brno, czech republic - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 20s

posted by anonymous on 04/15/14.

5

How much time have you spent in the Czech Republic?

I've been here since May 2010, but came to visit for a few months in 2009 or 2008.

How old were you when you came to the Czech Republic? Where were you before?

I was 27 when I came here. I was born and raised around the Washington D.C. Area. I spent 2 years living in Colorado around 2002-2004

What brought you to the Czech Republic? What made you choose the Czech Republic over any other place you could've gone?

I came here because I met my current fiancée while she was a foreign exchange student at my college. She told me that if I didn't come over then i'd probably never see her again, so I jumped on a plane :)

Describe the city you live in in the Czech Republic and your impressions of it.

I live in Brno... it's got the small town feel but it's a big town. The people here are nice compared to Prague where it's more of a “Why are you in my way?” whereas in Brno they seem to be genuinely interested in foreigners and are willing to help.

How does the city you live in compare to other cities in the Czech Republic? What drew you to the city you live in over other cities in the Czech Republic?

Again, the woman :) She is Slovakian, but she studied at Masaryk University in Brno. She's a research fellow there now, so we live here now.

What are the people of the Czech Republic like? In what ways are they different than people in other places you've lived?

Here they're nice.. when I first arrived here I thought something was wrong with me because everyone seemed to stare at me. It turns out that I had a somewhat gangsta walk that they weren't used to. They're nicer and seem more genuine than other places i've been. Although Colorado had some nice people there too..

Was making friends and meeting people in the Czech Republic in general easy or difficult? How did your social life evolve? What did you do to meet people? How does your social life in the Czech Republic compare to how it is/was in other places you've lived?

I'd say that it's pretty easy to meet people... sometimes i'll strike up a conversation with people at the bar... Or if you're outside smoking (smoking is a popular thing here) you can strike up a conversation, although that seems to be common amongst smokers everywhere.. Except Italy.. if you're just walking down the street and light up a cigarette you'll get people crossing the street bombarding you asking for a cig..

How does your race, nationality, gender, accent, etc. affect how you are treated or how people react to meeting you in the Czech Republic? Positively? Negatively?

Well i'm a white male so I don't really get treated differently. Although when I speak Czech I don't have an accent, so some people find it hard to believe that i'm not Czech.. Other than that, when I speak english I don't have any problems with the people. But you do have to be careful when shopping at the markets or stalls.. They'll think you're a rich foreigner so they might charge you more or give you incorrect change.

How does the language barrier affect you (if it all)?

Well mostly the people here in Brno speak some sort of English.. I only have some troubles when I try to call in to make an appointment for changing my tires or have to deal with some sort of technical stuff.

What was your level of ability to speak Czech before you arrived there?

Before I arrived I could order a beer. Say please, and thank you.. and some numbers.

Did you already speak Czech when you met your wife in America or learned it after meeting her?

No, I didn't speak any Czech when I met her.. She would teach me a few words when we were dating in the states, and more when I came to visit her in Czech.

How did you learn Czech?

Basically just sitting and listening to people... asking a question here and there.. Also being in bars and having people feel they should teach me some stuff helped.

Is it possible to build friendships with Czech people if you can only speak English?

Yes, I usually only speak English with my Czech friends.

Is some level of Czech language necessary to navigate a social setting like a party (as opposed to just ordering a meal or other surface level one-to-one conversations)? Does a person considering moving to the Czech Republic need to learn Czech ahead of time in order to have a hope of having a normal social life?

Most Czechs here speak English.. and some restaurants have English menus and English speaking waiters.. It isn't necessary to speak Czech, but it does help sometimes.

Any social/cultural advice for others who might come to the Czech Republic? How do people in the Czech Republic socialize differently than other places you've been?

They love their beer... If you're going to come to Brno feel free to grab a beer or a glass of wine. Brno is the capital of the Moravian region here, and the Moravian region is known for their wines... If you get lost... feel free to ask around there's plenty of people who can help that will probably speak English... Learn “Pivo prosim” (beer please), “Diky” (thanks)... I guess that's all for now :)

What sort of work/school do you do in the Czech Republic? What's it like working (or studying) in the Czech Republic compared to what it was like where you lived before?

I'm an IT guy.. and as most people guess.. I work at IBM. Most foreigners here work for IBM or AT&T. Before coming here I was just a student.. with a summer job as a camp director.. but from what I hear from my friends back home.. I've got the best job... It's very relaxed and as I said when I first got here... “It feels like i'm back at the dorms” It's all very friendly here, and on Mondays you can hear some pretty good stories from the weekend.

Does your native level English ability provide you any value in the business world in Brno or make you more marketable? Or is it a non-factor in your work?

Sure, being a native speaker allows me to help my colleagues to write proper emails/letters to businesses or companies enabling them to be taken more seriously. Also, if you're looking for extra cash you can proofread some papers for people for a bit of cash.

Do you make the same amount of money or less money in absolute terms in the Czech Republic than you did/would in the US? Like if you converted your salary to USD, would it be lower than you'd be making working for IBM in the US?

Comparing the money.. I’d make much less there than here, but for here I’m making more than average which allows me to have a (probably more) comfortable lifestyle here than in the States.

What about when you look at your salary considering the cost of living in the Czech Republic? Do you feel like you're better off financially than you'd be doing in the US after taking the cost of living there into account?

I think that I’ve got more opportunity to save money than I would in the States. Perhaps it's just being here that I don't really have to live above my means. I can enjoy life.. go travel.. or just buy some hobby stuff for myself and not really have to worry about how I’m going to pay the next few bills.

Do foreign companies like IBM pay more than smaller local or regional companies? Are there are any pro's or con's you can think of to working at a foreign company vs a local company?

Well because my Czech isn't so great, IBM seems to be the best for us foreigners because everyone here must speak English As for the others, I’m not sure, I’ve heard of some local companies that screw over some of their employees just because they can.. I feel IBM has more experience and more documentation which allows the employee to have some sort of security against getting screwed over.

Does your money go further or not as far as it does in other countries and cities? Are you able to afford a better standard of living than in other places you've lived, or able to afford less?

I think that i'm living a pretty good life here. I like to go out drinking and beer/shots are cheap here. So I can head out after work spend $10 (200 czk) and get anywhere from 5-10 beers and not feel like I'll have to watch my money for the rest of the week.

What things are more expensive than you are used to and what things are cheaper?

Electronics are expensive here compared to the states... Although the price is somewhat relative for other things the value is higher because here in Czech people don't get paid as much. So even though, for example, a cheeseburger from the dollar menu is $1 and here it's 20 korun.. It's still the same price, but it costs more because of how much you would have to work to earn that 20 czk.

How much is an average rent for an apartment? A beer at a bar? A meal at a restaurant?

Apartment... I'm not sure.. i've only lived in my place.. and we got a pretty sweet deal on that... A beer can be anywhere form 20-35 czk. They do lunch menus here, a soup, entree, and a beverage for about 50-70 czk.. Other than that you can get a good meal from anywhere in the 200-500 czk range.. depending on how fancy you wanna go.

Do you have any stories to share about dating, relationships, gender norms, or sex in the Czech Republic? Or any impressions of how these things are different in the Czech Republic than in other places you've been?

Dating seems to be a popular thing here :) There's plenty to do here if you wanna take a girl out on a date (movies, park, hikes, theatre, castles, the dam, etc..), and if you need to find a girl.. there's a pretty plentiful night life here. The women are more trusting here, so you could walk up to a girl.. ask her if she'd like to have a drink.. and she might say yes.

What's your wife (and/or other Czech/Slovak/Central European women) like compared to American women you've dated?

They're very emotional which can cause some people to call them crazy, but overall they're considerate and wonderful people. They're very thoughtful and sometimes can surprise you with how much. Oh, and they're VERY beautiful.

What are your favorite things about the Czech Republic? Least favorite?

My favorites are basically the cheap, but good, alcohol... Least favorite: it's hard/expensive to get American mustard here.

What things about the Czech Republic surprised you?

Their ingenious gadgets or furniture that utilizes the small space of their flats.. I still marvel at some of the stuff they had in the communist times.. I think they're amazing.. (Like this: http://theoryofsupply.com/c2_domestic_light/items/white-retro-ceiling-light.html#) Because of communism most people lived in small apartments, so (for example in the kitchen) they wouldn't have much room.. so they would push the lamp up closer to the ceiling so people could walk unhindered.. if they wanted to have a family sit down dinner.. they'd throw a table down, and pull the lamp down as well.. i know it's silly but I think it's pretty ingenious.

Their public transportation surprised me as well.. It's almost never late and runs basically 24/7. You can get to anywhere in the city with little or no hassle, and you can go from one side to the other in under an hour while using it.

What do you miss while living in the Czech Republic (could be something tangible or a cultural/social phenomena)?

I miss being able to sit down at a place and order just normal iced tap water.. Or getting extra sauce for free.. Nothing big..

Would you recommend the Czech Republic as a place to live, travel to, or neither?

All of the above. It's a great place to live, socialize, and just have fun.

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