Brno's 'big village' vibe is going global - fast!

Written by Joe Lennon

If you stopped by the Living in Brno Expat Fair on April 13th, you saw (and heard, and tasted) ample evidence that Brno’s community of foreigners is thriving. The four floors of Tržnice were buzzing with 1,800 visitors from 106 different countries. 

Of course, anyone walking the city’s streets these days already knows that Brno is attracting more and more people from abroad. Challenge: If you can make it from the train station to Česká without overhearing conversations in at least three languages besides Czech, I’ll buy you a cold beer at Koshaus on Moravské náměstí (but please take out your earbuds first so you can hear me say Na zdraví).

And yet, even though it’s impossible to live in Brno and not sense that the city is quickly becoming more international and diverse, it’s still amazing to see the numbers posted on the city’s Data Brno site, which has a whole page in English dedicated to stats about Foreigners in Brno.  

According to the site, as of January 2024 there were about 65,000 foreign residents of the city—although we can safely assume that’s way below the actual number of non-Czechs living here. As the site’s commentary explains, Slovaks don’t count in the stats (bless their hearts), and of course, there are many citizens from other EU countries who aren’t registered (because they don’t have to be) but are still living and working here.

That means that, at minimum, 17% of Brno residents are foreigners. That’s nearly three times as many as there were 10 years ago. And it’s getting close to the 20% target imagined by the Brno 2050 project, which I wrote about a while back – probably much closer than the project leaders thought we’d be by now!

The colourful maps and graphs on the site reveal a lot of other fascinating stats. There’s a world map showing the number of registered foreigners from each country:

… and another map showing which countries were the “hottest” for immigration to Brno in 2023. The top three were the Philippines (which gave us 261 people last year), India (89), and Bangladesh (85).  

There’s one data point that really shocks me, though. I cannot believe that there are 657 other people from the US living here. I know like two other Americans in Brno, and I thought we were the only three.

Then again, it makes sense that I haven’t encountered many of my compatriots. We’re rugged individualists, after all. And clearly, this town is big enough for quite a few of us.

There are a bunch of other cool infographics on the page, as well as on the Data Brno site as a whole (such as this interactive map based on location data from mobile phones, which shows how the city’s traffic ebbs and flows throughout the week). So it’s worth taking a spin through. No matter how long you’ve been living here, you’re bound to see some figures that surprise you.  

But while the statistics do show the growing impact of foreigners in Brno, they don’t really capture the vibe, you know? I mean the understated aura this place has that seems to hook people in and make them loyal fans of a city they had likely never heard of until they decided to make a life here.

In my 11-some years of living here, I’ve come to enjoy the awkward speech, delivered with a bemused smile, that almost every foreign resident of Brno ends up giving when a Czech or another foreigner asks why in the world they’ve settled here. After some vague reasoning, like “my job” or “my family,” it usually boils down to something like, “I don’t know…I just like it.”

I’m looking forward to hearing that speech, and seeing that smile, from many more foreigners in Brno in the future.

About the author: Joe Lennon first came to Brno in 2006, and every now and then he thinks up a new story to explain his continued presence here. He is an assistant professor at the Masaryk University Language Centre, where he teaches English and Writing. You can read more of his writing about Brno on the Brno Daily website. You can also watch this space for more of his blog posts about what’s happening with (and for) expats in Brno.


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