Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to the Czech Republic, etc.
Hello InterNations readers! I'm Cynthia from Seattle, WA USA and I moved to the Czech Republic with my fiancé in November 2012. I didn't know at the time that I would become an expat, as I was taking my teaching certification in Prague and wasn't sure if I would stay or go... However, when we both found jobs in the small city of České Budějovice in the South Bohemia region two months later, we decided to really give it a shot and stay for a while.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I love the medium of the Internet to express myself creatively, and I have always enjoyed writing and blogging about my travel experiences. My blog "Adventurings" was born out of knowing that I bought a one-way ticket and was embarking on a big trip, not knowing when I would come home again. It also doesn't hurt to fill in family and friends on what I'm up to halfway across the world.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in the Czech Republic differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I eased into life in Czech Republic by living in the capital of Prague for two months until I started work. This was a nice transition because, as a major metropolis, it had most of the comforts of home that I would want. However, moving to a slightly smaller Czech city, I had to get used to not being able to find my favorite foods or ingredients for cooking that I was used to. (Let's just say, Marks & Spencer has been a godsend) However, this has made me incredibly more self-sufficient than before because I've had to learn to make all the foods that I miss from scratch. People have been quite friendly to us and helpful with our transition here, but it's been hard to get past the colder, slightly unfriendlier feeling you have when walking down the street: strangers under very few circumstances smile at each other and you might even encounter some scowls! This still throws me off, as I'm quite a smiley person, but I have since learned that it's just part of the culture and that when you get to know Czechs they can be some of the kindest people I've ever met.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in the Czech Republic? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think that I was. I didn't expect that so few people speak English in this city but in terms of mental and physical preparedness, I packed the right clothing and shoes for this extreme seasonal climate. I'm so happy I invested in a really great pair of boots and other high-quality clothing items before I came. The shopping just isn't quite the same as in the U.S.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Once while living in Prague, my fiance and I were going to a friend's house on a Friday evening at about 8:00pm. We had never been to the house of this particular friend before, so we were a little confused about what building it was. We tried one building, which was several stories high and began looking for the door of the flat. We passed one gentleman on the way in who said nothing to us, and then locked the door behind us, probably assuming we lived or worked in the building. Of course, this building turns out to be mostly offices and our friend definitely didn't reside there, so we were locked in with no mobile phone and only our wallets and one bottle of beer in hand. After freaking out a bit that we would have to sleep there, we finally found an open window on the first floor and managed to crawl out and jump down to freedom. To me, the moral is that the guy we passed on the way in didn't even question us which is representative to me of my view of Czech culture: live, and let live. Nobody will hassle you and give you a hard time as long as you look like you know what you're doing!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in the Czech Republic?
- Stock up on your favorite high quality clothing items and shoes before you arrive! You likely won't be able to find all the same brands you like and it will be more expensive if you do find it.
- Identify from the beginning what kind of expat experience you want. In Prague there is a large expat community and many events for English speakers, but people tend to stay in their expat friend bubble a lot more frequently. Moving outside Prague will really force you to integrate a bit more as most of the people you know will be Czech, however there are less English-friendly events so you really have to do your homework and seek out the culture that appeals to you.
- If you decide to move out of the Czech capital, it helps a lot to know a little Czech. You'll probably be able to get by without but many people outside Prague don't speak English. Knowing some Czech or at least some key words will really help make your transition as smooth as possible.
How is the expat community in the Czech Republic? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The Czech Republic has a fantastic expat community! It wasn't hard to find expat friends in Prague, but when we moved to České Budějovice, it took a bit of time to find the tight expat community which exists here. In the meantime, there were definitely opportunities to socialize like Couchsurfing groups and joining clubs which helped a bit at the time. Locals are eager to introduce you to their English speaking friends, which is really nice!
How would you summarize your expat life in the Czech Republic in a single, catchy sentence?
This Bohemian Life: How Czech Republic grabbed hold of us and wouldn't let go.