Which country has a better quality of life? (The Czech Republic or the US?)
I’m Jen. And this is Prague, the Heart of Europe and my adopted home Subscribe to get an American’s take on this enchanting city and all things Czech Welcome to the adventure So, today we’re going to get to the heart of the matter and we’re going to talk about quality of life, because that’s kind of like the most important thing, isn’t it? Everybody’s metrics to measure this are different and so I’m just going to use my own personal metrics and instead of getting into government statistics and all that kind of stuff, I’m just going to use my own personal experiences So we’ll start with work. Now when you meet an American, probably the first question they will ask you after “What’s your name?” it’s “What do you do?” and I’ve found that they’re generally not interested in what you do in order to see if your interests align Or to ask you advice about a certain thing They’re asking what you do to classify you— Do you make more money than them? Are you more educated than them? So for example, if someone asked me “What do you do?” I would say, “well, what do i do? I make videos like all day long.” And they would ask me then “Well is that how you earn money?” and I’d say “Not really—hopefully someday.” But then they’d say, “Well what do you do to earn money? Like how do you support yourself?” So that is the that is the basis of that question They want to know about where your money comes from In Europe, it’s quite odd to hear someone ask “what do you do?” Especially here in Czechia It doesn’t define you. It’s not who you are so they might be more interested in um you know well why are you here (if you’re American) what are you doing here? What do you like about the city? What do you think of the food? things like that You know, I have a lot of Czech friends that I don’t even know what they do, and they know that i used to be a teacher but they don’t really get into so much of how I earn money now It’s just not— it’s something that you do during the day to support yourself But it doesn’t define you So that’s a big difference Another big difference with regards to work and the quality of life is that in the United States at my job in law firms I got two paid vacation weeks a year um that is not the law it’s just something that was offered to me in that position so some people don’t get any paid vacation But i got paid vacation and I never took it because there’s a feeling that if something— if you take a week off and something goes wrong in your department, you’ll get blamed and it’s too stressful and then you go on vacation and they call you to ask you, like, where a folder is or something It’s like you can never quite get away from work So why bother? Here employees (I believe) are mandated four weeks of vacation year (I believe) paid vacation and they take it very seriously as do all European countries so generally like August is the month where a lot of work shuts down and also there’s a decent chunk of time around the Christmas holiday season Now that’s great to get this guaranteed paid vacation That’s wonderful But there’s a little crack that English teachers fall into There’s a thing here called the Živnostenský list It’s like a trade license and most of these schools the language schools hire American and British english teachers but they have to be working as independent contractors on this list And that means that the school doesn’t have to pay as they would a normal employee with health benefits paying for your social security and and giving benefits like vacation time So unfortunately I’ve never had these glorious four weeks of paid vacation It’s just something that I built into my budget, something that I know that I have to earn enough money, so that if i’m not working for a certain amount of time, that I can pay my bills But it’s good in theory it just doesn’t seem to apply to the vast majority of teachers that I know that are working here Some of them are employees but most aren’t As far as quality of life, I like the Czech way You know, they kind of realize that vacation is an important part of your your mental health, your family time like—that is life
And work is what helps you pay for a life Whereas in the United States, vacation is something that you can afford to take when you have a lot of money So the next very important metric of quality of life is the people, right? Your social life So in the United States—or sorry, in Los Angeles, just keeping this to Los Angeles— I grew up in in that city, so I know a lot of people and it’s very big, it’s very wide You need to drive all over the place And it takes so long to go from one place to another, that there are some places that we just never go So we have a joke in LA: “Do you live east of the 405 or west of the 405?” The 405 is like—it’s like the mother of all freeways and it gets incredibly busy pretty much all day and every—all the streets near it, trying to feed it, are so busy that you can’t even get through So, just to cross the 405 is like an extra 30 minutes to your drive So we have friends that live on the east and we just say, like, sorry! See you on your birthday Just, no—we’re not going over there Also, because the public transportation system is almost non-existent in Los Angeles, people really do end up drinking alcohol and driving The more responsible people will have like one or two drinks, and then drive But there must be so much drunk driving in LA that I didn’t even consider before I moved here So in Czechia, it is a zero tolerance um alcohol blood level, I believe No. No drinks. You don’t you don’t drink and drive But because the public transportation is so great in Prague, That’s never been an issue It’s not even something I think about So the fact that you have to drive everywhere, and the fact that your friends live all over the place and you can’t get to them, (it takes like an hour to get to their house) that really kind of kills your your will to go out Another thing about socialization is that in LA, there’s not a lot of public space for you to go and enjoy Even at the beach you have to pay for parking, it’s like— god, ten dollars? Maybe more? And then there’s like sand and you know sharks and I mean— you don’t do that every day In LA, we tend to socialize privately So our maybe our apartments, our homes are a little bit bigger because there’s more space, and we generally have like a little outdoor area because we’re not in apartments We’re, like, flat And so we’ll invite our friends over for a barbecue And that’s fine that’s a lot of fun The Czechs, on the other hand, socialize, I would say, more publicly Particularly in the city So first of all, there’s tons of open space, public space There are squares with benches in them Sometimes there’s musicians, pianos placed in the squares that you can listen to There’s big gorgeous parks and you can take your dog and he can run free There’s just a lot of public space where you can meet people And there’s this really awesome hospoda culture It’s like it’s pub culture, basically, but it’s totally normal to go to a pub after work with colleagues to meet up with other friends It’s not limited to like the young people who are looking to meet someone of the opposite sex It’s not like you’re going to the bar in LA to like meet someone Here, it’s like, you go and you sit at a big table and you get your half liter of pilsner and you just kind of like have some discussions. It’s fantastic, I love it It’s totally cheap—even in the center it’s like— Americans, it’s like three dollars in the center. That’s outrageous! if that’s like the most expensive you’ll find, right? And you go and you sit there and you enjoy yourself and that’s all it costs to spend you know half an hour an hour however long it takes you to drink your beer with your friends it’s fantastic And if you don’t drink there’s “kavarnas” coffee places In the United States, we treat coffee like we’re filling up our car, right? We go in, we order a big one and then we run out to our next job And here, you go in, you sit down you relax and and meet with some colleague or friend there and you kind of like order a piece of cake because why not? You’re sitting and enjoying a coffee So as far as quality of life, if you don’t have a lot of money to spend then the pub culture, the coffee culture or just the free space that you can spend your time
with your friends—that is a lot better than spending the money to go to an expensive restaurant in LA and then getting basically two hours to hang out with the people that you care about And of course family So obviously when you live halfway around the world from where you grew up, you are leaving a lot of your family behind, and that’s a really hard part about living overseas But the truth is, in LA, I didn’t really see my family that often Half of my family is up in San Francisco, and Ii only saw them about once a year You just don’t make the time to go the two hours to see your mom I don’t know, I think we just work so much and just don’t— I don’t know if we don’t value family as much?—I don’t want to say that— but the czechs definitely value family a lot and they all get together in their sort of family “chata” which is like a cottage and I always hear that people are meeting their grandparents and aunts and uncles and getting together there’s a lot of stories like that So, I think that family life is a little bit more central to the the Czech life than it is at least in Los Angeles One way that moving to Prague has really brought my family closer to me is that a lot of my family members now have an excuse to travel to Europe And so a lot of them are coming to Europe visiting the Czech Republic After they’ve been here maybe we’ll go to another city the next time And I even convinced my sister whom I did not grow up with—we grew up in different homes— and so she moved here for a year and it was a really valuable time for me for us to get to know each other And we probably wouldn’t have that relationship had we not lived together in Prague Okay so another another thing that adds greatly to your quality of life is where you live In LA, I lived in a series of expensive apartments in decent areas in not the best areas But, the worst part about it was that they weren’t near anything they were near other apartments, but you couldn’t just walk to the store, you couldn’t walk to restaurants or pubs you had to drive And there’s an old rock song— it’s called “nobody walks in LA” I’ve had people pull over in their car when they’ve seen me walking on the street in LA and say, “Do you need help? Are you—? Did your car break down? Is everything okay?” because it’s so rare to see people walking But, in Prague, I live in a sort of a mixed zoning area so by that, I mean that there’s three or four flights at the top of the building that are residential, and then the bottom floor is shops or pubs, restaurants or places to get the things that you need So I literally just pop downstairs and get whatever I need Just the thought of getting in my car to go get milk just depresses me so much Here, I go 70 steps to get some milk at the corner store So that just adds to my happiness it’s just easy Now housing has gotten more expensive in the last eight years, definitely, and there’s a great video that Arepas for Dinner did about this She’s a YouTuber who lives in Prague and I’ll link it below But one thing that i personally find that’s driving up the price is the short-term rental flats or the airbnbs. It’s not all airbnb, it’s a very touristy city. It’s the same thing that’s happened in Barcelona and Amsterdam The tourists are coming and instead of people renting out a room to make extra money, big companies are buying entire buildings and making those airbnbs And so that drives up the prices for all Transportation: I can talk about this all day long Car culture sucks Public transportation is awesome I mean, you don’t have to get parking tickets all the time, you don’t have to drive home drunk (you shouldn’t do that) It’s amazing, it’s like the best public transportation system in Europe It’s fantastic. I made a video about it i’ll link it above it’s hard to emphasize enough how greatly a good public transportation system adds to my quality of life It just does It’s wonderful Even if i have to take a longest ride, like 30 minutes, I bring a book, someone else is driving It’s like, my god, America, gotta learn, got to do it Okay, obviously health is a big metric for quality of life
And I can make a series of videos about the differences between Czech healthcare and American healthcare And if you really wanted to give me a homework assignment, I could do it But for this video, I just wanted to say very briefly that American health care is terribly expensive, terribly disorganized I have family members and friends, some of whom have small children, and they cannot afford health insurance So they don’t have it I have friends who have gotten very ill and have needed antibiotics, and have not gone to the doctor because they don’t want to spend the $500 that that visit will be It’s a disaster it’s a disaster and strangely, health care is linked to your job in the US, so if you are fired from your job or your job closes, you don’t have insurance anymore and it’s very expensive to buy the outside insurance So in the middle of this pandemic, five and a half million Americans lost their insurance because they can’t go to work So it’s just a catastrophe Now, a lot of people say that the US medical system is the best in the world because they have, you know, top heart surgeons and top brain surgeons and maybe the most advanced cancer research which I don’t even believe that that’s true, but i’m not going to go into details here, but even if we do specialize in these sort of high-end advanced medical technologies, what good does it do society if you can’t get antibiotics because you can’t afford a $500 visit to the doctor? It’s insane So as an American here in Czechia, in order to maintain a visa (or residency) I have to pay for my own insurance I get covered on the public health insurance here it costs me 100 per month, quite reasonable I’ve been to the doctor a few times I don’t have much personal experience— My husband does. He went to the emergency room because he was playing hockey with a bunch of 20 year olds and they checked him pretty hard on the ribs. So he had to go to the emergency room His scans, his visit was free I have a friend who spent many days in the hospital here for an unknown issue Her stay was free And i have another friend who had has given birth to children in the US and here and I believe her experience was a lot better and certainly cheaper here So, health is obviously very important for your quality of life and just knowing that i have insurance, just knowing that I don’t have to worry about going bankrupt because I got sick— that obviously adds to quality of life So the metric of beauty might seem superficial, but for me it’s part of what makes me “sing”, right? I walk out of my house and i’m just surrounded by just gorgeous buildings and beautiful well-maintained streets You know, you look up at these buildings and you think: somebody actually took the time— first of all somebody took the money to pay for that— somebody took the time to, like, carve out this gorgeous sculpture just to hold up a balcony at the on the front of a building It’s magnificent And every turn you take in this city, and in cities all around Czechia, they’re just stunningly beautiful And it’s just inspiring you know In LA, we have a lot of what we call “strip malls” and they’re just kind of like ugly corner very small malls— and they have like a Starbucks and maybe a Mcdonald’s and maybe a chiropractor or something And it’s just uninspiring, you know, it’s not beautiful There are some beautiful parts of LA The ocean obviously is wonderful and getting up on Mulholland Drive at night and the city is just like nothing but black and lights That’s gorgeous but it just doesn’t inspire me as much as Prague does And also in Prague there’s amazing access to culture It’s not something that is reserved for the wealthy For example, theater here is relatively cheap I mean, you can buy a ticket for ten dollars
(sometimes a little bit more) for wonderful theater You can go to concerts, amazing concerts, pretty much every day of the week Now that comes probably from the tourism, but there is so much to explore culturally and it’s not expensive and that just adds to— if you’re not living your life for art and beauty and music and those things that bring you joy, what is it all for? And, LA, you know, it’s the heart of Hollywood, there there are cultural events I’m sure I just never bothered to do any of them People would just go out to bars. That was the social life But here it’s quite normal to see 20 year olds at the museum or at a play or at some musical event It’s normal to see musicians walking around the streets with their giant…sort of, (I don’t know the musical instruments) they’re giant musical instruments and hard cases on their backs I mean, people play the violin here, like, this is just what they teach So, access to culture is something that just makes life worth living (to me personally) So the last thing I wanted to mention was that pretty much every day, if not several times a week, my husband and I, one of us will say “best life ever” “best life ever” and the other one will agree and it’s really how we feel here I cannot imagine in LA, even with my high salary and my new car and my healthy family and friends and my uh, you know— proximity to the beach, I never would have said to myself “best life ever ” It wouldn’t have occurred to me I think there’s a ‘striving for success’ mentality in LA, probably in San Francisco and definitely in New York, that you’re never satisfied To be ‘satisfied’ is to be lazy or to not want to work hard and and even if you have everything you wanted last year, you’re already thinking about what you want next year And a combination of all the factors that I talked about today have put me really at peace and I kind of live now more for the moment And I just tend to realize the beauty of everything around me and the good fortune of everything around me I don’t know if it’s particularly the Czech influence, or if it’s leaving the American influence and seeing how other people do it, that have made me feel that way So, I hope that this gave you a little bit of insight into the different styles of living and the quality of life that you can find in both countries, in both cities This is my singular experience If you have had another experience, if you are Czech and lived in America or American and lived in Czechia, then I’d love to hear about it below Tell me if if you’ve experienced anything that I did or what your experience was like I’m really curious to find out And if i touched on any topics in this video that you would like me to talk about more deeply, then let me know and I can make a video Okay, see you next week, bye!