Coming to Brno to follow her heart, Yuhi had to start a new life, a new business, make new friends, and create a home. Despite all barriers and difficulties, Yuhi has successfully started her own business, found a job, established good friends and made a strong relationship with Czech beer. If you are lucky, you’ll find her sipping beer in one of local cafés around the Faculty of Arts where we recorded this interview.
What brought you to Brno?
I came here because of my boyfriend. He studies here and I decided to stay here with him. My first year was really really difficult because I didn’t speak any Czech and I didn’t know any friends. But when I started to learn Czech everything got much better. And especially when I started to work. Then I was more out in the company of other people and could make friends and make new connections.
How long you have been living in Brno?
The first time I came was exactly three years ago. I stayed only three months and went back to Japan. Then I came back here again in the middle of 2009. And then I left to Thailand for two months last year where I did a Thai massage course and received a certificate. Now I teach Japanese at university and have my own business. I do Thai massage.
Was it difficult to set up a business like that?
Well, it took me quite a long time. I think we prepared all documents from Japan and Korea, because I have Korean nationality. I had to have both Korean and Japanese documentation. Mailing and translating documents took such a long time that when I gave all documents to the local authorities it was already too late because the documents cannot be older than three months. It was a pain. So we had to do all the paperwork again. Overall it took me like one year. My Czech boyfriend and his family helped me a lot with everything. I had to register my stay here at my boyfriend’s parents’ house. Finally I got my Živnostenský list [trade licence].
What about this Jednotné kontaktní místo Point of Single Contact where they are supposed to help you with everything to set up a business?
That is only for European Union people unfortunately. I had to go to every single different office.
How do you like your life in Brno compared to Osaka?
It’s very slow and relaxed. In Osaka I was working form 9am till 1am. Sixteen hours a day. I was just going to work, coming back home to sleep and going to work again. Here it is completely different. You wake up and have a morning coffee, and then you go to work and have another coffee with your colleague. Very relaxed and restful time. It was difficult for me to get used to it. When I was working in Osaka I didn’t have much free time. Now I have too much free time and I don’t know what to do with it.
Did you get to know some other expats living in Brno who you could spend spare time with?
I met some people and they were in the same situation. However, often many go back to their home country. Especially European people. I cannot go back to Japan easily. And I have also some Japanese friends here but they all stay at home. They don’t go out at all because they think…I don’t know…it’s dangerous out there or people look at them strangely because they are foreigners and don’t speak Czech. They don’t feel comfortable and don’t go out. I have only one Japanese friend who goes out with me. And many Japanese women who live here don’t drink so they don’t have any enjoyment here. Sometimes I suggest doing something together. But they don’t want to. I don’t know anyone who does any activities except me and my friend.
What do you miss in Brno?
When I was here three years ago I was missing many things. Especially that it was not that international a city. Compared to three years ago, Brno has got much much more international now. There are more than three Japanese restaurants, I can see it growing. I hear more foreign languages and not only Czech. But what I do notice in the services, is that people look sad like they don’t like what they do. I don’t know. And then they don’t take care of the customer very well. In Japan, the customer is like a god. Valued. Treated very well. Here they are like “I am doing something for you, so if you want to get something from us, you have to behave.”
Is there anything specific you would like to have here?
Before I wanted to have here some vegetarian restaurants but there are a few now in Brno. But I can see that they’re doing it for business not for your health. Vegetarian restaurants here are like “If you don’t eat meat, it’s healthy,” but that’s not true. Some of these restaurants sell fried cheese or fried soy meat and that’s still not healthy.
In the future would you like to go back to Japan or stay here?
I don’t know. I don’t mind living here because I can see the place growing, developing a lot.
If you imagine you have a kid, would you like it to grow up here or in Japan?
I would say here. The life is slower and more relaxing for children and for mothers. But I wouldn’t like my children here playing on the street because it’s dirty, full of cigarette butts.