We made it to Prague! We have now been living in Prague for a week and are busy settling in and getting the lay of the land. As you may have guessed, the first few days were pretty overwhelming and there was a lot for us to do and learn. But now that we’ve gotten over the big hump, I wanted to share our journey, what we’ve been up to, what we wish we had done better, and where we’re headed from here!
Author’s note: This was written on June 14 reflecting on our first week in Prague.
In case you missed it, we moved to Prague! We left Vancouver, BC on June 1 and flew to Paris. We spent a few days there, a few days in Munich and then took the train to our new home, Prague. I’ll have posts coming up about our time in Paris and Munich, but wanted to start with an update on the home front.
As our train rode over the Vltava River and we got our first sights of the Prague we only knew from Instagram photos, I couldn’t stop smiling. A huge grin took over my face. This was it! Colin and I looked at each other, equal parts excitement and nerves, still not quite believing we were doing this.
We arrived in Prague on the evening of Friday, June 7. That was our big mistake. Arriving right before a weekend meant we had to wait to do a lot of things, since they weren’t open until Monday. So my number one tip if you’re moving abroad: Show up early in the week!
Luckily, we had already secured an apartment. I am so so so glad that we did this. After dragging ourselves, our four huge suitcases, our carry-ons and Ellie through multiple airports, train stations and cities, we were exhausted. There was so much we needed to do upon arrival, and I’m so glad that finding an apartment was not one of them.
We also lucked out in that our apartment is amazing! I am so happy with the place. We’re on the sixth floor (seventh in North American counting) of an apartment building (with an elevator – thank goodness!) in the Vinohrady neighbourhood. The area is full of beautiful buildings, lots of shops and restaurants, green spaces for walking Ellie, and great transit routes. It’s also a quick walk to the Old Town tourist centre and it’s a neighbourhood that’s popular with expats, meaning English is widely spoken.
Our apartment itself is great. It’s bigger than we thought it would be, super bright and airy, and packed with storage. We have a ton of shelves and drawers that are completely empty. It’s also quite modern and fully furnished with nice stuff. Our biggest win was finding this apartment back in March, securing it, and being able to move in right away to an awesome place. (PS: We’ve got an extra mattress and a fold-out couch, so come visit!)
On our first full day in Prague, we were about as productive as you can be on a Saturday. We headed to the mall and got ourselves set up with cellphone plans. Compared to Canadian prices, it was a steal. I have 100 minutes, 100 texts and 10 GB of data, for $26.50 CAD per month. My Canadian phone bill, and with only 3 GB of data, was double that per month.
Next, Colin went off to an interview for a reception job at a hostel. How impressive is he to have an interview already scheduled for our first day in Prague? So proud! After the interview and a training session, we decided against the job as the pay wasn’t great and they were only hiring for overnight shifts. But don’t worry – there’s good news to come on his job front!
Because it was a Saturday, we weren’t able to open a bank account, set up internet, buy our transit passes or register with the foreign police. But we did go grocery shopping and fully unpack. It was so much fun walking around the tiny Albert grocery store in our neighbourhood, discovering new products, and marvelling at the insanely cheap price for beer and cheese. And it was even more fun to finally unpack our suitcases – since we had originally packed them back in April when we moved out of Surrey!
On Sunday, we channeled our inner suburbanites and headed out to the Tesco Extra at Eden Shopping Centre in Slavia. Tesco is kind of like Superstore. There we were able to get all of the groceries we couldn’t find at our local shop, plus a bunch of household items. We finished off the day sitting at a local cafe and using their wifi to do some work (me) and apply for jobs (Colin).
As we journeyed around on the weekend, we found ourselves learning the little things you skip over when you’re only visiting a city. We had to learn what the Czech words for push (tam) and pull (sem) are on doors. We discovered new Czech words at the grocery store and got to practice the few greetings we knew. And we made our best guess as to what the green button on the trams does and when the appropriate time is to press it.
A few days in, and we had accomplished a lot. But it felt weird to not be rushing around and doing all of the touristy things. In fact, we still hadn’t seen Prague’s famous Charles Bridge or Astronomical Clock by our sixth day in the city. It’s a big adjustment to go from visiting a new city to actually living in one. We’re spending more time setting up our daily lives, learning new things and just being wow-ed by what’s around us.
Monday was our big day to do all of our errands, since everything was finally open. We headed to the foreign police where we had to register and get stamps in our passport. We waited less than an hour and thankfully had an officer who spoke enough English for us to get by (though signs posted in the office say they must speak in Czech). After talking to other expats, we found out we really lucked out here!
We then headed to Equa Bank to open a bank account. Unlike Canada, there aren’t any fees and everything seems to be much simpler. I would highly recommend Equa Bank to any other new expats in Prague as our experience was wonderful. From there, we went to the Litacka office to buy our transit cards. We got annual transit cards, so that we can ride all of the trams/buses/metros in Prague for a year without worrying. For two of us, and including an express fee to get the cards on the spot, we paid $450 CAD, so $225 each for a year. In Vancouver, we wouldn’t even be able to get two monthly passes for the same price!
Tuesday started off with another big win as we finally got wifi set up in our apartment! We were having some trouble with it the first day, but it seems to be working just fine now. And again, it’s way cheaper than back home. We’re paying $16 per month for the first three months (and then $32 per month after that) for faster internet than we had in Canada. We’re going to have a very hard time going back to Canadian cellphone, transit and internet prices after Prague!
On Tuesday night, our fifth night in Prague, we finally did the thing you’re supposed to do in this city. We had a beer! I can’t believe it took us so long to have our first Czech beer. Well, Colin’s first. I cheated and had a shandy, and a few sips of his. It was really nice to head out to a restaurant and take a little breather after a few busy days of organizing. And, of course, the beer was really cheap. It was about $2.50 CAD for half a litre of beer!
Since then, we’ve been getting more and more comfortable in our new home and our new lives here in Prague. On Wednesday, we went to a local cafe, Cafe Du, for a work date in the morning. They had air conditioning, strong wifi and delicious iced lattes, so I’m sure we’ll be back. For dinner that night, we went to a local restaurant for a slightly more Czech meal. I tried the dumplings (note: not at all like Asian dumplings) that seem to be popular here. My verdict? I think I’ll pass. But the rest of my meal was great!
On Thursday, Colin had an interview for a bellhop position at a hotel. But, because he’s amazing, he got promoted during the interview and offered a job in hotel reception. He’s making the job hunt look too easy! We also discovered the magic of a Potraviny (a small, usually Asian-run, local grocery store that seems to sell almost everything) and continued to find the best routes nearby to walk Ellie. And I’ve finally stopped taking pictures of the same beautiful buildings on our block.
We also decided to take advantage of the “cool” weather on Thursday (it was 25 degrees instead of the 30+ we’ve been dealing with) to go explore some of Prague’s biggest sites. Old Town Square is only a 20 minute walk from our place so we headed out around 8:30 PM, when the sun was down, with Ellie in tow to cross the big items off our Prague bucket list. We saw the Astronomical Clock, walked a bit of Charles Bridge, wandered the Old Town and ate a trdelnik.
If you don’t know, a trdelnik is an ice cream cone but instead of a regular cone, you have a donut/croissant style cylindrical piece of bread. They’re very popular in the Old Town, but (despite what signs say) they are not actually a traditional Czech dessert. But they are still ice cream and pastry – so what could go wrong? They’re yummy, but definitely overrated and overpriced. And Colin had quite a time with his when the ice cream started seeping out of the bottom.
It was good to see everything but, to be honest, I’m a lot happier and more impressed in our neighbourhood. I think our buildings are prettier, and I certainly like not having to deal with crowds. I’m so glad we don’t live right in the Old Town. Even at 9:00 PM, the crowds were insane and we could barely walk on the bridge. We had to carry Ellie at times for fear that she would get trampled. I’m so looking forward to revisiting these sites in the off-season when we might actually be able to see them without swarms of people.
So after a week in our new home, I think we’re settling in really nicely. We’ve gotten our apartment all set up, and taken care of important things like registering with the foreign police, opening bank accounts, getting cell phones, etc. We’re into a nice routine with our Ellie walks, grocery store trips, and getting work done from home. And we’re making time to discover restaurants in our neighbourhood, as well as cool places in the city.
I can’t wait to keep exploring – both here in Prague and the Czech Republic, as well as more of Europe. I’m already itching to book a flight or a train ticket somewhere new and exciting. I really want to take advantage of this year and make the most of where we are. But I also want to establish routines and really set up a life here in Prague. It’ll be all about finding the balance in living our daily life while still pushing ourselves to explore, try new things and take advantage of opportunities. And hopefully that spirit will follow us home to Canada and we can be more adventurous in our daily lives back home.
One week into our year-long Youth Mobility Visas, 51 more to go!
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