They went behind the big puddle and left here everything they were used to all their lives so far. They are living their American dream and proving that the golden Czech hands live up to their global reputation. Some of them are going to return one day, some don’t even think about it. But they have one thing in common – the Czech Republic will always have a special place in their hearts. In the American special, we interviewed about twenty Czechs, who described the USA to us with all the pros and cons.
On the roof of the Czech Center in the Upper East Side, we met with Matej Zahradníkwho has been working as a director in the foreign representation of the CzechInvest agency in New York for over three years. “The Czech Republic is still not a strong brand. Unfortunately, for part of the local population, the region of Central and Eastern Europe will always be one continuous container of countries somewhere next to Russia,” Zahradník told us about the obstacles that Czech companies have to overcome if they want to break into the American market.
“The correct timing of the company’s entry into the American market is also important,” he says Jan Kaňkaco-founder of the Czech company SilentLab. “Certifications, deliveries or customs need to be resolved. The whole process can be time-consuming and expensive.” adds Kaňka.
“One of the basic things is to find a person who has experience and connections in the American market. Which we also do quite often – we look for people for companies“, he adds Josef Scharfen from Hydra Consulting, which helps European companies enter the American market.
She also shared her story with us Nela Ďopanová, founder of Fpohybu. She went to America to establish new contacts and explore the possibilities of expanding into the market there. “For the most part, investors are immediately interested in the exit stage, which means that sustainable business is not at stake there,” Ďopanová describes the situation.
“But the United States is certainly a country where one can fulfill one’s American dream. When you have a really good idea, work hard and go after it, you can succeed,” he says Markéta Šebelovádeputy director of the Chicago office of the CzechTrade agency.
To America without a plan?
It can be managed even with almost, an example of which is the businesswoman Vera Navrátilová. She is now involved in a New York non-profit organization and deals with real estate. But her beginnings in America were not easy – she came here alone, without any support. “One evening I stood outside in the rain and I had nothing at all – car, phone, housing, job or citizenship.” Navrátilová confides.
The businessman also experienced difficult beginnings David Drobík. “For a while I even lived in community housing, where there were a hundred of us and everyone had their own ‘box’ (ed. note: in English sleeping pot).” says Drobík, who founded a startup in America and put all his finances into it.
Sometimes, however, none of the above is necessary and a coincidence is enough. David Bures lived in Chicago for a year and a half after graduation. He returned to the Czech Republic in 2020, but forgot to switch the location on LinkedIn. At that moment, the Czech company DCT Cleaning was looking for someone with his work experience, so he became a sales manager in the Chicago branch.
Czechs are needed in the USA
Czech companies need Czechs in their American branches. Thus, we can see numerous Czech communities all over the United States. There’s one in Chicago right now. “It is also thanks to this community that the Czech consulate is here,” he says Ondřej Pometlorepresentative of the Consul General of the Czech Republic.
A Catholic priest also lives in the Czech community Dusan Hladik. He was sent to America without knowing a word of English. His mission was supposed to last five years, but it has already stretched for almost a quarter of a century. In his own words, he has already “learned a little” English over the years, and the mission publishes the last magazine written in Czech in the USA.
Czech steak in Manhattan and light installations in Justin Bieber’s house
In addition to the Czech magazine, we can also find many other Czech products in America. He knows his stuff Vit Stuchl, owner of the Bohemian Spirit restaurant, which offers Czech cuisine in the middle of Manhattan. “We won the award (Editor’s note: Bib Gourmand from the Michelin gastronomic guide) for our tenderloin and we are very proud of it,” reveals Stuchl.
And Czech glass is not far behind in popularity. Lighting installations from the Czech company Lasvit can be found, for example, in Justin Bieber’s house, the collections manager for North America told us Adam Prskavec.
Another popular Czech product in the USA is Rudolf Jelínek spirits. The company currently supplies its products to approximately six thousand stores across America. “Classic plum wine is strong for Americans, which is why the company produces plum wine with honey, which is weaker and has a very good response among Americans,” explains Robert Bokůvkathe company’s sales representative for the US Midwest and Florida.
How does America see the Czech Republic?
The professor of history and international relations at Boston University also points out the differences between Czechs and Americans Igor Lukeš. According to him, American society today is insanely polarized. In the American special, we talked with him about her view of the Russian invasion, the American political scene and the distant Czech Republic.
According to the President of the Senate Miloše Vystrčila is our political representation received positively by America. “This is important for us, as the US is clearly our most important partner,” says Vystčil.
A large part of professional life is also connected with America Miroslav Konvalina, who reported on the events behind the “big puddle” after the Velvet Revolution as a correspondent for Czech Radio in Washington. For the past four years, he has been the head of the Czech Center in New York.
A person from the Czech Republic has it easier than a Mexican
The topic of migration to America is addressed by a professor of social psychology at the University of Massachusetts Jana Sládková. In the USA, she taught English to foreigners from all over the world, and their stories inspired her so much that she decided to study the subject more deeply. “A person from the Czech Republic has it easier than, say, a Mexican. We are white, which is still a great privilege here“, says Sládková.
There is also interest in the Czech language. But not the way it used to be in the 90s. “Students have many other options,” he says Irena Čajkováprofessor of Czech and Spanish at the University of Chicago.
“Interest is growing among Czech and mixed families, but it is declining at universities,” confides the linguist Faith Dvořáková. According to her, it is a difference in teaching, when in America the language is learned in an applied manner, while in the Czech Republic the emphasis is on spelling.
It’s common to have a nanny and move out of New York in retirement
Věra Dvořáková is also a mother of two. “The United States does not have paid maternity leave. A woman is only entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. However, it is common to have a nanny,” explains. Adding to the opinion Barbara Meunierbank risk manager at the New York branch of Société Générale, says women in America go to work more or less to pay for daycare and not lose their jobs.
Retirement savings is an equally pressing issue here. “Young people know that they have to start saving for retirement right from school, otherwise they won’t be able to manage it later. For many retirees, however, living in New York is prohibitively expensive and they are forced to move elsewhere,” Meunier describes.
Health insurance also remains a perennial problem. According to Dino Dvořák, director of data research at the American startup Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals, which is developing new pharmaceuticals for the treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression, anxiety or addiction, quality insurance is the only option to survive here in the long term. “It’s very expensive though, so you have to have a good job that pays for your insurance,” says Dvořák.
To a university in the USA without paying tuition fees
American universities are not cheap either. However, according to our guests, they also have their doors open for Czech students, even if they do not want to pay the standard tuition fee, which is in the order of tens of thousands of dollars. “You can get scholarship and teach students here. That way I got my doctorate without having to worry about tuition, which was paid for by teaching in the labs.” the chemistry professor advises Dalibor Samešat whose university the basic tuition is 60 thousand dollars (approx. 1.3 million crowns, editor’s note).
Doctoral studies and the possibility of a scholarship are also referred to Veronika Ročková, professor of econometrics and statistics at the University of Chicago. “I contacted several people in Prague to find out about our program and for talented students to apply. However, not a single one came,” confides Ročková.
21st century architecture solves social problems
On the basis of the Fulbright scholarship program, which aims to improve the situation of homeless people with the help of architecture, an architect also went to New York Karolina Kripnerová. She is the co-founder of the Architects without Borders organization. “I have been dealing with social architecture or social overlaps in architecture since my studies. Mental health is a big topic here in New York, because a lot of people end up on the streets due to mental health issues“, adds Kripnerová.
An architect also joins the theme Jan Klaška, whose portfolio includes, for example, the football stadium in Doha. “Architecture today revolves around sustainable development and tries to help and solve acute social problems.” explains Klaška.
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