Updated: Mar 7, 2019
A Croatian's Erasmus experience in the Czech Republic.
2 years ago I decided that I want to experience living and working abroad, to go in some nice country and find out how it is to live on my own and speaking in the foreign language. It was possible through Erasmus+ program, I signed up and got a chance to do an internship in the country by my choice.
After careful consideration, I made up my mind and decided that I am going to Czech Republic, this friendly, positive-minded country which I already visited 6 years ago, on 2 weeks. Since I am born in Croatia and I'm living there my whole life, it was no trouble collect all paperwork and documentation for internship, because the visa is not needed, due to European Union. However, it was really challenging to find a company which will provide me an internship, but after month and an half I managed to get an agreement with AvenTouro as a marketing intern in Brno for 2 months.
Language barrier or not?
As far as language, Czech, and Croatian language belong to the same language group - Slavic languages, also called Slavonic languages, group of Indo-European languages spoken in most of eastern Europe, on the Balkan, and parts of central Europe like Slovakia and Czech Republic. Hence, there are some words that are same or similar in Croatian and Czech language, but there are also distinct differences in most of the words, pronunciation, writing, and accent. So, when I first heard the Czech language, I couldn't understand anything, but slowly after some time when I heard some words many times, I started to recognize similarity with Croatian words. The language barrier is no such problem because I normally speak English on my job and wherever I can, especially with young people like me, so there's no problem with communication. There is a barrier just with older generation, because most of them don't speak English or knows some basic words, and I can't speak Czech, so there were problems for example, in grocery store when I tried to explain to the sales lady what I am looking for, but it wasn't a big deal. Everyone, in general, is trying to speak English with me and explain what they want to say in the best possible way, so regarding this, I am very satisfied. The same situation is in Croatia, most of the people know English and they will try to help as much as they can.
Generally, Croatia and Czechia are very similar countries, but with some very big differences, it depends from which aspect you look. The food is very similar, we have some exactly same dishes as Czechs, and we consume a lot of dumplings, sauces, meat mandatory, sausages, soupes, noodles, cakes and pastries as Czechs.
Traditional Croatian dish (left) and traditional Czech dish (right) - both are stewed beef in special gravy with potato or bread dumplings.
People, culture, and lifestyle are very similar to the one in Croatia too, so for me in this area there was no need for big adjustment. People are mostly relaxed, careless, like to eat, enjoy in life, going out with friends and have a few drinks, especially beer, like in Croatia. Most of the Czechs go to the seaside in Croatia, so there are many personal friendships and connections between our nations, and the result is many similarities in our lifestyle. Prices of food are also very similar, although in Czechia some things regarding groceries are a little bit cheaper, but flat prices are more than 50% higher than in Croatia. So the renting apartment was little challenging considering these price differences.
I am very nice surprised by transportation in Czechia, both public transportation within the cities and buses and trains which are connecting the cities. There are so many lines and they are very punctual, you can get to any part of the city without a problem, and buses and trams go practically every five minutes, which is not a case in Croatia. In Croatia, some areas are very bad connected with the rest of the country and you need to go by two trains and a bus to get on certain places, public transportation is always late and they almost never stick to the driving schedule, especially during the rush hour or most of the day. At the same time, in Czechia everything is well organized, driving schedule and list of bus stops for each line is written on board on each public transport stops. So it is very easy to get to the desired destination if you are foreign which doesn't know the city or country. That's a big advantage in regard to transportation in Croatia.
Also, Czechia is rich with national parks, natural beauty, mountains, rivers, lots of forests, caves, rock cities, like Croatia too. So there is a lot to visit in Czechia, besides cities and usual attractions. My host company for Erasmus, AvenTouro, provides trips around all natural heritage in Czechia - natural parks, hike trips on mountains and everything worth to see in nature sense. We organize hiking trips during all seasons, almost every weekend, from spring to winter, canoeing weekend-trips, daily tours and also private tours with guide. You can check all events on AvenTouro Facebook page, and also on AvenTouro website, so if you are interested in this kind of trips, you should definitely try it.
Let's go to Czechia!
Furthermore, I would like to mention the biggest difference in: education system, economic progress and economy in general. Croatia has some problems in these areas, and the result is increased emigration of the population. On the other hand, Czechia is doing very well: its economic growth for 2.4% is significant and noticeable, unemployment rate of 2.4% is the lowest in the whole European Union, and its government debt is also low.
The education system, and especially emphasizing the higher education in the Czech Republic enjoys a worldwide reputation for its high quality and has some of the most respectable and oldest universities in Europe (the Charles University from 1348.), so it's no wonder that many students from all over the world are coming to study in Czechia, especially in Prague and Brno.
With all things considered above, I invite you to visit this beautiful, friendly, international and culturally rich country, because you will be delighted as much as I, by its hospitality and lovely people.
Author: Ana-Marija Matic