One thing I’ve really been looking forward to is paring down everything I own and value into one large suitcase and a small carry-on. I love the idea of trimming out all of the clutter in my life and really starting out fresh, with just the essential reminders of where I came from to keep me grounded. And checking luggage is a hassle and the less I have to deal with, the better! Not to mention I may end up having to haul all my stuff to new apartment – I mean, flat (still not used to that!) – on the tram, like one of my handy Czexpats told me she ended up doing. Just the thought of having to lug all my belongings partway across a foreign city on public transport is making me think twice about taking even a small carry on with me, and considering a backpack instead.
Luckily, it seems packing light is the way to go. Everyone I spoke to about what to bring (and not to bring) recommended bringing minimal stuff, as most everything you’ll need for day to day life can be bought relatively inexpensively there in Prague. The ever-helpful writer of A Canadian In Prague even shared an article with me that I found rather sensible. It basically encouraged people to let go of all the items they keep or carry around “just in case”. They argue that such things are an unnecessary burden, and that anything that can be found for less than $20 and is less than 20 minutes away isn’t worth hanging onto in the off chance you might need it. You can find the article here if you’re interested, “In Case“, I thought it made a great read.
All that said, don’t shove that big suitcase back under the bed quite yet, there are still some items that you may want to bring.
One thing that is not cheaper in Prague is new clothes (At least, compared to North America). Most English teachers don’t earn enough to regularly go on a shopping spree, and I was told over and over that if I need new clothes for my move I should buy them here if possible. As an English teacher, I was wondering how I ought to dress, and the general consensus was that casual was acceptable. Still, I’d like to have one or two dressier outfits just in case of who-knows-what – and nice clothes cost more than $20, so I’m not breaking the advice I just praised above! (I don’t think). But I am going to hold off on buying a big winter coat, as I live in Texas and the selection here (that I can afford, at least) is a bit thin. Fortunately, I was also told by several people the second-hand shop scene in Prague is decent and there are lots of options for cheap used clothes.
The most often recommended item to me was good quality shoes and socks – the cobblestones can be quite brutal, apparently. Not only that, but I’ll be without a car and walking everywhere, so good sneakers and boots are a must. I was told to expect to wear through socks quickly, and the warmer the better for the chilly winter months. Boots should be waterproof if possible to keep all toes nice and cozy as they stomp through city. Ladies, wear heels at your own risk – apparently you have to be something of an expert to handle heels on cobblestones! Flats come highly recommended for dressier occasions.
A few other clothing related tips I received this past week:
- You can buy scarves everywhere, if you’re a fan of scarves (which I am!) try not to bring too many as you’ll soon have more. This will be a challenge, as I was seriously considering bringing nothing but books, coffee, and scarves with me. What else could I need?
- Fashion in Prague is anything goes! I asked a few people on what the styles in Prague were like and came away with the impression that the Czech people are quite laid back and practical about fashion, and whatever you feel comfortable in won’t garner too much attention. This is why I thought I could get away with wearing nothing but scarves. (Side note: Apparently 90s fashion is rather popular, for whatever reason. Just a heads up, so you don’t forget your scrunchie collection you thought you’d never use again!)
- Bring athletic clothes – the Czech people are very active, and more than likely you’ll end up doing more hiking, running, or cycling than you might expect! So if you have any good workout gear, best bring it with you.
- Adaptability is the key to comfort! On any given day, you might encounter a wide range of temperatures. A chilly day in winter can turn suddenly warm when the sun peeks out from behind those clouds, and a warm spring day might turn bitter if you stand in the shade too long. Get ready to live in layers, and have some handy to peel off and slip into at a moment’s notice.
The voltage in Czech Republic is considerably higher than it is in North America, so I’ve been warned not to bring anything electric I don’t mind frying – unless I can confirm it can handle 220v. Sadly, there goes my plan to bring my fancy electric tea kettle (what? don’t judge, I love that thing! It’s awesome). Most phones and laptops can handle the voltage fortunately, but best be careful and check all your items just in case. At least one person I spoke to had their phone absolutely fried. Everyday appliances such as hair dryers or straighteners can be bought cheaply once there, so don’t bother bringing those as they’ll just get ruined anyhow.
Also, a universal adapter is a good idea, since the outlets will be differently shaped and if you do any traveling around Europe, who knows what you might find.
Another quick note about electronics – high end items like laptops and tablets are more expensive in Czech Republic, and you’re better off buying before leaving your home country if you can.
Seems teaching is trade of minimal tools, most of which can be obtained on the internet. That said, you may want to pack a few light magazines or simple books to supplement your lessons.
But a really great tip I got was to bring English-language board or card games, travel-sized if space in your luggage is an issue. English-language Scrabble is particularly expensive and rare, but another good one to bring (also considerably smaller and, in my opinion, more fun) is Apples to Apples. I was particularly happy to hear that, considering that same game has been gathering dust in my old bedroom at my parents house, and it’ll be great to get some use out of it again.
Most of the things I mentioned above were mentioned to me by several people, but there were some random items a few people brought up that you may or may not want to stow away with you.
- Sheets – good quality linens are really expensive, if you’ve got nice sheets and have leftover space in the suitcase, might as well!
- Measuring cups and spoons – difficult to find, especially if you’re easily baffled by the metric system
- Hobby Items – One person mentioned wishing they’d brought more of their books, another was happy she’d brought her sketchbook and pencils. This got me thinking, just because I’m moving doesn’t mean I’ll abandon my hobbies, and bringing at least a few things to enjoy in my free time is well worth it.
- Regional snacks: Peanut butter was often cited as most missed (or, at least, all peanut butter related candies!) and it’s worth considering throwing one or two of your favorite snacks in your bag for a homesick day. Toothpaste was also mentioned by one person as being strange tasting in Czech Republic, so maybe toss an extra tube of that in the bag as well.
And lastly, there is one thing I thought of that no one mentioned to me at all. I’ve lived abroad before, though being an exchange student to Brasil (through Rotary International) was surely a very different type of travel than this experience will be. That said, I still have a tip that I can’t see going wrong: bring gifts. You never know who you’re going to meet, and as a foreigner you are, in many ways, a representative of your own culture. It may sound like the Rotarians brainwashed me, but it really made it easier to connect with people when I felt at a loss. The best gifts were small and inexpensive, but something unavailable in your new country. Souvenir items (like pins, pens, ribbons) bought in bulk can be really cheap (especially if you make them yourself) and go a long way, and will give the Czech people you meet something to remember you with and help you forge new friendships.
…Well, it worked in Brasil at least, and I reckon it’s worth a shot!
I think gift giving, especially when it’s not expected, is extremely fun and satisfying for both giver and receiver. Although I did see in a YouTube video about Czech culture (here) that if you offer a gift to a Czech person, they will feel obligated to say no at least several times (or more), so be prepared to insist!
This was a pretty fun and easy topic to write on, only wish I’d gotten it finished sooner – oh well, better late than never!
Special thanks again to all those who tolerated me badgering them yet again with questions! Y’all are the best!