10. 8. 2009

What expats in Brno say: Outside of Central Europe, Brno is largely unknown

Dale Kalina, born and raised outside Toronto, Canada, arrived in Brno in 2007 to attend Medical School at Masaryk University after completing his Honours Bachelor of Science at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada. Before moving to Brno, he visited the city often to visit family, who still reside in the Czech Republic.

What do you like and don't like in Brno?

Brno is a city that I visited often as a child whilst visiting family, so it is wonderful to have been able to see the many changes that Brno has undergone in the past 20 years. It is wonderful to see the city largely reconstructed, and to have events in Nam. Svobody essentially every weekend of the spring, summer, and autumn. However, coming from Toronto, a city that is immensely proud of the varied lifestyles and cultures within it, it is extremely unfortunate to see events such as the yearly xenophobic marches on May 1st, the events that surrounded the gay pride march in 2008, or non-white foreigners being refused entry into bars. It is shocking to see that a city of Brno’s size, in the centre of the European Union, allows such open bigotry. That being said, Brno has been a wonderful place to study and live in over the past 2 years.

Where do you see the way how to make Brno more open and attractive for foreigns?

I have found that outside of Central Europe, Brno is largely unknown. Unique tourism sites in Brno, such as the Mendel Museum and the Old town hall, and Špilberk Castle deserve more publicity than they receive, as do some of the wonderful events in the city such as Ignis Brunensis and Brno Museum Night, along with the city as a whole. Brno needs to change its tourism focus from a stopover destination between Prague and southeastern cities such as Vienna and Bratislava, into being a destination in itself. New hotels, restaurants, and increasing infrastructure in and around the city are allowing it to be more accessible and able to handle larger volumes of tourists. The only thing missing is the tourists themselves, and that will increase with effective advertising and the development of an effective niche that can be held by Brno.

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

A best practice in my hometown, and a general adage across Canada is that Canadians are friendly, especially in terms of customer relations. Majority of businesses maintain a ‘customer is always right’ policy, and their staff will often do everything in their power to make a customer’s experience a positive one. Contrastingly, one of the major pitfalls of Brno is the largely inappropriate behaviour of majority of the service industry. In a city (and country) where it is commonplace for ATMs to dispense 1000 and 2000kč notes, it is surprising that people are outraged when one tries to pay with one. In general, the view that „bad service is better than no service“ is one that seems to be held in Brno. From the foreign police who refuse to speak anything but lightning-fast Czech, and scold you when you can’t follow, to bank staff who take pleasure in sending you on a scavenger hunt across the city for papers, stamps, and signatures. Improving customer relations would, in my opinion, greatly improve day-to-day experiences within the city.

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