that perhaps in Bratislava people are more extroverted than in Prague. So when you get an average number for a state, it might be misleading if there are two groups that are very different. And this is something that supports our hypothesis that we formulated before, that there are perhaps bigger differences between the town and the village than between the two states."

Maros Krivy: "Or between different age groups, and you can see that in the graphs. Between young Czechs and Slovaks there are no differences, or almost no differences."

And let's look at some of the other interesting results to come out of the study. Slovaks buy a new pair of jeans more often than Czechs do, and they are more likely to own a satellite dish or to have a sweeter tooth. And in Slovakia, almost half of the people live in their own home, while this is the case for only a third of Czechs. But when it comes to expressing satisfaction - or dissatisfaction - with their personal lives, the results for Czechs and Slovaks are pretty much the same.