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Study in Czech Republic

Location and Geography

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The Czech Republic is located in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the northwest and west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the east and Poland to the northeast. Prague, the capital, is the largest city, with 1.3 million residents. The Czech Republic includes the historical territories of Bohemia, and Moravia, and Czech Silesia.
Its central European landscape is dominated by the Bohemian Massif, which rises to heights of 3,000 ft (900 m) above sea level. This ring of mountains encircles a large elevated basin, the Bohemian Plateau. The principal rivers are the Elbe and the Vltava

Climate

It  is a landlocked country located in moderate geographical latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. The climate of the Czech Republic is mild but variable locally and throughout the year.
The climate of the Czech Republic can then be labelled as moderate, of course with great local diversity seen throughout the year. Further changeability then is up to the weather itself.
The climate differs markedly among the various regions of the Czech Republic, depending on the height above sea level. Generally speaking, the higher you are, average temperatures may drop more and rainfall is more likely. Many other factors also play a role in this – the border mountain ranges, for example, significantly influence ground-level air flow and rainfall.

Various height levels of the sun during the year cause the changing of the seasons, differentiated from each other mainly by the development of temperatures and precipitation. Similarly to the whole moderate northern band, the beginning of the year in the Czech Republic is also characterized by a cold winter. After this comes spring, followed by a warm summer and chilly autumn. The alternation of the seasons has a marked effect, above all on vegetation. 

The weather at any given time may differ significantly from the long-term average. This variability of the weather is caused mainly by the changeable location and magnitude of two main pressure centres: the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. Mainly during the warm middle of the year, it can generally be said that expansion of the high pressure projection into our territory causes warmer and drier temperatures, whereas the Icelandic Low manifests itself with a greater number of atmospheric fronts, which bring more clouds and precipitation.

History and population

Probably about the 5th century A.D. , Slavic tribes from the Vistula basin settled in the region of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. The Czechs founded the kingdom of Bohemia and the Premyslide dynasty, which ruled Bohemia and Moravia from the 10th to the 16th century. One of the Bohemian kings, Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, made Prague an imperial capital and a center of Latin scholarship. The Hussite movement founded by Jan Hus (1369?–1415) linked the Slavs to the Reformation and revived Czech nationalism, previously under German domination. A Hapsburg, Ferdinand I, ascended the throne in 1526. The Czechs rebelled in 1618, precipitating the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). Defeated in 1620, they were ruled for the next 300 years as part of the Austrian empire. Full independence from the Hapsburgs was not achieved until the end of World War I, following the collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

A union of the Czech lands and Slovakia was proclaimed in Prague on Nov. 14, 1918, and the Czech nation became one of the two component parts of the newly formed Czechoslovakian state. In March 1939, German troops occupied Czechoslovakia, and Czech Bohemia and Moravia became German protectorates for the duration of World War II. The former government returned in April 1945 when the war ended and the country's pre-1938 boundaries were restored. When elections were held in 1946, Communists became the dominant political party and gained control of the Czechoslovakian government in 1948. Thereafter, the former democracy was turned into a Soviet-style state.

Nearly 42 years of Communist rule ended with the nearly bloodless “velvet revolution” in 1989. Václav Havel, a leading playwright and dissident, was elected president of Czechoslovakia in 1989. Havel, imprisoned twice by the Communist regime and his plays banned, became an international symbol for human rights, democracy, and peaceful dissent. The return of democratic political reform saw a strong Slovak nationalist movement emerge by the end of 1991, which sought independence for Slovakia. When the general elections of June 1992 failed to resolve the continuing coexistence of the two republics within the federation, Czech and Slovak political leaders agreed to separate their states into two fully independent nations. On Jan. 1, 1993, the Czechoslovakian federation was dissolved and two separate independent countries were established—the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Czech Republic joined NATO in March 1999.

With an estimated population of 10,512,419 at 1st January 2014, compared to 9.3 million at the beginning of the twentieth century, the population growth of the Czech Republic was limited and characterized by low fertility rates and loss of population in and around WW I and WW II. Population loss during WW I was approximately 350,000. At the beginning of WW II population the Czech Republic reached its maximum (11.2 million). Due to the expulsion of the German residents after WW II and the persecution of Czech Slavs and Jews, the Czech Republic lost about 3 million inhabitants and in 1947 the population was only 8.8 million. Population growth resumed until 1994 when the population was 10.33 million.

Society and couture

The Czechs are a Slavic race akin to the Russians and the Slovaks; they belong, ethnically speaking, to the West Slav group of peoples, of which Luatians, Poles and Slovaks are also a part. The Czechs are the largest ethnic group in the Czech Republic, but they’re not the only racial group dwelling in this area; among the other ethnic groups in the country are the Slovaks, the Poles, the Moravians, the Germans, and the Romany gypsies. 

The gypsies, especially are a very small minority (like the tiny pockets of Vietnamese in the country, who were initially brought here as labor), and face quite a bit of discrimination- like the Vietnamese do. The government has tried to integrate the gypsies into the social mainstream (and has succeeded, to some extent), but the Vietnamese receive little or no support- in fact, the Czech government is trying its best to have them return to Vietnam. 

Much of Czech society is still very traditional, and there are certain standards of social conduct that govern life. Although as a foreigner you won’t be expected to know the ins and outs of Czech etiquette, knowing- and complying to- the basics can be helpful. Firstly, remember that punctuality, especially for business meetings, but also on social occasions is highly valued, as is according due respect to people. One of the important aspects of the latter is to never address anyone by his or her first name unless invited to do so.

When invited to a Czech household, it is customary to take along a small gift of some sort- flowers or chocolates are usually adequate. And when entering a home, you should be prepared to take off your shoes at the entrance- many Czech households expect it. 

The Czech Republic has a very rich cultural heritage, which, despite the negligence of the communist regime, has managed to survive through the 20th century. It’s a culture that has been influenced by many external forces, including the Germans, the Poles, the Hungarians, and the Austrians. Amongst the most obvious manifestations of this culture are the impressive buildings in the country- perhaps the best Baroque, Art Nouveau and Cubist architecture in Europe. Other than the monuments, there are other visible forms of this culture too- sculpture (particularly religious), puppets, dolls, toys, ceramics and the world-famous Bohemian glassware and crystal. Other arts- literary and performing- too have reached great heights in this small country. Some of Europe’s best-known writers, including greats like Franz Kafka and Milan Kundera are Czechs; musicians (contemporary as well as of yore) include composers like Antonin Dvorak and jazz stars like Jan Hammer. The Czech Republic is best known for the lovely crystal and glassware made in Bohemia. The glassblowers of Bohemia have been practicing the art for centuries altogether, and it shows- the items they produce are truly exquisite. In addition to glass, Czech artisans also produce beautiful ceramic, folk style and of a distinctive blue-onion pattern. A number of other handicrafts are also produced in the country; among the more prominent ones are dolls (usually wooden or cornhusk), wooden toys and colorful cloth. Many of these are crafts that had been rather suppressed during the communist rule in the Czech Republic, but have recently been revived.

Economy

Of the countries in central and Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic has one of the most developed industrialized economies. It is one of the most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. GDP per capita at purchasing power parity was $27,100 in 2011, which is 85% of the EU average.

The principal industries are heavy and general machine-building, iron and steel production, metalworking, chemical production, electronics, transportation equipment, textiles, glass, brewing, china, ceramics, and pharmaceuticals. Its main agricultural products are sugar beets, fodder roots, potatoes, wheat, and hops.

Living Conditions and Cost of Living

The cost of living in every country is different, that is why doing some investigation about where you are going is very important. The living standard in Czech Republic also varies by regions, the prices of some products and services in Prague (Capital) are sometimes twice as high as in other parts of the country. Students going for placement in the Czech Republic should visit the following websites to get an idea of what the prices for everyday items are
The official currency of the country is Czech Crown (CZK). The country has over 30 commercial, mortgage and investment banks. If you are going to work in the Czech Republic then you may need to open a local account. All major credit cards are accepted in the Czech Republic, while personal cheques are not used or accepted. To open an account, you will need to show a form of photo identification (normally a student ID card and/or a valid Passport).

The Czech Republic has one of the best and most efficient public transportation systems in the world. Metro, trains, trams and buses are generally clean and punctual and are the easiest and fastest modes of transportation in both the capital and country at large. There are student’s discounts available if you produce a valid student card for example International Student ID Card (ISID).

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