After a year and a half living and studying in Prague, Japanese student Karen Kanazawa fall in love with the city, made friends, and got her Bachelor diploma. We decided to ask Karen several questions about her experience relocating and adapting to Prague. If you consider moving to Prague, this seven min read is for you!
Why did you choose to live in Prague?
I chose to live in Prague for three reasons. Firstly, this is a beautiful city full of historical architecture, museums and concerts. If you love immersing yourself in art, it’s an amazing place to live in. Secondly, the nature and scenery in Prague is breathtaking just by walking around the city with no aim. Walking to my university was a great motivation for me to get up every morning. I would walk past the Vltava river and let the view sink in. On the way home, I would stop and stare at the sunset reflect on the Vltava river.
If you live in Prague for a year or more, the change of scenery by the season is beautiful to watch. No matter the weather, Prague is always worth walking around. My favorite was Christmas season, when the snow was building up on the Prague castle and the entire city. The view was magical. The third reason for my move to Prague was educational. The university I attended in Prague offered a generous scholarship program to complete my bachelor’s degree, and I immediately chose to move to Prague for the reasons above.
What was your moving procedure?
The moving procedure was not too terrible for me, since I was able to obtain my Visa without issue and I found a flat to live in fairly quickly. I took a tram to IKEA the first week I arrived and bought all the living utilities that I needed. One thing I regret is not talking to the landlord well enough before moving into the flat because there were some misunderstandings that rooted from poor communication.
I recommend staying in touch with your landlord often so s/he can help you quickly if you have any issues. I moved into another flat during my stay in Prague and the second time was much better since I made sure to keep in touch often and point out any issues that I had with the flat.
How did you prepare for moving to Prague?
I prepared what to pack by reading about the weather, culture and food in Prague. I used internet sources, magazines and asked my friends who have travelled there what it was like. I made sure to bring clothes for all seasons and very warm boots for the winter. I read that the touristic areas in Prague are easy to navigate in English but the suburban areas, hospitals and police offices do not speak English at all. I needed to mentally prepare myself to struggle with a language barrier.
How to deal with culture shock in Prague, Czech Republic?
Since I moved to Prague from the United States, I experienced a huge difference in how people interact with each other. For example, if you enter a restaurant in the U.S. the waiters are generally smiling and extremely kind. In Prague, most probably in the suburban areas, the attitude is not the same so it might be a shock to some people who are used to the kind of service provided in the United States.
From my experience, I felt as though Czech people respect others personal space compared to the U.S. and they want their personal space to be respected as well. It was easy for me to accept this new change, since this was the norm in Czech Republic and as long as you respect them, they will respect you as well. I think it is important to have this kind of mindset when moving to a new country.
How to overcome difficulties when living in Prague?
If you ever encounter a difficulty that you cannot overcome alone, it is important to know who you can depend on in this new country. You should know where the police stations and hospitals are, and most importantly have Google translate on your phone for emergencies. It is also good to have dependable friends that are able to support you through difficulties or emergencies.
What are the bad things about Prague?
The good part about Prague is the amazing architecture but the bad part is that the historic buildings do not have air conditioning or elevators so bringing your suitcase up till the 5th floor is a hassle. Most buildings that I visited had no AC or elevators, and the ones that did were recently renovated or the building itself was new.
What are your favorite things to do in Prague?
I love riding the pedal boats in Prague during the summer, and also going out in the streets to play with the snow in winter. These are two things to do in opposite seasons but the most memorable memories I have of living in Prague.
Riding the pedal boats with your friends are amazing during the summer when the sun is shining. You can rent the pedal boats at a fairly reasonable price and once you are on, you can pedal through the Vltava river and make a stop at a café on the side of the river for some cider or beer. During the winter, it is absolutely magical to be outside in the snow and winter lights, especially during the night.
Did you change your perspective about Prague after living here?
Yes, definitely. My perspective changed greatly after actually living in Prague. Before living there, I only had a vague image of living in Europe and the only knowledge I had of Prague was that it was a beautiful city. I was not wrong, but there was so much more to this city such as the amazing transportation, low prices on everything, amazing beer, great friends that I’ll treasure forever and much more.
What have you learned from living abroad?
The most important thing that I learned from living abroad is knowing how to stand up for myself. When you are in a new country and you don’t have any friends or family, you need to be able to stand up for yourself in different situations. Nobody will help you or figure out your problems for you, so you need to figure out a way to toughen up and stand your ground for certain things. I think everyone who has experience living abroad has toughened up compared to the days living at home. On addition to this, it is also important to make friends that you can depend on and vice versa. You cannot always handle a situation completely alone, and if you have a reliable friend it makes all the difference.