What expats say: It is easy to make friends here
Tyler is very fast in making connection with people and this was the case when she came to live in Brno too. Remarkably happy and cheerful about her life in Brno and life with Czechs, Tyler is unlike any newcomer I met so far. Not complaining and valuing positive aspects of her new life with her Czech husband and their son.
Why did you come to Brno?
I have been married to a Czech guy for nine years and he had been living in the US for fifteen years. We lived in Raleigh, North Carolina. He always wanted to come back to Czech. For me the biggest concern was finding a job here that I would be both qualified for and happy to do. I contacted Red Hat because I knew they had an office here and as it turned out, they needed somebody right away. We moved in April last year. Brno was a new life for my husband too. He is from the Ostrava area originally.
How is Brno different from the place you are from?
It’s about the same size in population. But my hometown is very spread out; Brno is very compact, which I like better. Brno is a social town. There is always something to do. You can leave your house and find something to do in a relatively short amount of time. And I think that’s true for parents, for kids, for singles, for anybody. There are many pubs and cafés. There is always some festival going on; you can almost always something on Svoboďák. And it’s usually free or low cost. It’s easy to find something if you want to.
How did you make friends, where did you meet people at first?
I think by the nature of my profession I am very outgoing; I meet people for living. When I joined Red Hat, I had an instant network of three hundred people. And I met other people through work, through expats, through my son’s school. If you are willing to make an effort, it’s quite easy to make friends here.
Is it true even when you don’t speak Czech?
I think that makes a difference. I was lucky I knew Czech before I came; I am not fluent but I am very conversational. I can communicate in stores, doctor’s offices, post office… But it also helps that everybody at my office speaks English.
What was the biggest challenge at the beginning?
You really need help in the beginning to set up your life here in Brno. There is so much you need to know to set up a flat, open a bank account, get a mobile phone, set up internet connection, SIPO payment…everything is foreign, different and difficult. In my case I had a friend who had lived in US for five years and she helped me through all that. My husband wasn’t even here. My son and I came here a month before he arrived.
What could make it better? If every service was available in English?
It is unrealistic and almost disrespectful to expect that everyone should speak English. It’s great if they do but at places like the post office it’s unrealistic. Having better documentation would help. For example, information on what a SIPO is and how to set it up would be great. That’s where the company who hired you or an Expat Centre like yours need to help and provide guidelines.
What do you miss in Brno?
Food! The hardest part for me has been the food. Czech food is wonderful if you go to somebody’s home. I really enjoy Czech food. But what I am missing is something different, the variety. I think people have an idea that American food is McDonalds or other fast-food. But we have a huge immigrant population and we have high quality ethnic food. You can easily find Iranian, Lebanese, whatever you want. And I was in the city with a lot of immigrants. Here in Brno, I have found some great restaurants but they are harder to find. You really need to follow up on recommendations. That’s the only thing I really miss. That, and inexpensive high-quality clothing.
Have you learned to cook Czech food?
I knew how to cook knedlík before I came here. My husband is the cook in our house. When we were in US my husband used to cook Czech cuisine a lot. Since we came here we hardly eat Czech at all. Now he is cooking mostly Thai, Spanish… Oh and I miss seafood. We lived close to the ocean and had plenty of fresh seafood.
What is your favorite place in Brno?
I enjoy walking around the market at Zelný trh. I really loved the Christmas market, that was wonderful. I also really like Indian restaurant Goa. And I enjoy Lužánky park, we go there with my son, walk around and go to the playground. One think I would like to stress is that I am really really happy with the quality of my son’s school. The teachers are wonderful, the quality of education is great, He does go to a Czech school. My son understood Czech already when we came here. He wasn’t speaking much but the teachers really helped him to improve.
If you had friends coming to Brno for a night, where would you take them?
I would find something for them that would be traditionally Czech. We like to go to Stopkova pivnice on Česká street or Švejk restaurant nearby. I think they would really enjoy walking around Svobodak.
Do you spend more time with expats and foreigners or with people speaking Czech?
We do a lot with foreigners and it is part of my work. But my two closest girlfriends are already Czech girls. I was really happy to meet them here. I had really close friends in the US and was afraid I would be lonely here. It’s important to me to have good friends to enjoy conversation over a glass of wine. I have to say it is easy to make friends here. If you are outgoing.
What about the level of English here?
I was pleased with the level of English people speak here. Minus the post office and grocery store and those kind of places. But if I go shopping for clothes, the staff can throw some English words on me if they see me struggling in Czech. I am also extremely impressed with the quality of university students. From VUT and Masarykova, they are fantastic.
Did you find anything surprising after coming to Brno?
I avoided culture shock since Czech culture was part of my life for such a long time before coming to live here. Thanks to my husband and to Czech people in our town. The only thing that took me back was the amount of graffiti. You have these beautiful buildings and I don’t understand why this is such a problem. If you go to Vienna you don’t see it at all.
You are bringing up your son in Brno. Is this a right place for your kid?
I feel safe here. I lived in a safe city but statistically you have here a lot less crime than we do. I never feel scared. I can walk home from a train station all by myself and I am not afraid somebody is going to rob me. And the cost of university is a huge incentive to stay here. Because in US it’s so expensive and it is getting worse. The kids come out with so much debt. Whereas here it’s free so far. He has the benefit of choice. If he chooses one day to go back, he can.