23. 2. 2009

What expats in Brno say: I feel at home here

Natalie Ondřišková, born and raised in Athens, Greece, came to the Czech Republic in 2001, to join her Czech husband. She is a professional dancer and teacher, as well as an experienced traveler, having studied and worked in the UK, USA, India, Italy and the Ukraine. She moved from Breclav to Brno in 2003.

What was your first impression of Brno?

Brno is quite “rural” compared to Athens, which is a large and densely populated city. Although the nature here is beautiful and soothing, one thing which struck me (in CR in general) is the lack of sunlight –you take the light for granted when living in the south! Luckily, I had spent 6 months in Kiev before coming here and so the move to CR, being too a northern county in the ex-eastern bock, was easier.
Another thing was the fact that my good English was of almost no use around here. Luckily, while in the Ukraine I learnt some Russian and that helped me to start-off with communicating...

Do you know some best practices or experience from living in Athens and other cities which could be of use in Brno, too?

It would be great to make the town more accessible to those who don’t speak Czech. In other words, “foreigner-friendly”. This means being able to use English anywhere from restaurants to museums, shops and places of public interest. People here are very nice but, perhaps as a result of communism, they seem closed to those coming from abroad. Sometimes, their reaction to the language barrier is to treat foreigners with impatience and intolerance. Interestingly enough, in Kiev this barrier was also there but locals responded to it with a sense of humor and tried to communicate by using “arms and legs”, as we say.

What are your favorite places in Brno, that you would recommend for a visit?

Nice places to go are the health food and non-smoking restaurants in V. Spalicek (Rebio) and in obchodni passaz Gaute, plus cajovna Svetlouska and the tea room above Sklenena Louka, in the centre. We also enjoy visiting the planetarium with the whole family and ice-skating in Olympia during the winter months. During the warmer months, zelny trh is one of my favourite places to visit and shop and I just hope that this institution will remain there for years yet to come…

What comes to mind when someone says “Brno”?

Home. I feel at home here and I enjoy the quality of life that this city has to offer. Prague may be the no. 1 tourist destination in Europe right now but I would never change Brno for Prague. Brno means to me civilized living, with clean air and enough space around, good transportation and beautiful nature in short reach. It is free from the stress and accentuated materialism of bigger cities but is still able to offer a good balance of cultural happenings, educational opportunities, material wealth and social life.

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