1 August 2016

Cynthia - Expat in České Budějovice, Czech Republic

Cynthia - Expat in České Budějovice, Czech Republic

Cynthia is a 28-year-old English teacher who lives in the city of České Budějovice, which is located two hours south of Prague in the Czech Republic. She is originally from Fidalgo Island, Washington, USA and has lived in Seattle for eight years before moving to České Budějovice with her fiancée. Miss Cynthhia decided to move to the Czech Republic to study for her TEFL teaching certification and was able to find work shortly after graduating. At present, she has been living in the Czech Republic for two years.

Miss Cynthia remarked about the laid-back culture in the Czech Republic, saying that Czech people are very friendly once you get to know them. She noted that her most difficult experience involved the language barrier. “Czech Republic isn't like its neighboring countries in terms of English knowledge-- you really have to come armed with what you want written down in Czech or a friend to help you,” she explained. Miss Cynthia also expressed her appreciation for receiving assistance from her fiancée’s employer when it came to navigating the visa system in Prague. ”Getting the visas have been a longer process, but not an unsuccessful one. A lot of patience has been needed!” she said.  

Like Miss Cynthia, dealing with a language barrier is one of the most common challenges that expatriates undergo when moving overseas. Expats who wish to know more about language-learning opportunities may want to consider visiting their nearest local embassy to receive advice and information. In addition, expatriates who are unable to receive visa-related assistance from their employers may want to avail of professional immigration services to help make the immigration procedure go smoothly.

Find out more about Cynthia’s experiences in Czech Republic in her full interview below.

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I'm from the very beautiful Fidalgo Island, in Washington, USA although I've been living in Seattle for the past eight years.

What made you move out of your home country?

A: It has long been a dream for me to experience life in Europe... not just a study program but actual, day-to-day working life. Lucky for me, my fiancé (at the time boyfriend) was just as onboard with this idea as I was, so we quit our day jobs, bought one-way tickets, and decided to see if we could make it happen. 

Q: Where are you living now?

A: I'm living in a small city called České Budějovice in the South Bohemia (southwest) corner of the country, about two hours south of Prague.

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

A: I can't believe that I'm just coming up on the two year mark! I had no idea it would be that long, but I am so thankful for it and my appreciation for the Czech Republic seems to grow by the month now.

Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in Czech Republic?
Fortunately our transition has been so smooth thanks to the kindness of our neighbors and work contacts who welcomed two Americans to their city with open arms! But my first experience trying to explain to a Prague metro attendant that I should qualify for a student discount did not go well. Naively, I was completely shocked that she (and any other person in line behind me) didn't speak enough English to help me. Czech Republic isn't like its neighboring countries in terms of English knowledge-- you really have to come armed with what you want written down in Czech or a friend to help you.

Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance was particularly difficult in Czech Republic? What was your experience with these?

A: The visa process isn't exactly a piece of cake, but I was recommended a great service that helps English -speaking expats navigate the visa system in Prague. When we moved, we thankfully had help in this area from my fiancé’s employer. Getting the visas have been a longer process, but not an unsuccessful one. A lot of patience has been needed!  

Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: I live only with my fiancé who is really enjoying living and working here in Czech Republic, fortunately just as much as I do. We've both had some tough times when we felt really isolated from our friends and family, but more communication and plenty of Skype dates have since helped... as well as writing about our adventures on my blog.

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

A: In Prague, the social scene was very lively as I had expat friends there I met through my teaching course. However once we moved south on our own, it really took us several months to find some like-minded friends. Fortunately the expat circle in our city is generally small and close-knit-- everyone eventually hears about everyone else. I would say we socialize equally with expats and locals.

Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: The region of South Bohemia that we live in is one of the most beautiful in the country! Only thirty minutes away is the UNESCO heritage designated medieval town of Cesky Krumlov: truly like a castle town from a storybook. To the east about an hour or so there is the Sumava National Forest and Lipno Lake, wonderful for hiking and swimming! To the south, Austria is easily accessible and just north of České Budějovice is the Disney-worthy Hluboka castle/chateau which is definitely worth a day trip! If I could recommend anything to future expats to the Czech Republic, it would be to not be afraid to live outside of the capital. There is so much Czech life worth discovering in different regions, ample work opportunities, and very friendly people. Moving from Prague turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

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

A:  Very low, and very livable! I was very impressed with the great quality of life vs. cost of living. It certainly makes it hard to go back to spendy Seattle! A cup of coffee costs $1.25-1.50; a meal in an inexpensive restaurant costs $3.00 while a meal in an expensive restaurant costs $10.00-15.00. I typically buy $4 bottles of wine, as for cigarettes I wouldn't know but I know for sure it is less than it is back in the States. 

Q: How do you find the local culture and people in Czech Republic?

A: The local culture is so laid-back-- more than in any other country I have spent a decent amount of time in. I love that it's a real "live and let live" culture: nobody will bother you if you don't bother anyone else! I find Czech people to be very friendly once you officially meet them. (Opposed to when you pass strangers on the street... they don't seem so friendly then!)

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

A: The cost of living and ease of travel are my absolute favorite things about living in the Czech Republic. It's amazing how much better I can live on the same salary I would make in Seattle. A negative aspect might be that finding certain brands or products is not so easy and imported goods are much more expensive than they would be in other neighboring countries or back home.

Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: I have a small family and of course, I do miss them, but I've never been seriously struck with homesickness for more than a couple of days before. I try to Skype regularly with family and friends. (What a wonderful invention!)

Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

 A: I think I cope differently than other people I've talked to: I try to dive head first into where I am now instead of focusing on where I would like to be. That means, avoiding social media that would otherwise make me miss home and plan a night out or something fun to do here. Of course, talking with family and friends can help as well.

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

A: Very possibly! We are currently exploring options for English programs at Czech universities and beyond so we may be moving somewhere else within the next year... or staying put! But one thing is for certain: I don't think we'll be back to the States permanently for a little while yet.

Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

 A: That would be during my first year abroad, after we had moved to České Budějovice. I found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that my friends back home won't be emailing me constantly and I felt a bit lonely for a while there.

Q: What tips can you give other expats living in Czech Republic?

A: If you are getting ready to live in Czech Republic, I would advise you to bring all of the necessary clothing, shoewear, and any other products you will want from home rather than buying them here. Also to get involved: try out the same activities you enjoy back home. And outside of Prague, it will help you a lot to know a little Czech! Fortunately, there are centers for foreigners all over the country where you can take Czech classes for free.

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

A: Expats.cz always tells me what's going on in the capital and beyond, and jizdnirady.idnes.cz is useful to plan train and bus travel all over the country!