"Tell you what mate; all the fittest birds in the Czech Republic - supermodels every one of them! And the blokes here - they live like kings! And they've got the best football team in the world....and the beer....." These are words from a TV commercial, selling a Czech beer brand. This is how many Czechs would like their country to be seen abroad. But many others would prefer a slightly more sophisticated image. So how should the Czech Republic sell its image abroad? That's a question that the government is trying to answer, as it launches a new campaign to promote the country's image.
Despite the image suggested in the beer ad, surveys suggest that the dominant picture of the Czech Republic abroad is as a rather backward, rustic, post-communist country. Czech government would like to present it more as a modern, dynamic state. In order to promote the Czech Republic abroad and to attract even more tourists, the Czech Tourist Agency last year launched a campaign accompanied by TV commercial spots in a number of world media under the slogan "Come to slow down". But Jana Adamcova from the Foreign Ministry says that this campaign unfortunately did not help the country's image very much.
"The message that - the people that I asked - understood from this campaign was that nothing is happening here. If you saw this TV commercial, you could see only forests and countryside. This is an image of an undeveloped country, a country with no infrastructure - an image that we are not happy that a state agency is promoting. I think that any attempts to present the country should focus more on the modern aspects of the Czech Republic, on the current situation, current living standards."
Pavel Cernoch, who is the head of the Czech Centre in Brussels, and whose job is to promote the Czech Republic abroad, says that his country's image varies among people of different generations and nationalities.
"When you talk to Belgians, especially the older people, who remember the events of 1968 and 1989, they still have the image of Czechoslovakia in their head, and when they speak about our country, they often refer to Czechoslovakia. Then there is this irreversible image, in terms that there is the East and the West, but that is very much tied to the older generation. Younger people they just take it as a fact that there is an interesting country with a beautiful city called Prague and it is a part of Europe. My job here is to try to convince the older people that something has changed with EU enlargement, that 15 years we have been working very intensively about reforming our economy and our political system in order to join the European Union and to come back to Europe as a dynamic, open, democratic and prosperous country."
But the image also changes with how far you get from the Czech Republic. For example in the United States the Czech Republic is seen in a slightly different light.
"The United States is definitely a different place. Because we have had a strong emigration to the US, so being Czech is something people are proud of in the US, even though their ancestors might have come in the 19 century. There are lots of associations like 'Sokol' or Czechoslovak genealogical societies which maintain Czech heritage. In other countries like in Germany we have, of course, an image of a neighbour. When you go further like Italy, Spain, Sweden, Britain, Ireland...- it becomes a little bit more difficult because not so many people travel and we are not on their 'radar'. Here we have to start completely from scratch and get people interested in the country; through exhibitions, through music, and especially through scholarships - bringing people on University exchanges, professional exchanges to the Czech Republic."
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