Britpop nostalgia and Anglo-Czech cultural exchange

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different for girls

Recently, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic for my youth. This has manifested itself as a sudden desire to read the autobiographies of various stars of the Britpop era: Louise Wener’s Different for Girls (charming and very funny) and Luke Haines’s Bad Vibes (quite funny but also quite nasty).

I found myself trying to explain the whole Britpop phenomenon to a somewhat mystified Czechman.

“Well, there was Oasis, who were from Manchester, then there was Blur – ”

“Yes, Blur. What’s their most famous song? That one that goes WOO-HOO?”

Song 2? No! Of course not!” As far as I’m concerned, this kind of musical ignorance is on a par with Czechman’s belief that Jim Morrison was black. “It’s Parklife! Or maybe Girls and Boys…

I get straight onto Youtube and begin filling in the gaps in Czechman’s knowledge of English popular culture. We spend a good couple of hours showing each other the music videos of the tunes we used to like back in the nineties. Czechman regales me with lots of rock bands with big hair. Despite being subjected to this Dad-Rock-fest, I thoroughly recommend this sort of evening in of cultural exchange to any other Anglo-Czech couples out there – and if you happen to be the English one, you know that your tunes are bound to be the best.

Sorry Czech readers, but you know it’s true.

Czechman and I don’t just spend nights in messing around on Youtube. We’ve also been known to watch the odd old TV series or film.

Again, there’s been something of a nostalgic theme to our viewing choices of late.

Back in Czechman’s youth, there weren’t many foreign programmes which met with the Communist seal of approval, but one British cop show made it onto Czechoslovak TV screens: The Professionals.

Czechman was, of course, a fan of that bad boy pair of crime fighters who bend the rules to get the job done, Bodie and Doyle. I’d never seen it before so we decided to watch the first four episodes together: here’s a taster for those of you who also missed out:

Czechman and I are also rather fond of more recent British TV offerings. BBC spy drama Spooks is something of a mutual favourite. One episode in an early series revolves around the shenanigans of some rather nasty Serbians. It’s then that we spot him.

“Hey, isn’t that bloke actually Czech?”

Yes, I’m right. I’ve successfully spotted a certain Karel Roden, who is playing an Serbian arms dealer. If memory serves me, he also pops up in one of the Bourne films as a Russian baddie. How very versatile.

I love it when I see a Czech actor in an American film or come across a Czech-related reference in a novel or short story or song.  Somewhere in the vast novel Middlesex there’s a one-line mention of a Czech friend of the protagonist. She’s never referred to again, but for as far as I’m concerned, it was still a pleasure to meet her. Then there’s the unfortunate Czech gangster who is particularly proud of his nation’s sausages and comes to a nasty end in an early episode of The Sopranos. Nothing else springs to mind right now but hopefully you see what I mean.

I’m always thrilled when I come across these little Czech references. For me, coming across a mention of Czechland in an unexpected context is pleasing, surprising and a tiny bit exciting. Do other Czechophiles out there who feel the same? What Czech cultural references have you stumbled across elsewhere? Do share them in the comments section!


Am I Serbian, Russian or Czech? Depends what it says in the script…


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65 Responses to Britpop nostalgia and Anglo-Czech cultural exchange

  1. Lucy

    Do you know The Glass Room, the book by Simon Mawer? I’ve read it recently – and loved it! I think you might, too. 🙂 By the way, it reads as a translation even though it’s a British book… I’m not sure why. 🙂

  2. girlinczechland

    Hello Lucy,

    Yes, I’ve read The Glass Room: I was very excited when I heard about it but found it to be a bit of a disappointing read. Still, it’s made me really curious to see the Turgendhat Villa where the book is set – anyone else been there?


    • Lucy

      There were parts/points in history that deserved to be mentioned /more detailed but I must say I liked it very much – though I know that not everyone does. 🙂
      I haven’t visited the villa but I’ve become really curious, too.
      Have a nice weekend,

    • Sarka

      I visited it this spring. The house and garden are very well restored, the house in every detail. It feels like being there in the 30s when it was bright new.

      • girlinczechland

        Thanks for the report Sarka! I’ve been meaning to go for ages so perhaps now finally this summer I’ll make it…


  3. Breaking Bad and Walter White expanding his business by exporting to the Czech Republic got me slightly excited 🙂

  4. Aidan Akira Moss via Facebook

    I feel ya… I’d never heard of Bodie and Doyle either, and T said ‘how can you NOT know them’. This truly is one of the great mysteries of cz-en relations:)

  5. michael

    I’m actually a big fan of Marek Vasut. I first saw him in the Kaminek trilogy (I know I butchered the title) where he appears as a doctor. From there I saw him in Roman Pro Zeny…and then started seeing him in a few American films too.
    Bolek Polivka was on of my favorites…I saw him in Dědictví aneb Kurvahošigutntag which was my first Czech movie…this also led to my first and worst encounter with slivo. I haven’t seen him in American films…but love his work in Pelisky.
    Like you I enjoy finding Czech references in everyday life. In a quite improbable coincidence when my wife and I moved to this little town of 9000 souls in Illinois I was certain we would be the only Czech-American couple…as it turns out someone beat us here…not only that…but he is from the same city my wife is from…Ostrava. He’s much older so they didn’t know one another…but I think it’s unusual.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Michael,

      Those Czechs! They manage to get everywhere! Seriously, I’m aware that states like Texas have a fairly high Czech-American population but Illnois – now that is news to me!

      I’ve seen Pelisky but to my shame, none of the other films you mention. I’ll have to add them to my ever lenghtening to-watch list…


      • Morrigan

        I haven’t been to USA, but I heard there is a lot of Czechs in Illinois…especially Chicago…I guess they like the weather O.o

  6. lucie

    I love to see Czech as a location – not many people watch the last bits of subtitles so I like to make a point about it and tell them:) for example Casino Royal is Hotel Pupp, Marianske lazne and near by Montenegro is Loket. Also Hilary Swank is quite pretty in the Kacina castle and Kutna Hora, and you can compare who suited to taht castle better as the main lady – liv Tylor used to run around the rooms and dance in the main hall in Plunkett and McLeane…the list could go forever as Czech is , maybe even thanks to communism , very preserved city and not so expensive as shooting location. not sure how many men was able to watch Victoria Secret add for the fragnance and underwear (2011 version I think) because of the location, but I think Prague was portraited there beautifully and great match to the beauty of the stunning models.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Lucie,

      Ooh, you’ve given me an idea for another blog – Places in Prague (and Czechland) which have been locations in films. Watch this space…


      • Richardinprague

        Good idea!
        I picked up a map recently from Prague House in Brussels, published by the Czech Film Commission, showing places in Prague which were used as locations for various films …. it also includes locations further away in Czechland as well. Too big to scan, and I can’t find an online version, though the Film Commission does have some more information here:

  7. Gormie

    This is the ultimate Marek Vašut cameo:

    Notice his only line in the whole movie, which consists just of two Czech swear words … BTW, Karel Roden is also in the movie.

  8. Sarka

    For me the answer is clear: Gilmore Girls! A US tv-series.

    So many Czech references. I thought that one of the writers must have had Czech girlfriend, boyfriend/lived here/had Czech ancestors or something like that…

    And of course I was pleased every time they mentioned us 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      Hello again Sarka,

      I’ve never watched the Gilmore Girls but perhaps now I know its full of Czech references I’ll give it a go! 🙂


    • Gormie

      I don’t remember that many Czech references from Gilmore Girls. I know Prague is mentioned two or three times and at the end of the last season, they talk about Milan Kundera, but that’s all. Are there more?

      • Sarka

        Well, in absolute numbers Czech stuff is not mentioned that often, but when you compare it to other successful US tv-series (which means there are rather none of Czech references in them), it’s still plenty in GG, at least for me 🙂

        I remember for example line about Prague taxi drivers…

      • Judy

        Yes, it definitly is. I´m just in episode 17 serie 2 and to this point Prague was mentioned for 5times minimally and exactly in this episode Sookie is saying that czech and slovak are separated already. And i saw all episodes many years before and I remember that the czech references will go on. that´s awesome. i m very curios who is behind this “prague thing”…

    • Eva

      Another TV where Prague is mentioned quite often is Gossip Girl (little embarassing that I watched that in my age, I agree)… The main protagonist even goes to Prague for some while, where he is shot (what a common tourist experience) and find here prostitute to whom he falls in love with…
      But overall, as a big fan of TV shows, I find Prague to be mentioned quite often, in that context “let’s be crazy and go to Prague”

  9. Though not a fan of Rihanna, I watched her music video Don’t Stop The Music – in the beginning she walks into a shop located in Prague & full of Czech goods. I did not expect that! 🙂

    • Sarka

      Yeah, and the scenes at the club were shot at Radost FX, a club in Prague.

      Which reminds me of Faithless and the clip to their song Why go… Prague streets, metro, long long metro escalators…
      since 1:07

      • girlinczechland

        Ooh another interesting clip to watch! I’d never thought to watch out for Prague in music videos (more time to be wasted on Youtube shortly *sighs*)…


  10. Richardinprague

    Hi, Girl!
    Another interesting posting – thank you! My Czech wife and I often watch British TV series …. I like Spooks, but she doesn’t (too many split-screen shots). We both loved the Prime Suspect series (with Helen Mirren), and regularly watch old gentle British comedies such as “Are you being served”, the “Good life”, and of course “Fawltey Towers” and the various “Monty Python” episodes. Many of the catch phrases which do not feature in Cambridge FCE exams have entered our daily conversations from these series …. “Are you free…?”, for example, or the various alternative expressions for being dead (eg: “Pushing up the daisies”, “left this mortal coil”, “is no more”, “gone to meet his maker”), etc … etc.

    My sister sent us a dvd of the British tv series Doc Martin recently, which we really enjoyed, partly because I used to live in that part of the UK (Cornwall).

    Inicdentally, it was an interesting experience to watch an excellent production of the “Kings Speech” at the Divadlo Pod Palmovkou a couple of weeks ago. Everything was in Czech, but when you know the story it’s not so hard!

    All the best!

    in Prague

  11. Dalibor

    Wow, The Professionals… I still love them.
    But they weren’t the only british series aired – You should ask your Czechman about Dempsey & Makepeace, or Randall and Hopkirk. These were hits too, but Doyle and Bodie are the best 😉

  12. Tereza

    Most recently I remember Terrence Malick´s The Tree of Life, I have seen it in Asheville, NC, being there as an au-pair and when there was the scene with music by Bedřich Smetana, it made me scream out loud with happiness. 🙂 And then of course the old ninetees Friends, when Phoeboe says that back in the day she used to live in Prague. And then The Big Bang Theory (also mentioning Prague). And oh my God – we cannot miss The Simpsons! In the episode where Patty and Selma are showing their pictures from holiday and there it the picture of our plug and they comment on that something like “Oh and these are those funny electrical plugs, which they have in Czech”. Anyway – I am always so excited when something like that happens. One of those things happened to me when I was attending some funny course at a local college in US, because when I was talking with some girl next to me and she found out I am from Czech she said she loves Jáchym Topol! Our Jáchym Topol. The one whom not too many Czechs have read, because he is “oh so difficult”. I was just standing there with my mouth wiiiiiide open. I was impressed. And proud. That is the thing. I always hope that these references of my culture are in a good context, in a context like “wow, these Czechs, they are kind of quirky, but so great”. 🙂

  13. Pavle

    Professionals! They always had their job done! Break the rules and win! There we learn our habits!
    How England is cause of Czech troubles …
    And you forget Dempsey and Makepeace!

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Pavle (or should that be Pavel???)

      Your comment made me laugh a lot! Perhaps you’re right and it’s we Brits who are to blame for the widespread nature of corruption in CZ – and it’s all because of a TV show… Why did none of the political analysts out there spot *that* one?


  14. JuKi

    Well, guess who was Rasputin in Hellboy 🙂

  15. Katka


    The best Czech reference for me was in the Stargate Atlantis. I watched the show in original and suddenly one of the engineers got upset and switched to czech. I did not expect that and it was hilarious. I love Dr. Zelenka. He managed to get even beyond Illinois . 😀

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Katka,

      I must confess I’ve never heard of this show as I don’t watch much sci-fi. Still, Czechman and I really enjoyed the Hollywood version of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. With his chronically gloomy outlook on life, Paranoid Android Marvin does seem to have a Czech soul…


  16. Caycee

    Yes, to a whole post on Prague tidbits from movies and videos… definitely include INXS – Never Tear Us Apart… filmed all over the big Prague sites

    … also Kanye West – Diamonds From Sierra Leone video

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Caycee,

      Wow, looks like I’ve got some serious homework to do – I had no idea about all these references people are coming up with!


    • Daniela

      Actually, Kanye West did a lot of his music videos in Prague, e.g. No church in the wild or Runaway

  17. Marie Brno

    Oh, this was a good post, and especially the last questions 🙂 I feel exactly the same. I even read all the credits of foreign films and try to find Czech surnames. Or Dutch, as I studied Dutch.
    When I was spending a few months in the States, this feeling grew much more intense. Once we were travelling by car and my host had a radio on. I was sleeping but suddenly I realized the radio played Dvořák’s Rusalka. I couldn’t sleep anymore 🙂

    On the other hand, I remember a very strange feeling on a crowded American street, when I noticed a sign on someone’s T-shirt and wondered: What crazy language puts a circle over U? And in next second I realized that of course it was Czech. It said: Devět blbců z deseti sleduje Tele tele.

    If you come to Brno to visit Villa Tugendhat, you are welcome to stay at our place!

    • Marie Brno

      P.S. What about writing an update on your improvements in Czech, or something crazy about the language? 🙂

      • girlinczechland

        Hello Marie (again!)

        Yes, I should do another post in Czech. Alas, I’m not sure how much progress I have to report 🙁


    • girlinczechland

      Hi Marie,

      I liked reading about your T-shirt experience! How funny that your own native language ended up becoming alien to you while in a foreign land – an experience a native speaker of English is unlikely ever to have. Still, I guess we shouldn’t moan about having the massive advantage of speaking a language which is understood in almost every corner of the globe 🙂

      If I do decide to head on down south to Tugendhat, I’ll let you know 🙂


  18. Jana Praha

    I liked also old serial “Doktor v domě” (Doctor in the House), very funny.
    Before 1989 we watched Bodie and Doyle, Randall and Hopkirk and Pink Panther.
    After 1989 – Monthy Python, films with Beatles, Mr. Bean and my favourite Red Dwarf.

    I´ve found, that in Stargate czech actor David Nykl very often speek Czech (usually swearing). Look at:

  19. bibax

    I remember another British TV series aired by the Czechoslovak TV in 60’s: “Scotland Yard” (“Scotland Yard zasahuje” in Czech), very old, now nearly forgotten.

  20. Nastvany

    “Am I Serbian, Russian or Czech? Depends what it says in the script…”
    This is disgusting. Do you realize how insulting is it for the most of Czechs to be thrown on the same pile as Serbians, Russians or any other backward Eeastern European half-asiatic uncivilized non-western sh*t!!!

    • girlinczechland

      Erm, that’s my point. I find it really odd that a Czech actor would be comfortable playing just any old Slavic villain like it was no big deal. I’d love to interview Karel and ask him how he feels about it (I suppose the big fat Hollywood paycheck helps…)


  21. karel

    Some music videos shot in Prague:

    Lighthouse Family – Free:
    (Prague metro)

    Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat – Lucky:

    Linkin Park – Numb:

    Linkin Park – From the inside:

    Rihanna – Don’t Stop the Music:

    Lasgo – Something:
    (Prague railway station before reconstruction)

    INXS – Never Tear Us Apart

    Geri Halliwell – Look At Me:

    Boyzone – Every Day I Love You:

    Kayne West – Diamonds from Sierra Leone:

    Blue – Breathe Easy:–IwU

    Velvet Revolver – Slither:

    AFI – Silver and Cold:

    Ne-Yo – Part of the list:

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Karel,

      Thanks for putting together such a comprehensive list of music videos shot in Prague – I had no idea there were so many! Another night in for Czechman and I in front of Youtube beckons…


  22. Lucie

    Hi, first of all I enjoy your blog very much, thank you 🙂 I couldn´t leave this post without mentioning my favourite show “Sherlock” where several references to Czechland occur, even to Golem. And Moriarty is using stylish Bohemian stationary to send notes to Sherlock….

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Lucie,

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment – Sherlock was one of the series that inspired the post but I forgot to mention it when I finally got around to writing it up! Thank you again for jogging my memory 🙂


  23. Was watching Ronin about a year ago, action film about out of work spies working for the IRA or something like that, Robert de Niro and Jean Reno. When the Mrs pointed out a Jan Triska who was playing a Stasi agent, an old Czech actor who went to the US.

    A few years ago I came across an episode of Allo Allo in English on CT1 or 2. I wonder how they subtitled that? A load of British people pretending to speak French.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello there,

      I’m no fan of Allo Allo, but like you, I’m intrigued to know how they dubbed it – did those Czech actors have to put on silly French accents? The mind boggles…


      • It wasnt dubbed it was in English, it was just subtitled I couldnt get my head around how they subtitled it. “Good Moaning, I have bad nose” I dont know how they’d shoehorn “dobry rano, mam spatny nos” into a joke but my Czech was non existant then so I couldnt read how they’d subtitled it.

        A while ago a mate in work showed me a sketch from Hale & Pace that they’d translated into Czech

        At the start is the classic black pepper as well.

  24. Funniest Czech reference for me was in Sopranos where Paulie got mixed up about the Russian commando in the woods and said he was an interior decorator who killed 16 Czechoslovakians.

    • girlinczechland

      Yes! YES! This is my favourite episode of the Sopranos! I can’t believe I forgot to mention it – thanks for the reminder! 🙂


      • I just realised as well that The Sopranos got the Czechs/Chechens mix up about ten years ahead of the recent mix up. Them yanks never learn. :p

  25. Bodie and Doyle are the best from CI5. Šéfa jim dělá Kaulí.

  26. Kamila

    Well, the most atrocious version of Prague I ever saw was in Chuck:

    Because sure, you can buy letenky on a very rural station Praha – hlavní nádraží and then just “fly away” with a poorly designed 3D train 😛

  27. tompirracas

    Bit late this but the video for the lovely Feist song “Mushaboom” was filmed in Holesovice:

  28. Morrigan

    I would like to add some mentions of Czech whatever in movies…though I don’t know many…I remember there was a mention in MASH (american series from Korean war) where they were arguing if the bomb that had just fallen in the camp was Chinese, Korean, Russian, Czech or what. Also already mentioned Sherlock (though I really wonder….a long time Apple did not have those info points where you could registrate in CZ…I wonder how Moriarty did that then…but I can be wrong and the points already existed here). Also there is a lot of movies shot in CZ (Amadeus, Narnia, From Hell, Mission Impossible, mostly we are great as victorian London – just a little smoke and so, Casino Royale, Bourne film -not sure which one, Hellboy, A Knight’s Tale with Heath Ledger, Oliver Twist, Shanghai Knights, etc). As mentioned there are a few references in Gilmore Girls but I don’t really enjoy the series, also a few mentions in Gossip Girl (Perlovka and stuff). I guess that’s all I can remember now…hope it helps…

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Morrigan,

      I’ve never got around to watching MASH but I might do now – it is supposed to be very funny. And Sherlock – I meant to include that one in my original post, can’t believe I forgot about it!


  29. Teresa

    if you have not seen the film Once i very much recommend it- it is about an Irish busker and a Czech girl who meet in Dublin. i like that when characters speak in Czech (there are no subtitles) i can understand what they say but other people can’t! it is a lovely film even besides this 🙂

  30. Ondřej

    In a christmas episode of Big Bang Theory, there is a mention of Svaty Vaclav and they sing a Christmas Carrol about him…it’s fun. In the new film “Nejvyšší nabídka” Prague appears as well. In BBC’s Sherlock, Prague is mentioned…actually, there are surprisingly many references to Czech in US and British TV shows.

    • Ondřej

      Svatý Václav ve vánoční epizodě Big Bang Theory! S06E11

      “If squashed to death you wish not to be, sing of Svaty Vaclav and his victory.”
      – What? Who the hell is Svaty Vaclav?
      – Walls are getting closer.
      Oh, boy, happy place, happy place.
      Wait-wait, Svaty Vaclav… was the Duke of Bohemia.
      You’re 10 seconds away from getting crushed!
      – 9, 8…
      – What are we supposed to do?
      – 7, 6…
      _– Wait, wait, wait.
      Svaty Vaclav is better known as Good King Wenceslas from the beloved Victorian Christmas carol._
      Never heard of it. Must be the one Christmas song not written by a Jewish guy. Uh–
      3, 2…
      Somebody sing the damn song!

      • girlinczechland

        Hello again Ondrej,

        Thanks for sharing the dialogue here — now I guess I don’t have to track down the actual show! 🙂


    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ondrej,

      Haven’t watched much Big Bang Theory but will check this one out (pun intended) — thanks for the tip!


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