An Irish girl in Brno, an English man in New York - same same but different!
I first moved to the Czech Republic in January of this year from Ireland and arrived on a (hip-high!) snowy Sunday evening. My first thoughts were, like all expats I suppose, "what am I doing here!" Well, before I go on, I am happy to report that despite my initial, normal fears, life here was well worth the risk to make the move.
I took the decision to leave Ireland at the end of December 2009 as I had returned there in September 2009 and learned that I wasn't ready to settle at home just yet. I never considered the Czech Republic to be my place of choice but I suppose it found me as opposed to the other way around. Now I am here 5 months and I haven't looked back! Truthfully, my initial few weeks were, of course, a feeling of uncertainty, well, as much as any move is to a different country is. When I finally got over the language barrier (and the tram drivers who shouted at me a few times until I learned to nonchalantly get on, sit down and ignore them in the hope that other passengers would believe it wasn't me he/she was shouting at!!) and learned to understand the culture of this country, I can honestly say that Brno, the city where I live, is an oasis in some ways. It's a small city with deep pockets of history & culture and once you get to know the Czech people, I've come to learn they're as passionate as the Irish, if not more.
So, working and living here. Well I'll start with living here......first off, it's GREAT to live in a country where the seasons do exactly what they're supposed to do. For those of you at home in Ireland, fear not, there are still 4 seasons, summer still exists!!! Brno is the hottest part of the Czech Republic and known as the Moravian region of CR. So in the summer time, I'm told it hits between 30-40 degrees and in the winter time it can sometimes go as low as -15. As regards the spring time, well, it's about 18-20 degrees everyday. Okay, so enough about the weather! The cost of living here....well coming from Ireland, the cost of living here as regards rent / food / socalising, in comparison to Ireland is shocking! This coupled with the quality of life, the weather, the people, the expat community.....I could go on and on.....makes the Czech Republic an ideal choice for considering a move here. The Czech people, although initially come across as quite cold, are quite the contrary. I have found that the Czech people I have met here are very similar to the Irish as regards their sense of humour, their love for their country and obviously being the No.1 Beer drinkers in the world, their love for the odd tipple or two! Speaking of the Czech beer, well, it's true, it's the best and only c. 1 euro a pint........lads and lassies......you cannot go wrong!
So, working here. Well I work as a CPL on-site Recruiter at IBM who employ c. 3000 people and primarily locate here from all over Europe. This city has only recently had the injection of global corporate investment and is slowly becoming the new Celtic Tiger......so.....this Celtic Puppy has in a way, followed her cetlic tiger mammy, and this is something that I would HIGHLY recommend! It's a relatively new experience for the Czech people to have so many other nationalities taking up residence in what used to be a country under a communistic regime and again in that way, this country has a similar experience to what we had in Ireland in the mid-90's, this huge influx of people. As a result, the expat community here is quite big. As regards the number of Irish, I think there are only about 20 of us here, if that. The IBM site is about a 12 minute tram ride from the city centre. That's the other thing, the transport system in this country is superb and punctual. There are many other companies here who have set up such as Monster, Motorola, RedHat, Tyco, AT&T, DHL and therefore there are a number of opportunities open to candidates who come from a technical background or speak a 2nd language. The salaries are low, however this reflects the cost of living. The problem in trying to source candidates from Western Europe always comes down to the salaries on offer here. Making the decision to take a drop in salary and then take another risk to move to a different country is not an easy feat. However, taking a similar risk myself, I can honestly say, it was probably one of the best decisions I ever made, both professionally and personally. The other great thing about living in mainland Europe, and this is one of it's greatest benefits, you can go by train / bus / car across Europe. Vienna is 2 hours on the train, Poland is 3 hours, Berlin is 6, I never realised how Islandised I had become. There is a great sense of freedom with living in mainland Europe, one advantage I never truly appreciated until I moved here.
Okay so, I hope this blog gives someone, anyone an understanding of the advantages of living here. Sure, there are some drawbacks but these are trivial in comparison to the benefit.