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?



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

Picnic with PraguExpats



picnic expats_finale2


Dear clients, partners and friends of PraguExpats,

we would like to invite you to celebrate our 3rd anniversary with us!

It has been 3 years already and we would like to see you and thank you for your support in person.

We will meet in the park Riegrovy sady and have this picnic together.

There will be coffee and refreshment for free. We have some presents for you as well.

Please feel free to come and invite your friends!

Looking forward to see you on Sunday 16th August in Riegrovy sady.

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.

Burn some witches and kiss your true love

Witches and roses may seem to be two completely opposite things to most Americans, but here in the Czech Republic, they mark two of this country’s beloved holidays— Čarodějnice/Pálení Čarodějnic (The Witches or the Burning of the Witches, respectively) and První maj (May Day), which are celebrated with bonfires, heavy drinking, and lovers kissing. Although these holidays may seem completely unrelated to us, in the Czech Lands, they are both connected.

Čarodějnice is the first of the two. On April 30th at 4:00 pm, Czechs light bonfires and burn paper effigies of witches to mark the transition from winter to spring. The ceremonial burning of the paper witches is believed to ward off bad luck (and in more pagan times, actual witchcraft) since traditionally, witches were said to gather every year on this date. The fires are symbolic threats to keep the witches away, but in our modern times, they serve more as an excuse for general mischief and drinking with friends.

Čarodějnice is not just a Czech holiday, however. The night is celebrated throughout Central Europe under a variety of names. In Germany and Austria, it is commonly known as Walpurgisnacht (after the ancient German Saint Walpurga) or Hexennacht (Witch’s Night). Today, most Czechs celebrate the holiday as an excuse to meet up with friends and drink, and bonfires and revelers can be found even in major cities like Prague— though many Czechs claim the best Čarodějnice revelries happen in the villages (for obvious reasons).

The next day, May Day, (or První maj/The 1st of May), is known throughout the Czech lands as the Czech Valentine’s Day, though, like Čarodějnice, it has a complex history. May Day, like in England and Colonial America, was often a time of springtime celebrations in villages based on the Maypole, a tall sapling which men from the village cut down in the night during Čarodějnice celebrations. On May 1st, the Maypole is decorated and erected somewhere prominently in the village, and the men from the village guard it throughout the week against raids from other villages, who seek to steal as many Maypoles as they can. Traditionally, at the end of the week, the men who defended the Maypole against outsiders are allowed to go around the village to receive small gifts and kisses from unmarried women. Then, in the evening, the villagers gather for a ball and celebration to welcome the coming of spring (and give the young men time to court the young ladies of their fancy.)

The 1st of May has other romantic traditions— kissing one’s love under a blooming cherry or birch tree is a custom that goes back centuries to pagan Slavs who held these trees sacred. Legends also stated that a girl who does not receive a kiss from her true love on the first of May was destined to wither away within the year. So, be sure to kiss your love!

První máj is also known as a time of love, not just because it is a time to court unmarried women and defend your village’s phallic symbol, but also because the Czech language’s most beloved Romantic poet, Karel Hynek Mácha wrote one of his most important works as a memorial to this time of year. Mácha, unfortunately, died shortly before his own wedding, adding to his romantic legend and making him a beloved figure here. Even to this day, Czechs in Prague makes a pilgrimage to the poet’s memorial on top of Petřín hill.

Finally, the 1st of May is also time for the Majáles— where students celebrate the coming of spring with parades, drinking, costumes, and music festivals. Students also hold elections for the King of the Majáles.

So, go burn some witches and kiss your true love!

Easter or Velikonoce

The beginnings of spring means one of the Czech Republic’s biggest holidays, Easter (or Velikonoce) is right around the corner. During the Communist era, Easter was celebrated more as a generic Spring holiday than a religious holiday. And for many Czechs today, Easter is not a Christian holiday, but a non-religious Czech holiday. Czech celebrations […]

Valentine’s Day is a hot phenomenon these days in the Czech Republic.

Although historically, Czechs have not traditionally attached any special holiday significance to February 14th (besides the Feast of St. Valentine for more traditionally-Catholic Czechs), the Czech Lands have been quick to adopt this primarily-American holiday following the 1989 Revolution, especially among members of the younger generation. Older Czechs (and quite a number of young people) may still prefer to celebrate the traditional Czech day of Romance — May 1st— instead.

But even though Czechs are embracing Valentine’s Day, not all American traditions, such as giving Valentine’s cards, have been accepted here. Czechs are also, typically, more reserved about giving such gifts to people they are not intimately close with— to celebrate a Valentine together is a romantic milestone for many people, and not something you do with whoever is handy.

Here’s a few ways Czechs like to celebrate their Valentine’s Days with their romantic partners.

Give the Gift of Flowers


Czechs love to give flowers to the special men and women in their life on many special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, and name days. Valentine’s Day is, of course, no exception, and many Czech florists (květinářství, in Czech) do excellent business in the days around February 14th.

Roses, as in America, are traditionally considered the gift of romance, though other combinations of different flowers (such as carnations and other red and white flowers) are popular. If you’ve forgotten the flowers, don’t worry— many major Czech cities have 24 hour florists who are more than happy to keep you from getting in trouble. Most even have some form of delivery service to make sure the blooms get there in time.


Make Sure You Include Something Else


Although flowers are traditional, they’re also a bit ordinary. Many Czechs would prefer their partners also get them something special along with the fresh flowers— a bottle of wine, some chocolates, or something else meaningful to them.

A typical choice for Valentine’s Day wine is Czech sekt, a type of sparkling wine similar to Italian prosecco, but slightly sweeter. Almost any Czech wine store, grocery story, or supermarket will carry sekt, which ranges in price from affordable to decadent.

Other fine options are boxes of bonbons or chocolates from local sweetshops or bakeries. Some Czech women may like jewelry, but much as in America, this is not universal nor is it typical to give at the beginnings of a relationship.

Take a Walk


If you’re looking for the best ratio of cost-to-romance, nothing beats a stroll arm-in-arm with your special someone through the beautiful sites of the Czech Republic, especially after a nice diner and Czech sekt.

Take advantage of the Czech Republic’s historic and natural beauty by walking through one of the many historic old towns and squares. Or better yet, make use of this year’s unseasonably warm winter and go visit some the Czech Republic’s romantic nature spots.

Wish you a lot of LOVE!

Your Team of PraguExpats

It’s time to work on those resolutions for 2015

So the New Year has come and gone, and now it’s time to work on those resolutions for 2015.

Perhaps the most common new year’s resolution is to get back in shape. And while that might be difficult in the Czech Republic (with all the wonderful beer and sausages that you’ll find everywhere) there’s still lots of ways to get back to being fit. Here’s a few ideas to jump start your journey from flab to fit!

Go to the Gym

For those of you who like your physical fitness old school with a side of barbell, there’s always the tried-and-true solution of going to the gym. Big chain gyms like BBC (http://www.fitnessbbc.cz/) and Holmes Place (http://holmesplace.cz/en/) often have introductory specials and offer a range of classes from spinning to Pilates (http://www.partyfit.cz/english/). Some added benefits of these larger gyms are the facts that they’re also more English-friendly than some of the neighborhood gyms and they’re often located close to the larger office parks and metro stops. Some even offer juice bars and saunas and other relaxing amenities if you’re in the mood (and have the budget) for an post-workout treat.

If you’re more comfortable with your Czech, Prague also boasts a range of smaller (and often cheaper) gyms closer to home. While these gyms may not be as large, or offer as many fancy options as the larger gyms, they are often more affordable and they’re close to home.

Something with a more Eastern Flair

Yoga is a big deal here in the Czech Republic. This Indian-derived form of exercise sets aside the weights in favor of using a series of poses and movements designed to work all of your muscles. Several different types of yoga can be found in the Czech Republic, ranging from the spiritually-oriented (for those who want such an experience) to the physically intense.

Hot yoga and Bikram yoga are especially popular these days. These styles, which take place in a room heated to 40 C, have grown in popularity since arriving in the Czech Republic in 2006. Practitioners often find that the heated room helps their bodies loosen up more easily, which is something to be treasured during the cold Czech winters (http://www.bikramyoga.cz/en/).

Yoga devotees who want something less “tropical” have their share of options too. Nearly every neighborhood in Prague and Brno has a yoga studio, and the craze has even spread to many Czech towns and villages.

Take Up a Martial Art


Martial arts (as well as sports like boxing) are another great way to not only lose weight and get in shape, but also to make new friends and acquaintances. Nothing brings you and your new friends together like a round of intense sparring, after all!

Although many gyms are run by Czech speakers, there are plenty of places to practice martial arts in Prague that not only allow foreigners to train there, but usually welcome them. Traditional Chinese art forms like Wing Chun and Hung Gar, and Japanese martial arts like Goju-ryu karate are all taught in the larger cities like Prague and Brno.

If you’re more concerned with being physical than deadly, Judo, Western Boxing, and Thai boxing (all sports popular with mixed-martial artists) in particular are well represented in Prague, with clubs and training facilities in most districts in the city. Due to a strong Czech fight sport scene, these clubs tend to be a little on the competitive side, but they often have beginner’s classes for those who are just starting out.

Wish you a great beginning of the year 2015 and remember to have at least one beer after your exercise!

Your Team of PraguExpats

Little Jesus, The Devil, and a Carp or Two— Christmas in the Czech Republic

Although often called a “nation of atheists” due to their free-thinking ways, the Czechs nonetheless place a great importance on Christmas as a time to celebrate with families and friends. Gifts are given, trees are decorated, and carols are sung, just like back home. However, there are some special traditions and practices only found here in the Czech Lands.

Before Christmas

Christmas markets (Vánoční trhy ) are one of the most recognizable public manifestations of the Christmas spirit in cities big and small throughout the Czech Republic. In major cities like Prague and Brno, nearly every major (and some minor) public square has a Christmas market setup with stalls selling homemade decorations, goods, drinks, and food. While you might not want to buy everyone on your list a bottle of homemade plum brandy (slivovice ), they are great resources for picking up a few ornaments for your tree or souvenirs of your first Czech Christmas.

December 5th (evening) and 6th (day) marks the Feast of St. Nicholas ( Sv. Mikuláš ), where the jolly saint comes bearing gifts for good children. Accompanied by a devil and an angel, St. Nicholas is equally terrifying and joyous, as he visits the children of the Czech Republic to reward them for good behavior or scare them into being better in the coming year. Good children receive small toys and sweets, bad children are threatened by the devil who wants to them into a sack and take them to hell. Fortunately for all the naughty boys and girls of Bohemia, this punishment is not followed through on, and bad children receive coal or onions or potatoes instead of the sweets and toys given to the nicer ones.

In the villages, the feast of St. Nicholas is often done door to door, with groups of village adults playing St. Nicholas and his helpers. However, in larger cities, there are often public gatherings in the squares where parents can bring their children to participate.

Christmas Time


Even when the big day rolls around, Czechs often celebrate Christmas in ways that differ from most of America and the UK. Perhaps the biggest adjustment is that Czechs traditionally celebrate with their families on Christmas Eve, December 24, instead of the 25th as is done in America and the UK or January 6th, as is done in Russia and areas that are Russian Orthodox.

On December 24th, celebrations begin in the morning with the baking of a traditional Christmas cake, a vánočka, which resembles a French brioche and is stuffed with tasty raisins and nuts. Due in no small part to the difficulty of baking this cake, Czech families often develop their own traditions surrounding the process, ranging from jumping in the kitchen while the yeast rises, to holding thoughts of loved-ones and Christmas wishes in mind while making the dough. This cake will bake all day.

During the day, most Czechs refrain from eating any other serious meals, outside of the traditional sauerkraut soup. A traditional Czech saying recommends this, as the abstaining from all other foods may allow you to see the “golden piglet”, a foretelling of wealth to come in the next year.

Much of the rest of December 24th is spent preparing the dinner. For Americans and British expats is that instead of the traditional  dinner of Christmas goose or roast beef, Czechs prefer to eat carp. The fish is traditionally fried and served with potato salad (a dish more commonly associated with summer picnics in America). After dinner, presents appear under the tree, delivered courtesy of Little Jesus (who brings the presents, not Santa Claus), and the adults relax with drinks.

Finally in the evening, some Czechs go to church. More religious Czech families (especially in parts of Moravia and Silesia) will go to a traditional midnight mass on the 24th. In fact, this is not always limited to religious families— many Czechs view the midnight mass as a traditional part of their Christmas celebrations regardless of their personal religious views. Masses are open to all throughout the city and admission is free. Afterwords, families may go home, while younger Czechs may go to friends’ houses to celebrate long into the night.

December 25th is usually a day of recovery from all the excitement of the 24th, so don’t be afraid to celebrate on Christmas Eve, just like Czechs do.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Your Team of PraguExpats