What is it like to move to Prague? To start a new life in a foreign country?
In the Ask an Expat series I interview expats living all over the world. I try to help paint an honest picture of the ups and downs of life abroad, share tips for other (future) expats and share information about what to see and do in the city, town or country the expat now calls home.
Expat life in Prague, Czech Republic
Name: Samantha Hussey
Home town: Reigate, Surrey, United Kingdom
“I spent most of my life living in the beautiful county of Surrey in the UK until I met my husband in 2009. The whirlwind romance resulted in moving to London after two months of dating, where we lived for almost a year together. In 2011 he was offered a role in his company in Prague. We stayed together long distance for over a year and a half before I made the leap and joined him in Prague in February of 2013.”
Why did you move to Prague?
“My husband’s job required him to move to Prague and since we had heard nothing but good things about this city (and it is a beautiful city) we decided to move.”
What do you like about Prague?
“Prague is by far one of the most beautiful and charming cities in Central Europe. It is a city brimming with history. And while it’s definitely catching up to modern 21st century Europe, there is still something very old world about Prague and it has successfully managed to keep a lot of its unique Czech charm. Compared to London it’s a very small city, which I definitely prefer. But its size doesn’t mean there is a lack of things to do. Regardless of the season, there is always something going on. You could say the biggest positive about Prague is its standard of living. In London our lives revolved around traveling to work (constant delays made that a daily mission), working, shopping, chores, and sleeping. The high costs of living meant we had hardly any money to enjoy ourselves (or the time for that matter).
Prague is a very laid back city. There is a very good work/life balance here. We have more time to socialize, more money to go out and enjoy ourselves. Its location in the center of Europe means we can easily visit so many countries in Europe within a short drive or train ride away which is something that isn’t as easy in the UK.”
What do you dislike about Prague?
“One of the biggest drawbacks to living in Prague is its bureaucracy. Even as EU nationals, the amount of paperwork you have to do to live here is immense. You have to register at the foreign police upon arrival, and ironically you’ll need a translator to help you. Getting any official documents approved or signed is an uphill battle. Dealing with anything or anyone state related will likely cause you to pull your hair out. It’s insane!
Also, customer service (or the lack of) remains one of my biggest negatives. Don’t expect service with a smile. Instead expect stern looks, a lot of huffing and puffing and frowning if you ask for anything that requires any effort on their behalf. Although it is getting better (it has improved somewhat since I moved here in 2013), it can certainly dampen your mood.”
What is your favorite thing to do in Prague?
“Eating out! When we lived in London we hardly ate out at all. It was always way too expensive or the best places had to be booked so far in advance. It was also a struggle to get friends coordinated as everyone was always so busy. In Prague, we eat out several times a month and we have time after work to meet up with friends or go out with colleagues for a beer or two. In the summer, there is nothing better than finishing a day’s work with a beer in one of the many beer gardens in the city!”
What is your favorite place to hang out (restaurant, bar, etc) in Prague?
“Actually, I don’t have a specific place I like to hang out. There is a great cafe scene in Prague for cold days, and the beer gardens are great for the summer. But in all honesty, the Old Town and Mala Strana neighborhoud are two of my favorite places to hang out. I love taking walks through there early mornings or late evenings when there are fewer tourists. It’s such a beautiful city – I can never get enough!”
What is the expat community like in Prague?
“Prague’s expat community is mostly made up of Americans and EU nationals (there are some British and a lot of Italians!).
I have to say that without the expat community in Prague I don’t think I would have remained in Prague for very long. They are always on hand to ask questions on Facebook Groups and Forums for even the silliest of things like where to get your favorite cheese! They are very supportive and you’ll find it easy to meet other expats when you live in Prague. This group has saved my life, stomach, and mental state numerous times!” – Facebook.com/groups/crowdsauce
Any tips for moving to / living in Prague?
“Make sure you do your research into what area of Prague you want to live. The center is pretty expensive but there are some really lovely neighborhoods within 5-10 minutes of the center that are great. Vinohrady and Zizkov are favorites with expats, however, Vysehrad, Karlin and Holesvice are becoming really popular now too.
One word of advice though is to make sure you have paperwork for everything and never sign a lease without getting it translated.
Also, be prepared for higher rent prices for foreigners.”
Any resources you found useful during the process of moving to and/or building a new life in Prague?
“The Facebook group I mentioned was super useful to answer any questions you have about visas, food, health insurance and day to day stuff.
There is also an online resource for expats called Expats.cz which has job listings, apartment listings and forums. There are expat community meetups and there is a great Buy/Sell/Trade group that is constantly selling furniture and home goods from expats leaving the city. It’s great if you are just starting out in Prague and need some furniture.”
Is there something you just have to see or do when you are in Prague?
“Where to begin! I guess when you first move here just walk everywhere. It is a small city and you can walk sections of it in bite size pieces. It was how I learned not only my way around, but also where the good food stores were and where you can buy certain items. It’s a beautiful city so it’s an enjoyable experience. You also stumble across parks, beer gardens and of course the main sights such as the Astronomical Clock, Prague Castle, and Charles Bridge.”
Samantha is an English expat living in Prague with her husband Leonardo from Italy. Together they run a luxury adventure travel blog, documenting their stylish travels around the world and around Europe by train, plane and Harley Davidson. Check out their blog at Thewanderingwanderluster.com
Prague is the capital city of the Czech Republic. It is known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colorful baroque buildings, Gothic churches, and the medieval Astronomical Clock, which gives an animated hourly show. Completed in 1402, pedestrian Charles Bridge is lined with statues of Catholic saints.
Prague’s maze of cobbled lanes and hidden courtyards is a paradise for the aimless wanderer. Just a few blocks away from the Old Town Square you can stumble across ancient chapels, unexpected gardens, cute cafes and old-fashioned bars with hardly a tourist in sight.
The city is famous for its unique medieval architecture and its historical center is inscribed in the World Heritage List. At the same time Prague is a modern and vibrant city full of energy, music, art, fine dining and events.
Travel Tips: The easiest and cheapest option to get from the airport to the center of Prague is with Terravision. If you are looking for affordable accommodation for either a short or a longer stay in Prague I recommend checking out VRBO.com and reading up on what to do in Prague in 2 days.
If you want to combine your visit to Prague with seeing more of Europe then Tourradar.com offers a wide range of interesting tours.
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