One Year On — Things I Wish I’d Known When I Moved to Prague

[pullquote align=”left”]I recently celebrated the year anniversary of my move to Prague.[/pullquote] Whilst still relatively ‘green’ in Prague-expat terms, I have now been here long enough to be ashamed of my limited Czech,  to understand how trams work (all you need to know is that prístí zastávka means “next stop”), and to pass on some expat-wisdom to newbies or those considering a move overseas.

1. Embrace new experiences…

If you fail to embrace new experiences and cultures, your expat experience will be rather two-dimensional. In the days of Facebook, multinational retail chains, and international schools, it’s easy to forget that you live somewhere foreign. Try local cuisine, learn about local customs, and attempt to learn the language. You might find something you love (for me, this was Czech Černý Pivo and Tatranky chocolate bars), and at the very least, you’ll be less likely to offend people.

Taking an intensive language course before I’d settled into the hum-drum of work would have really helped me.  Czech is a tricky language to get a grip on, and one lesson per week just won’t cut it. Making time for an intensive course would have been a real help and is also a great way to meet new people who have also recently moved to the city.

2.  Explore!

One of the joys of moving to a new country is discovering new places at every turn. The constant journey of discovery is so exciting, although you may need to embrace the joy of getting utterly lost as well.  I initially found my lack of direction a bit of a challenge, especially in Betlehemska in Prague where the roads twist and turn like nobody’s business.  Remember, unless you’re in a real hurry, it doesn’t really matter if you’re lost. A friend gave me some great advice, “You can’t be far from home if you walked there”.

Many expats in Prague seem to resist using the public transport system, but I would recommend it. Prague’s metro and tram systems are particularly easy to navigate. The metro system is fully integrated and only has three lines, so it’s hard to go too far wrong. More detailed information on Prague’s metro system is available, in English, here: www.dpp.cz/en/

3. Stay put…

Try not to head ‘home’ too soon. Dashing back to your native country at every opportunity will only make it harder to build your new nest. Always having prior commitments also makes it harder to accept spontaneous invitations, which come so readily when you first move somewhere.

Christmas came very soon after our move overseas, and rather than head straight back home, we decided to stay put and celebrate in Prague.  Decorating the apartment and inviting family and friends to visit us during the festive period made us feel even more at home. Building happy memories in your new country is really important.

4. …But go home if you really want to.

Your move to a new country shouldn’t be a prison sentence, and there’s no need to be a martyr. Obviously, the frequency of trips ‘home’ will depend on distance and budget. I developed a list of events that get me booking budget flights to Blighty, including weddings, major birthdays, and biannual girly catch-ups.  I like having dates for visits in the diary, even if they are months away.

5.  Finally,don’t do it alone!

If you need help, ask! You will not be the first (or last) person to have problems at the immigration office, to need a doctor, or to not know where to get self-raising flour in Prague (it doesn’t really exist here, but the raising agent Czechs use is called kypřící prášek do pečiva). 

Use the resources available.  For expats in the Czech Republic, expats.cz may be an invaluable resource initially.

The last year has been brilliant—sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating, but always interesting. From a slightly nervous start, I’ve found my feet and made a new home. I couldn’t have done it without some key expat survival items:

  • Phrase book and map – for exploring new places
  • Skype – for keeping in touch with friends from back ‘home’
  • Google Translate – best invention since the Babel Fish

A good companion – if you can, come with a good friend or partner. It’s double the fun and half the stress.

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