I love so many places BUT NOT Prague!
Is Prague a great place to live as an expat?
In this Expat Interview, Caitlin will share what it’s like to live in Prague, the Czech Republic as an expat. She shares useful information such as the cost of living, how to move to Prague, where to visit, good and bad things about Prague, and more.
Also, you can know Caitlin’s experience and understand why Caitlin didn’t like to live in 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 beautiful spots. It’s a beautiful city which straddles the Vltava river.
Prague is home to some of Europe’s most exquisite architecture, including what is widely considered the most beautiful bridge in Europe, the 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 consider.
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 a tourist, but that was it.
What was your moving procedure?
I moved to Prague in July of last year, 2016. I chose it based on visas.
The first move I made wasn’t utterly independent as I had a boyfriend along for the ride. He’s Spanish, and I’m American, so finding a country we could 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 relatively straightforward and doesn’t need sponsorship.
How did you prepare to move to Prague?
Unlike some other moves I’ve made, I had a job almost entirely lined up before I arrived.
I applied and interviewed for a few jobs before I arrived, and I was offered one in Liberec, 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 relied 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.
How to deal with culture shock in Prague, Czech Republic?
I don’t think it’s a culture shock as the culture isn’t that different than America. But I did struggle with some things, namely, the cold, dark, wet winters. Brrr.
Did you experience 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, especially when we fell in love with our new home.
How to overcome difficulties when living in Prague?
Yes. I quickly learned that Prague’s English teaching world was very different from what I’d previously been exposed to in Sydney and Vietnam.
It was oversaturated, and most teachers were under-qualified with only online TEFL and no teaching experience.
So, I realized that I would end up being overworked and underpaid. I was there in the first few weeks and quickly started applying for more interviews.
I cut down on the hours I worked for James Cook, the company I’d initially been interviewed with, and started advertising for private students through a few online sites.
What do you like about Prague?
I liked its architecture.
There’s no doubt that Prague is a beautiful city. It has an astronomical clock, an old town square, a castle, and churches.
It did a fantastic job of staying intact throughout Europe’s horrible history, and all these impressive structures are still here for us to see today.
What are the bad things about Prague?
The cold! And the fact that wine is so expensive. I gained a few pounds from all the beer I drank!
Prague is 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 high, as I’ve outlined below.
What are your favorite things to do in Prague?
My favorite thing to do in Prague is to escape it. I love the outskirts.
There’s a little village to the south, 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, green, and quiet. It’s a beautiful 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.
Where are the best places to visit in Prague?
I had a friend visit earlier this year, and we did a few of the standard things, including the old town and the castle, but I also took her to Letna Park, which is excellent for a warm day and a picnic but has stunning views year long.
My second go-to spot is Namesti Miru, which is just a small square but has a beautiful church, which I love staring at both inside and out.
The cost of living in Prague, Czech Republic
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not cheap. It’s costly. The currency is Crowns, but I will convert everything to USD to make it easier to understand.
My salary is between $10 and $16/hour.
- A liter of beer at a bar costs $2
- An awful 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
- A basic cell phone bill costs $16/per month
The 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 high, and nearly impossible to survive with this example, what my boyfriend and I paid is very low.)
A year’s transport ticket good for tram, train, metro, and bus costs $165 (this is the best deal in town!)
Is it easy to make friends in Prague?
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 didn’t happen to me in Prague.
Because 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.
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 went on many friend dates. People I connected with on Facebook. Some clicked, others didn’t.
I struggled, and it was 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 why I didn’t end up with lots of friends, I didn’t need them. I had him.
Do you hang out with the locals or foreigners?
Foreigners. I met up with a few Czech women; some were o.k., but none of them were interested in follow-ups (was it me!?), and the ones were tough to get close to.
Where is your favorite place to meet friends in Prague?
Prague changed its smoking laws this spring, so all the bars and restaurants were smoky and awful last winter. I hate that. So, I chose the 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!
Are you in an expat group 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 activities there.
Nothing clicked through, and I felt a bit awkward going to them, in all honesty.
A memorable event in Prague
It’s hard to pick out one memory, but many of my memories revolve around the trams. They are just everywhere. We lived above a tram line (DON’T DO THAT!), so we heard them running all night long.
The trams are an excellent form of transportation when they work well, but if they’re stuck, you’re screwed!
Did you change your perspective about Prague after living here?
Yes. Sadly, it went from positive to negative.
I 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 THE WORLD! But after living there, Prague simple isn’t one of them.
What is your advice for living or moving to 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 at 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.
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 things. I’ve learned to be open-minded and accepting.
Also, I’ve learned to embrace differences, but I’ve learned that we don’t all have to belong everywhere, especially in Prague.
I’ve learned heaps about myself, 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 to college in Maryland. Since then, she’s earned her CELTA to teach English as a second language and 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.
Follow Caitlin on Twitter!
The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.
I am Czech guy living in Prague for 15 years and unfortunately I have to fully agree with you. Prague is stunning city if you are just visiting, architecture is absolutely wonderful, lots of beautiful places. If you do your research or you have guide you can see here very unique places and buildings. (and I suggest to visit also some places outside of Prague)
But living here is not good. The main problem is mentality of czech nation. Basically everything that is different from main population is weird, wrong to them, they laugh at it. Of course as everywhere in the world you can find nice people as well as idi*ts. Unfortunately in Czech republic second group is far far bigger. Very cold stupid rude nation that always blame others and have absolutely no problem to cheat (I dont think only in relationships, but also in business, communication and all aspects of life) As result of basically no moral boundaries you can see where czech political situation went…
Couldnt agree more with Caitlin. Although iv been living here for the past 15 years but most of my experience with the locals hasnt been the best. Regardless of how polite and nice you are they still have a way of making you feel isolated. There is no reason to be so closed up and scared from outsiders. The situation has improved over the years but no where close to normal. Covid seems to have changed their attitude a little since they realize that its foreigners money that has made them this over confident. I cannot speak for the stag groups as they are rowdy any where they go.
About the woman who greeted you with “no” – it’s short for “ano” meaning “yes”. Still maybe not the warmest greeting, but the Czech’s use of no meaning yes is an endless source of misunderstanding! I’ve lived here for years and it still catches me out sometimes.
Hello Peter, yes it is true…the typical,colloquial reply in Czech ‘no’ which means basically yes can confuse every foreigner. Me personally, being born in Prague and having lived in the UK, Germany,Switzerland…makes
really sad when English-speaking people find Czech people unfriendly or too grumpy. Some of them really are somehow “annoyed” but many are able to speak English or German fluently and happy to speak to foreigners, especially in Prague. Anyway, when I meet a grumpy shop assistant in the shop ,I always tell her in Czech ‘What a beauty to see someone loving her job!’meaning ironically :):)
Caitlin, thank you for sharing this!
I am a Ukrainian, living in Prague for the last 6 years. It was so depressing to discover that the ‘beautiful Prague’ is not so beautiful when you decide to stay here long-term.
Czech people may be polite when they need to, yet they will keep their distance. You may have a pleasant small talk with someone in a bar, but this is as far as it will goes. No one will make any effort to include you into their circle, and any efforts on your part will be passively opposed. Here foreigners find friends only among other foreigners. This is not something obvious at a first glance: you discover it only too late, when you have already rented a place and started your studies, or the new job.
Wow! I’m glad I read this after I returned from a week in Prague in August because I probably wouldn’t have went. Just kidding. I read but make my own decisions. As a Black American female traveling solo, I only had one racial incident, way less than in America. I had a great time. The locals and ex-pats were so kind and friendly. Maybe because I was a big tipper.LOL. I was a big tipper because everything was so cheap, from wine, champagne, beer and food.
I stayed at one of the best hotels I ever stayed at, the Alcron.
I’ll visit Prague again!
“. . . where there is no love there is no understanding.”—Oscar Wilde
Reviewing a city is very much like reviewing a person. How you see him or her will depend very much upon your relationship. Just imagine the same man described by his ex . . . followed by a description made by his current wife.
Sufficeth to say I’m married to Prague. Though born in California, raised in Seattle—and a lifelong traveler—I’ve based myself over 20 years in Prague. Sure, she IS a tourist city, in that sense I’m married to an extraordinarily glamorous woman. Wherever she steps she gathers looks. Not to mention invitations. If I was the jealous type, my heart would wither under a barrage of irritable grief.
Her beauty has been crafted by wave upon wave of dreamy architects. Gothic mingles with Baroque and Romantic dances with Art Nouveau. Rilke’s birthplace, and Kafka’s, in Prague the ghost of Albert Einstein floats past the ghost of Mozart, their only thread of immediate connection being that Einstein just so happens to be whistling a scrap of The Magic Flute.
Nietzsche wrote: “When I search for another word for ‘music,’ the only word I find is ‘Venice.’” As for myself, when I search for another word for ‘mystery,’ the only word I find is ‘Prague.’ This city, this seething garden of moods (and much of Caitlin’s experience might have been crafted by which particular mood-garden she happened to reside in . . . plus she lived near a tram line so was never adequately rested) carries, like nearly all cities do, its thorns and its roses. Then again, as Alphonse Karr asserts: “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
Prague is a very intense mood-garden, one that has impressed itself deeply into my poems and songs, my loves and my life. (Regarding the Czech people, I once counseled an Israeli couple I met, who complained about their unfriendliness: “You can’t PUSH OPEN a sliding door.” It does take finesse and patience to get Czechs to open their heart-gates, but once you’re in, you’re often DEEPLY in. Whereas Americans and other types will gladly welcome you at the front entrance . . . but don’t expect to get past the foyer.) Don’t rely on Caitlin’s poor experience to determine whether this extraordinary city might be your best friend/mate/lover too.
I appreciate all of the comments given here and as an American citizen moving to Prague in about 18 months, I look forward to experiencing all that Prague has to offer. We were married in Prague 17 years ago and I visit during the summer months when I am off from my teaching position. My wife is from Prague so I already have family and friends to get me acclimated which is half the battle. I have not made any decision on career opportunities yet which is the last decision to be made, and we already have our place of residence on hold for us in Prague 6. Friends from the U.S.A. are already informing us that they plan to visit us and as mentioned, Prague is a great central location to visit other countries in Europe. 18 months sounds like a long time, but I know it will approach quickly. Again, thank you for all of your experiences and thoughts shared on this site.
Nicely said…I lived in Prague in 1998/99 and met some nicest people,amazing memories.