Speaking the local language

Whether you were posted to Prague by an employer or just find yourself lingering here after a period of study the first obstacle you will have noticed will be the language.

Anyone proficient in English will probably recognise words in Spanish, Italian and French that share Latin roots. But isn’t Czech, Slavic in origin, a different beast entirely?

Those of us not making any effort to learn Czech is doomed to a life of mixing mainly with other expats, without fully participating in the wider experience of this culturally rich Central European country.

There are those for whom learning a new language is easy. I am not one of them. My school French is still, after many years, good enough to get me into trouble, but progress in Czech is slow.

I’ve been here in Prague for just over five months now. My original idea was to study how to teach English, though I quickly abandoned that ambition when I noticed my tutors wore tattered clothes (not a good earner, then!).

Indeed, nearly a quarter of people in the Czech Republic speak are able to speak English and a majority of them probably live in Prague.

So I find that my new city is quite easy to navigate without much Czech. Apart from the expat community, workers in shops and restaurants have enough English to know what I want or need.

But I make an effort nonetheless. To date I have about a dozen useful words (and perhaps another half-dozen I’ve had absolutely no cause to use).

The handy ones include: please, yes, no, sorry, thank you, hello, goodbye, bag (good for supermarkets and potrivny corner shops), beer and tobacco. Yes, a jumble – but they help get me through each day.

As I said earlier, I’m not a natural with new languages. Yet I feel ready to dedicate time learning Czech now that my survival instinct has forced me to acquire useful words.

I will be well on my way when I can use Czech’s shortened grammar (especially verbs and diminutives), get my tongue around long vowels and soft consonants and stress my pronunciation.

Ultimately, I look forward to the day when I am able to activate the language well enough to be able both to speak and think in Czech.

So I’m making an effort to attend free classes in Czech kindly offered at The Spot Cafe (www.letsmeet.cz) . I know it’ll be worth it and that doing so will open up Prague and the Czech Republic for me in ways I cannot imagine right now.

czech-lesson

 

Bez práce nejsou koláče!

 

Russel

 

guest post by Russell Cavanagh of https://expatinpraha.net

Another Worshop at The Spot

Dear Pexpats,

 

together with EXPALEGAL and Jobspin.cz we are running another workshop for you.

You can come to our office/center The Spot and be part of the  event November 12th at 10 am. You can register at http://jobspin.us13.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=cdd28ec341540d29bb501aac0&id=c7effdacce

This time we will talk about how to start the business in the Czech republic and tell you more details about how to obtain a long term visa with the business purpose. EXPATLEGAL will provide you a general overview of the Czech Business law and more details how to run a business in the Czech republic.

More about the venue find here:  http://www.jobspin.cz/2016/10/workshop-series-vol-2-setting-up-business-in-the-czech-republic/

 

Looking forward to see you soon!

 

Your Team of PraguExpats

Meet us at The Spot

The idea behind The Spot isn’t radical, but it is unique. Nestled in the neighborhood of Vinohrady, The Spot aims to provide a comfortable and relaxed place for friends to meet up and enjoy some coffee or even a bite to eat. But what sets us apart is that we aren’t here just to serve you delicious food and drinks. We are also a community center geared towards providing expats with the resources they need to adjust to life in their new home.

 

Our mission is to do everything we can to make expats feel comfortable while living abroad. We brought together Coffeemakers.cz and PraguExpats to do exactly that. Our café, run by Coffeemakers.cz, provides our visitors with a cozy atmosphere to do work or catch up with friends. Our menu offers more than just coffee. We also serve breakfast and lunch all day long. There are even vegetarian options, something of a rarity it seems around Prague.

 

Being an expat in Prague is an exciting and rewarding experience. The more you explore the city, the more beauty you will find. It may seem like one big holiday at first, but eventually the immigration process has to be taken care of. This is the tedious part of being an expat that includes lots of visas, permits, other confusing paperwork. Luckily, PraguExpats is located in The Spot, and they help expats navigate through this difficult process. The friendly staff provides visa services in a personal and detail orientated manner. Their goal is to make your life easier so you can continue to enjoy your new home.

 

Bringing people together is an important aspect of what we do here at The Spot. Not only do we want to bring expats together, but we also want to help integrate the expats with the local community of Prague. This can be intimidating for expats when they don’t know how to speak Czech. To help them overcome this obstacle, we offer free Czech lessons twice a week for beginners. Though it may be difficult at first, learning Czech is the best way for expats to feel more comfortable in Prague, and this is a great way to start learning the language.

 

Our services for expats don’t stop with our language lessons. Free workshops for expats and locals alike often take place at The Spot. On June 25th, there will be a workshop discussing how to find a job in Prague. Breaking into a new job market can be difficult, and this workshop will clear up any questions that expats may have about the job search, taxes, contracts, and other work related topics.

 

Sometimes, you need to just relax and watch a movie or read a book. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered here at The Spot. Czech movie nights will return soon to provide expats with the chance to learn a bit about Czech culture and cinema. We also have a small library of books where customers are encouraged to take books and leave books as they please. For those who are really feeling stressed out, perhaps it’s time to escape the city for a weekend. The Czech Republic is full of spa towns and beautiful hiking trails. We have a collection of brochures and tourist information to help you plan your weekend getaway.

 

During the 1920’s, Prague had a thriving café culture. People would gather at cafes to discuss art, music, writing, and more. Inspired by this, we would like to create a similar setting where art, music, and culture are commonplace. Coming up in the months of June and July, we will feature artists and musicians at the café. The Spot will host art exhibitions for local artists to display their work. Live music will also be coming to the café in the next month. An open piano will also be added to The Spot. Anyone who would like to play and share their music will be able to. Through art and music, The Spot looks to become a place that brings people, expats and locals alike, together to enjoy an evening of culture.

 

Nowhere else in Prague will you find a place like The Spot. It’s a community center where expats can get the resources needed to feel at home in Prague, but it is also a cozy café where anyone can hang out with friends and enjoy themselves.  We are always looking for ways to make expats’ lives easier as they enjoy their new lives in Prague. We are confident that you will find that The Spot is the right one for you.

 

Please feel free to visit our webpage or simply come for a coffee or two!

 

Team of The Spot

www.letsmeet.cz

 

logo the spot letsmeet

Velikonoce (Easter in the Czech Republic)

 

    It doesn’t matter where you go in the world. Different countries celebrate holidays in different ways. There will be different customs, traditions, and a lot of the time different names for the holiday that is approaching. The world is becoming more globalized so a lot of different countries usually recognize the same core holidays wherever you happen to be. The next holiday that is coming around the corner is Easter, or as it is called in Czech, Velikonoce.

    Easter is one of those days that I feel indifferent about. I know the story behind how and why people celebrate Easter, but it is so closely tied to religion that it’s never been a holiday I really do anything for. Luckily, I am in the Czech Republic! I have read up on how the Czech people celebrate Easter and the first thing I saw while researching was, ‘not a serious religious holiday, it’s fun’. Yes!! I knew I liked this country. The more I read, the more I liked what I saw. The traditions of Easter mostly relate to Spring. There are similarities to how I’ve always seen Easter being celebrated. Girls and women still decorate eggs, and they have some really great designs on them. Now, here is where it gets good. There are these sticks called pomlazka. Men and boys braid pussywillow twigs and decorate them. On Easter Monday the boys and men go around town whipping girls and women on the legs with these sticks. The whipping is supposed to chase away illness and bad spirits and bring health and youth to anyone who is whipped. After the whipping, the girls and women give the boys and men a decorated egg, money, or a shot of Slivovice (plum wine). I haven’t actually been here to see or experience this tradition, but I have read that some women cringe at the thought of Easter from some of the lashings they have received.

    As far as food goes, real lamb was a traditional meal for Easter, but some people choose to serve a chocolate or sugar covered cake in the shape of a lamb instead. I’ve seen them sitting on the shelves in the store and they look delicious. If you are going to be in Prague for Easter this year Old Town Square has some festivities going on. There will be places to decorate eggs in the city center and/or plait your own pomlazka. These items will also be available to buy along with Easter bread. If you celebrate the religious side of Easter, St. Vitus Cathedral over in Mala Strana will have mass on Easter day.

    I am looking forward to see how the day will pan out. I have always been a rule breaker, so instead of being one of the women who takes the whipping and hands out eggs, money, and shots to the man whipping me, I will be buying my own pomlazka and whipping him right back.

However you choose to celebrate this year, take care and happy whipping!

 

Katie

Ahhhhhh, the Adjustment Period

Moving somewhere, meeting people, making friends. These all sound easy enough, right? I arrived in Prague in November to get my Tefl certification over at Tefl Worldwide Prague. My intention was to come here for a month, backpack for a week, and then head back to the States before embarking on Asia. About three weeks into the course the prospect of going back to the States did not sit right with me. A month in Prague didn’t seem like it was going to be enough, so I cancelled my flight home, and decided to give life here a shot.

    So far it has been good. Really good. The culture is different, but not too different. I spent five years in Germany growing up, a town about five hours to the West of Prague, and I notice a lot of similarities between the two places providing me with that feeling of home. There are also plenty of opportunities for work here. There’s almost so many choices that it’s hard to make a choice, but that is a bit of a personal dilemma that I won’t dive into on here.

    Our Tefl class had about fifteen of us starting out, and as the weeks and months have gone on we’ve dwindled down to about seven. Moving is a part of life and it’s something that people do, especially in the expat community. Those of us that remain are still very good at keeping in contact with each other. We meet up about once a week for a quiz night in an underground tavern (one of the many amazing things about Prague). There is also a quiz night held at the Globe every Wednesday that packs out, you must make a reservation in advance. In our wanderings of the city we have found some great things to do to keep ourselves entertained. There’s a great little board game bar called Paluba. It’s tucked away in the basement of a building full of apartments. They have over 100 board games to choose from and serve beer while you play. Some groups meet up there regularly and you can join them, or you can show up with a group and get your own game going. There is also an amazing pool hall over by Muzeum with more than twenty pool tables, ping pong tables, chess, darts, and of course, beer. (They are closed until June though.) This is another great place to meet and interact with people. If you’re not a big drinker, or if you just need a day off from it, there is a new coffee shop in Vinohrady called The Spot. They serve up delicious cappuccinos, assorted salads, sandwiches, a great breakfast menu, and one of the most amazing truffle cakes I’ve ever had. The Spot is also offering up one of the most helpful things this city could offer – Czech lessons.

    I attended the Czech lesson last Tuesday and am going to be there in regular attendance. The teacher is a native speaker so to hear the proper pronunciation with someone in the room is incredibly helpful as well as the activities she prepares for us to facilitate our learning. The best part of this class are the people in attendance. They are other expats that have relocated here. It’s a good setting to get to know more people here in the city. There were people there, like myself, that have only been here about three months, and people who have been here for two to five years. Friendships don’t just fall out of the sky, and most of them don’t happen overnight, so it’s nice to have a place to go each week that could lead to some developing. What are some of the things you like to do? Do you have any suggestions? Favorite hang outs that others should know about?

See you around!

Katie

Injuries are a part of life

Whether you enjoy hiking in the fall, hockey in the winter, or just happen to have had an unfortunate slip or fall, chances are, every one of us, no matter how healthy or what kind of shape we are in, will need a doctor sooner rather than later. Even worse, even if you do not compete actively in athletics, our day to day lives in front of computers and sitting in bad office chairs can cause imbalances in our muscles and problems with our spines and joints that contribute to physical pain and mobility issues. And the sad truth of the matter is, the older we are, the tougher it can be to recover from these injuries.

 

The good news, however, is that even the toughest of these injuries can be treated with the proper care. And perhaps no place in Prague can provide the level of care as Canadian Medical Care, a private clinic with two locations in the Prague metro area who has been winning awards for the quality of their treatment.

 

CMC offers a wide variety of top-notch, cutting edge medical treatment, ranging from preventative medicine and OB-GYN care to physical therapy and therapeutic massage, which helps align joints and find weak muscle groups that need to be rehabilitated. The good people at CMC were gracious enough to invite me in for one of these massages so that I could write about it.

 

Now, a quick bit of background is in order here: I am a very physically fit person. I grew up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, worked in factories while I was in high school and university, and was also highly-ranked amateur judo competitor during my time in Chicago. As a result, I’m no stranger to getting injured or living with pain. My x-rays look like jigsaw puzzles and I’ve been nagged by aches and pains stemming from these mishaps for years.

 

When I arrived at CMC’s state-of-the-art complex in Chodov, I stepped into a clean and cheerful foyer— a nice change of pace from the dreary fluorescent lights and dirty vinyl of my local polikinka— the receptionist cheerfully greeted me in Czech and English (all the doctors and the staff at CMC speak excellent English) and helped me begin my intake paperwork. The waiting room was comfortable and bright, and within minutes of turning in my forms, I was ushered into an examination room for my massage.

 

My therapist turned out to be a very well-educated young woman who spoke both Czech and English fluently. She sat me down and asked me the normal range of questions— “where does it hurt?”, “how much does it hurt?”, “when do your symptoms appear?”— before asking me to stand up to analyze my posture and body. After a thorough and very professional examination, my massage therapist had an idea of where my pains and aches were coming from—for example, injuries to my left shoulder meant I needed to rehabilitate the supporting muscles around the joint. And with that, she ordered me on the table for my massage.

 

A sports or therapeutic massage is different than the normal, relaxing massage you get at a spa or resort. Your massage therapist will not only massage your muscles, but also discover if you hold your shoulders too far back (like I do) or have overly tight hamstrings which pull your kneecaps out of place (like I have). It’s also not entirely painless, though my massage therapist was quick to check with me to make sure I was not experiencing too much pain or discomfort. My therapist also used some new techniques to draw blood to my injured areas via vacuum to increase the healing processes. It felt, quite frankly, amazing.

 

After the massage finished, my therapist then had me go over some “homework” with her— exercises to strengthen and stabilize my injured joints. She explained in great detail how these exercises are designed to help each of my problem areas, which made the recovery process clearer and easier to follow. Following that, we went through a few sets of each exercise so that I had the proper form and technique. Even though I was only there for a one time visit, my knees and shoulder felt better almost the very next day, though often times 3 or more visits are needed to show significant progress
While you might not have to deal with the after-effects of thousands of high-impact falls or lifting an opponent one-handed, the Canadian Medical Care’s care can most certainly help you deal with the tough aches and pains of our daily lives. Whether your knees ache when going up Prague’s steep city streets, your shoulder twinges every time you play with your kid, or you just had a nasty fall from your bike and need some rehabilitation, CMC’s staff of top-notch professionals can help you get back to feeling like you used to feel— pain-free and fully mobile.

Who The Hell Are YOU? …and what are you doing here…?

 

Ever been asked this question? Of course you have. It pretty much lends itself to the expat life. Whether you’re travelling through Kuala Lumpur or getting settled in Budapest, at some point people are going to want to know. Unfortunately, it’s not always the easiest question to answer. Some people plan everything to the letter and others prefer to simply drift and see where the tides take them. So which are you?

I drifted here.

I’m from the Boston area of Massachusetts, thankfully sans accent, and have relocated to beautiful Prague as of November. I’ve never done the expat thing in Europe before but, up until August of 2014, I had been living in southern Japan for a couple years. I mainly bartended and did some event promotion out there while getting my degree. In what you might ask? Asia Pacific Studies… something I, unsurprisingly, found there to be a lack of demand for on the East Coast…

But we’re in Prague, right?

I’ve been here a couple times – just about every summer I ever had growing up. Both parents escaped the communist occupation in 1986 and, after about a year’s worth of Austrian refugee camp life, made their way to Boston. Once things died down after the Velvet Revolution, families reconnected and we started coming here… a lot.

I’ll be honest though, I haven’t been back in quite a while. Luckily, some things never change – like that endearing Czech customer service. You know, the one that leaves you feeling like they just kicked your dog. This is quickly forgotten though, as Prague’s little charming streets and thousands of spires make it seem like you’re in a Ghibli movie set in Europe. And let’s face it; it’s hard for the country with the most castles per square mile and most beer consumed per capita to really get you down. Perhaps I’m still in that honeymoon phase of being back but, I’ve never found Prague to be lacking in atmosphere.

Of course, atmosphere doesn’t make up for a lack of friends. *cue sad violin*

Now I’m not saying it’s hard to go out and strike up a conversation with someone. There are PLENTY of places for that. And a handful of recently made friends have remained in Prague after our TEFL course. But for the first time, I find myself puzzled by the absence of a core group and the method by which to acquire it. Even when I initially got to Japan, the framework of university life facilitated this process very quickly. I realize it’s most likely just a question of time but, I’d be curious to hear from some of you as to what worked when you got here. What environments were most conducive to building those lasting friendships?

 

Cheers

 

Adrian

17th November – Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day

For many expats living here in the Czech Republic, it is a struggle to adjust to the new routine of national holidays, different from those we know growing up in the US or the UK. One day, you wake up expecting a normal day, but when you walk outside, all the stores are closed, the trams and buses run on holiday schedules, and everyone you know is already out celebrating.

 

Out of all of these holidays, perhaps one most important here in the Czech Lands is the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day on November 17th, which commemorates two separate events that took place on the same day— the 1939 student protest against Nazi occupation and the beginnings of the 1989 protests against the totalitarian government of Czechoslovakia—events that are as patriotic and important to Czechs as the 4th of July is to Americans.

 

On November 17th 1939, months after the Nazi Germany army invaded the non-German part of Czechoslovakia, Czech students protested the occupation and its racist policies. The Nazi response was quick and vicious—troops opened fire upon the demonstrators, the leaders of the demonstration were quickly executed, dozens of Czechs were sent to the concentration camps, and Czech universities were closed for the rest of the war.

 

This tragedy served as inspiration in 1989, when 15,000 students gathered in Prague to demonstrate against the Communist government. When the peaceful demonstration was broken up by the riot police and students were beaten, Czech and Slovak students and theatres went on strike. The Velvet Revolution (as we now know it) had begun; over the course of the next 11 days, the students and actors were joined by hundreds of thousands of ordinary Czechs and Slovaks supporting the students’ demands. At the revolution’s peak, nearly 800,000 protestors demonstrated in Prague, filling the streets around Wenceslaus Square and Letná.

 

After 11 days of protests, the Communist government finally gave in to the students demands and allowed for free elections. The famous Czech playwright and dissident Václav Havel wins the elections to become the first non-Communist president of Czechoslovakia in 41 years.

 

Unlike many state holidays where people use the day off as an excuse to drink and be merry, November 17th is holiday when, instead of celebrating, many Czechs use the day to exercise their right to protest. In Prague, many people gather on Wenceslaus Square with signs, costumes, in groups or alone, in order to voice their concerns. Parents often bring their children to show them where they were when the 1989 protests began, or how important it is to make their voices heard politically.

 

This is not to say that Czechs don’t celebrate this holiday without a beer or two. Expats may find may old dissidents gathered in their favorite pubs around the center, reliving the days of 1989 with a cold pivo and swapping stories about running from the police with friends and neighbors.
So happy 17th November to you!

 

Your Team of PraguExpats

School year 2015/2016 is here!

For most children and young adults in the Czech Republic autumn means the beginning of the new school yearnew books, new friends, new teachers, new subjects.

 

The love of learning is a long-held tradition in the Czech Republic. In the Middle Ages, Prague was known as one of the most respected centers of academics and scholarship in all of Europe, where noble children and talented students from all over Europe studied in places like Charles University (founded in 1348). Unlike in medieval times, when only noble children received education, today schooling is mandatory for all children up to the age of 15, after which students can continue their studies or take a trade/join the work force. Like in America, basic public education is free, although the larger cities like Prague and Brno have several private academies for students whose parents pay for the opportunity to receive an American or British style private education in English or other languages.

 

After age 5, most children begin their studies in the local primary schools, many of which are only taught in Czech. Here, they are taught the basic subjects including reading and writing, mathematics, and the sciences. Many public schools offer foreign language instruction (most often English these days, but Russian and German are also popular options) as well, which begins earlier than in America.

 

Unlike in America, students have to decide after their 5th year of primary school where they would like to continue their education. Students who show academic promise can progress to a variety of programs which are often geared towards their particular talents and feature intensive foreign language programs. Other students, who would be better suited learning a trade or would like to enter the workforce more quickly can attend a range of schools suited for their needs.

 

Students who have not learned a trade and have attended more advanced lyceum or gymnasiums are offered the chance to take the maturita exam (an intense and comprehensive exam which is necessary to advance to the highest levels of Czech education) and university entrance exams. Like the elementary schools, Czech-language university tuition is free, regardless of degree or school, though books, supplies and room and board cost money.  Students who wish to receive their university education in English must apply for special programs pay for their study. Many universities also offer internationally-famous courses of study for non-Czech speaking students in areas such as fine arts and medicine.

 

And last, but not least, a range of private universities and colleges have opened following the fall of Communism. Although these universities are not free nor quite as prestigious as the older Czech universities, they often have American or British accreditation, which are accepted abroad. They are also increasingly popular with foreign students who are attracted to the Czech Republics reputation for quality education, but who do not have the time or opportunity to learn Czech.

 

So, take advantage of the changing of the leaves and send your children off to school Czech-style! Youll give them a great education, theyll meet new friends, and youll even get them out of your hair a few hours a day.

 

Have fun and enjoy the schoold year 2015/2016!

 

Your Team of PraguExpats

City of BEER … Plzeň

Pilsen, or Plzeň in Czech, is the third largest city in the Czech Republic. Located in West Bohemia, Pilsen is one of the oldest cities in Central Europe, dating back to 976. It has been a crossroads for trade, one of the leading industrial cities in the world, and a melting pot where Jewish, Czech, and German cultures met.

 

2015 marks Pilsen’s elevation to the European Capital of Culture, which makes it the perfect time to go see the sights in the Czech Republic’s fourth largest city. Here’s some things to do in this crown jewel of Bohemia.

 

Take in the Sights

 

Although it was the center of Austro-Hungarian and Czech manufacturing for large amounts of time, Pilsen is not your typical industrial city. The center’s architecture combines features from several eras of Czech history— ranging from the 13th Gothic splendor of St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral (with the largest tower in the Czech Republic) to the Neo-Renaissance stylings of the Museum, whose current home was opened in 1913. Of special note is the Moorish Revival architecture of the Great Synagogue, which is the second largest synagogue in Europe.

 

Pilsen’s scenic center is also criss-crossed by a number of promenades and parks, which are perfect for picnics in the afternoon or lounging in the evening. Live music performances take place all summer long at a variety of outdoor cafes and bars. Take a stroll along the river or visit the botanical gardens— Pilsen boasts a great variety of green spaces in many parts of the center.

 

See a Puppet Show

 

Although Czechs all throughout the country love puppet theater, Pilsen is the undisputed heart of the art form in the Czech Lands. Legendary puppeteers such as Josef Skupa and Jiří Trnka both called Pilsen home, and you can still see their legacy today in the city gallery (which boasts an excellent collection of both of their works) and in the puppet shows performed around town. The Puppet Museum (located on Náměstí Republiký) boasts an extraordinary amount of puppets from the 19th and 20th century, as well as hands on exhibits for children of all ages.

 

As part of Pilsen’s status as the European Capital of Culture, several visiting puppeteers and puppet theaters will be also visiting the city and performing. For example, from August 28th to the 30th, the Spanish puppet theatre Carros De Foc will be bringing their gigantic puppets to Pilsen for a public exhibition. Other companies such as Divadélko JoNáš have year round performances for both children and adults. More information can be found at: http://www.pilsen.eu/tourist/

 

Drink an Unfiltered Pilsner Urquell

 

Beer brewing has a long tradition in the Czech Republic, but the world-famous Pilsner Urquell beer has a relatively recent history in an ancient city. In 1839, the town officials voted to create a public brewery in order to satisfy local demand for better beer. In order to do so, they invited the Bavarian master brewer Josef Groll, whose family ran a brewery. More importantly, Groll had also begun experimenting with new techniques of brewing beer.

 

Pilsen proved to be an ideal location for Groll’s experiments. The local water in Pilsen (an essential component of any brew) was unusually soft, and the Czech hops imported from Žatec were known for their mild, spicy, and earthy flavor. The combination of these ingredients, plus Groll’s Bavarian fermentation techniques resulted in a completely new style’of beer— the Pislner. Today the Pilsner style of beer brewing is so famous that you can find pilsner beers all over the world, but the original remains famous.

 

If you’re interested in seeing how modern day Pilsner Urquell is made, the brewery offers tours in English and Czech. Or if you’re just interested in having a cold beer on a hot summer day, the pub Šenk na Parkánu (Veleslavínova 59/4) is the only place in the world to find unfiltered Pilsner Urquell, an experience worth having and repeating.