Nathan Brown, born and raised in Western Canada, came to Brno with his wife (also Canadian) in early 2004. He owns the business CZECH POINT 101 which offers property services to foreign and local investors.
What do you like about Brno?
My wife and I have always loved a number of things about Brno but I will state just a few.
One is the excellent public transport system. Coming from Canada where infrastructure is based on everyone having a car, we found it refreshing not needing one. If required, we would rent a car. This is something which is really exceptional about Brno and perhaps also for other parts of Europe which we don’t experience in Canada. Now we have two children so a car has become necessary but it was only a purchase in the last three months and we lived happily without one for over 5 years.
The cost of some things are very reasonable here. Food is much cheaper, whether at restaurants or grocery stores. A high end meal here is about 1/3 less than a similar quality meal in Canada. The service is still not to the same level as Canada but overall the experience is quite good. Health care is also much cheaper and of good quality.
The Czech countryside is very beautiful. I love road biking and the roads here are very interesting and there is an endless possibility of routes in the countryside on roads which are rarely used. Along the way it is possible to eat fresh fruit right off your bike!
What you don’t like about Brno?
As expressed by some other foreigners, we have found the lack of customer service and friendliness at times quite shocking. We try not to dwell on it now but when we first moved here we would have usually an ‘experience of the week’ where we would have some terrible experience, whether at the Post Office, at a local grocery store, on public transport or elsewhere.
My wife has had particularly bad experiences on public transport (and part of the reason we bought a car) as she tried to navigate with two children on them. On more than one occasion she had the door shut on her as she was in the middle of moving a baby carriage (pram) in or out of the tram, even though she was in full sight of the driver and had pushed the baby carriage button.
On another occasion it was last stop for a tram and she purposely didn’t push the baby carriage button because there was a clear line of site from the driver to the back of the tram, no one else on the tram and she thought the ringing might be irritating for the driver. After she got off the driver proceeded to come out of the tram, make a big scene and yell at her for not pushing the button. She said it was difficult to explain to our two year old afterward why this man yelled at her.
Our two year old always liked to wave at tram or bus drivers after getting off the bus but in the probably close to 50 times I have been with him when he did this he only got a wave back 2 or 3 times. Most chose to ignore him. This is also hard to explain to a two year old.
Do you know some “best practices” or experience from living in other cities which could be of use in Brno, too?
While we are rarely out late these days, we do find it fairly strange that public transport goes to almost no options after 11 pm. Half an hour between buses is really a long time.
Also, government offices which regularly deal with foreigners, such as the foreign police, should at least have someone in the office who speaks English and that they are willing to try to help with the communication.
What do you think is its advantage compared with other cities?
Brno feels like a small city. I am not sure what it is but it seems very easy to get around and get things done (during the day). My wife and I both find Prague very exhausting even if there with visitors. It is so busy and takes a lot of effort to move between locations.
Where do you see the way how to make Brno more open and attractive for foreigns (expats)?
It has gotten better and better since we have been here but one of the biggest things would be to have more English speaking staff in shops, offices, etc. It is true that we are living in Czech Republic but it is also a matter of hospitality and good business sense to have English speaking staff if your business is frequented by foreigners.
What place in Brno you think is really unique and should be more promoted?
We live close to the path along the Svratka river and this is really a wonderful place to bike, walk or roller blade. It does get quite busy in the summer so maybe I shouldn’t promote it more!
Written by: Petr Marčišák
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