Moving to another country is always challenging. It’s like taking a big leap into the unknown. Everything becomes new and unexplored. The best way to limit stress or bad experiences is to prepare yourself as well as possible for this new adventure. As a new expatriate in the Czech Republic, I don’t necessarily have the required hindsight on some topics, but I will share with you my first impressions of the country.
My name is Estelle, I’m 22 years old and I just moved to Brno. Do you know that mix of fear and excitement before the big start? Well, despite several experiences, this strange feeling is still there. Between the restrictions due to the coronavirus, the administrative formalities, and the accommodation research, living abroad is not always easy. But I think, same as for many of you, it is precisely this challenge which appeals to me! Nevertheless, it is always better to leave prepared! So here I am, leaving my hometown, Rennes (France), for this new adventure. I will share with you some tips that I have learned as a French expatriate in the Czech Republic.
The Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul located on Petrov hill
Not Speaking Czech in Czechia
After a few mishaps due to the coronavirus restrictions, I finally landed in the Czech Republic. One challenge upon arriving was the language barrier. Until now, I had always traveled to countries where I spoke the language or where English was sufficient. However, when I arrived in the Czech Republic, I quickly faced some difficulties communicating. Even though my knowledge of German and Russian are a huge asset at times, I sometimes have difficulty making myself clear. Indeed, if the new generations speak English for the most part, it is rarely the case for the previous generations. Learning the basics of the language can be useful for successful integration. My little conversation guide helps me a lot to acquire daily life vocabulary. You can also choose to sign up for language courses through an agency such as us, Foreigners.
Being Vegetarian in Czechia
At my arrival, my second concern was about the food. Like any good French, food is an extremely important matter. Although the restaurants are not open “as usual”, I had the opportunity to discover Czech food a few years back. Traditional Czech cuisine is mainly based on meat, much like in Germany. I had read several articles lamenting the lack of alternatives for vegetarians and vegans. It appears that the situation has changed since then, at least in the supermarket. As a half vegetarian – in the process of converting – I have already found a variety of products such as tofu and fake meat. For vegetarians and vegans who are planning to come to the Czech Republic, no worries, you will find your happiness here!
If you like good food, you can also go to the food markets. Street markets are always very convenient to find fresh and local produce. In the center of Brno, there is a farmer’s market on the Zelny trh square. It is held there on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. This historical market has been offering fresh produce since the 13th century! I love the colors, the scents, and the atmosphere at these markets, and it’s also a wonderful way to support local producers.
There are two things I often miss when I travel abroad: cheese and wine. Did I tell you I was French?
If Czech wine remains little known to foreigners, it is a real gem in the Czech Republic! Most Czech wine is made in Moravia: on 20,000 hectares of vineyards, 19,500 of them are located in Moravia. Czech wine can easily be compared to Austrian wines. The wines here are defined by intense aromatics, a delicate tannin structure, and a harmonious balance between extract and acidity. In Brno, you can for example have a glass of wine in bars such as GARAGE Wine and JustWINE.
Farmer’s market on Zelny square
The Mentality of Czech People
The arrival of foreigners is sometimes not easily accepted by the population and leads to a certain form of apprehension. According to Milan Kundera, “this is not a matter of philosophical racism, but rather a fear of the unknown and a lack of experience in intercultural relations.” And I do agree with him. I have the feeling that it is mainly a question of time and will. And of course, we shouldn’t generalize it. Old people tend to be less tolerant than younger generations who are more likely to speak English.
I have experienced both, people uncomfortable with my English and others very friendly and welcoming. But I believe that if you make the effort to learn a few words in Czech and put on a nice smile, you will realize that they are not less friendly than in other countries.
Integration in a foreign country takes time and can sometimes be a real challenge. And the current situation with the coronavirus does not make things easier for foreigners. But despite the difficulties that we may encounter as an expat, I think it is a rich human experience, that is worth it. And for those who get homesick, if you look around a bit, you can always find a piece of home abroad.
Living in Brno as a Foreigner
Finding accommodation abroad for several months is kind of a big deal. It’s the place you are going to live and, since the beginning of the pandemic, work. When I go away for such a long period, I like to practice minimalist living: a bright and equipped apartment, close enough to the center. But like many students, I have a pretty small budget. And I think I found a great deal here at Domeq in Brno!
The Domeq residence is a 10-minute walk from the city center. Apartments are well-equipped and you have access to many services (washing machine, dryer, kitchen kit, gym, wifi, etc.) I find the price very reasonable compared to other offers I have seen. And out of the covid period, the common spaces are a real melting pot and a great place to meet new people.
Are you also seeking a great place to live in Brno?
Domeq monthly rent starts from 9,000CZK. Check it out!