Welcome to Expat Interview Series! This week, Caitlin will show you what it’s like to live in Prague, the Czech Republic as an expat. You can learn useful information such as the cost of living, how to move to Prague, where to visit in Prague, good and bad things about Prague and more! Also, you can know Caitlin’s real experience and understand why Caitlin didn’t like to live in Prague.
Where is Prague?
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic (now known as Czechia). It is centrally located in Europe and is only a short journey away from many other wonderful spots. It’s a beautiful city which straddles the Vltava river. Prague is home to some of Europe’s finest architecture including what is widely considered to be the most beautiful bridge in Europe, Charles Bridge. The cobblestone streets provide a beautiful backdrop for any tourist but when choosing it as a place to live, whether to work or to study, there is more to it that you must take into consideration.
My name is Caitlin. Originally, I’m from Vermont, USA but I’ve been on the road for about 6 years now. I teach English as a second language and while I enjoy the job I am trying to move into writing full time. Also, I love all animals and horseback ride as often as I can. I like hiking, yoga, photography, and cats.
1. Why did you choose to live in Prague?
I ended up living in Prague solely for the visa. It was never really on my radar as a place to live. I’d been previously as a tourist but that was it.
2. What was your moving procedure?
I moved to Prague in July of last year, 2016. I chose it based on visas. It’s the first move I made that wasn’t completely independent as I had a boyfriend along for the ride. He’s Spanish and I’m American so finding a country we could both work and live in legally was a challenge. The Czech Republic turned out to be our answer. He didn’t need a visa and I could get the trade license which is fairly straightforward and doesn’t need sponsorship.
Unlike some other moves, I’ve made I had a job almost entirely lined up before I arrived. I actually applied and interviewed for a few jobs before I arrived and I was offered one in Liberec, which is a much smaller city in the north of the Czech Republic.
Because of its size, we decided it was better to stick with Prague so my boyfriend would have better work prospects as he doesn’t speak Czech so he was relying on the tourist industry for work. We arranged an Airbnb for our first few nights and planned to apartment hunt as soon as we arrived. I had my final interview arranged for the first day or two I was in town as did my boyfriend. We prepared well. I also had started the process on my visa and was in touch with the woman (her contact is something I’d be happy to share one-on-one with someone) who would help. I was already well into my 90-day tourist visa so I needed to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
Difficulties & Challenges
4. How to deal with culture shock in Prague, Czech Republic?
I don’t think it’s culture shock as the culture really isn’t that different than America. But I did struggle with some things, namely, the cold, dark, wet winters. Brrr.
5. Did you experience any discrimination in Prague?
I don’t know if I’d call it discrimination but definite unfriendliness. The Czechs are not known for their warmth and it’s sadly very evident just how cool they are once you start living there. I remember walking into a little tabac with my boyfriend, looking to buy a bus ticket, and before we’d opened our mouths, the woman behind the counter just looked at us and shouted ‘no’. It was hard to have this happen in our first days when we were trying to fall in love with our new home.
6. How to overcome difficulties in Prague?
Yes. I learned quickly that the English teaching world in Prague was very different than what I’d previously been exposed to in Sydney and Vietnam. It was oversaturated and most of the teachers were underqualified with only online TEFL and no teaching experience to speak of. So, I realized that I was going to end up being overworked and underpaid. In the first few weeks, I was there, I quickly started applying for more interviews. I cut down on the hours I was working for James Cook, the company I’d originally interviewed with, and started advertising for private students through a few online sites.
7. What do you like about Prague?
I liked its architecture. There’s no doubt that Prague is a beautiful city. It has the astronomical clock, old town square, the castle, churches here and there. It did a wonderful job of staying intact throughout Europe’s dreadful history and all these amazing structures are still here for us to see today.
8. Is there anything that you don’t like about Prague?
The cold! And the fact that wine is sooooo expensive. I gained a few pounds from all the beer I drank! Actually, it’s a pretty expensive city to live in. It’s cheap if you’re coming with a dollar or a euro, but to live the cost is really high, as I’ve outlined below.
9. What are your favorite things to do in Prague?
Actually, my favorite thing to do in Prague is to escape it. I love the outskirts. There’s a little village to the south, which is technically still in Prague, called Radotin. It’s along the train line, just 8 minutes from the city, and it’s adorable. The river runs right through it, it’s calm, and green, and quiet. It’s a wonderful spot to escape the noise and business of city life. I love to grab a beer and sit by the river down there, especially when the sun is shining.
10. Where do you recommend to visit in Prague?
I had a friend visit earlier this year and we did a few of the standard things, old town, and the castle but I also took her to Letna park which is great for a warm day and a picnic but has stunning views all year long. My second go-to spot is Namesti Miru which is just a small square but it has an absolutely beautiful church which I love staring at both inside and out.
Cost of living in Prague, Czech Republic
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not cheap. In fact, it’s really expensive. The currency is Crowns but I’m going to convert everything to USD to make it easier to understand.
My salary was between $10 and $16/hour
A liter of beer at a bar costs $2
A really bad bottle of wine at Tesco costs $3
A dinner out for two at a normal restaurant costs $12
A new pair of pants costs $10
Internet costs $20/month
Basic cell phone bill costs $16/month
Rent of a one bedroom apartment costs $630/month (this is the kicker-the market in Prague is very much a landlord’s market, the prices are exorbitant and nearly impossible to survive with this example, what my boyfriend and I paid, is very low.)
A years transport ticket good for tram, train, metro, and bus costs $165 (this is the best deal in town!)
11. Is it easy to make new friends in Prague?
Actually, I struggled so much with this in Prague. I have to admit that I was spoiled in some of my previous homes with a readily available group of super fabulous people the moment I arrived and that just didn’t happen to me in Prague.
Part of the reason was that my job was not in one place, I ran from office to office all day long teaching lessons at different locations. So, I didn’t get to know my ‘colleagues’ at all really. Often when you move to a new place work is your first port of call for new drinking buddies. I had to look elsewhere. I actually went on a number of friend dates. People I connected with on Facebook. Some clicked, others didn’t. I struggled and it was definitely difficult not to have a great support system in the city. I was lucky that I had my boyfriend but I wonder if that was also the reason I didn’t end up with lots of friends, I didn’t really need them, I had him.
12. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?
Foreigners. I met up with a few Czech women and some of them were o.k. but none of them were interested in follow-ups (was it me!?) and the ones that were, were very difficult to get close to.
13. Where is your favorite place in Prague to hang out?
Prague just changed its smoking laws this spring, so last winter all the bars and restaurants were smoky and awful. I hate that. So, I chose cafes. There’s a little chain called Cross Café. I drink chai lattes and theirs are my favorite! Plus, they leave you alone for as long as you want to stay there. And no smoking!
Now that there’s no smoking I’d rediscover more bars and restaurants where I wouldn’t end up reeking of smoke!
14. Do you interact with any expat communities in Prague?
I went to a few events. I can’t remember exactly which organizations they were through but all were different things I found on Facebook just searching the events on there. Nothing really clicked through and I felt a bit awkward going to them, in all honesty.
15. An unforgettable memory!
It’s hard to pick out one memory but so many of my memories revolve around the trams. They are just everywhere. We lived above a tram line (DON’T!) so we heard them running all night long. The trams are an awesome form of transportation when they work well but if they’re stuck, you’re screwed!
16. Did you change your perspective about Prague after living here for awhile?
Yes. Sadly, it went from positive to negative. I do feel so bad about it but people have reminded me that it’s o.k. not to like a place. I LOVE SO MANY PLACES IN THIS WORLD! But after living there, Prague simple isn’t one of them.
17. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Prague?
Do your research. I think if you make a good salary and you’re not struggling day to day you’ll enjoy it much more than I did. So, look into the cost of everything as compared to your salary. Will you have enough to enjoy your life? Also, be ready for the winter. It’s not only cold but dark and damp. Also, skiing or other outdoor sports will take some getting to, and the wilderness is not at your doorstep. If you’re content to sit inside and drink beer for a good chunk of the year, then you’ll be happy in Prague. If not, I can’t recommend it.
18. What have you learned from living abroad?
I’ve learned so much from living abroad. Before Prague, I lived in Ireland, Morocco, Vietnam, and Australia. Everywhere has its good and bad. I’ve learned to be open-minded and accepting. Also, I’ve learned to embrace differences but, especially in Prague, I’ve learned that we don’t all have to belong everywhere. I’ve learned heaps about myself really, and I’ve learned how much I’m capable of more than anything else and I think that’s an invaluable life lesson.
More about Caitlin
Caitlin grew up in the countryside of Vermont, USA before heading off to college in Maryland. Since then she’s earned her CELTA to teach English as a second language and with that has lived and worked in Ireland, Morocco, Vietnam, Australia and The Czech Republic. She became an expat in 2011 and has never looked back. Caitlin loves riding horses and is a lover of all animals. She loves photography, though she’s still learning. She loves hiking, yoga, the countryside and the city, knitting, and writing, which she does on her blog at Countryjumperblog
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