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Living in the Czech Republic
A practical guide to the way of life in the Czech Republic
Expats living in the Czech Republic, particularly in its buzzing capital Prague, are an ever-expanding group. Read our guide for more about life in the heart of Central Europe, from healthcare to education, and more.
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Life in the Czech Republic
At a Glance:
- With an increasingly multicultural population, the Czech Republic now has approximately half a million foreigners living within its borders.
- The Czech Republic is renowned for its beer; the country has held the title of the highest beer consumption per capita worldwide for the last 23 years!
- The country has a high standard of healthcare, on a par with many other European countries.
- State education is taught entirely in Czech, so many expats choose to send their children to international schools.
The Czech Republic’s turbulent history, particularly the transformation from communist state to liberal democracy in the second half of the 20th century, has shaped the nation and left its mark on the country, making it a culturally fascinating destination. Our article gives a brief overview of the history of the Czech Republic and provides some key cultural information for expats living there.
The Czech Republic: A Brief History
Between 1620 and 1989, the Czech Republic enjoyed a very brief period of self-rule. United under Habsburg rule for 300 years, Czechs and Slovaks formed a joint independent state — Czechoslovakia — at the end of World War I.
Growing pressures from Nazi Germany, strengthened by support from the German minority within Czechoslovakia, finally led to the German annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, and the subsequent German invasion of the remaining Czech territory one year later.
Very few of the 100,000 Jews in the Bohemia and Moravia — now known as the Czech Republic — survived the atrocities of the Second World War. Barely any returned at the end of the War, and the Jewish community still remains a minority in the country.
In 1945, the Czech and Slovak people were liberated by the Soviets, who subsequently sabotaged Czechoslovakia’s attempts at choosing its own form of government, turning the country into a satellite state. In 1968, attempts at liberal reform — the Prague Spring — were led by Alexander Dubcek, who endeavored to give socialism “a human face”. These attempts were brutally stopped by Soviet troops.
It wasn’t until 1989 that liberal democracy arrived in Czechoslovakia through the “Velvet Revolution”— a peaceful process led by Vaclav Havel. In December of the same year, the Communist Party collapsed and Havel was elected the President of Czechoslovakia. In January 1993, Czechoslovakia split peacefully into two states: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Along with nine other nations, the Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004 and in 2007 became part of the Schengen Area.
The Czech Melting Pot
Of the roughly 10.5 million people who live in the Czech Republic, around 64% are ethnically Czech, 4.5% Moravian, 1.5% Slovak and 30% other. There were about half a million foreigners living in the Czech Republic in 2017. Approximately 7% of the total population and 14% of those living in the capital are foreign-born.
The largest groups of foreign residents are Ukrainians, Slovaks, and Vietnamese. There is also a significant number of Russian, Polish and German migrants. Citizens of other Western European countries and the Balkans also make up a substantial share of foreigners living in the Czech Republic.
According to the most recent census in 2011, a large percentage of the people in the Czech Republic described themselves as atheists (34.5%); Christians make up 11.5%, while 54% classified themselves as “other” or chose not to specify.
Culture, Cuisine, and the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has produced several world-famous composers, including Antonin Dvořák and Bohuslav Martinů. Furthermore, many Czech films, both pre- and post-Soviet era, enjoy great popularity in Europe. One of the Czech Republic’s most famous cultural exports is “Krtek – the little mole”, a cartoon character who has appeared on children’s television shows in 80 countries around the globe.
Literature is another important aspect of Czech culture: the most translated Czech novel is The Good Soldier Švejk, a satirical novel by Jaroslav Hašek about life in the Czech Republic towards the end of the Habsburg Empire. Other world famous Czech writers include Milan Kundera and the late Vaclav Havel. The Czech Republic also has a tradition of puppetry and (often comical) marionette theater, though Slavic humor may not be to everybody’s taste.
Czech cuisine is hearty and tasty, with meat and beer playing starring roles: in fact, the Czech Republic has held the title of highest beer consumption per capita for the last 23 years, with an average of 142.4 liters per person being consumed in 2015. Czech beer is, of course, also enjoyed outside the Czech Republic, especially in the form of its two most famous brews: Pilsner Urquell and Budvar.
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Expat Info for the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a modern country with high living standards, extensive social security, and an accessible healthcare system, as well as very good educational opportunities. Below is a short overview of accommodation, healthcare, and education for expats in the Czech Republic.
Healthcare: A Strong System
There are no particular health risks for expats in the Czech Republic. If you do get ill, however, there is no need to worry, as healthcare facilities generally provide very high standards of treatment and care. The Czech Republic has a good infrastructure of public and private hospitals and doctor’s practices, and everybody who is employed in the country automatically becomes a member of the general health insurance system. Some big international companies may offer you a private health insurance plan instead of, or in addition to, general health insurance.
Patients can choose their doctors, although in non-emergency cases, they may be refused if the doctor’s workload is too big to be able to provide adequate care. You do not need a referral to consult specialists. The most important thing to remember before picking your doctor is that you can only register with one who has a contract with your insurance company. Please see our article on working in the Czech Republic for more information on the general health insurance system.
From the Pharmacy to A&E
In case you need emergency treatment, you can go to your nearest hospital with an A&E department. If you do not live near a hospital, there will most likely be an on-call doctor serving a certain area or working in a special doctor’s office. Dial 155 to call an ambulance or alternatively dial the general EU emergency number, 112 (with guaranteed English-speaking operators), to be connected with the police, fire department, or emergency medical service.
Doctor’s prescriptions should be taken to a pharmacy within one week of being issued, otherwise they become invalid. Prescriptions from emergency services are valid for one day only; prescriptions for antibiotics can be picked up within three days.
The ABC of Education in the Czech Republic
The Czech education system ranks 29th out of all OECD countries when it comes to the quality of teaching, according to the PISA rankings. School attendance is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 15; foreigners must present their residency permit upon enrollment. Since classes at state schools are generally taught in Czech, expats usually prefer to send their children to one of the many international schools.
Having said this, foreigners can request free Czech language tutoring for their children, which, if they are young enough, might well enable them to take part in Czech primary education. Foreign language lessons start in year four; the languages most commonly taught at Czech schools are English, German, French, and Russian.
While state education is free for everyone who can follow classes in Czech, international schools charge admission and tuition fees. Most international schools can be found in or around Prague. Please see our article on living in Prague for a list of some of the well-established international schools in Prague.
What to Expect from a Czech House Hunt
Expats in the Czech Republic tend to rent rather than buy property. This is mainly because non-EU citizens without a resident permit for the Czech Republic (or another EU country) are excluded from purchasing property.
Even when it comes to renting apartments, there are some restrictions for foreign nationals. While Czech people have the option of renting from municipalities, which offer controlled rents, expats usually have to look for privately owned flats (Czech abbreviation: OV). Rental prices there are not controlled and can vary considerably according to location. On the bright side, these apartments are usually well kept and offer their tenants all kinds of modern conveniences.
Looking for and securing an apartment follows the same steps as in most other countries. You can consult or post ads on notice boards, in local newspapers or on relevant websites. Using a real estate agent can simplify this process, but will also make it more expensive; the standard mediation fee of at least one month’s rent usually includes some form of legal advice and help preparing the lease.
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