What expats say: How little information people have about Slovakia

Mirka Lachka is an independent consultant on cultural policies, cultural management and fundraising for cultural projects who moved to Brno in May 2009. Due to her studies and work she lived in Finish Jyväskylä and Helsinki and in Nice, France. She did her bachelor studies in International Territorial Studies in Prague and Master in Social Sciences, focusing on cultural policies and urban development in Finland.

What was your first impression of Brno?

With this town it really was love at first sight. I fell in love with Brno a long time ago when I sat here university entrance exams. Chance took me elsewhere, I spent some time in different countries, and chance brought me back again after several years, when I moved to Brno together with my friend. My first impression of the place was that it has a cute centre, where interesting points are reachable on foot. I especially liked the parks and noticed colorful posters everywhere, so I reckoned that Brno must also have really rich cultural life.

What do you like about Brno?

A brief stroll through the town centre is enough to create impression of rich cultural life.There are posters and invitations everywhere, so often I find it difficult to choose just one event for evening. I also enjoy “mass events“ like the Museum Night and the Night of Churches. For me they are something like vivacious dialogue of the city, its people and its institutions.

I find the location most convenient. Surroundings are beautiful, climate mild and just few kilometers from Brno there are best wineyards of Moravia. I also love the area around the Dam where I spend a lot of time walking our dog, biking, picking mushrooms or just enjoying being outdoors. My visitors appreciate that you can get there, practically to a protected natural reserve by urban public transportation.

I travel a lot and I am happy that Brno is so well connected with Prague, Bratislava and Vienna. Also the little airport makes me feel very much “in Europe”- much more than when I lived in Central Finland and where tickets to “Europe” cost so much.

I realized that being the second largest city has its advantages (size, accessibility, peace), yet compared to Prague there are considerably less job openings and events. Not that I would have hard feelings about Brno for that but I think it is a pity that so many talented young people move to Prague in order find a specialised job. I think this is the case everywhere, where I have been to and it is good that the situation is changing with foreign companies opening offices in Brno.

What you don’t like about Brno?

It is very hard to think of anything that I really dislike about Brno…I do not have a problem making my way in daily life. Yet, moving around with my English-speaking friends, I noticed that life is more complicated for them. For a person coming from USA, Vietnam or Morocco the Czech system may be very new, appear to be strange and difficult to understand. So I would appreciate better English in public offices and information points that foreigners have to visit.

I am also surprised by how little information that people have about Slovakia, which lies just 100km eastwards. Regarding that the capital of Slovakia is located just few kilometres from the border, I would have expected to meet here more people who visited Bratislava I think the information flows better in the opposite direction, Slovaks know more about Czechs. I would like to see some twinning between these two neighbouring, and for me so dear, towns.

Do you know some “best practices” or experience from living in Finland, France or Slovakia which could be of use in Brno, too?

I love regular open-air flea markets in French Nice. Even with no intention to buy it is nice to take a stroll there on early Sundays Flea- markets there are colourful and lively, just like a living “vernisage”: without spending a penny you can see all kinds of interesting, beautiful and obscure things that people are able to offer, or just take a cup of coffee and watch people passing by. I would love to have a the chance to do this in my city, too.

Also I would love to bring bicycle culture here from Finland. Not that everybody needs to ride a bike to work at -15 ˚C like we did there, but in Helsinki, as well as Jyväskylä there are bicycle paths everywhere and people really use them. Also people who are just visiting Helsinki can ride a bike: there are “City Bikes” that you can get for a coin (just like a shopping cart) and when you don’t need it, leave it at a different stand. This bike-culture would relieve Brno from traffic-jams, help to fight pollution and benefit peoples’ health (how fit we would get!). Would not that be great!

Written by: Petr Marčišák

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