In the land of beer drinkers, pub society shifts

The Czechs are - famously - the world's number one consumers of beer. But did you know that while 90 percent of Czech men are beer drinkers, it's only 58 percent in the case of women? A new report on Czech drinking habits has also found that voters of the center-right Civic Democrats drink the most beer, but that may be because the party has more male voters. The study also looks at another very interesting issue - the importance of pubs in Czech society.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
In the U Rudolfina pub near the Charles Bridge in Prague is a place where refills are slammed on your table before you even ask for them, and it's where customers say the Pilsner Urquell is kept at just the right temperature.

Czechs there confirmed many of the findings of a survey released Monday by the Public Opinion Research Center. Smoky Czech pubs like U Rudolfina play an important role in Czech society, but this is a role that researchers say has faded since the fall of communism in 1989.

We asked pub customers like university student Vit Stritecky why the pubs were important to them.

"I think the reason is really to meet people and to talk, and the beer is not really that important in that case."

Instead of drinking to his health, chemical engineer Roman Burke goes to pubs to drink for his health.

"Well, my stomach needs the good Pilsn beer, which is the only beer that has positive Ph. This is very good for your stomach and for your digestion.

"You find out about all kinds of expositions and, you know, you find out about all kinds of information you don't read about in the paper."

Sociologist Jiri Vinopal was in charge of the section of the survey on pubs in Czech society. The study found that Czechs' reasons for going to pubs have gone through changes since the Communist system collapsed about 15 years ago.

The most significant change was in what he calls the "information function" of Czech pubs. Before 1989, the pubs were one of the only places where people could find out about politics, but this is no longer the case. That said, Czechs are still finding other kinds of information in pubs.

"The information function of Czech pubs is very important for the Czech public. People go there because they think tghat they are able to get somethinga that they are not able to get anywhere - some piece of information that they are able to get only at the platform of Czech pubs. This function is very strong.

"It is a quite important specification of the pub environment that people can talk there about everything that they want to talk about."

Czech pubs play a more important role in people's social lives, but even in this area, there has been some decline. For example, some 13 percent fewer people say pubs are important for meeting new friends.

"The social functions aren't so strong as they have been, but I think they are still very important. People are meeting, people are getting to know each other, and people are not only communicating, but helping eachother.

"I think that the decline of the importance of this function doesn't show that people do not need this function."

So if the pubs are not as valuable to Czech society, why do people keep going? Could it be the beer?

"Yes, it's true. People go there for beer. Czech beer and Czech pubs are tightly connected. People cannot imagine them separately."