What expats say: People do not share much together here
What is it like to be fully absorbed by work you like despite the low salary? And is it manageable to rent a modest apartment in Brno for single-payer? And what does a French man miss besides French wine? Jérôme has lived in Brno for over three years teaching French at Masaryk University. He is a traveller with broad experience and deep insight into our culture. Living in several places around the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Jérôme can compare and tell us more about the city and society we live in.
Why did you come to Brno?
I had the opportunity to work here. Before I worked in Slovakia. I would stay in Slovakia if I could but there was no more work. I have really nice memories from Slovakia. It was much easier to make friends with people, to get integrated. I am not talking about Bratislava, but smaller towns in the countryside, in the Tatra Mountains, people are more friendly. Then I went for some time to Bratislava and later found a job in Zlin, Czech Republic. Near the border. I wanted to be close to Slovakia, I thought of travelling often across the border but it took too much time at the end. From Zlin I went to work to Liberec where I stayed for about nine months. Teaching French again. Then I finally came to Brno where I am starting my fourth year now.
Are you thinking of staying longer in Brno?
It will be hard to stay, because of money. As a teacher you don’t get much. Now I make some money in different places too, but I don’t know if this will be possible next year again. They want me to stay at the university but it will be hard. I would like to stay but it would be a problem with the same salary. I feel I need to live by my own now, after 6 years sharing flat with different people.The rent is really expensive when I live alone. I cannot understand. I was looking for a flat just for me and they were asking 10,000 or 11,000 for one plus kitchen corner or 1+1, something like 30 square metres. I don’t understand. People make on average some sixteen thousand and they are supposed to pay more than half of it for accommodation if they live alone? How can they ask so much money for such a small place? And it is not in the centre either. I cannot understand why Brno is so expensive as for accommodation.
What do you like in Brno?
I like my work, my colleagues. And my boss is reasonable too. We work together for the same goal, we are a good team. It’s important for me to go on till the end of the process we planned. And Brno is good because of the location. I like making trips around. It is easy to travel from Brno. You can go to Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest. There is train, buses, airport. Vienna is under two hours away and Slovakia is close. I still like to go there.
And you said you teach not only at university?
Yes I teach in companies too. They need it for business. Some managers and people who work in international business or help lines. Business people need French to serve French customers. But I am concerned about school children and students. There were so many possibilities to learn French. I was surprised. But I am wondering what is going to happen in future. I have a feeling Spanish will be more popular in a few years. Perhaps not for the companies but for individuals and for schoolchildren. Spanish is easier for the sounds and it is more fashionable. Like salsa and samba is popular. Well it will depend on politics. I don’t know.
What do you think would make your living in Brno more likeable?
I know I cannot change it and I am not perfect either, but I would like to change the relationship with Czech people. It is not easy. I have some really good friends here but what I miss is to have people around the table when I come home. I miss this Mediterranean atmosphere. People do not share much together here. The first time I invited friends for a visit at my place I prepared everything, food, drinks and when they arrived at seven o’clock they told me that they already ate. People are not used to share much time together at homes. I don’t want to drink all the time in a pub. But I don’t want to change it. It wouldn’t be Brno anymore.
Are there services you miss in the city?
When I try to ask somebody at the train station or some other place, people don’t even want to understand me. But I know that could be the same for foreigner in France. The worst ever are the bus drivers. Every time when I take the night buses after eleven it is like a rally. The way they drive just makes people sick. But I have to say that transportation at night is a good system. The organisation of transport is efficient. Every half an hour there is a connection on weekends to take you home. I would like to see this in my city in France too. Perhaps it would be difficult because of security on streets.
And a final question, what do you think of Czech wine?
White is better than red. At first I didn’t expect to find wine in the Czech Republic. In France we don’t know Czech wine. It’s not really popular. Now I try always to bring some Czech wine when I go back to France. For us this wine is bitter. The whites are good. They could be like some average French wines. I like to drink white wines sometimes. And there are a couple red wines I like. But I think that is because I am just used to drinking the wine I grew up with.
Do you drink “burčák“?
Yes, we have the same in France. We call it “bourret“. But you cannot buy it on a street. It’s more confidential and controlled. It is too dangerous too and a question of money. You have to declare every wine and pay a high tax. Burčák is not my favourite anyway. This year I drank some. Not as many litres as there is blood in my body, as they say, but I am not far from that. Talking about wine makes me want some. I would be very happy to have a glass of wine right now.