1/ A short description: (Who are you? Where are you from? How long have you been in the Czech Republic? How long will you stay here?…)
My name is David Wiinikka-Lydon and I’m originally from Massachusetts in the U.S.. I’ve been in the Czech Republic for about two years now and will probably be here for two more.
2/ Is it the first time you have lived abroad? Why did you decide to live in the Czech Republic, in Pardubice?
Yes. I’ve moved quite a bit in the U.S., but this is the first time I’ve lived out of the country. I moved here with my husband Joe, who got a research job with the new Centre for Ethics at the University of Pardubice.
3/ You mentioned that you were a designer. What impact did it have on your professional life? Can you keep working as a designer from here?
Being a digital artist allows me to work from anywhere with an internet connection. I’m not a very aggressive person when it comes to seeking out freelance jobs though, so it has been pretty tough for me. Also, since I only know a little Czech, it would be quite difficult to find a full-time design job (or almost any type of job) here in Pardubice due to the language barrier. Luckily, I have managed to find some work.
4/ Do you remember your first thoughts when you discovered that you were going to come to the Czech Republic?
Deciding to come here was an interesting moment in our lives. It was exciting and scary. We wondered if the idea was completely crazy – two married men, moving to another country that neither of us had ever been to. We’re both pretty adventurous, but this was taking things to a new level. We did a lot of research about the country and the culture before deciding, to make sure we could afford it, to make sure the laws would protect us as a gay couple and that we’d feel safe. Luckily, we are legally married and the Czech Republic acknowledges that. Otherwise I don’t think I would have been granted a long-term residence permit and that would have been a deal-breaker for us.
5/ What was the most complicated thing you had to face before moving to Pardubice, and since you have been here? How did you handle it? Did you get any assistance?
We had lots of complicated or confusing issues. Dealing with the Czech Embassy in the U.S. was probably the most confusing and stressful. In the beginning, we didn’t know what the proper permits would be for us to apply for and the embassy offered no help. Thankfully we had help from the University of Pardubice, EURAXESS and especially you, Caroline. If not for that assistance, I’m quite sure we would have given up and not moved at all.
6/ At what point did you find out about the EURAXESS contact point at the University of Pardubice? Did you already know it before you came?
I can’t recall when we found out about EURAXESS. Most communication was with Joe since he was the one moving for a job. All I knew was that we were getting great help. I hadn’t heard of them before.
7/ Could you tell us how EURAXESS has assisted you since you have been here?
The list is long. Here are some things we’ve been helped with:
Accompanying us to the immigration office, setting up a bank account and cell phone plan, Czech language classes, dealing with doctor’s appointments, acting as a translator on our behalf, getting a medical insurance card, obtaining a živnostensky list for me (which is a Trade License so I can work as a freelancer), and even meeting new people.
8/ Do you have any business projects with EURAXESS and or the University of Pardubice?
I have actually done a little bit of design work and photography for EURAXESS and next semester at the University of Pardubice, I’ll be co-teaching a seminar on “Designing Effective Presentations”. My part will be about designing in PowerPoint. I’m looking forward to it!
9/ How is life in Pardubice/the Czech Republic? Is it hard to live here?
Pardubice is a really pretty city, unlike anywhere else I’ve ever lived and it’s much smaller than other places I’ve lived. It’s very quiet. Some people think it’s a bit boring, but I’ve really enjoyed it. If I get bored, somewhere new is just an easy train ride away.
10/ How do Americans picture the Czech Republic?
This question is so funny to me. When we told people about our big move, I think half my family and friends thought we were moving to Chechnya and a lot of others thought Czechoslovakia was still one country and still communist. So, I guess to answer your question, I suspect that many Americans think the Czech Republic is a dark and dangerous place and also probably couldn’t find it on a map.
11/ What do you do here that you don´t do in US?
I walk a lot more, travel by train and drink burčák. When we first moved here and everything was so new, I walked for hours every day and took photos of EVERYTHING. We don’t have castles in the U.S. so places like Prague or Český Krumlov don’t even seem real. Of course, you don’t even need to leave Pardubice to visit a castle. There are two within walking distance. Also, the Czech Republic train systems are great and really affordable. When we leave here, I will miss these trains. As for burčák, there’s no way to explain it. People will just have to come experience it for themselves.
12/ What is the main difference between Czech/European culture and American culture?
The U.S. is so big that there are many sorts of cultures there, but where I grew up (northeastern U.S.), it’s similar to Czech culture in a lot of ways. We lived in Alabama just before coming here, and I often tell people I had less of a culture shock moving to this country than I did moving to Alabama…and we don’t even speak the same language here. Czech people have a reputation for being cold, but I have found the people I’ve encountered to generally be quite nice.
13/ Do you have a favourite place in Pardubice, or a place where you go to get away?
I love walking along the rivers. I also enjoy visiting the cafés and wine bars around the Old Town Square. You might find me wandering around taking photos of the old buildings or peacocks at the Zamek. I do it almost every day.
14/ Do you have any hobbies?
In addition to art and photography I also like baking and hiking.
15/ Speaking of taking pictures, I heard you were part of an art exhibit in Prague. Could you please tell us more about it? Are you planning to organise something in Pardubice?
I was. There is a photography group I am a part of in Prague and one of the members asked me to be a part of an exhibit he organised. It was very fun and I even sold some work. There is a chance I might have the opportunity to have an exhibition here in Pardubice next year. Hopefully it will happen. Stay tuned for that!
16/ Have you been able to make some friends and contacts here?
It’s a bit hard because I don’t speak Czech, but I’ve slowly managed to make a few great friends here.
17/ If someone was coming from US to the Czech Republic, to Pardubice, what advice would you give them?
If they are planning to come for a job, do some research about the country, their laws and the culture to help decide if it’s somewhere you’d want to move. Visit first, if you are able. Assume that there will be a lot of bureaucracy and cultural differences so be patient with the process and be considerate of another country’s culture. Use EURAXESS. They are a huge help. Learn a little Czech. Most people will appreciate if you at least try to communicate in their language. And lastly, if you do come here, explore! There is a lot to see and learn about.