About the culture of driving a car (in Central and Eastern Europe)

About the culture of driving a car (in Central and Eastern Europe)

There are many cultural stereotypes regarding driving a car – you probably have heard about the passionate Italian drivers and the quality of German highways. Surprisingly, in this case the stereotypes can be a great source of inspiration for a researcher. We analyse the influence the cultural patterns have on car sales in CEE.

In his best-seller “The Culture Code” Clotaire Rapaille, an American marketing specialist and culture researcher, describes the differences in the perception of everyday items and activities depending on our cultural circle. In one of the first chapters he analyses the associations Americans have with driving a car and contrasts them with the opinions of consumers raised in Germany and France.

According to Rapaille a single word that describes American culture is: a dream. Americans associate driving a car with crossing endless roads in search of happiness – which is perfectly shown in, for example, this Chevrolet spot:

The situation is completely different in France. The French are proud that many groundbreaking ideas were born in their country. This notion is perfectly leveraged by Citroen. Their slogan ”creative technology” refers to the need for an on-going search for new solutions and ideas, which is strongly embedded in French culture. In order to understand how important this element is, just watch the latest Citroen spot:

And what is the situation like in Central and Eastern Europe? Those who think that countries from the former Soviet bloc belong to the same cultural circle are mistaken. Although we share 60 years of experience with the communist regime, the cultural patterns take much longer than a few decades to develop.

In Poland a car must be “fit for everything”. It should bring children to kindergarten and the whole family for weekend shopping, it should serve as a means of transport during holidays, and it should definitely emphasise the owner’s (if possible, high) social position when parked in front of the office. While in the US a car can be compared to a horse, on which a cowboy transverses the prairies, in Poland it is more like a pack donkey. This concept is reflected in advertising like this:

Czechs give priority to home produced cars. Cars made in the Czech plant of Skoda (which is part of the Volkswagen group) sell best on the domestic market. Apart from the rather conservative approach, declared domesticity, and their love for tranquillity, compared to other nationalities in the CEE region Czechs stand out in their above-average sense of humour and positive attitude to life. Check out how Skoda uses it to advertise its cars:

Romanian drivers also opt for domestic car manufacturers. In their case it is Dacia (currently part of the Renault concern) and in particular the Logan model, which ideally fits into Romania’s cultural patterns. Dacia Logan looks as if it costs a lot of money and perfectly responds to the need for emphasising one’s social status. In a short period of time it became a best-seller and Renault decided to launch this cheap ”luxury” model on West European markets. Whereas in Western Europe the marketing specialists at Renault had a tough nut to crack, in Romania the car sells itself:



Inquiry Market Research carries out ethnographic and cultural studies, which enable our Clients to understand the cultural context and its impact on consumer attitudes and habits across all of Central and Eastern Europe.