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My Czech Experience


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My experience of the Czech Republic is rather unusual. I came here from the UK in 2000, on spec and with only tenuous connections to the country. Such a step seemed entirely natural to me, the next step in a logical progression. But not surprisingly, my choice has puzzled many, and I respond to “how did you end up in the Czech Republic?” almost weekly. So here is – finally – a potted history.
If had I received the proverbial pound for every time I answered this question, I would have bid farewell to paid work a long time ago. Sadly though, nobody pays me to answer questions – I am not a politician – so I have to work for a living. But building a career in the Czech Republic has been a highly rewarding way of doing so.
Škodas and doddery dictators

My story goes back to when I was growing up, in the 1970s and 80s. Back then, the only Czechs and Slovaks arriving in Britain were those who had fled communism. The father of one of my primary school classmates was one of them. Jan changed school after a few years, but our class had learned a little about Czechoslovakia while he was with us. Perhaps that is why, amidst the haze of childhood memories, I have a clear recollection of a neighbour’s Škoda “Estelle”, as this vehicle was amusingly branded in Britain. I also have a strong memory of an attempt – thankfully successfully – to spell “Czechoslovakia” in an essay.
Later, at high school, in a class called Modern Studies, I learned more about the part of Europe run by a cabal of dull, doddery dictators. A political map of the continent covered one of the classroom walls; communist Europe was reduced to a humiliating blanket grey. Yet the exotic-sounding place names adorning the map hinted at a region that was anything but dull.
Just months after I sat my final exams, the 1989 revolutions broke out, consigning the gerontocracies, a large chunk of the Modern Studies syllabus, and the grey map to history. The revolutions also brought me a step closer to Prague, and my interest deepened in the early 1990s, as I devoured as many of the new books on the revolutions as possible.

A life-changing trip

In 1993, in the final year of my undergraduate environmental planning course, my classmates and I had to “choose” between the Ruhr coalfield in Germany or Prague as our field trip destination. We did not exactly have an agonising decision to make.
That week in Prague was one of the best of my life. The city mesmerised me. The Czech Republic seemed so fresh and new, and for a self-confessed language geek, the unfamiliar, spiky-looking Czech language was thoroughly intriguing. And even apparently mundane activities, such as visits to the local grocery store, mutated into mini adventures.
One such adventure was journeys by metro, a perpetual source of tourist wonder and amusement. Our home for the week was a sprawling district of concrete rabbit-hutch apartments bearing the cruelly ironic name of Háje (The Groves). Billeted with families at the end of a metro line, we had plenty of opportunities to marvel at the stations – space-age-in-a-1960s-way. Our commutes into town also prompted group chants of “Úkončete výstup a nástup...” (“Complete alighting and boarding”), as if we needed any excuse.

A new home

When I returned home, I just could not stop thinking about Prague, and after completing post-graduate studies in building conservation, I started considering combining my planning, building conservation and Central European interests.
I finally came to Prague in 2000, to follow up on potential job offers in building conservation. But leads progressed at a pace that would make a snail look exceedingly quick. I was determined to stay in the Czech Republic and make things happen, so I decided to investigate other opportunities. Gradually, my career unfolded in writing editing and translation.
Fifteen years is a good time to take stock. Interestingly, the concept of time itself somehow takes on a different dimension when one lives abroad. Often I feel as if I moved to Prague just yesterday. At other times, Prague seems to have been home all my life. During this period, I have, inevitably, experienced good and bad times, but I cannot see myself locating anywhere else. I am extremely grateful for having the opportunity to live in this beautiful, stubborn and exhilarating that has become home.

Author: David Creighton

Category: Expat Life Viewed: 619 times
Username: DavidC Listing Ref: 1895911871
Date of Listing: 03 May 2015, 21:00:50

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