Life in Czechland? A grape experience…*

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Has the identity of long suffering Czechman been uncovered at last?

Take a look at this picture. Now tell me what you can see. Pretend it’s some kind of exercise to hone your powers of observation. Or, if English is not your native tongue, a test of your fluency skills. 

There’s a man sitting at a table.  He seems to be – how can I put this politely? The wrong side of chubby. Corpulent. Beyond big boned.

He’s eating a calorific but no doubt tasty combination of chicken (or duck?) and dumplings. He’s also swigging what we can only presume is beer from a large tankard.  However, he’s not in a pub.  Or a restaurant.  He can’t be: what Czech pub do you know that has complimentary grapes on the table?

This gentlemen isn’t relaxing in the comfort of his own home either. And in case you were wondering, it isn’t Czechman or even Czechman’s father, grandfather or uncle.

This image is part of an advertisement. 

For what? I hear you cry.  Artery furring cuisine? Cures for baldness? Pine furniture of questionable taste?

Well done: the final option is correct. This man is trying to tempt you to purchase česky dřevený nábytek or Czech Wooden Furniture as the company seems to have imaginatively called itself. 

There is one thing that puzzles me however. If Czech Wooden Furniture really want to see their charming pine dressers flying out of the shop, why don’t they just have a naked girl representing their products instead?  The preferred Central European marketing strategy of most firms trying to flog unsexy products seems to be  “make a calendar with a naked blonde hottie in it posing near our products and give it to our clients.” You would think so anyway, given the number of the things I see brightening up offices all over Prague on my English teacher travels  – or should I say travails.

We’ll be buying our furniture from Ikea.  Just in case you were wondering.

* Yes, I did decide to start this post with a truly appalling pun, based on the very slight similarity between “grape” and “great”. Sorry.


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29 Responses to Life in Czechland? A grape experience…*

  1. mejlnaspam

    everything seems to be better with grapes 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      I agree! Do Czechs give grapes along with flowers when they visit someone in hospital? Just wondering…

      • Kristyna

        I think that oranges are the fruit of choice when visiting someone in the hospital. Never understood why though(so impractical).

  2. OMG, that (= the guy) ‘s disgusting! Is that a joke? 🙁

    • girlinczechland

      Hello there,
      No, it’s definitely a real ad, I promise. I couldn’t have come up with something so funny on my own if I’d tried!

      • I guess the thing is that to me the guy doesn’t seem Czech at all. He just seems oddly out of place in the picture, with the T-shirt and the scarf (!)*… To me he looks more like… German or American… A foreign tourist in a (wannabe) traditional Czech setting. The grapes are just the top of the whole tastelessness of the picture. I would DEFINITELY NOT go for anything promoted by this advertisement!

        * If they wanted to show a “typical Czech guy” – and I imagine my grandpa, he’d definitely be wearing a shirt, perhaps braces, and maybe a cap… Plus, this guy is faaaar to fat. 🙂

        Anyway, I’m Jana, nice meeting you. 😉

    • Sabina

      In real life he is an impresario of a transvestite show

  3. You don´t get the message;) : it´s traditional (food, beer, the small statue which seems to be some saint or even Virgin Mary, etc.). It can´t be broken (fat man). We make everything you may need (no one has a closet with duvet and pillows – sorry, I can´t find the correct expression – next to the table). We know you, we are here for you – and we meet your needs.

    Well, it´s definitely not the best ad ever, but it´s not THAT stupid, as it seems;) – I think it really works for some people… (Sorry for the poor English.)

    And the grapes – well, older people traditionally bring oranges and/or apples to hospital…:)) Maybe these grapes refer to Moravia – traditional producer of wine? Honestly – I dont´t know really why, but if I would have to choose (well… and if I was this clueless – “Hey, Franto, I need something more here, it seems so empty! What do you mean, what? It doesn´t matter, just bring something, oh, bring some fruit, let´s make a still life!”), I would go for the grapes here too. Maybe they just were pictured in too many older cookbooks, I really don´t know:c)

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Havana Blues,
      Thanks for the analysis. Fat man = unbreakable Czech furniture! It all makes sense 😉 And I’m not sure the ad is stupid exactly, just odd – to a non-Czech audience at least – but it stuck in my mind and we’re talking about it now, so in that sense it did its job. 🙂

  4. Michael (no.2)

    I look forward to your thoughts on your IKEA experience with Czechman. For me there seems to be one thing the UK and the Czech Rep definitely have in common and it’s couples arguing passionately over cheap, fall apart*, flat packed furniture while wheeling around massive trolleys that always have a giant plant poking out the top.
    Once driving home those same couples can look forward to arguing some more when they get indoors and have to put that brand new stylish black and white glass table together.
    I’m not saying you guys will be like that, just saying it can be entertaining to watch

    Great to see you back writing on your blog. Grape pun by the way.

    *Probably more to do with my poor screwdriver ability

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Michael,
      I know what you mean about the bickering couples: of course Czechman and I would never quarrel in public 😉
      However, this brings me to a serious dilemma I’ve encountered: where else to buy affordable furniture in Czechland other than from that ubiquitous Swedish brand? Kika, Sconto et al seem to be even poorer quality and stuck in some awful eighties time warp. Any other suggestions very welcome – and if anyone does have a decent two seater sofa they no longer require or some bookshelves, do get in touch!

      • Michael (no.2)

        I’m sorry but I can’t help you with any suggestions for another store. When my partner and I were going through the same dilemma earlier this year we found the same 80’s time warp thing going on and we ended up at Ikea.
        Actually we did try XXXLutz and found some of it to be quite good. We decided on a couple of pieces but thought it would be best to return once we had some transportation lined up. As we were leaving the store the security ‘Smiling Guard’ (shit you not, that was on his badge) stopped me and demanded, in a non smiley kinda way, to see in my little rucksack. Fortunately for us I had decided at the last minute not to put the 2 seater couch in my bag so wasn’t arrested.
        We didn’t go back.

        Good luck!

      • girlinczechland

        Ha to the Smiling Security guard! Czechman had the same experience in Ikea – we had just been browsing but the guard demanded to look in his bag. Czechman refused on prinicple and walked out of the store and lived to tell the tale unfortunately.
        If anyone else has any suggestions for decent places to buy furniture, I’m all proverbial ears…

      • Sabina

        If you are planning to settle for the long-term – that is a slightly more expensive furniture to last you a while is required – I suggest (from Slovakia, with a showroom somewhere in Prague; details on their website)

  5. Mike in Bohemia

    Well, one thing I like about Czech ads and media is that they don’t just show the most good-looking people like in the UK/USA. They show real every-day people, which doesn’t make most people feel inferior.
    Having said that, maybe the fat guy shows you that the furniture is strong 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Mike,
      Well, I’m not sure *all* Czech ads show ordinary folk – I’ve noticed a higher percentage of scantily clad ladies used to shift just about anything, from flooring to [insert mundane, unsexy product of your choice here]. And yes, perhaps fat man = super strong Czech quality furniture, as I suggested below 🙂

  6. Sharka

    I can say that maybe they used the fat man in this ad to revive the so called good old times, when this furniture was normal in households… A big and wealthy “statkář” happily eating his goose surrounded by strong everlasting credences… to provoke the feeling that this furniture is solid, attractive – owned by wealthy people (wealthy meant fat at that time)… a strange version of beautiful people (=wealthy) standing next to their shiny car in ads…

    As for the places to buy new furniture, I must admit I don’t like IKEA. After a short period of time it looks worn out, doesn’t last very long and it looks so massive. I like details. What I like about IKEA is their housewares – garlic press (I really don’t know the proper english world), ladles… looks of a high quality… But Sconto, Asko, Möbelix, XXXLutz seems to offer furniture with low quality as well.

    I’m still a student, in my room I chose to have closets from Jena. Try to find smaller shops with furniture or if you wan to “praštit se přes kapsu” have it custom-bulit.

  7. Sean

    We used this company for our built-in furniture and negotiated it at the office in Prague 8:
    The quality is excellent and the price was more than decent. (It was not as cheap as Europa-Mobel, but it has lasted longer and in better condition – Europa-Mobel used cheaper wood which has warped under the weight of the books.) Mr Spilka was also good about suggesting ways of using ‘lost space’ that you would otherwise not be able to use (creating storage space above doors in the hallway).
    We found our two-seater sofa at Kika, but it took a long time to find and we had to wait 8 weeks for the Austrian supplier to build it – if you want a fold-out bed you have to get a 2.5 seater (Why? Anyway, you can get a drawer in the 2-seater and put something under where you sit – blankets, pillows).
    I have a good friend who only buys from the used furniture shops in Vinohrady – he has some nice furniture, but I am not sure how much hunting is required for what you want. The prices were decent though for his mostly Italian furniture – all of wood and for roughly the same price as we paid for ours.
    Most of our furniture was brought from the UAE though – nice Malaysian Oak, but the shipping is a bit over the top:-) We brought back 24 cubic metres of furniture. The price was ungodly (the furniture itself was about CZK 200,000 and shipping it was CZK 180,000), but used furniture in the Muddle East (sic) is almost worthless (the highest bid was CZK 20,000) and selling it for a song would also have been painful (lose CZK 180,000 invested or pay that to bring it back).
    Good luck with it!

    • girlinczechland

      Hi again Sean,
      I’ll certainly give those shops in Vinohrady a look although I fear that shipping from the Middle East is beyond our budget 🙁

  8. HI GIC,
    Like you, I do find the advertising strategy here rather odd though the explanation offered by a couple of your commenters, that the aim is to show the strength of the furniture, is almost certainly the correct one. It certainly is a different approach to the normal one of draping the product with a scantily clad female.

    The alternative strategy, which you also do see here, would be to have your ideal happy family gathered around the table with father, mother and two smiling children. But even then, the young mother would almost certainly be displaying a considerable amount of cleavage and wearing a very short skirt!

    Other than those items, such as my former Church pew & my piano, that came from the UK as a part container load when we moved to the ČR three years ago, the rest of the furniture in our flat came from IKEA. For the most part it seems to be lasting well so I think it’s as good a place as any for buying new furniture at reasonable prices.

    All the best for the ‘renovation’ of your flat. When do we get a post about it in your inimitable style?

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ricky,
      As of yesterday, much of the furniture we need has indeed been purchased from IKEA. A church pew would certainly add a quirky feel to our living room though! And yes, of course, you can expect a blow by blow account of the renovation process soon…

    • girlinczechland

      Thanks very much for sharing this Sean. It’s brilliant – or terrible, depending on your viewpoint. I notice they do indeed have several entries which show almost naked ladies promoting flooring by being sprawled across it. It’s not the sheer sexism that surprises me (we have plenty of sexist ads back in England too) but the lack of subtlety. Surely the modern day consumer needs more subtle wooing?

  9. Pavel

    Hi GIC, thanks for another delighting post. Regarding the furniture, I have a bed made by and I recomend them after testing it for quite few years by daily use 🙂 they are not cheap, though.

    • Pavel

      Ah, and maybe check TON for (not only) the classic chairs?

      • girlinczechland

        Hi Pavel,
        Thanks for the suggestion – the chairs in particular look lovely – but I’m afraid both firms goods are probably beyond our budget at the moment 🙁 Guess I’ll just have to get to work monetizing the blog 😉
        Mej se,

  10. Knedlikova

    Mate aren’t there some furniture warehouses under Libensky Most…? Not been myself but might be good for a bargain if you get Czechman to go and haggle with you…

    • girlinczechland

      That’s a good idea: thanks, will definitely check it out (pun intended ;)) Hope life is treating you well in the land of white jeans – the riots haven’t progressed that far have they?

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