Gwyneth: The Prague Thing
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Prague, etc.
I’m originally from Wales, but after graduating from Manchester University I decided that I needed to see the world. I had never really travelled before, but when I saw an advert for teaching English in Japan, I jumped on it. I was given a job teaching in Hamamatsu, Japan – very exciting! I loved it and stayed for 16 months, after which my boyfriend (who I met there) and I decided it was time for something new. He had studied in Prague before and loved it, so we decided to try our luck.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’ve always been a writer, I suppose – I’ve kept diaries and written stories since I can remember. I started a blog about my Japan experiences, firstly to keep friends and family updated, but it became quite popular and I expanded into giving potential expats as much information as I could. It was only natural for me to do the same with Prague, and I probably will wherever I go.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Honestly, I can’t think of any… I haven’t been writing half as much as I should. I was far more attached to my Japan blog!!
Tell us about the ways your new life in Prague differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I came almost straight from Japan, so it was quite a shock to adjust back to something more “normal”. Prague is definitely different from the U.K., although in far more subtle ways than anything in Asia, so it takes a while to realize that you are still experiencing a little culture shock somehow. It just comes from little things like the language barrier preventing simple interactions or seeing women in swimming pool changing rooms walking around completely naked. Paying for water in a restaurant or finding it really hard to find a meal that isn’t loaded with meat or cheese, that kind of thing can get to you every now and again.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Prague? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Honestly, we booked a place on TEFL Worldwide and had no idea what we’d do after that. We didn’t know where to live or where we’d work, but it worked out. You can prepare and over-analyze until you’re crazy, but sometimes an open mind and patience can serve you more than any item from back home could. Saying that, you should definitely look into the visa regulations if you’re non-EU, as there can be plenty of paperwork that you need to bring.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Nothing will sound quite as funny as it was at the time, and a lot of these stories are alcohol-fuelled. We went on a “scavenger hunt” around Prague a while back, where we were put into random teams and given four hours to complete as many items off a list as possible – things like sliding down the gap between escalators, persuading strangers to sing with us, riding a Segway and dancing on a bar. Plenty of funny things happen, but you know… read the blog!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Prague?
Learn to love beer (if you don’t now, you will). Learn a little bit of Czech (just enough to say hello, thank you and order food). Keep an open mind and remember that things might take a while to be quite as amazing as you’d hoped, this isn’t “home” but if you let it, Prague will take you in and put you under its spell, and you’ll love it.
How is the expat community in Prague? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There’s a good website – expats.cz – where you can find out about events and meet other expats. It seems that there are loads here, but perhaps too many to be a close-knit community. I have found some good expat bars where I can meet others, and when you make the effort to go out and find each other you will be able to meet a lot of English-speakers.
How would you summarize your expat life in Prague in a single, catchy sentence?
A Welsh girl who lived in Japan, teaching English and teaching English teachers to teach English. (Maybe not so catchy)