let’s just get into it, shall we? the things they just don’t tell you…
you’ll probably have to leave the country to get a visa
if you are a non-eu passport holder and unless you have a pre-existing arrangement with a sponsor of your new job, mentally prepare that you’ll be headed either to berlin, bratislava, or vienna to get your visa. why? nobody knows. oh, and you’ll be going back there again to pick it up.
nobody in immigration will speak english to you. even if they know english.
you’ll likely be spending a lot of time in your local immigration building which probably looks straight out of a kafka novel. once you get there and take a number, you’ll notice signs that say “all business here is to be conducted in czech”. this can be somewhat terrifying. bring a friend to help!
shopping here leaves a bit to be desired.
sure, shopping here for locally-made goods, pottery, colorful painted easter egg ornaments, and sweet treats (like trdelnik) are tops. but – i highly recommend topping off whatever clothing, shoe, and accessory needs (especially your favorite brands) you need before coming here. you’ll likely either not find them or they’ll be much more expensive than they are in your home country. (the concept of a “sale” at a clothing store is just starting to catch on) even my students admit they prefer to shop abroad.
you can get all of your essentials here.
l’oreal, aussie, tampax, skippy, maybelline, old spice, oreo, etc. can all be found at (sometimes select) supermarkets and drugstores. some things they do not sell here (yet), however: oil of olay or burt’s bees. womp.
prepare to love marks & spencer. love it strong.
this popular english department store chain (which oddly, failed in germany) is alive and well in the czech republic, providing you with all of your british food needs. weetabix knock-offs, proper marmelade, good tea, italian sausages, crumpets, and more can all be found here! if you love it as much as i do, don’t forget to sign up for a (free) rewards card. (photo via)
bring savings, but you still need to put in your werk.
savings (a few thousand $$) is going to be a great padding for all of those initial costs: visas, first month’s rent, deposits, teaching or language courses, etc while you get on your feet. however, once you can start working, do work. the financial offices are particularly looking (especially in your first year) into your case to see if you can support yourself. make sure it looks like you can.
most all strangers appear really unfriendly, until one day, they don’t.
i was so depressed about all the grimacing faces i saw here for about the first two years, and then a magical thing happened. one day, something inside me clicked: it doesn’t bother me worth a damn anymore. however resigned that might sound, i was overjoyed at this new development. i guess the point is: don’t worry, it’ll grow on you.
what’s a checkbook?
i’ve never seen or heard about people using checks to pay for something here. (or credit cards, for that matter). debit card reigns supreme and people frequently use their banking website to transfer funds to another individual or company. so make sure you know your variable symbols and constant symbols! (set up a template so you don’t have to re-enter that stuff every time you want to transfer)
if everything seems closed off to you, your world will certainly open massively as you start learning czech.
i’ve only been studying czech on a consistent basis since october, but just in that few months i feel like the world is opening up, people are friendlier, and immigration is (almost) a walk in the park! it will get better. in the words of young kevin mccallister, “did you hear me? i said i’m not afraid anymore!” (photo via)
that said, start learning czech.
many expats in my town don’t. i mean, when you don’t need it for your job, it can be hard for people who don’t typically enjoy language study to make the time. however, if you plan to be here for more than a year, it will make your life somucheasier. i started out strong with my czech studies and then succumbed to a belief that i couldn’t learn more than one foreign language at once (which is not true). i wish i had started taking it more seriously earlier, but hey.
travels abroad are exciting, but travel inside the republic too!
i get it, i’m from the united states. as soon as i made a base in europe, i was unbelievably stoked for the new world of travel possibilities that was made available to me. it’s incredible; it’s intoxicating! but do remember to see a bit of your host country as well. not only is it nice to better get to know the place where you live, but locals will certainly respect you that much more for caring to get to know their country better. (plus, people love to share their tips!)
česká pošta: initially intimidating, but decent conquerability level
so this is the deal: you absolutely need to know what it says next to all of those buttons when you walk in. not doing so will be fatal to your success and happiness using the czech postal system. (photo via)
your packages won’t (usually) be delivered to you, but you’ll get a slip in the mail. take it, along with some ID (like a passport) to the post, press the button that says listovni zasilky vydej, get your number, give it to the postal worker, and she’ll have you sign your podpis on a slip of paper.(sometimes you might have to pay a customs charge – see below)
speaking of customs, NEVER order anything online with a retail price higher than a hundred euros.
huge custom charges will come your way. i think over the course of three years i have easily paid +12,000kc (about $500) worth of customs charges because i didn’t know this. (ridiculous, right?) make sure your loved ones always mark parcels headed your directions as “gifts”, and receiving anything with a lithium battery will also result in charges on your end.
you’ll be in one of the most beautiful places in europe.
(and you might have to pinch yourself on the daily)
what would you add? if it sounds like i got it all figured out, i don’t. but after three plus years, i feel it finally coming.
linking up with travel tuesday