I love so many places BUT NOT Prague!

Expat Guide to Living in Prague

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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 real experience and understand why Caitlin didn’t like to live in Prague.

expat living in Prague Czech Republic

 

About 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 to be the most beautiful bridge in Europe, Charles Bridge.

best things to do in Prague

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.

 

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.

 

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.

expat moving to Prague

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.

expat living in Prague

 

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.

how to get around Prague tram

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 of the teachers were under-qualified with only online TEFL and no teaching experience to speak.

best places to visit in Prague

So, I realized that I was going to end up being overworked and underpaid. In the first few weeks, I was there, and I quickly started applying for more interviews.

I cut down on the hours I was working 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 the astronomical clock, old town square, the castle, churches here and there.

best things to do in Prague

It did a fantastic job of staying intact throughout Europe’s dreadful history, and all these amazing 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.

the cost of living in Prague

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, 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, 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, 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.

best places to visit in Prague
Letna Park is a great place to visit in Prague.

My second go-to spot is Namesti Miru, which is just a small square, but it has a beautiful church, which I love staring at both inside and out.

 

The cost of living in Prague, Czech Republic

Like 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
  • Basic cell phone bill costs $16/month
what to eat in Prague Czech
This image was shot just behind the Karlow bridge in Prague. The sweets are called “Trdelnik” and are super tasty. Credit: Roman Kraft

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.

best place to eat in Prague

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 also 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, and 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 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 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 on 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 so 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!

Discover what it's like to live in Prague Czech Republic as an expat. Read cost of living in Prague, good and bad things about Prague, things to do in Prague, places to visit in Prague and more here! You'll definitely want to save this in your Asia Travel Board to read later! #prague #czechrepublic #czechia #expat #expatlife #livingabroad #expatliving #expatblog #expatblogger #traveltips

 

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 days to days, 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?

expat living in Prague

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, 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

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.

Follow Caitlin on Twitter!

The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.

  1. I knew it was not only me. I also have had negative experiences with Czech people, specially those who work with customers. I wrote somewhere else that Czech customer service is the worst of the world and its surroundings. It might sound hyperbolic, but I would not be surprised if it is accurate. People in this city do not smile, they do among themselves, to their own, I’ve seen that, but not to random strangers as is the case in the good old U.S. of A.
    Forget to expect to hear a “bless you!” when you sneeze. You won’t ever hear it.
    If you do, that must be an American tourist. I like the transportation system. It’s excellent. But in general, I think these people are still scarred by the Communist legacy… Just a guess. The city is not cheap. Forget that. I do shopping every single week, I cook, I know what I am talking about. There is a negative vibe in general and I think it has to do with the ice bolder cold, blank face populace.

  2. I’m a bit early on my own Prague expat experience to draw a definite conclusion. But I think what you take as unfriendliness is just a significant shyness to strangers.

    I work in a respected international company, yet many colleagues’ english is really quite bad, let alone people you may meet in stores or on the streets. They try their best when making a contact, but the conversations turn out somewhat awkward so they generally avoid it. Yet you can see them light up when talking to other czhechs or slovaks – meaning it’s just so much easier without that language barrier.

    I think you must speak local language if you live here and get to know the culture a bit, then you should be fine.

  3. Well, I am from the CR, and I have lived abroad for many long years, so reading this makes me little sad. I believe Prague is trully wonderful place to live .. but there are obstacles that Caitlin describes, which isnt so hard to overcome.
    Yes, some people might be unfriendly at first, but it might be only the fear from the unknown. The generation educated in communist era dont speak English, yet they might react “unfriendly” but I believe this woman in tabaco shop could have just been terrified from an English conversation, she might have understood the word ticket and just respond to that. I think this is the biggest cultural difference btw Czechs and Americans-we are not conditoned to smile and say that everything is great even if it isnt, its the opposite actualy .. but it is changing and in the way inside the people are much happier. Bt they are reserved and it takes time to get close to them but once they open to you, you have probably gained a friend forever.
    Im also an English teacher, and Caitlin you were seriously inderpaid. There are some schools which offer you double of what you earned and if yoh go private, you can earn triple. ;)
    The flat situation can also be sorted. Just get a flatmate! And your expences will drop. And obviously .. we all put on weight if we drink beer :). I actually dont drink and I have a very happy life. A car helps, so you can get out of the city .. but there are alternstives. The public transport generally speaking is amazing.
    And yes we have cold winters but there are plenty of things you can do to survive them .. and you dont have to drink beer ;)
    Forgot to mention we have hot summers and perfect wheather in spring and autumn ;)
    Anyways, as you have concluded, I realy think you would have much better experience if you werent underpaid.
    Thanks for sharing :)

  4. So all those prices you listed sounded extremely cheap. They might not be third world country cheap but not very far off.

  5. Thank you! I have been here in Prague for 8 mths now and just want to escape too… I came from Vietnam where I lived and worked for 4 years (cheerful, sunny, vibey and with loads of friends) I am a fully qualified teacher with loads of experience, CELTA etc. but managed to get on to the same treadmill as you, because I wanted to teach adults. Badly paid for a lot of work… Socially difficult. The students are the highlight of my stay as they have given me incredible insights into the society, but I do hope to leave as soon as convenient…

  6. I lived and studied in Prague for 6 years and I have only nice things to say about this city. The prices you listed are low and real.

  7. I’ve lived in Prague for 8 years, and I’ve learned that a genuine smile and taking it easy can go a long way with anyone, even with the grumpiest granny on the tram.
    Prague is by far one of the BEST and prettiest places to live in Europe, from several points of view, but I have a feeling Caitlin took it all way too personal, and sadly this article throws a rather unrealistic light upon the city life.

    Remember, it’s all about the energy you give out when encountering different people or situations. It’s how YOU deal with every experience that makes it better or worse for you…

    Yes, some Czechs are unfriendly and that may be discouraging, but you can either ignore them with a smile and NOT generalize, or understand that’s mainly because they’re shy if their English is not good, or, like yourself, they’re overworked and underpaid, especially in customer-facing jobs, which makes them tired and grumpy.
    And then leaving work to bump into drunken loud tourists who wouldn’t behave this way in their home countries, is definitely not helping.
    Every Czech friend I’ve made during my years there, have remained my friends to this day, speak fluent English and even German, and are simply wonderful people.

    The weather comes with the region, not their fault, but if you experience just one (not so rainy) autumn in Prague’s parks, you will only thank God for being there.

    Rents have skyrocketed in the past years, very true, however this will be regulated by law from next year due to air bnb regulations. And renting directly from a landlord is way better than through any agency.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing, I found it interesting to read given that I have moved out of CZ 6 months ago but considering to return next year… :)

  8. I’m sorry to read that it didn’t work out for you in Prague but I would like to explain some points you made in the article and others in the comments bellow. I’m half Czech myself, I can speak and understand Czech language, I used to live in Prague for a short period of time and from my own experiences, talking to other Czechs or from online forums I can perhaps explain what might be the reasons why Czechs seem to be unfriendly to foreigners.

    The majority of western foreigners that visit or live in the Czech Republic are concentrated in Prague. After the fall of communism, Prague was one of the first cities of the ex-eastern bloc opening up to the world and the tourists and “expats” started to pouring in pretty much intermediately after the fall in the early 90’s. With it came the western attitude of superiority and arrogance showing locals in Prague that the westerners are the better Europeans, sometimes to the point of total ridiculousness and embarrassment. First it was the Germans and French and then came the British with their stag parties and utterly ignorant people that thought they could just do whatever they want, destroying or pissing/vomiting on national monuments and many considered Czechs to be bellow their status. They behaved like they owned the place. The initial enthusiasm of the citizens of Prague quickly faded out and was replaced with disappointment and as the time progressed with contempt. Westerners were perceived as arrogant and rude people among many citizens of Prague. I don’t mean that everybody behaved in this way and there are many nice people in the west for sure but the bad apples are always remembered the most. Of course local media fuelled the flames with their daily reporting of badly behaving tourists and stag parties. Imagine living in Prague or any other city in the world and having to deal with rude, arrogant people that think you’re bellow their status on a daily basis. You’ll just distance yourself from these people and try to interact with them as little as possible. In my experience, most folks that behaved this way usually came from poor areas of western Europe and they somehow compensated their frustration on other central and eastern Europeans.

    The other issue is that many expats making their home in the Czech Republic never actually bothered to learn the Czech language. I mean if you come to live in Germany or Switzerland and you don’t learn how to speak German, most likely you will soon start to feel alienated and see the place and people as unfriendly. I know a few British expats that live in Prague for over 15 years and they absolutely refuse to learn Czech or even say Ahoj (hi) in Czech. Imagine how rude is that for the locals. No wonder no one wants to really be a friend of such people if they don’t even show a bit of respect towards the community. But again if you decide to live in a foreign country it should be you that integrates into the community by learning the culture, the language and not demanding that local people must speak in your native tongue and even show frustration if they don’t understand or refuse to speak to you in other language than the official one especially when you deal with the state officials and clerks. I witnessed rude Americans and Brits shouting and swearing in English at other folks because they couldn’t speak English. And that was in the suburbs of Prague a way outside of the tourists spots. The Czechs are not required to speak English or any other language in their daily lives. That applies to every country in the world.

    So of course, Toronto or Sydney might be a more friendly place to Americans or Brits because everybody speaks your language and therefore you can also understand the culture and the people.

    As for the weather, Prague has a typical weather as almost any other city in Western and Central Europe bar the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. You will get the same cold, damp winters in Berlin, Munich, Paris, Brussels or Vienna. But Prague is certainly warmer and has a nicer weather than London, Hamburg, Edinburgh or Dublin.

    I wish you good luck and thanks for the interesting article.

    1. I absolutely agree with you. I am also half Czech and have lived in Pague in the past (went to Czech school). To be honest, I was introduced to my Czech friends through my mother, and only when we were all in college did they start speaking English with me. Even in school, it was hard to make friends. I will admit that Czech is a hard language to grasp, especially with the grammar differences. But like you said, Czechs were under communist rule until the 90s and belittled for it. It is truly such a new democracy that is already headed in the isolationist/nationalist direction. It has never been an immigrant-friendly nation yet day in and day out there are hundreds of thousands of tourists walking the streets. If I weren’t Czech, I wouldn’t feel to welcome either. Side note: Czech are very against Refugees and there are like 12 in the whole country. Not sure why refugees would affect your life that much when there are only 12 of them but it is a big issue in politics.

      I feel like the article isn’t really about the writer’s bad experiences in Prague but more an issue with the climate and feeling isolated due to her relationship and work (more personal preference than general dislike). It is a little frustrating because the dislike is for cold winters and unhappy people, which is pretty much eastern and central Europe as a whole. There is so much more to Czech culture and etiquette. It is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, nearly untouched by war. The food is incredible and cheap. I think the writer would be better off teaching English in China if she wants to make money and live cheaply (China has lots of private schools willing to pay big bucks to English teachers with no taxes and super cheap living costs = high quality of living). Younger Czechs don’t value English in the same way because they are taught it throughout the school years but rarely use it socially, just professionally. Older Czech never learned English and don’t want to (my friend’s mom does tour guides in German and she can barely speak English). This is different than in Berlin for example where Germans will speak English to each other, over German (I’ve heard it on the Metro in Berlin). It sounds like Prague just isn’t the place for this writer and her profession. If you are an outgoing person with a willingness to learn some conversational Czech and the ability to join clubs and activities, then I am sure you would thrive in Prague. I was always doing art camps and Orienteering to meet new people and it worked so if you find an activity that can introduce you to more (young) Czech people then it will be easier to make friends.
      Glad to find another half-Czech!

    2. Thanks for your thoughts Prem. I’d remind you that this I was asked to share my experience – and this is what it is.

      I’m sure that if we sat down with a glass of wine we could discuss the nuances of why it was what it was – but that doesn’t necessarily fit in a short expat interview.

      I would say this though – I did attempt to speak Czech from the very first day in the country – it didn’t matter.

  9. Caitlin is wrong. Like many in her generation, she feels entitled. But Praguers WORK. And they are conservative. lf they smell any US style liberalness on you they avoid you. They have their liberal ways too but much different. l lived and worked there for 8 years and it was wonderful. You have to fit in. l had MANY Czech friends and hardly knew another expat. Very sweet, warm friends. l really miss Prague.

    1. Hey Tom! Caitlin here. My first question would be how you know what generation I am?! And also how you know about my feelings of entitlement? Or that I have liberal ways? Or that I don’t work hard? My next point would be that opinions are different to facts, and while you can disagree with my opinions about Prague, that doesn’t make them wrong. Thanks for reading!

    2. Hello Caitlin!

      I was born in Prague and my father is czech, mother Russian. Lived in Prague till 22 years and than travelled .I have lived in south Italy, Spain and Florida US .
      I have to confirm that all you wrote is TRUE!
      As I am czech I know the culture very well.
      Salaries are joke compare to the costs of living like food, dinning out,apartments,clothing.
      Food is literally poison,we were always driving to Germany once in a week to get a healthy fresh vegetables,fruits or meat.Quality is terrible full of chemicals ,if you spend your time reading what’s inside simple yogurt you will be shocked.If you buy an apple,tomato or banana there is actually not a difference because it has a similar taste.
      And Czechs ouuu Czechs :) the worse culture I ever met in my whole life.
      Untrustworthy,racists lazy,cheapskates,fake,rude,boring they have a bad hygiene habits .Please, take a ride early morning with a tram you will feel many smelling people in their sweaty and dirty clothes.Go to the local gym-same ! Deodorant is waste of money for them ! So those who are happy to pay little for transport aren’t realizing that the price is actually very fair !
      It is funny to hear from foreigners that Prague is amazing city ,yes maybe the architecture.That’s pretty much it !
      Country is corrupted,go to Sapa( that’s the Asian shopping village in Prague ) everybody rides the most expensive cars ,of course ! Their main income is from drugs!
      Government is stealing money,pensions are joke as well ,old people are working in tesco for 250€ monthly because they can’t survive from pensions.
      Czechs as a culture are super boring,they mostly drink beer do nothing and if you are better in something (work,succes,handsome or beautiful ) they will be extremely jealous and you are done ! That’s the communist way of thinking ! Stealing is normal too .
      I could continue on and on but I would need a write a book actually.
      Foreigners moving to Prague can enjoy only beer ,unhealthy food and prostitutes:)
      Thank you ! I hope I could help someone a bit :)

  10. Reading your post was so refreshing to me because I had such a similar experience. I took my TEFL class in Prague and ended up staying because most of my other classmates were staying and the visa process was so much easier than going anywhere else in Europe. I had originally planned to go to Madrid and didn’t–which I ended up regretting.

    Prague is a beautiful place and everyone agrees who has passed through. A lot of people could not understand why I HATED living there because they only came to visit for a few days as opposed to my 3 months there. I actually LOLed when I read your favorite part of Prague was getting out of Prague because that couldn’t have been more true for me! My favorite parts were travelling to other places/countries!

    I know people say Czech unfriendliness comes from people not learning the language. I really made an attempt to always speak in Czech when I went places/ordered food. However, most people I met at least in customer service were so unbelievably rude, I couldn’t wait to go back home to America. One waitress literally THREW a menu at me when I was dining alone. She was upset because I had a water bottle with me. I worked for James Cook, too, so you’re traveling all around the city all day, um so YEAH I’m going to carry a water bottle with me!

    I don’t think it’s all about the language though and not being willing to learn, because (and I’m sure you feel this way too) I have been to 26 countries and nobody has been so cold or so rude as Czech people. Like Hungary, just the next country over, could not have had more lovely people.

    I’m sure it has to a lot with the culture of being so oppressed for so long. But it sucks for everyone else who has to deal with their unhappiness. I realize this is probably a huge generalization but that is what I have gathered. The students I did get to know were awesome and lovely. I’ve heard once you get to know Czechs, they are your friends for life! Although I didn’t stay long enough to see that through!

    That being said, I did have a lot of friends who absolutely LOVED living there and some who still live there to this day! You and I may have run across one another and some point but never have met. I was only at James Cook in fall 2016 and then moved home at the end of November.

    Anyways, I enjoyed reading your post!

    1. Thanks for reading Amy!

      I think James Cook is a bit of a sham of a company – low balling teachers and overworking them. It’s a shame that so many get involved with them and then have a bad experience.

      I am the same that I had some friends who really enjoyed life in Prague – but I also know lots of people who when I mentioned how much I didn’t enjoy it jump at the fact that there is someone else who feels the same as them!

      I started at James Cook in September 2016 so we very well may have crossed paths. Sorry we didn’t get to meet!

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