13 September 2016

Carolyn Woulfe - Expat in Prague, Czech Republic

Carolyn Woulfe - Expat in Prague, Czech Republic

We’ve had the chance to talk to Carolyn Woulfe, 54, an Australian expat who has moved to Prague alone. Ms. Woulfe who has been living there for almost a year, now works as a teacher.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Australia


Q: What made you move out of Australia?

A: At school, one day, my principal announced that she was going to work in the Middle East. A lightbulb went off for me. I went home and asked my family if they’d like to go overseas, and everyone said yes. We spent the next eight years in Hong Kong.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Prague, Czech Republic. I’d heard how beautiful it was, and I knew teachers who had worked at my school and loved it. After eight years in Asia, I longed for Europe. 


Q: How long have you been living in the Czech Republic?

A: Almost one year.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: Alone.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Of course! We message, use Facebook, and Skype.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: At first I found some of them a little chilly. I don’t notice it now. Maybe I’m a little friendlier and prepared to test out my terrible Czech.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in the Czech Republic? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: The teachers at my international school were very friendly. I also found my church here, which gave me a ready-made community. I volunteer there, so I’m very busy.


Q: How does the cost of living in the Czech Republic compared to your home?

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: I don’t drink coffee.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: I can usually do the main meal, dessert, and a cold drink for around $15 USD or less. Some places are cheaper. You can be a kebab, for instance for about $4 USD.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: I once splurged and paid about $50 for a special occasion. 

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: I don’t smoke or drink, but groceries are much cheaper.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in the Czech Republic?

A: My employer set it up. It’s easy to use although you need your phone to get an SMS code anytime you do anything online. I can’t make a withdrawal at the bank without my passport.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: It was very expensive to start with because I had to get Apostilles on every important certificate and police clearance, at about $80AUD each doc. It’s a complicated process, but my employer hired an immigration person who did everything. I just had to send it certificates and a few forms and then turn up a couple of times.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Czech Republic is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Healthcare is definitely reliable. My crown cost 15000 czk, and I got nothing back. I’m not sure about how much other places cost, but I’ll go back for the next one to the Canadian Medical Centre, again, because they have a laser machine that makes the crown while you wait, so it’s all done in one visit. I’ve also had lens replacements in my eyes here (no more glasses, ever) because it was about $2500 USD all up.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or Prague? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: My employer did it. Just get as much as you can, and find out about it before you get here so that you can do anything that needs doing before you come if the coverage is better where you are.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to the Czech Republic? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: My visa wasn’t processed until after I arrived. That made it really hard to find a mover in Hong Kong because they almost all wanted to see my visa before they’d take on the move. Once I found someone, the experience was fine. I’m glad I had arrived about a month before I started work so I could play in Prague and set up my apartment. I brought my mini schnauzer from Hong Kong, and animal moving companies vary enormously. The company I used wasn’t too expensive. They used a company at this end that wanted to charge about 500 euros for airport collection. I did it myself. It was a non-existent process. Glad I hadn’t paid for it.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: No single big thing stood out. It’s a ton of little things, and you just have to remember that it’s normal to take the time to get everything sorted and settle in. The Post Office was and is a challenge for me because no one speaks English at mine and it’s hard to work out what’s going on when there’s a problem. I post from my work now. One important thing: Don’t let anyone post you anything over 20 euros, and don’t shop online outside the EU for anything that costs more than that. You pay another 20% in import duties when it arrives, and it’s complicated to deal with.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in the Czech Republic?

A: Positive: This is a beautiful, mysterious, historical city. It’s like you’re time-traveling in some parts. The countryside is gorgeous. Travel within Europe is so easy and cheap. There is grass! And castles, and cobblestoned streets. Living here is cheaper than Australia or Hong Kong. There are restaurants from all over the world. The oldest university in central Europe is here. Lot of outdoor activities.

Negatives: The pay is generally less than what I was making in other places. Easy to live and save here, but your money doesn’t go as far when you leave the Czech Republic. It’s also dark for much longer, a lot of the year. I found it challenging to go to work in the dark and come home in the dark for months. I was rarely cold though because everywhere is heated.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Museums, restaurants, historical sites, lots of day-trips, easy travel within Europe. Lots of sport to play or watch.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Honestly, I found it hard to adjust to less money (My kids haven’t all finished college…). But I love it here and plan to stay.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Make friends. Use Facebook groups.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about the Czech Republic?

A: I read a ton before I moved. Now I mostly search when necessary. The Facebook sites are useful, but I opt now to search when I need to find out something or check in casually.