I am so excited to share with you a post from my friend Brianna Tichy! She lives in Prague, Czech Republic’ gives tours of the city, and writes for a successful adventure blog! I hope you love hearing about her experiences.
As innumerable works of art, literature, and music will all attest to, life is hard. While it may seem like the plot of a modern day fairytale or adventure movie, it’s a lie to say that trading my Jersey girl existence for life on the banks of the Vltava has been a smooth and painless experience. When I moved to the Mother of Cities four, almost five, years ago, I was in a state of post-graduation bliss where I felt Prague was my next great adventure, and it has been. I arrived at Václav Havel International airport with two suitcases full of what I had deemed my “essentials”, exhaustion, and high hopes for the next chapter in my life.
For me, the decision to move to Prague had been a long time in the making—I had grown up hearing about the Czech Republic thanks to my family’s connection to the place. Growing up in Southern New Jersey, Tichy wasn’t a common last name from a well-known ethnic group, but in my dad’s hometown of Wilber, I heard all about the land of Bohemia and its legends every time we visited (usually on Czech Days). As a kid, I was fascinated by legends like the one of Libuše, the priestess with the power of prophecy who founded Bohemia’s ancestral dynasty, and as I got older, I devoured everything I could about my family’s history, desperate for that European connection.
I suppose that after all of that, it was no surprise when I expressed a desire to become a Czech-Slovak Queen and represent my home state for the very first time in the national pageant, although I do believe that my friends and family back in New Jersey were surprised. I had never been a particularly frilly child and was always more of the adventure-loving, book-devouring academic set. Pageants aren’t very common in that part of the US, but once I explained what it meant to me and what the job of a Czech-Slovak queen was, they were definitely on board.
When I was crowned Miss Czech-Slovak US during my second attempt as an at-large contestant, I was beyond thrilled, not just because of the crown either. No, during my time as a contestant, I had met some and would still meet some amazing and truly inspiring people who are as proud of their heritage as I am—people who today I have the honor of calling my friends. The other component to my bliss was that this was it—thanks to the Miss Czech-Slovak US pageant, I would finally get the chance to go where I always dreamed. The Czech Republic was my oyster!
I had studied Czech at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for a few years and this trip was an integral part in my progress to actually learning the language, although how to live in Prague as an expat was a lesson I wouldn’t learn until moving here to do my Masters in 2012.
The first thing you should know about life as an American in Prague is that it’s a struggle. I’m lucky to speak enough “street Czech” as I call it, to get by, and happen to have a Czech surname, which helps in places like the post office and immigration sometimes. But by and large, Czech bureaucracy is not a fun thing to experience. Left over from the stamp-loving days of the Austrian Empire, to get anything official done here still requires a ton of patience, number-taking, waiting in line, and hard paperwork. Most expats I know pay money to have people do this for them, but I’ve always been determined to try it on my own first and at times, it can be incredibly frustrating. Even a trip to the grocery store can sometimes feel like an ordeal, as any expat can attest. I’ve been here so long, I’ve got a long list in my head of what ingredients I need might be called in Czech, as well as a list of conversions and substitutes for ingredients that I either can’t find (American and Czech cuisine are sometimes startlingly different) or would cost an arm and a leg to buy in their real versions (like any form cheddar cheese…as a cheese lover, I’ll tell you the struggle is sometimes real!). Living so far away from my family and a place where my native language is always spoken can be tough at times, but as English is generally the lingua franca of travel these days, I can’t complain too much.
The truth of the matter is that by living so far away, I’ve amassed a tight-knit group of friends who have become like a family to me and always have my back. I’ve gotten to know people from all around the world here in this city of a hundred spires—a city that plays host to more languages and nationalities than most people would guess at a glance. I’ve been lucky enough to make local friends so amazing and nice, their families have de facto adopted me as one of their own and take me in for any and every holiday that I spend faraway, across the sea from my own homeland. I’ve learned that history is longer, more complex, and at times still just as relevant as if it had happened yesterday than most people in modern day America even think about. I’ve also learned that even though we may not speak each others languages perfectly, or even have a language in common at all, most people are fundamentally good and kind and want to show you a bit about their lives and their culture, if you only take an interest.
Yes, life in Prague can be hard. Currently, I’ve finished an MA here and am working on my PhD, but as any academic will tell you, books rarely pay the rent. I pay for my bread and butter by working as a social media guru and writer, which never ceases to remind me that even when things get tough, there’s still a heck of a lot of awesome things in the world to see and amazing people to do them with. I live in that land of Libuše and Charles IV, after all, and if that’s not a childhood dream come true, I don’t know what is. The thing about Prague is that while it’s not terribly big, it is full of so many different people and lives that it’s positively bursting with stories, and on any given day, you can experience something completely new and inspiring here.
There’s really nothing like a Prague summer, where you start off meeting some friends in a park for drinks on a picnic blanket, watch the lights come on one by one in the city’s Lesser Town, lighting up Prague Castle as the piece de resistance. From there, you can move to a pub to try some of the Czech Republic’s (no, I will NOT call it Czechia’s) crisp, flawless beer (one of our most beloved traditions), or dance the night away in any modern night club. A day in Prague is like a day in any other city, but with more cobblestones and historic hot spots than you can shake a stick at. Still, you can’t help but feel like it’s something pretty darn special as you wind down from a night of gleeful dancing, sitting on the historic statue of St. Wenceslas astride his trusty steed surrounded by a ragtag group of friends who have become like your family, watching the sun as it slowly rises over Wenceslas Square and the rest of this timeless, beautiful city. It’s moments like those when life in Prague, despite the struggles, is totally worth it. Perhaps Franz Kafka, one of Prague’s native sons, was on to something when he wrote, “Prague doesn’t let go. This little mother has claws.” I don’t think the city will ever truly let me go, and I’m not complaining.
I hope you enjoyed this post about expat life in Prague! If you have any questions leave a line below or on the Facebook page!