What expats say: Svratka river potential

Frank van Bommel grew up close to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. He first came to Brno in 1994 as a student on work placement at the town hall. Frank has lived and worked in Brno for about 9 years now, intermittently living in Brno and various places in the Netherlands. His wife is from Brno. Their 3-year-old son was born in the Netherlands. Frank works as Training and Development Manager at an international Shared Service Centre.
What do you like about Brno?
A combination of things, obviously, so not in particular order: its size, the variety of different parts of town, the public transport system, the non-smoking ‘kavarny’, the many students, the countryside close-by, the lack of mass-tourism, the parks. Furthermore I like the fact that Brno people actually appreciate foreigners who speak Czech, instead of immediately switching to English when they notice you’re a foreigner. Brno is both international and “Czech” enough at the same time to make you feel appreciated as a foreigner.
What do you not like about Brno?
The heavy traffic in the centre (lack of periphery around the centre), the smog and dirt (lots of mud and sand on the streets, and a lack of waste containers). Furthermore I miss concerts of foreign bands, most of whom go to Prague, Vienna or Bratislava. It’s hard to compete, and it is better than it used to be but still I hope there is more potential.
Do you know some “best practices” or experience from living in other cities which could be of use in Brno, too?
I do think that the river Svratka has more potential to be used as a place to do sports, meet and relax. Living in Stare Brno as a Dutchman I regret the unrealised potential of such a waterway in the city. Examples from places I have been/lived are Utrecht, Breda, Copenhagen and Liverpool. Cycling lanes are lacking, but also there is not much respect for cyclists from car drivers.

What do you think is its advantage compared with other cities?

Its many universities for sure, bringing intellectual property and a lively atmosphere. Second of all I think there is a big advantage in having so many foreign investors compared to other cities in Moravia. Furthermore many of these companies are service-oriented, rather than production oriented, and even if they have a manufacturing plant, more and more companies are considering to include a service unit in their Brno operations (customer service, finance, etc…)
Where do you see the way to make Brno more open and attractive for foreigners (expats)?
I can’t answer that question very well. I have managed to find my way of integrating and living here, and looking back I can only regret the barriers at governmental institutions in terms of bureaucracy and language. Otherwise I have found Brno people open and friendly.

What place in Brno you think is really unique and should be more promoted?

That one is hard to answer. I usually tell people that there is not one specific unique place in Brno that is a must-see, but the city as a whole has so much to offer that for foreign tourists it is definitely worth a visit. And I’ll add to that that I wouldn’t have said that back in 1994.
Written by: Petr Marčišák


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