Griffin is a young man who lives and works in Prague, Czech Republic and is also my very good friend. He comes from the South of the Unites States and he is twenty-four years old. One day in college, he decided to try studying abroad for a year in Finland.
He fell in love with Europe and traveling, so after finishing school in America, he moved to the Czech Republic. His first intention was to stay here for one year, but after a year of teaching English in Prague, he decided to stay in Prague longer. Now he works as a project manager at a start-up company in Prague.
I know he has a bunch of experiences with people from different parts of the world and also lots of stories from not only his travels, but also from ordinary life.
Where exactly from United States are you from?
I am from Nashville, Tennessee – it’s a beautiful state of southeast of the United States and it’s a nice place to live, it’s pretty conservative and it’s also where country music basically comes from. Country music is from Bristol, Tennessee originally, but now it’s mostly recorded in Nashville, so almost every single person from my hometown is a musician.
Now you are here, living in Prague. Why did you decide to move right to this city?
I used to live in Finland. I left Finland and traveled for a little while, went home and worked in a few different position in a few different states. Then I finished school and I knew I wanted to move back to Europe. I heard Prague is cool and I have never been here before.
I saved up my money working as a bouncer and I came here with no friends, with no idea about it and decided to find out if it is cool for myself – and it is.
You started work here as an English teacher. Now you work in a start-up company. Do you see any advantage of changing the positions?
Teaching English was a job to get my foot in the door to Prague, to get me over here, so I can support myself and figure out if I wanted to stay or not. But the difference between me and other people coming here is that this is not a vacation for me, this is life.
I worked hard as an English teacher. Lot of my friends here didn’t care at all. Didn’t plan, didn’t work, just showed up and got paid, I don’t know how they did it. With my decision to stay longer, I just decided to seek employment somewhere I would feel a little bit more respected as a worker, as an adult and an employee, and also somewhere, where is potential to grow. I respect English teachers a lot, it’s very hard – I’ve been one of them – but you can do it for a long time and make the same money and you will do the same thing and be at the same position.
How long have you been in Prague?
1 year and 5 months now.
It’s a long time enough to see the main differences between living in the States and Czech Republic. What is the biggest or craziest thing here, comes on your mind first, that is different?
The main difference is that people in Tennessee are very warm. They talk to each other all the time. If you walk in anywhere it’s always: “Hey, how are you? Good. Where are you from? Nice to meet you. How can I help you?” You know, very, very polite. You can see it even in public transportation. But here, it’s a little bit – quieter. And I’m becoming more Czech, because now I just get on the public transportation and stick my nose in my book and pray that people don’t look at me.
Ok, now I’m a little bit confused why do you like to live here?
Ohhh, I love it, it’s a blast and I like Czech people. It’s just a cultural difference.
Alright, so can you name one thing what is better here, why do you enjoy the life here?
The best thing about living in Prague is that there are so many opportunities for leisure. I think Czechs work really hard, but as Prague evolved from what it was to what it is, the citizens of Prague made sure to build in plenty of leisure opportunities. There is so much opportunity to have fun and relax all over the place in Prague. On top of that, it’s just very free. I really love that nobody looks at you twice, nobody cares about what are you doing, and you can just not worry about that. From where I am from, everybody is looking at you, all the time.
You try to speak Czech, right? What is the main reason for you?
I am from the States and a lot of us only know English. It’s kind of on my bucket list to learn another language and I think Czech is a beautiful language to learn.
Do you have a favorite Czech phrase or word?
Chtěla bys zajít ke mně a prohlídout si moji sbírku známek? (Would you like to come back to my place and see my stamp collection?)
As a very enthusiastic traveler, what is your favorite place you visited?
I like Tallinn, Estonia, it’s one of the reasons why I moved to Prague. It’s a really small city, but there are a lot of things happening and I knew that Prague is probably a world capital of history and architectures. I just thought it will be more from what I already like. Tartu is cool, too.
You are a part of a Couchsurfing community. Do you get in touch with couchsurfers in Prague?
Yes. I’ve been to a few Couchsurfing meetings here and they are fun, you are just hanging out and telling stories, swapping experiences. Also, few people have contacted me on Couchsurfing to meet up for tours in the city and things like that. I really love that. I would love to host here, but my roommates aren’t so comfortable with it. When I lived in Tennessee, I hosted about every week or two through Couchsurfing or something else. I hosted musicians for a local bar and it was just great. I make it a huge point to show love to people I host, because I’ve been showed all over the world.
What would you say to somebody, who never came in touch with Couchsurfing?
Well, my first experience was very funny, when I was 19 years old and I went down to Louisiana and stayed with this couple. They were really nice, but a little bit alternative and it was probably one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I remember being really apprehensive at first, because I grew up in a very conservative southern bubble where everybody unique wants to kill you and strangers are always bad. It really took a leap of faith in myself and in people to be comfortable and I had a great time with my first experience, but it just knocked down a lot of boundaries for me. So my advice to people, who are haven’t tried Couchsurfing and want to do it, is maybe do it with your friend for a first time, also put your faith in people.
It is insane, that something, that is only supposed to offer you a roof above your head for a night, became a world wide network of people helping each other out on the road. People have shown me great hospitality, cooked meals, bought drinks, taken me out, given me tours, and plenty of other great things. I have had some experiences, which I wouldn’t have ever had if I hadn’t been couchsurfing. It’s also nice to kind of put yourself into somebody’s life for night or two. For example: if you get an opportunity to go out with your host and his or her group of friends for a night, you can really see how a person lives.
Could you think about some personal example that happened to you?
My first time in Estonia, I stayed with a Ukrainian girl at her dorm and she invited me to a Ukrainian cultural event at a tiny, really old church. It was so old, that the floor had a cast iron and stone weighted mechanism to open the floor of the church. It was basically like Game of Thrones. They had a Ukrainian Easter celebration, which isn’t the same time as our Easter. Nobody was speaking English but I was in the middle of them, doing their dance moves with them and jumping around. Then the Priest threw the holy water into our faces to bless us. After all, I had a very unique Ukrainian Eastern meal, which would never happened if I haven’t been couchsurfing.
Do you travel now or do you just stay at one place?
Well, I am here, I make crowns and sometimes it’s hard to go somewhere, they have Euros or Pounds, you have to save a little bit more. But I try to keep travel once in a few months at least.
Would you recommend something to people, who never made some crazy decision like moving to another country and just try to live or work in some other way?
I didn’t understand why people wouldn’t move away for a while. Then one day a lady really enlightened me by saying: “It’s just not some peoples dream. Some people want to settle down and have a family or do something different than you and that’s ok.” I don’t know if I can tell anybody any kind of advice, unless they are in the same position I was as a 20 year old kid, that wants to leave the states for the first time ever and live somewhere for a year, knowing nothing about it. I would say – do your research.
At the end – do you have any plans for a future – if you do plan?
I don’t know. I’m just trying to stay happy, maybe see some more things. My plan is just to have a good time. I want to be the old guy that has an endless amount of stories to tell.