Madeleina Kay

Thomas Adams (Czechia)

Thomas Adams is my Brexile in Prague 🇨🇿🇪🇺 He moved from the UK to Germany in August 2018, then to Czechia in October 2019.

This is his interview:
1.) How did you feel on the 24th June when you heard about the UK’s vote to leave the EU?

I remember I got up early to watch the news and I felt like it couldn’t be real, like it was a sick joke. It was a big shock, like walking down the stairs and tripping when you thinking a stair was going to be there. I saw that map of blue across England and I felt like I had been betrayed by my community.

2) What were the key driving factors that made you decide to leave the UK?

There were definitely some push and pull factors here. I could only really leave the UK after I finished my degree and by that time I had already experienced life abroad in Germany. I felt like Europe was pulling me in with better job opportunities, different things to experience, more language opportunities and better social life. I feel more confident speaking a second language and while its possible in England, its not as easy to find. When I considered working in England I realised that the jobs in my area of Kent were not that appealing, realistically I’d have to commute to London or move to a different city. If I was going to leave family and friends behind to move somewhere in the UK, why not leave the country? At the same time I felt like the UK was pushing me away, a political campaign that won on the back of such slogans as “we don’t need experts” was not welcoming for me. The referendum and time that followed really carved out a political dichotomy and I didn’t want to stay and be caught up in it. I like going out and talking to people, talking about new ideas, sometimes talking about politics with strangers and it felt increasingly dangerous to do that in the UK. I saw more and more English flags on the streets and the hatred of the EU and the topic of immigration just became impossible to avoid. As an educated man with long hair and a desire to travel and learn foreign languages, I didn’t feel wanted.

3) How/Why did you choose your current country of residence?

Although I still feel a deep connection to Germany, as it was the first place I had lived outside of the UK, I like the Czech republic a lot too. I feel like the culture is similar to Germany, but people are a little more relaxed. Maybe I also like being the exotic (but welcomed) outsider and one day I will go back to Germany and I won’t be the outsider anymore, I’ll be a German with some very strange ways of talking. So I’m enjoying the time I have here in Prague right now. There were also some job related reasons, it may not be a surprise that if you speak German and English in Germany then you aren’t any more employable than the next person. But, in Czech republic, speaking English and German can really open up doors.

4) Do you have citizenship for your current country? Do you still have EU citizenship? If no, are you hoping to obtain it?

Unfortunately, my passport is still British even if I try to disguise it with Czech residency and a German driver’s licence. At the moment I plan to work here for a few years then return to Germany to work and apply for citizenship. Although its also possible that I really like it here and stay longer, or try Austria.

5) Do you plan to return to the UK or hope to move to another country in the future?

I promised myself I would never return to live and work in England again, but I have no problems with coming back to visit. I feel like moving back to England is admitting defeat, to go back to limited job choices and possible stagnation. At the moment I would prefer to work here for longer, maybe try somewhere exotic for a short time and then return to Germany. I’m not ruling out the possibility of living and working in Scotland though, especially if it were to become independent.
6) What was the most difficult aspect/greatest challenge you faced in moving?
This one is a little bit difficult to answer as I left the UK to work in Germany in August 2018 and moved from there to Prague in October 2019 and came back to England in February 2020. I was only able to finally get back to Prague in May and that was the most logistically difficult part. Each time I have left the UK saying goodbye to friends and family was difficult because I was never really being sure how long it will be before I see them in person again. That’s even more true this time with quarantine laws, it may be sometime before tourists from the UK are allowed to visit Czech republic, or that residents are allowed to leave.
7) What do you miss most about the UK?
I think we always miss what we are familiar with, of course I miss friends and family but I also miss the English countryside. I also miss British pub culture and the chaos than ensues from it. I don’t miss hayfever, but I do miss the rain. I miss scrumpy cider and twiglets. Now I’m back in the Czech republic and I can’t speak Czech, I miss having the possibility to talk to anyone on the street.
8) What do you love most about your current country of residence?
It’s hard to pick just one thing and it may be even harder to explain exactly what I mean. I love the imperfect beauty of the Czech republic, that the landscapes and old architecture are gorgeous and yet it contrasts with the communist apartment blocks. I love the openness and friendliness of younger Czech people and how it contrasts with the gruff and direct nature of older generations and their unwillingness to speak English. I love the cheap bars with locals and silently laughing at tourists paying ten times the price in the old town. I like how reliable and cheap the public transport is and I like how I’ve seen men bring their own stools and chessboard onto the metro. You can appreciate both the beauty that is different to the UK and the strange quirks that are different too. If it was a perfect city without the unusual contradictions then it would seem disingenuous.
9) Do you consider yourself to have a “European identity” and what does that mean for you?
The Brexit referendum has made me really question the idea of identity. Because of the transition period I haven’t really seen an effect of it yet, I got Czech residency just in case (and I needed it to get back) but all my time in Germany I still enjoyed freedom of work and movement. It seems so horrible to just start travelling, working and living in Europe just as restrictions come in that make it harder for me to do so. It feels like I’m losing something that should be an automatic right.
I have a European identity as much as people in Europe can identify me. I have friends in Nuremberg, Prague and Riga. I feel particularly close to German and Czech culture and I would say I do feel European, especially as I promise myself that one day I will be (legally) European again.
10) Do you still consider yourself to have a “British identity” and how do you feel about it?
I think I’ve read a similar answer here before and I may expand on it. I am still legally and culturally British, I grew up in England and lived there until I was 21. I don’t feel shame in that and a lot of younger Europeans take pity of young English people living abroad. But, as I said before, I intend to legally change my nationality in the future and in this sense I will stop being British. I think it is possible to lose my British identity as well, but this would be very difficult. I never went to school in Germany, I never grew up as a kid there with different TV programs, different toys, I never saw different buildings being torn down or constructed. But its also a good question, if I only visited the UK irregularly and I changed the majority of my life to be in another language and I watched kids TV shows from the 90’s and read kids books and lived and breathed in the same city for some time I think its possible to lose that British identity and change from being an Englishman who speaks German to a German who speaks English. I don’t know if I would go that far to actually start to cut off my British identity though.
Additional Questions (relating to Corona Virus)
11) How has the Covid19 pandemic affected your life?
I moved back to the UK in February and was very concerned about the impending pandemic. I found a new job in Prague and planned to move in the first week of March and that is when everything hit. I could no longer meet my friend in Nuremberg and have him help me move my stuff from his over to Prague and flights became erratic. I tried five times of booking flights, rescheduling my start date with the company and finding an apartment and five times the flights were cancelled. Eventually I was able to fly to Germany in the first week of May and try to take the train. But, the trains had been cancelled since March (nice that the website still allowed me to book this journey). Eventually I crossed the border in Czech republic in a taxi. So, I experienced the majority of the lockdown back in the UK, now that I’m here in Prague the restrictions in the city are being lifted and life is going back to normal.
12) How do you feel about your country’s response to the Covid19 pandemic compared to the UK government & media?
Although I was not here during the strictest point of the lockdown I followed the news closely. At the moment of writing, 1st of June 2020, Czech republic has had 321 deaths and the UK… well a lot more. For comparison the population of Czechia is 10.6 Million and the UK has 66.6 Million. For a country that has 1/6 of the population to experience less than 1/100ths of the amount of deaths is extraordinary and there are so so many reasons why.
Czech republic started a state of emergency and total lockdown very early, before their first death. The UK was incredibly late even as it saw what was happening in Italy and Spain. Furthermore, part of the Czech republic’s lockdown measures were that masks had to be worn in all public places.
I have been watching Dr John Campbell talk about Covid19 since January and recently he said that if everyone wore masks, this alone would reduce infections by between 50-75%. The UK has ignored this advice, ignored other advices, let the prime minister skip out of important meetings prior to the pandemic and has let the situation really spiral.
I went to the bank and had my temperature taken and hand sanitizer given to me before I could talk to someone, while everyone wore a mask and someone enforced the 2M rule. In England, they do not even check temperatures at the airport. You can buy hand sanitizer and masks at almost every corner shop or metro.
Last week there were more restrictions lifted and now people are returning to work and only have to wear a mask in office spaces and on public transport. Some bars and clubs are now open as normal, as are all shops. I went to a concert last week and if that seems crazy to you, let me remind you that the UK is trying to reopen schools this week when they are stilling suffering the same deaths rates a day as the Czech republic has had during the whole pandemic.

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1 Comment

  1. Christopher Lean June 30, 2020

    Interesting comment about German and English not really making anyone more employable in Germany. When I first moved to the Czech Republic(2003), speaking English opened a lot of doors- but those days are over.Many Brits come over here as TEFL teachers as there is a demand for native speakers. The end of the WA will pretty much stop that. The costs and capital reserve requirements and time to organise residency permits for a 3rd country national will probably deter Brits from continuing to come here. They don’t come to teach for the money, as the pay is not great, and without the bank of a well-off Mum and Dad, it becomes non-viable.

    Further, in the event of no deal, it is likely that certain licences that were set up in the UK to allow EU trade ( particularly in some services ) will come to an end. Some may then find that their qualifications from the UK are no longer automatically relevant and they may struggle to get EU licences- either that or they have to employ EU citizens that have them. At what cost?

    For example, three of us have had to take local Czech exams to allow us to apply for a new regulatory licence here to be allowed to continue to trade- even though two of us are permanent residents. In fact it was a condition of joining the professional association here.

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