Jeff has been living in Brno for over two years and leading the company with large number of foreigners. IBM in Brno is the second biggest delivery center in the world with hundreds of expats. Jeff is enjoying the location of the city in the center of Europe and the history surrounding it.
What brought you to Brno?
I had the opportunity to come to Brno for work, on an international assignment with IBM. We have a large Global Service Delivery Centre in Brno supporting our European and Global Strategic Outsourcing clients. It’s a growing and exciting part of our business providing infrastructure support services that range from entry-level to deep technical experts and senior leaders. I’m leading our Global Delivery Centre in Central Europe, which is made up of the site in Brno as well as a site in Szekesfehervar Hungary.
Where did you live before?
I’m from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, which is a city of just over 1 million people in a beautiful part of Canada, just a one hour drive from the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
How do you compare your experience living in Brno to Calgary?
Both places are great to live in, in some ways are similar, and in other ways very different. Both cities have a very strong and modern infrastructure, both have great nature surrounding them, although the nature itself is very different, and both have a fairly young and progressive population. Brno and all of the Czech Republic of course has much more history and historical places to visit. It’s normal here to have a wedding in a castle for example, and there are castles everywhere. In Canada, which is a very young country ,there are no castles, so people can’t even imagine this as an every-day thing. Canada is very multicultural, where the Czech Republic is less this way, mainly because of the language I think. I get the best of both worlds at IBM here though, as we have people working for us in Brno from 87 different countries, so we as a company are extremely multicultural. And even though there are many many languages spoken by our people at work, the common language for everyone is English. So we also certainly have the largest expat community in Brno working for IBM.
What was difficult at first coming to live in Brno?
Certainly moving to any new city and starting a new job is difficult. Everything is new and you realize how much you take for granted that you just do automatically in day-to-day life. The other main challenge coming here of course is the language. It’s very intimidating to not speak the language when you are new, and the Czech language takes time even just to understand and learn some of the basic words. It was not a problem for me at work, as everyone speaks English, but for me and especially for my wife, going shopping, taking the bus, or many other regular day-to-day tasks were a big learning experience. Over time though you learn. We have also seen the amount of English used in the service industry increase quite a bit over the little more than 2 years we have been here.
Who helped you at the beginning, where did you make friends?
We made friends mainly through IBM, through the expat groups, and outside through other contacts. One interesting example though is I have a friend who is a former colleague from Calgary also living in Brno on an international assignment with his company. So it’s a small world.
What is good about life in Brno?
There is a lot, and really too much to mention all of it here. For me it’s a nice sized city, easy to get around in either by driving or by public transport. Compared to Calgary the traffic is very light. The centrum is great with many things to do, places to eat or have a drink, and so much history and culture. I’m really enjoying my work here and the people I work with are fantastic. Brno’s location, literally at the centre of Europe, is also great. We like to head out on weekends and explore the Czech Republic and sometimes the surrounding countries.
Is there a downside living in Brno?
Well, especially when you arrive, it is the language. In larger European cities it’s fairly easy to get by with English; here that was more of an adjustment. Also of course it is far away from our family and friends in Canada, which was no surprise. We do go back to visit, and some of them have visited us here too. Otherwise not much of a downside at all.
What do you miss in Brno?
Of course we miss our family and friends most of all. There are other small things too, but they are just small.
What are your favorite places in the city and surroundings?
We really love the south Moravian area and the fact it is wine country. So we like to visit places like Valtice and just go for drives and explore. Within the city some favourite places to eat for us are Pegas for their food and great beer that is brewed on-site. We like the Taj Indian restaurant when we want something spicy. We also very much like the Baroko wine bar/restaurant in the Centrum. Coming from Alberta in Canada where there is a lot of beef, this is one of the small things we miss in the Czech Republic, and Baroko has really good beef steaks at reasonable prices. And then finally we love to visit all over the Czech Republic, to Prague, Cesky Krumlov, many castles, and many many other places.
Where in the world would be the place you wished to settle down?
There are so many beautiful places in the world, each with their own special attractions, but Canada is a great country, and still our home.
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