Americans in Prague, a clinical study by Chris Eska

Prague in the 90s by Colleen E. Feehan
Pin It

In the summer of 1997, Chris Eska, a sociology major at Rice University, backpacked through Europe and, as most travelling do, made Prague one of his stops.

As a student of sociology, he was fascinated with the number of expats that were now calling Prague their home (either temporarily or permanently) and decided to make Prague's expat community the subject of his honor's thesis. In order to begin his study he needed to find resource materials; he found two. 

He also needed to have some idea of how many expats were in Prague; determining such a number, much less how to contact them, appeared impossible. 

The U.S. Embassy registers 20,000, while one Czech newspaper, Slovo, stated that 1,649 U.S. citizens were registered with the foreign police (Dec.1996). Wild, or rather, unreliable estimates put the number anywhere between 20-60 thousand. Eska found that the most reasonable figure is that the number of Americans actually residing in Prague for a period of over three months is between 7-15 thousand, with a slight decrease during winter. 

Eventually, through phone calls, door knocking, and word of mouth, Eska was able to interview 72 expats living in Prague. Of those 72, 1 in 5 were living here illegally/unregistered, and of the 80% who were legally registered, one-third had lived illegally at some point during their stay. 

Eska divided American expats into the following categories with the note that "of course, all individuals are unique and not everyone fis neatly into any one category... the expats are grouped into categories based on occupation, motivations for coming, and attitudes toward their experiences abroad." 

Teachers (Learners and Travelers):
Career Teachers (a.k.a. the Learners) either intend to teach English as a long-term career or have expressed a deep, sincere interest in learning the Czech language and culture. Travelers teach English to earn money while temporarily living in Prague. (This group also includes people that do not currently teach English, but share the same motivations for coming and have similar attitudes toward their experience abroad.) The English teachers are perhaps the largest group living in Prague. 

Bohemians:  
Came to Prague to create art or live an alternative lifestyle from what they felt could be attained in the States (The term 'Bohemian' is NOT used in a pejorative or patronizing manner; these people simply are the closest thing to what most Americans imagine when they think of the word 'bohemian.')  

Business Expats:  
Internationals either came on special assignment with a multinational corporation or came on their own in order to advance in international business. Executives moved to Prague to be CEO's of multinational corporations. Journalists came to work in the international or local media. 

Locals work in locally owned businesses and have very different lifestyles from the international business community (i.e. employees of Czech businesses, salesmen, tour coordinators, etc.); often long-term expats. Entrepreneurs either came to Prague for the purpose of starting a business or they started a business shortly after arriving. 

Dependents:
Came to Prague mainly because of a spouse's career move. 

Missionaries:
Came to Prague for religious reasons and either work as missionaries or church personnel. 

Eska includes in his thesis a brief history of the evolution of the expat community; expatriate institutions and organizations (i.e. publications, stores/cafes, bars/restaurants, etc.); similarities and differences among expats; demographics (i.e. parents' backgrounds, previous homes and moves); gender issues and language.

While the thesis is interesting and provides a wealth of information, for the sake of space (the thesis is 123 pages, find the link at the bottom of this article), the following excerpt is a compilation of quotes pulled from the 72 expat interviewees reflecting various experiences and attitudes. See if you don't find yourself somewhere among them. 

The first group of Americans that came to Prague experienced a fascinating and exciting period of social and economic revolution. Most of these early expats were recent college graduates or young journalists who were in search of a different experience or that newly developing story. Most taught English or worked as correspondents to make ends meet, but there were also a few of the so-called 'true Bohemians' who came to create art in an incredibly beautiful and inexpensive European city. 

These adventurous young Americans came to Prague to witness the era of change in a post-communist nation, and they found that simply holding a passport from the world's most successful capitalist democracy had its privileges; however, once the novelty of meeting Americans wore off, the Czechs seemed to adopt a cooler attitude toward Americans (some would say that there has been a noticeable backlash) :

"When I first came (in 1990) I saw there was a lot of opportunity; being American here was a key for any door. It was like the red carpet treatment. Everybody wanted to have something to do with you, it was like you were a puppy. 

You know, it was like 'You're American, you must be brilliant. Work for me, I'll give you anything.' ... Anything was possible. If you wanted to do anything, if you wanted to see anything, you just had to talk to someone and you could do it... .be on TV, be on the radio, go do this with this company, work at a publishing company, work for an ad agency...

Seven years ago an American was like the cutest puppy that everybody was wanting to  touch and play with and now they're just like  'Oh f*ck, another tourist or someone trying to tell  us how to do things'" (male manager of a shipping company, 33).

After the first wave of adventurers and journalists, there came large numbers of the young 'bohemians' as well as an influential smattering of young entrepreneurs who saw the city as an exciting, new, untapped resource for business. The height of the bohemian flood came during the 1992-1994 period. Because of the large artistic community of Americans living in the city, the press dubbed Prague the 'Left Bank of the 90's,' teeming with aspiring young Hemingways. 

There were so many expats in the city (some reliable sources estimate as many as 30,000 transients) that the term YAPpies (Young Americans in Prague) was coined and there were even jokes about the large numbers of foreigners temporarily residing in Prague. 

In order for the composition of the community to change, thousands of Americans have had to enter and eventually leave the Czech Republic - a fact that has helped shape the expat community and even influenced the way some people develop friendships. 

The turnover rate is extremely high, and this has been the source of much distress for many Americans: "It's very transient. I've only been here for two years and already the three closest friends that I've made have already left. It's like a revolving door" (female editor, 28). 

"There was a very tight expat crowd back then. People came together and needed each other so desperately that everybody became friendly. You'd see tomatoes in the store in December and everybody would call each other, Americans and Brits and everybody else, and they'd say 'God, did you see they have tomatoes' and then you'd have to invite everybody over for dinner because you just had to, because there were tomatoes! And certainly that doesn't happen anymore because there isn't that same camaraderie that there was...  Now everybody's like 'find your own tomatoes" (female entrepreneur, 34).

The 'horror stories' relayed by the first expats were often misleading to the new expats and these misconceptions about Prague's standard of living can often be comical: "I thought that the whole place would be a big farm with a red flag in the middle and a Russian tank. But that's what New Yorkers think about everywhere" (male writer, 23).

The Czech Foreigner's (sic) Police does not rigidly enforce its requirements for living and working legally in the Czech Republic - at least it does not enforce these laws against white Westerners.

"I'm legal in the sense that they never stamped my passport, so as far as I'm concerned I got here yesterday. I came across the border and had five suitcases and three guitars with me. Yeah, 'I'm just passing through.' I guess they didn't care because I look right" (male publisher, 30). 

However, it is necessary for many Americans to complete at least some of the legal requirements for certain business or social reasons. Almost every expat who spoke of this process expressed utter frustration, and many called it an incomprehensible 'communist relic': "It's a pain in the ass, it's horrible. The section of the bureaucracy that is supposed to deal with foreigners don't speak any other languages" (male bond trader, 26). 

The community may not be as small or as intimate as it once was, but it is still described by many as close-knit and almost all expats occasionally enjoy a little slice of America.

Regarding publications: "The Prague Post is more like a campus daily, let's face it" (female teacher, 25). 

Prognosis
A short-lived weekly newspaper during the early 1990's; a somewhat legendary publication because it was started during the 'exciting, romantic' early days: "Prognosis was never about journalism and news as much as it was about an ideal" (male writer, 30). 

(Editor's note: Optimism, Think, and the defunct Threshold Praha were also listed but there were no direct quotes associated with these publications.)  

Regarding stores, clubs/bars and restaurants:

The Globe
"It can be quite fun to run into people at these places, especially the Globe, and that's comforting. (female artist, 33). "I feel that the Globe is a very cliquey place... I don't feel comfortable there" (female teacher, 29); 

Tesco
"I have a love-hate relationship with Tesco. Especially the grocery store; there are certain products I can get only at Tesco and yet I feel the urge to kill while there. For the first few months I needed a drink after I left" (female writer, 36). 

Sports Bar  
"I like the way Sports Bar plays the Simpsons and Seinfeld. I never watch TV in the States, but here it's nice to have this one hour where all the Americans come together and it's like you're home for just that one hour... I'ts like Cheers when you walk in there. There's always someone you know" (female musician, 25). "Sports bar is full of all the obnoxious fraternity jocks that I couldn't stand in the States" (male journalist, 31). 

Radost
"They've got vegetarian food and downstairs the club is pretty good, and because all my friends go there I can go by myself and know that I'll see people" (female writer, 22). (Editor's note: Many other places were mentioned representing a wide variety of tastes - Roxy; Jo's Bar & GarazU maleho glena; Chapeau Rouge; Molly Malone's; James Joyce; Scarlet O'Hara's; Govinda; Red, Hot and Blues; Jama; Avalon and Kampa Park). 

Among the most frequently quoted reasons for coming are travel, adventure, working holidays, soul-searching, and interest in other cultures: In general, the Teachers are highly educated (at least a bachelor's degree), upper-middle class, non-religious, Caucasian singles in their mid to late 20's who came almost exclusively for self-expressive reasons. 

Among the most frequently quoted reasons for coming are travel, adventure, working holidays, soul-searching, and interest in other When asked if they were satisfied with the American culture they had left behind, most Teachers replied that they were indeed dissatisfied, but they specified that it had little to do with their motivations for leaving. 

While some Teachers (especially the Learners) said that living in one culture simply became boring, others expressed disdain for many of America's common social problems such as materialism, Puritanism, and insularity:

Although the Teachers definitely differ from the Bohemians, many of them told me that they, too, were interested in writing during their stay in Prague (especially the Travelers, who occasionally described themselves as living an alternative lifestyle) : We're all closet wannabe writers, but it's so cliched at this point that we can't even talk about it. (male accountant, age 27) However, the majority would not describe themselves as 'Bohemians' and they often described the expat artistic community as a pretentious clique:

I don't care about bullsh*t like that. I just used to look at the atlas when I was a little kid, and I always wanted to go to all those places. (male, age 26) Beefstew (poetry readings) is like verbal masturbation. I went to the Globe and asked a guy if I could borrow his pen and he said, 'Yes!, but be careful - I'm a writer!' and I was just like 'ewwh!'...

A lot of the writers that come here come on Mom and Dad's money and just sit in cafes and talk about it and don't really give anything back to the community. (female, age 27)  

For the Teachers, the move abroad is a temporary adventure; none of the respondents thought that they would be leaving the States permanently, and most assumed that they would be gone for six months to two years. All the Teachers came alone, but the Travelers were more likely to have friends (mostly American) already living in Prague. 

The Travelers were also more likely than the Learners to say that knowledge of the American expat community made the city more attractive when they were thinking about moving abroad: While almost all of the Travelers arrived at the airport or train station without a job or housing waiting for them, the Learners had made prior arrangements with language schools and often had at least a temporary flat set up in advance. 

Thus, the Learners were less likely to describe their move as a financial risk, though few of the Teachers thought of their experience as economically risky: I remember flying in on the plane and looking out the window and thinking, 'Oh my god, what am I doing here?' (female, age 25) The Teachers had virtually no problems adjusting to the lower standard of living, probably because it was better than or similar to their expectations. 

Teaching English pays very little compared to U.S. wages or the salaries of Business Expats, but the Teachers still earn enough to classify themselves as living like the Czech middle or upper-middle class. Yet the Teachers often ended up living in the least romantic of Prague's abodes, the panelak. 

However, most felt that they did not seriously miss the comforts of home, and they (especially the Learners) were unsympathetic to other Americans who complained: I'm so tired of hearing other Americans come over and complain that 'I can't find any brown sugar over here' .

I mean, this place just came out of communism, they're not going to have everything. Deal with it or leave. (female, age 29) One key difference between the two subgroups of Teachers is that the Learners are all fluent or semi-fluent in Czech while most of the Travelers know only 'survival Czech.' (the Learners also knew the most Czech of any group before arriving in Prague)  

This distinction impacts the way these expats interact with their environment and affects their opinions toward both Czechs and other expats. The difficulty of mastering this obscure Slavic language is a source of much dismay among the Travelers, while the Learners' fluency helps them enjoy Czech culture and makes some resentful towards the expats who do not learn the language: I have a new appreciation for Baywatch because it's the only show on TV that I can understand. (female, age 25)

Here's a joke: What do you call someone who speaks three languages: trilingual. What about someone who speaks two languages: bilingual. And someone who only speaks one language: American. (female, age 29)

Most of the Teachers feel that the Czech people in Prague are generally unfriendly, but many also realize that some of this characteristically 'cold' behavior is a result of city life, and are quick to say that Czechs are much friendlier in the countryside. However, many teachers say that they have sensed jealousy and suspicion from Czechs (some of the Learners blame tourists and the Travelers for this attitude) :

They think when we graduate high school, we get a Rolls Royce, a house in Beverly Hills, and a million bucks. (female, age 29) At first I thought they were mean, but my opinion has changed since I've learned the language and seen a lot of the country... I like to be around Czech people and learn about their culture. (male, age 26) Because of these language and cultural differences, the Travelers said that about 75 percent of their friends are foreigners (although not exclusively Americans). 

On the other hand, the Learners reported that almost half of their friends were Czech. Of course, these statements do not mean that only a few Teachers ever have intimate friendships or meaningful contact with the Czech peopleWhen asked if they planned to return to live in the States, almost all the Teachers said that they definitely would, and only a few of the Learners were unsure. 

The most important reasons were American culture (for them and their future children), friends and family, and high-paying jobs, respectively. One charismatic Texan became nostalgic and started energetically eulogizing American culture when asked if he missed his home:

Damn straight, I miss Mexican food, the ranch, family, hunting... I miss getting up at 4 a.m. in the morning and being miserable until I kill something, I miss going and just like having one of the most unhealthy lunches in the world like chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and putting ketchup on top of it. I miss cheese enchiladas with beans and rice so that I fart the rest of the day. I got a 1965 Buick Le Sabre convertible, 2-door, white, it's got a 400 cubic inch engine and I only get 15 miles to the gallon, and I miss it, Goddammit, I miss going down that road at 75 miles an hour with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other. I miss Chuy's, I miss Austin, and I miss Taco Cabana at 3 a.m. in the morning. (male bartender, age 26)

BOHEMIANS 
These expatriates didn't try to fit into Prague, for they often hadn't fit in at home, either - Prague was merely a place where you could wear your dream self cheaply. It was a city where, if you thought you probably, maybe, quite possibly, were a writer, you could try the role on for size - drink great beer all night and sleep all day, read a little Kafka, work on a poem, enjoy the fetal comfort of being surrounded by a wall of impenetrable language, take street cars, get laid without the fear of AIDS, borrow a little money from friends, crash at someone's pad, teach a little English, sneer at soccer while talking up baseball, write a journal, form a rock band, eyeball the strange Slavic proletariat, hang out with the hip locals, read a little Hemingway on being an expat in Paris, float in monumental cholesterol, pig out in the local pubs and feel guilty or bad-boy heroic about it, glance at the sights through a bar window, read a little Gertrude Stein, write long letters, talk shop with other literati, smoke to your heart's content, let your body rot and never hear a word about it, get a Czech girlfriend who would let you lie on a sofa and read a book while she mopped the floor, and become a drinker with a writing problem. (Novak, 1995)  

This excerpt, which comes from a book that chronicles the experiences of a Czech-American who returns to Prague after 30 years, is similar to many media portrayals of the young American artists who live in Prague. Most reports attempt to simultaneously glorify and patronize these individuals, but I hope to tell their story from an unbiased, sociological point of view.

I use the term 'Bohemian' not out of condescension, but because it is the term that most Praguers, journalists, expats, and (many of the) artists use. Most Bohemians are highly educated (at least a bachelor's degree), upper-middle class, decidedly non-religious, Caucasian singles in their early 20's to early 30's who came to Prague to fulfill some form of self-expression, usually through some form of art. 

During the interviews, they explained their reasons for coming in terms of making a change in their lives that was exciting, unique, and often related to their passion for art: I was tired of how America works, how you can be smart, talented, and intelligent and still live below the poverty line for 20 or 30 years...

It's just the complete opposite of the mentality in America. I was tired of all the pressures from society, parents, friends who are telling you that you're a slacker, a bum, whatever. (male photographer, age 30) Every single Bohemian who spoke with me expressed a dissatisfaction with American culture that had at least some impact on their decision to leave: I think US culture is sh*t, basically. Cell phones and cars and watching TV all day. (male writer, age 36)  

There's not much redeeming about it, really. It's really consumer-driven, and products, and 'Sell!', and I really notice it now when I visit the West. (female photographer, age 22) I've never been into the whole suburb lifestyle. It's just surreal... I was definitely dissatisfied but I didn't realize it until I got here. I started to see the cracks. You really can't see something objectively until you remove yourself from it. (male writer, age 30)  

Do I have any bones to pick with American culture? Yeah! I have every bone to pick with American culture... Your own culture can drive you crazy in a way that only your own family can drive you crazy. (female writer, age 27) To my surprise, many Bohemians also spoke critically of the 'politically correct' attitudes they left behind: Americans are too nosy. Say I'm smoking a cigarette. Why not just let me smoke that cigarette? Why does it have to be such a big deal? The same thing with abortion.

If one woman wants to have an abortion, why does that have to be the entire country's business?... Here people aren't worried about getting sued. It's just much more relaxed. (female musician, age 25)

When asked to describe their family ties and friendships at the time they decided to move, the Bohemians said their relationships were either worsening or remaining the same - most of the deteriorating relationships were a result of recent physical separation, although a few were unhappy with their friends in America. At the time of their move, most Bohemians planned a short stay of less than a year. Many ended up living in Prague for several years, although none of the interviewees had been in Prague prior to 1992:

I think that's the whole hallmark of this generation of expats. It's not like everyone's packing up the steamer and saying good-bye to Grandma. Most people come for about two years. (male writer, age 36) However, the few Bohemians who thought they were leaving the States forever (though not necessarily to live the rest of their life in Prague) made this group of expats the most likely to actually 'emigrate' in the strictest sense of the word. 

Most Bohemians came alone and had no job or housing set up when they arrived; however, they were the expat group most likely to either come with friends (not spouses) or have friends who lived in Prague already. When asked if their move posed any financial risks, most Bohemians said 'yes.' However, further discussion revealed that this specific move was of little consequence, as they were perpetually anxious about finances because of their low earnings: cultures:

We had heard that Prague would be cheaper than other countries, but we'd be broke anywhere in the world. (male performance artist, age 25) In general, Bohemians can only speak 'survival Czech,' but they did not express the Teachers' dismay at not being able to communicate with the Czech people; speaking Czech was not a top priority for most: I know numbers, and colors, and I can talk about drinking and computers, and foods, and days of the week, and I can ask if a store has something, and I can tell a girl that she has pretty eyes. (male publisher, age 30)  

When they encounter Czechs in the workplace, most Bohemians are extremely critical of their work ethic; however, these artists also seem to appreciate the priority that Czechs give to leisure time (with the exception of several unusually ambitious performance artists) :

When I first got there I was having a nervous breakdown. I'll sit there for an hour and have absolutely nothing to do. I was sitting there thinking 'What do I do, What do I do.' It didn't matter, they all just sat there. It's three o'clock on a Friday and there's no one in the office. The boss walks down while I'm still working, and he'll say 'I got to go to my cottage.' And I'm like, 'But I'm nine-to-five' and he says 'Yes, But I got to go.' I'm just used to, when I'm getting paid nine-to-five, I work nine-to-five. I'm starting to adopt the Czech work ethic.

I'm bringing novels to work. I finished The Piano in one day of work. (male writer, age 23) The Bohemians' lack of language skills is probably one of the reasons that they expressed more hostility towards the Czech people than most other expat groups: They all think they're high and mighty, but they're sh*t. They're all arrogant about people that I've never heard of in my life. Like the guy that invented the word 'robot' - he was Czech. How the f*ck am I gonna know that!? And that's all they talk about, the guy who invented the word 'robot!' (male writer, age 23)

Many of the Bohemians feel that Czech people contradict themselves as they go through social and economic changes, as one talkative publisher noted in an interesting comparison: Czechs seem to think that they are superior to Americans, and at the same time they can't do enough to imitate America. They're becoming what you are and they despise you for it... There used to be these peoples in Polynesia called Cargo Tribes. 

They were completely primitive and during the first half of this century they would find things, flotsam and jetsam, that would float up on their shores. And they thought these things were from the Gods. They would find a top hat that flew off a guy on a boat, and it would become the symbol of power for the chief, like a gift from God. They would find like a Donald Duck Airplane toy, and they would see airplanes fly overhead and so they would build temples in the shape of Donald Duck Airplane toys. And this is what the Czechs are like today. 

This stuff is just floating up on their shores and they're picking it up and wearing the attributes of the West without being Western. I don't feel like I'm from a foreign land here, it's like I'm from the future. (male publisher, age 30) In general, the Bohemians do not have much interaction with Czechs, and even their positive remarks seemed to relate more to the city than to its people: It can be amazingly frustrating, but then you'll walk outside and you'll see some beautiful building and you'll remember why you're here. (female performance artist, age 25)  

Not surprisingly, most Bohemians said that about 80 to 90 percent of their friends are foreigners, and their foreign friends are more likely to be American than any other group of expats. Those who have lived in Prague for more than a year were generally more satisfied with their artistic community and friendships, and they spoke very highly of their American friends: Your friends weren't people from work. They were actually people you enjoyed spending time with and talking to. We would just go from pub to pub talking...  

Friendships in Prague are much more meaningful. It's like dog years and people years. It's like you've known them longer.(male writer, age 30) However, some of the Bohemians who had only lived in Prague for a year or less often did consider the artistic community pretentious, exclusive, and sub-standard; these opinions are probably influenced by the so-called 'glut' of aspiring writers that the media and other expats occasionally deride:

It was fashionable to be a painter or a writer. So everyone was waiting for the next Fitzgerald or Hemingway to pop up. Everyone, even if they weren't a writer, would write a poem and suddenly they were a poet. (male writer, age 30) Being the best writer here is like being the best writer in Oklahoma. (male writer, age 30) Despite reports that Prague is a haven for writers, the Bohemians actually engage in a wide variety of artistic pursuits.

There is a thriving expat theater community Another interviewee was a New York performance artist who was in the middle of a successful run of her one-woman play. Near the end of my stay, I had the pleasure of meeting two highly motivated performance artists who were living in Prague as part of a ten-city project that involved the woman reproducing 18th century paintings on her husband's naked body. 

Another woman had come to Prague specifically to train with a virtuoso Czech cellist, and other expats were interested in photographing the 'City of Spires' or working as graphic designers and animators. 

Many of these disciplines are combined in the relatively new Think Magazine, a subculture monthly published by a self-proclaimed anarchist from California. In addition to several articles about radical politics and drugs that were downloaded from the web, Think also contains fashion spreads and pages and pages of trendy advertisements aimed at the hip, young expats. 

When not pursuing their artistic interests, the Bohemians spend much of their time at Prague's expat cafes and bars (70 to 80 percent of their time was spent at typically expat venues). 

Some of the most frequently named places were Radost FX, the Globe, Chapeau Rouge, Marquis de Sade, and the Roxy. However, different interviewees seemed to hold certain places as favorites while condemning places like the Globe as being 'too cliquey' and Chapeau Rouge as a 'seedy meat-market.' 

The Bohemians, similar to the Teachers, are in touch with nature and enjoy Prague's parks, often writing poetry or playing in drum circles in romantic hideaways such as Kampa Park. Another popular activity is meeting on the Charles Bridge after dark to either sing folk songs or simply watch people as they stroll along the ancient stone path. 

Regardless of their particular favorite pastime, all the Bohemians agreed that Prague is a perfect city for revelry. Although not every Bohemian takes drugs and stays out all night, there is some truth to the media's portrayal of Prague as the legendary hedonistic city for young expats: When not pursuing their artistic interests, the Bohemians spend much of their time at Prague's expat cafes and bars (70 to 80 percent of their time was spent at typically expat venues).

Some of the most frequently named places were Radost FX, the Globe, Chapeau Rouge, Marquis de Sade, and the Roxy. However, different interviewees seemed to hold certain places as favorites while condemning places like the Globe as being 'too cliquey' and Chapeau Rouge as a 'seedy meat-market.' 

The Bohemians, similar to the Teachers, are in touch with nature and enjoy Prague's parks, often writing poetry or playing in drum circles in romantic hideaways such as Kampa Park. Another popular activity is meeting on the Charles Bridge after dark to either sing folk songs or simply watch people as they stroll along the ancient stone path. 

The first year I was here, I didn't work. I just lived off of savings. I wrote all day, I partied all night. I learned a lot about American culture. (male writer, age 30) I think Napoleon said it best. He said, ' Prague is a town of men with no courage and women with no morals.' That's a good thing. (male publisher, age 30)

BUSINESS EXPATS
According to most journalists and expats, the rapidly changing economy of the Czech Republic has made the Business Expats the fastest growing segment of the expat community. Within this category, I will occasionally distinguish between Executives, Internationals, and Journalists. The Business Expats came to Prague almost exclusively for self-instrumental reasons, namely to advance their careers in international business. 

Most are fascinated with the idea of working abroad, and many also think of their time in Prague as a stepping stone for their career in the States: Of all the different expat groups, the Business Expats were the most likely to say that friendships and family ties in America were unchanged in the months preceding their move. Although there were practically no problems with their friendships, the Business Expats did complain that they had reached a 'dead-end' in their career in the States, they were unhappy with their previous job, or that they had just graduated and wanted an interesting experience for their first job. 

Only a few of the Journalists were interested in any of the 'bohemian' activities, but almost half (mostly men) of the Business Expats said that they felt at least some dissatisfaction with American culture: Once in Prague, most Business Expats found the standard of living similar to their expectations, though a few felt that it was lower than they imagined. In general, the lower standard of living was not a difficult obstacle for them to overcome, but they were the expat group that expressed the most distress about the unavailability of goods and services: The telephone company sucks. 

That's the only way to describe it. They have those big ads that say they are connecting the world. What people don't know is that they are connecting the world to wrong numbers! ... They're idiots, they're just plain idiots. (male real estate manager, age 40) working in a foreign country can also have drawbacks:

I tried to be a freelance journalist, sending stories back to America, but writing about the Czech Republic for an American audience is like writing about Vermont for a European audience. It's like, ΠWell, today, the Vermont governor said - ' What do they care?' (male journalist, age 30)

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of living in Prague for the Business Expats is the difference between the Czech and American work ethics. They were by far the most critical group of expats when it came to describing Czechs in the office place: The Czech work ethic is still a carry over from the Communist error. They didn't used to have to work. They got paid regardless of what they did or how long they were there or performance or anything...  

One of the biggest problems here is that workers have no loyalty. They job hop depending on the almighty Czech Crown. (male real estate manager, age 40) After years of working in America, many Business Expats could not 'comprehend' the Czech work ethic and often blamed the Czechs' shortcomings on the after-effects of Communism.

Of course, not all Business Expats share the opinions expressed below, but problems in the work place made many Business Expats irate: Here I have to give specific instructions. Here I tell someone to call Mr. So-and-so. Two hours later I'll ask 'Did you call Mr. So-and-so?' and they'll say 'The phone was busy.' And I'll say, 'Did you call back?' and they'll say 'You didn't tell me to call back.' So you have to tell them every single thing. (male real estate manager, age 40)  

Perhaps one reason that Business Expats often experienced miscommunication in the office is that they know the least Czech language of any group of expats. Only a few described themselves as even semi-fluent and most said they know 'survival Czech' or less. For many, Czech language is irrelevant to their daily lives, but some (especially the Journalists) feel more anxiety about their lack of communication skills: That's embarrassing.

I no longer take lessons over here because I became frustrated with the language. It's very difficult. (female journalist and public relations consultant, age 40) I run into young folks who come and can't understand why everybody doesn't speak English, an I'm personally offended by that attitude, that others think that the rest of the world should be the same as America is and, '

Why aren't they catering to us?' (female journalist, age 49) However, most Internationals and Journalists found the Czech people to be very unappealing, even when they tried to speak Czech. I would like to state that not all Business Expats share these opinions about Czech people, but I am including the following quotes in order to accurately report the study's main findings:

They don't do anything to try and make you feel like you're part of their culture, because you're not, and you never will be. You end up being very isolated in your bubble. (female retail store manager, age 30) Some Business Expats were utterly outraged by Czech people: I have no particular fondness for Czech culture or for Czechs. I'm not here because of the Czechs. 

They're cold, they're unfriendly, they're small- minded and they'll treat each other horribly in the stores and yet they'll think it's bad manners if you don't take your shoes off in their house. Now let's get our priorities straight. People are more important than furniture! It's these aspects of life that just grate on me...  

Sometimes I'll get out of work after a really frustrating day and I look around and I just can't believe that such an idiotic, little people built such a beautiful city! (male journalist, age 31) This man noted that his self-described 'bitterness' probably stemmed from his job's necessity to constantly deal with Czechs, whereas many expats were free to dissociate themselves from Czech people whenever they pleased. 

He also used an interesting analogy to explain why he thinks Czechs dislike Americans: We're starting to dominate their culture. Imagine that you woke up and there was French breakfast cereal on your table, you turn on your TV and they're starting to use a lot of French words, you notice that they're using French language in the advertising, you go to the movies and instead of serving popcorn they have croissants. I mean French this, French that, everywhere French. You would get irritated and that's what's happening. Every aspect of what I've just described is what's happening here except our culture is becoming their culture. (male journalist, age 31)  

In their spare time, the Business Expats often relax at pubs such as James Joyce, Molly Mallone's, Scarlet O'Hara's, Sport Bar, Oscar's, and Jo's Bar. For casual meals, they usually named places such as Jama, Red, Hot, and Blues, and Sport Bar, but for nicer occasions they often went to the upscale international restaurants such as Kampa Park, Kafky Palace, and Ambiente. 

Most Business Expats said they spent about 80 percent of their leisure time in typically expat venues, and they also enjoyed international travel (a luxury that most expats have trouble funding). Although they are not the all-night revelers that the Bohemians and Travelers claim to be, several of the Internationals and Journalists explained that expats of all backgrounds, including some regional managers of respected firms, 'party' later in life than they would in the States. 

Besides drinking the tasty Czech beer, a few even mentioned the occasional drug experiment or 4 a.m. rave.


- This is a very condensed version of his paper, to dowload the complete report, click here

Cold Weather, Hot Deals - Get $40 off hotel bookings
Think Magazine is a grenade in the lap of journalism!

_ The Economist

Our Mission

1. To make you think
If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you. If you really make them think, they'll hate you.
2. To tell the world the truth
When you only tell the truth, you start earning trust, as journalists, our mission is to tell the truth.
3. To make you laugh
We want to make you laugh, chuckle, smirk, grin or smile as we try to find the upside of life in the face of all the evil around us.
 

Name Day/Svátek

Yesterday : Soňa Today : Taťána Tomorrow : Arnošt After tomorrow : Kvido

 
UK Gaming Platforms Dominate the Online Gambling I...
News Desk UK Gaming Platforms Dominate the Online Gambling Industry

For centuries, gambling has been a popular leisure activity throughout the world.

Hooked on Czech Surrealism
Noel O'Brien Hooked on Czech Surrealism

Aficionados of the arts and those who loiter at tramstops, will by now be aware of Czech surrealism. [ ... ]

Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing by John Seabrook
Alexander Zaitchik Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing by John Seabrook

John Seabrook was a privileged preppy who grew up listening to folk rock in the 1970s. 

Pojďte do našich řad
Pavel Košek Pojďte do našich řad

Samozřejmost nedostatku informací, myšleno informací vztahujících se k [ ... ]

Racism vs Racialism - The Sermon on the Metro
Jeffree Benet Racism vs Racialism

As far as I'm concerned, "racism" is a bad word. Not because of the connotations of discrimination  [ ... ]

Lose until you win
J. Hurewitz Seduction, keep trying until you succeed

I was sleeping with this girl when I was in college.

St. Valentine's Day: 5th Century Rome
Charles Panati St Valentine Kneeling In Supplication

The Catholic Church's attempt to paper over a popular pagan fertility rite with the clubbing deat [ ... ]

How to be the "Funny Guy" in your workplace
Joe Bodia How to be the "Funny Guy" in your workplace

Well is it the end of the world or what? (Can I go home now?

Picking up the Czech
Marek Durda Picking up the Czech

Some people say that Czech is one of the hardest languages to learn, but with the right motivations, [ ... ]

Music Extras: CD Rarities reviewed in Think Magazi...
Keith Kirchner Music Extras: CD Rarities

Some rare CD releases you should find in this lifetime, as reviewed by Keith Kirchner...

The Masons are still at it after all these years!
Barbara Holland The Masons are still at it after all these years!

Rudyard Kipling wrote the story a hundred years ago and Sean Connery and Michael Caine starred in t [ ... ]

St. Patrick's Legacy: Green Beer and Hangovers?
Darren Halls St. Patrick's Parade in Singapore

St. Patricks Day is upon us. A time for making merry, and joviality the Irish way. But what is it re [ ... ]