By Gracie Roberts
Prague is a city that I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with since the autumn of 2014. My experience moving to, away from, and back to Prague during these past few years has been a wild personal journey – one filled with surprises, disappointments and a great number of achievements along the way. Now that I’ve managed to come out of it in one piece, I’d like to share some details about that journey with you, whether you’re a fellow expat living in Prague or someone interested in knowing more about life in the Czech capital.
After living and working in Prague for nearly two years, I made the decision to move up to Helsinki, Finland. It been a long-term goal of mine to live in the Nordics, and when I found a job in Helsinki, I jumped on the chance to move my life up north. Upon my departure from Prague, I wrote a bittersweet ode to the city and my experience living in it. As with any city or country that one chooses to live in, there are obvious ups and downs that come with day-to-day living. This can be especially true when one becomes an expat and decides to put down roots in a place that’s nowhere near where they grew up.
The following year spent in Finland came and went. Life in Helsinki offered several significant perks, including beautiful nature in and around the city, a private sauna in my own flat (!) and a highly-organized bureaucratic system that actually functioned as it should. Yes, the winter was as cold and dark as one might expect, but I managed to make my way through it and find beauty in the frigid landscape. However, there was a big problem that I could no longer ignore after having lived in Helsinki for about five months: I was bored.
I found myself asking, “Is this it?” in regards to many different aspects of Finnish life. What’s more, the quality of living that I was able to attain in Helsinki wasn’t measuring up to that which I had in Prague. It was then that the choice to move back to the Czech Republic became clear. My time in Helsinki was an adventure that I don’t regret in the least, but I’m fully relieved that living in the north is no longer my reality.
So, what is it about Prague that makes living here so great?
This list could go on, but I’ve chosen a few aspects of life in Prague that continue to impress me.
High life quality. In this year’s Inclusive Development Index released by the World Economic Forum, the Czech Republic ranked as the 15th most developed country in the world, topping France, the UK and Japan (more info here). Looking at life quality from an individual perspective, I have things such as work-life balance and living costs in mind. Living in the Czech Republic, going out to eat or drink several times a week is an easily attainable lifestyle for most steady jobholders. Obviously, spending habits are a very personal matter, but when I speak for myself, I can confidently say that my earnings, spendings and savings have never been more proportional than while living in Prague. If you’d like to get a better idea of what living in Prague will cost you and/or compare this to other cities, check out this comprehensive list.
It’s Europe’s “sweet spot”. My boyfriend refers to life in Prague as the best of both worlds when it comes to living in Europe. In other words, Prague has the organized infrastructure and many beneficial social amenities that the northern European countries are known for, yet it retains the personal freedom and laidback lifestyle that are often connected with countries in southern Europe.
The resources and support systems available to expats never cease to amaze me. Living in Prague, one quickly comes to recognize the substantial, diverse community of expats who have chosen to make a life for themselves in the Czech Republic. While it’s immensely important to make an effort to acclimate to Czech culture (no matter what anyone says, learning to speak Czech is always a good idea), the amount of communities, services and amenities made available to foreigners living in Prague is truly amazing.
To name a few examples, this could be anything as small as companies having (functioning) English versions of their websites and support channels. On a bigger scale, you can find English-language media outlets that keep readers up to date on relevant news throughout the Czech Republic. There are also agencies who provide immigration services to those moving to the Czech Republic. PraguExpats is a great example of this type of agency – they assisted me in setting up my first trade license (Živnostenský list) upon moving to Prague in 2014 and continue to help me with immigration or visa-related questions that occasionally pop up.
I’m always happy to come back. Whether I’ve landed at Vaclav Havel Airport after an exhausting, jetlag-filled journey back from the U.S. or have pulled up at Florenc bus station after a weekend trip outside the city, I’m always filled with a sense of comfort and relief upon returning to Prague.
Now that I’ve settled back into the city, I feel thankful for a second chance to dive deeper into the things I care about in a place that has truly begun to feel like home. I’m also grateful for my circle of friends in Prague who have accepted me back with open arms and am happy to be making new friends, too.
When all is said and done, there’s nowhere else that I’d rather be living.
Gracie Roberts is a native of Portland, Oregon who moved to Europe in 2013. In addition to being a communications professional, Gracie is a pianist, linguistic enthusiast and lover of anything with claws.