Ricky: An Anglican In Prague
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Prague, etc.
My name is Ricky Yates. I was born and grew up in the city of Coventry in the English Midlands. My birth took place, twenty days after HM Queen Elizabeth the Second, ascended to the British throne. Therefore like HM the Queen, I too celebrated my diamond jubilee in 2012 :-).
After a varied career, latterly as Area Sales Manager for a publishing company, in November 1986, I was accepted to train for ordained ministry in the Church of England. Ordained in 1989, before moving to Prague, I was Rector of a group of village Churches in North Oxfordshire for over fifteen years, living in the village of Finmere, about 20 km north-east of the city of Oxford.
I moved to Prague in September 2008 with my German wife Sybille, together with our 'substitute child', an elderly black & white cat called Oscar. Sybille and I only met and married in 2005, so this was a new adventure for both of us.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging at the beginning of February 2009, four & half months after moving to Prague. The original aim was keep my family, friends & former parishioners in the UK, up-to-date about my new life in Prague. It was also to make good use of the internet domain bearing my name, which my wife had kindly bought for me more than a year previously.
Since then, my blog has attracted quite a following amongst expats living in the Czech Republic, including many members of my congregations here, and also amongst English-speaking Czechs. It has been successful way beyond what I had ever imagined.
Do you have any favourite blog entries of yours?
Out of a current 239 posts, I've selected just five.
- Firstly, two associated posts from 2009 which still attract many visitors to my blog. They are both about driving on the left or right-hand side of the road & about all that was involved in getting my right-hand drive car, legally registered in the Czech Republic.
- Secondly, in January 2011, I wrote about all the reasons why I like living in Prague. Again, this post still attracts many visitors to my blog.
- Then two more recent posts from 2013, both of which have attracted a large amount of interest. The first, addresses the way nearly all Czech females, have a surname that is slightly longer and different, to that of their father or husband, from whom it is derived, and all that this implies.
- Finally, a post that went totally viral, a few days after I published it in February 2013. One day, the blog got 2040 hits, the next 1034, almost all landing first on this post.
I'm currently writing a much expanded version of this post which I intend to publish as a book entitled 'How to be Czech'.
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?
There are two major differences between my life living here in Prague, and my former existence in the North Oxfordshire countryside of the UK. I used to live in a large four bedroomed detached Rectory, with several downstairs rooms, two of which served as offices. In Prague, I live in a three-bedroomed second floor flat, and use one of the bedrooms as an office.
In England, I was responsible for ten historic Church buildings and their associated churchyards. Here in the Czech Republic, I have no responsibilities for Church buildings as both my Prague & Brno congregations meet in buildings that belong to Czech Churches to whom we pay a modest rent.
I didn't have any real trouble getting used to my new circumstances nor did I experience culture shock. I think this was due to having spent many weeks of holiday in various parts of continental Europe, (though not in the Czech Republic), and having a German wife who often says that many things she experiences here, are like the Germany she remembers from twenty or thirty years ago.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Prague? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
The main thing I was not fully prepared for was the intricacies of Czech bureaucracy. As EU citizens, I had expected that my wife and I would be treated no differently to Czechs. Whilst the Czech Republic has benefited enormously from its membership of the EU, it has yet to fully recognise and respect its responsibilities towards citizens of other EU nations. We have both had experiences of being treated as second class citizens which are both illegal & wrong.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
From 22nd April this year. Wearing clerical shirt & collar, I arrive at reception at the Palace of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Prague, for a prearranged meeting with Cardinal Duka's secretary, Father Tomáš. The older lady on reception speaks no English & asks, “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” “Do you speak German?” I reply, “Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch” - “I speak a little German.” I then add, “Meine Frau ist Deutsch” - “My wife is German.” A look of shock & horror crosses her face. “Ich bin der anglikanische Pfarrer” - “I am the Anglican priest :-)
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Prague?
The best answer I can give this question is this link to another of my blog posts.
This was written out of my own experience & from witnessing the experience of others, both successful & unsuccessful.
How is the expat community in Prague? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Prague is alive and well. As my Prague congregation is made up of English-speaking people from around the world, it has never been difficult to find like-minded people. Having said that, my wife & I try not to live in an expat bubble but instead, eat & drink in Czech bar-restaurants near where we live, which are not regularly frequented by expats. By doing so, we gain a far greater appreciation of our adopted country.
How would you summarize your expat life in Prague in a single, catchy sentence?
A wonderful enriching experience – spiritually, historically & culturally.