Sometimes much like if you want to get to know a person better, then you have to get to know the less salubrious side of them too. The same goes for countries too. If you’re an expat then sometimes it’s good to take a look at the darker sides of the country you’re making your home. If you’re living in the Czech Republic I would recommend a trip to Terezen (Theresienstadt) .
For the uninitiated Terezen is a fortress city which was used as a transit camp for Jews, from Czechoslovakia to the death camps like Auschwitz. As well as Jews, hundreds of Czech patriots who had resisted the Nazi occupation, Gypsies, homosexuals and many other people who were considered ‘undesirable’ to the racial purity of the Nazis vision for a new Europe.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea and it’s understandable if you wouldn’t be interested, but I would ask you to consider at least look it up on the web and then consider your decision.
Terezen located to the North West of Prague, was originally built in 1780 by Joseph 11 as a fortress to protect Prague. It was never tested as a fortress but was used as a prison by the Austro-Hungarian authorities. One of the most famous prisoners held there was no other than Gavrilo Princip, the assassin who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian in Sarajevo in 1914, an event which triggered the First World War (1914-18). He was held there for several years before dying of tuberculosis.
While Terezen was not a death camp like Auschwitz Birkeanau, thousands died of disease and malnutrition. The fortress’ most infamous episode relates to a visit made to the camp by the International Red Cross to check on reports of the maltreatment of Jews by the Nazis.
Notified of the visit in advance the camp authorities set up a huge false front and spruced up the camp to make it look as if all was normal. The levels to which they went to cover up the truth can be seen at the Lesser Fortress where there is a whole brand new shower and bathroom block which was shown to the Red Cross authorities, despite the sinks and showers never being plumbed in. Likewise the inmates were never allowed to use the facilities.
A propaganda film was also made to show how happy the inhabitants were. This can be seen during a tour of the Lesser Fortress. The Red Cross were taken in by these ruses and reported that conditions were ‘acceptable’.
Despite this occurring over seventy years ago there is a startling lesson for us all to remember not just to believe everything we see at first hand.
Beware of the ‘Boiler Room!’
You’ve arrived in a shiny new country which speaks a different language. The city is beautiful and life is good. But, sadly some facts remain the same across the world. There are as they say only two certainties in life, death and taxes. Let’s leave the former and deal with the latter. Maybe you’ve already got a job and relocated here. If so, lucky you and all the best for the future, BUT you may have friends who don’t have jobs and will have the chance to impart the following worldly wisdom to them, so read on…
For many expats language is a barrier and an asset to getting work. For most office jobs you might need a smattering of or proficiency in Czech, the downside. On the plus side if you’re proficient in English, you’ll be eminently employable as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Teacher. For more on this take a look at our previous post.
So what’s left? Well, presently there seems to be a whole slew of jobs in the IT /Software sectors with vacancies with large companies like Microsoft and Oracle. Prague it would seem is a techies’ paradise.
For most expats the first port of call is a popular website with expats and Czechs alike. Handily it’s called www.expatz .cz. Old sweats who’ve been here knocking on a decade, tell me that in its heyday it was a force to be reckoned with. Nowadays it’s more of a cross between Ebay, Loot and Craig’s List or in old money, the classifieds section of a newspaper.
It is for sure a great place to sell your unwanted stuff and get a bargain. When it comes to picking up a job, it can be more mixed. Oddly enough, the cause and solution of this issue can be found on the same site. The main buzz around the site focuses on two companies. Both place ads on a regular basis for ‘Sales Executives’, or more grandiose titles, and make promises of whopping sales bonus and meteoric career progression. One company regularly advertises with OTE earnings of CZK 90,000 per month. To put this in perspective a regular Prague salary is in the region of CZK 20,000 – 30,000. Anecdotal evidence suggests these are the realms of fantasy with a typical basic salary of CZK 13,000 (plus commission) being the norm. The get-out clause of course is that it is ‘technically possible’ to earn the high salaries.
Postings on www.expatz.cz paint a picture of a ‘boiler room’ type operation where new employees are given a telephone and a quota of ‘cold calls’ to make While cold calling can be part of a normal sales job, in this instance the leads, i.e. the people you will be calling are not supplied by the company and have to be generated by you, personally via research done during your own ‘unpaid’ time.
‘Working for breadcrumbs’ ‘Managers are pigs’ ‘A recruiter told me he wouldn’t wish working there on his worst enemy’ are just some of the flavor of comments on the site that relate to these types of jobs.
In defence of these companies there is a smattering of posts pointing out that if you don’t have a low basic salary and aren’t motivated to hit the phones then you won’t earn any money. Whatever the reality it would seem that staff turnover is high and morale pretty low. So the sage advice with these or any other jobs would seem to be ‘Look before you leap.’ My advice is that as with most things information –related the internet is the best place to research. Obviously you may need to take some postings with a proverbial pinch of salt.
I would advise signing up to Linked In, placing a profile and joining the varied amount of groups centred on expats life and business. I have found this an excellent resource for everything from finding proofreading jobs to looking for emergency plumbers.
Remember ‘Forewarned is Forearmed’ and there are plenty of decent jobs out there for the taking Happy job hunting!
Christmas is now just a fading memory and all we have left to remind us of the holidays is the excess poundage around our waist and our waif-like bank balances. If you’re an expat, and if you’ve been back to your home nation or you’ve had friends or relatives visit, it might be the time of year when your spirits start to sag a little and everything looks a little bleak. So far in Prague this year, 2012 , I mean (I bet you’ve already written it down a few times – I don’t because we have no less than six calendars to remind us what year it is (Christmas presents!) the winter blues have been held at bay for me by the unseasonably good weather. I had been told of the infamously long and snow-ridden conditions, I am sure I’ll be eating my words before the week is out. But my antidote to all this is ‘Don’t get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Get Planning! Use these long dark nights to make sure that when the longer spring and summer days and evenings do arrive you’re well equipped to make the best of them.
If you’re missing friends and relatives then get on the telephone/Skype/social networks and start lobbying them to make Prague one of their destinations for a trip this year. You live in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and the world for goodness sake, it shouldn’t be too hard. If they’ve ‘done’ Prague, make them think again. Put together an itinerary of your favourite things that they might not have thought of and are not ‘typically tourist.’ – you might just change their minds…
For yourself, plan to do something you’ve never done before – For example I am a skiing virgin (yes you read it here first) I blame my upbringing in the English Midlands for this woeful situation. Anyway plans are in full swing to go skiing in February. On another note I feel like I am getting complacent about Prague’s architecture, so I am going to dust of the camera and start taking some pictures to put up on Facebook etc.
Finally, why not find something to swallow up some of that time during the winter nights? Start that novel or screenplay (finished my first novel in October, making inroads into the second) Pick up a guitar or a paintbrush and see what happen (it’s not advised to do both at once!) Or get creative in the kitchen. I have started making fresh bread instead of buying it and it tastes pretty good. I just hope I’ll fit into my ski trousers. Whatever you do – have fun!
If you haven’t noticed yet, when wandering around the city, that people in the Czech Republic are very tolerant of pets, especially dogs. They have a very special bond with their furry friends. You can find that all sizes and breeds are welcome in many of Prague’s bars, parks, restaurants and pet stores. They are also allowed on public transport, but must be on a leash and muzzled. All the attention and love towards these furry friends has made Prague a pet haven for all. Where else can you enjoy the best beer in a pub while your four-legged friend sits next to you?
With all this love around you still need some laws regarding pet ownership. If you are bringing your pet from another country, you will need to obtain a veterinary certificate, including a rabies vaccination within the past year, your pet must also have a microchip. It used to be ok to just have the tattooed number for id, but a recent EU law passed states, that all dogs over six months old must have a microchip. The procedure can be done at any veterinary clinic.
Also once you get settled into your new home, you must register your dog with your district within 15 days of ownership. Only after your dog has a the microchip, you can go register yourself as a owner of the dog by filling out registration card at your district office. You will receive confirmation by mail. Also you are required to pay an annual fee for your dog. For one dog you will pay 1,500 Kč and for a second dog 2,250 Kč. If you live in a family house you will pay 600 Kč and for every second dog 900 Kč.
When walking your dog, the official law states that they must be on a leash in all public places but that is not strictly enforced. Although it is not unheard of to be fined for letting your dog run free. Many large parks such as Letná, Stromovka, Kampa Park and Petřín Hill allow dogs to run free. As far as picking up after your dog, it is the law and you can get fined. Many neighborhoods now have supplies of special bags and bins for owners to clean up after their dogs.
Here are a few veterinary clinics and hospitals around Prague:
Vetnemo – Prague 4
This is a nonstop clinic with the highest level of veterinary medicine. It offers a wide range of services including preventive medicine including vaccinations, de-worming and examinations before travel or pet shows, ultrasound tartar removal, advice for breeders, tagging of animals and tattooing, plus specialized diagnostics and veterinary treatment.
Horoměřice Veterinary Clinic – Prague – west
The family Veterinary Clinic of MVDr. Herčík in Horoměřice with an excellent reputation and long tradition is not only popular among breeders from Prague but also from distant parts of the Czech Republic.
Anděl Veterinary Clinic – Prague 5
It is supplemented by the same owner’s veterinary clinics in Beroun and Králův Dvůr and you can be sure that your pets will be taken care of in every clinic.
You can find many veterinary clinics around the city, usually each neighborhood will have its own. I hope you and your pet will find Prague to be the true haven it is for all four legged friends.