Why we’ve Stayed in Prague For Almost 4 Years
Not too long ago I wrote a post about why we moved to Prague and about how we are existential migrants. Today I want to write a little bit about why we’ve stayed in Prague for almost 4 years now. When we first moved to Prague we both agreed that we needed to give ourselves a minimum time commitment. We knew that if we didn’t have something set before going into the move then we could very easily just move back when things got hard and we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to push through and give Prague a fair chance. We agreed that we had to stay for at least one year and I’m so glad that we did. If we hadn’t stayed at least that long we would have never met a number of people who have ended up becoming some of our closest friends.
Since that first year we have been almost constantly reevaluating our time here. There are regularly days when things are hard and we miss our family and we wonder if Prague is really the right place for us. The first few years, in particular, though, every time we asked that question we felt very assured that Prague was exactly where we needed to be.
Why did we feel that way? What made us decide time and time again to stay in Prague?
The short answer is that in an odd way Prague felt like home to us, and we felt surprisingly comfortable here from the beginning.
We felt at home amidst the foreign.
It sounds like an oxymoron to say that we felt at home amidst the foreign, but it’s true. I can’t speak for my husband and his reasons, but I can try to explain to you a little bit about why I think I felt at home amidst the foreign. This article says that most Existential Migrants “leave their home cultures because they never felt ‘at home’ in the first place.” For me, that’s sort of true. I’ve always felt a little awkward and uncomfortable in general and I think for a long time before moving to Prague I didn’t really feel at home in my home country. Being surrounded by the foreign suddenly it was perfectly ok and acceptable to be a little awkward or uncomfortable, it was even expected. With that came a feeling of freedom, I could relax into my awkwardness a little bit and that made me feel comfortable. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, but it makes sense to me.
Bryan and I also really value cultures and languages, and difference. We value people having different opinions and ideas, different sets of experiences from ours and different perspectives. Surrounded by people who are very different from us and who think differently than we do, we felt at home and comfortable sharing our own ideas and thoughts. I remember so many times leaving a group of people and exclaiming to each other how much we loved the time and conversation, how much we loved so-and-so for sharing their outlook which was SO different from anything we had ever heard before. We would remark about how the people we hung out with where people we probably wouldn’t have been friends with in the states, or even had the opportunity to meet in the states, because they were fairly different from us and our normal circles, but we loved them and loved being with them.
We love how being in foreign situations, and meeting people who are different from us stretched us and in that stretching we actually felt comfortable and “at home”. Of course there are a lot of places in the world where we would be surrounded by a much more foreign culture and atmosphere than Prague, but Prague is still so different from our home country that we felt there was lots we could learn from that difference and that made us excited. It made us want to stay longer and soak up all that we could of the foreignness.
We felt at home amidst a dream.
We moved because we dreamed about living a different sort of life. We dreamed about living intentionally and distinctively. We dreamed about welcoming adventure instead of fearing it. In moving to Prague we knew we were taking an active step to pursue our dream and become the people we wanted to be, and in that pursuit of ourselves we felt at home. We stayed to continue that pursuit.
But, soon after we moved here we also connected with another dream, a dream that took us out of ourselves and, at least for me, was a significant reason why I wanted to stay in Prague past the 1 year mark.
Soon after we moved here we got involved with a church plant here. It was a church that looked different from the typical church and a group that was equally different. I loved it. We met in people’s homes, coffee shops and art galleries, often we didn’t have a set sermon but instead all interacted with scripture together. It got me excited about church again and I felt like I jumped in with my whole heart. I wanted to stay in Prague because I wanted to be a part of what God was doing here and particularly what He was doing in this group. I wanted to stay in Prague because I felt like I had a home and place within this dream/vision.
These past few years have truly been a roller coaster ride, and much has happened with this group of people and this dream. I still want to see what God will do here in the Czech Republic, but I feel less and less certain and more and unsure about my place within that work. But, that’s for another post…
We felt at home amidst the expats.
Expats are a unique group. We come from all different backgrounds and experiences, and yet we find we bond quickly because we all have one shared experience which shapes us – moving overseas. We may come for different reasons, but we all feel the pull of the foreign to some extent. We may come from different backgrounds, but we all embrace a particular openness to the “other”. I find that really refreshing.
Among expats I find a disproportionate number of people who are “like me” even though they may be ENTIRELY different from me. I find others who share my values for openness and diversity, for living creatively on purpose, for pursuing those things that really matter (because in a foreign country you quickly learn what is essential and what is not). Often expats are willing to go deeper more quickly and relationships develop at a sort of super speed out of necessity.
Expats are also a group of people with stories. They have done things, seen things, and been places. They aren’t content to just work normal jobs and raise their kids. They are often the kind of people who say yes to things instead of saying no and then see where their yeses take them. I like that. I love hearing people’s stories and I love the types of stories I get to hear in the expat community.
Bryan and I like being expats and we like the expats we meet. And so far we haven’t been ready to leave that community behind. Staying in Prague has never really been an easy decision. As much as we may feel at home here, we also already have a home in the states and there’s a lot that we miss out on by being here. But, for the past nearly 4 years staying in Prague has always been a very clear decision. The reasons above are good, true, reasons for why we have stayed, but beyond them there has always been a less tangible more unofficial reason why we have stayed – something that can only be explained as a feeling or a still small voice saying, “Stay.”
Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman