“Trying to understand why locals love this city to death taught me the beauty in loving what is unpopular, untouched, genuine, and real to its own people,” says Brno Daily’s Melis Karabulut. A good weekend read for those expats building a life in the Czech Republic, and for those excelling in localizing. Photo Credit: KK / BD.
As a foreigner living in Brno for almost two years now, I have been thinking that there is something exclusive to this city, making strangers and locals alike stay here and learn to love the city. Maybe not at the first glance, but in time, and with patience. Brno is never the first option of travellers to the Czech Republic or one of those thunder-stealing cities like Florence, Istanbul, Lyon, or Barcelona. It is also not a spectacularly artistic city with creative and soulful people – no offence intended, just transferring the ideas that I have been collecting from friends. I have listened to many foreigners whining about not feeling welcome here, not finding any beauty or purpose in Brno. They often complained about the unfriendliness of locals, the language barrier, the grey and depressing architecture of the city, lack of opportunities, bulky bureaucracy, and the list goes on. Then I listened to the locals meeting each of those arguments with a strong defence of their beloved city, followed by an eager ‘If you don’t like it here, just leave’.
Locals told me a lot about the homey feeling of Brno. This was where they felt secure, at peace, and in the presence of the ‘known’. From ten-year-old kids to university professors, I have never heard a local of Brno telling me that they would rather live somewhere else than in this city. Listening to these contrary perceptions, I was a bit lost in what to believe or how to shape my own ideas about the city. Living somewhere else was not an option due to my school and work, and I had to make my way here one way or another, making peace with how things are. I partially agree with both sides; while I left behind my ‘complete stranger’ identity day-by-day, learning to be a local, and getting involved in life here, in time, I developed a deeper understanding of the locals’ point of view. Then my whole vision changed.
I realized that both the positive and negative energies we gather from people tend to structure our own perspectives of the way things are. Trying to understand why locals love this city to death taught me the beauty in loving what is unpopular, untouched, genuine, and real to its own people. Putting on the glasses of locals, I saw the beautiful things that I had not been able to see around me until recently. I saw how freakishly green Brno is, surrounded by tons of parks, hiking trails, and forests. Then I realized the calmness of the city accompanying this greenery, and feeling away from the stress and buzz of the big cities that I used to live in.
Looking at life in Brno from this perspective when I recently took a stroll in the city, got a scoop of ice cream, and just enjoyed the first days of summer, saw the hopeful faces of people after a long winter of endless lockdowns, I felt the comfort of enjoying the way things are without any attempt to change them. I realized that learning to love the city helped me open my eyes to the good things out there in Brno, to see the creative corners and loveable edges of it. The city centre bars with their regulars, the Petrov bells and their regular dings and dongs, the young and old of the city with their unique, sarcastic humor and a blend of dull and spectacular architecture with all the authenticity it can offer.
The unpretentious life in Brno seemed to appeal more and more to me, as I lived my days here with no need for exaggeration. I see that this is related to the attempt of building a life here from scratch, where the beauty of the local-like mind lays, and I would suggest it to anyone stepping or having stepped foot in this city with long-term plans to remain. Remaining a stranger is an option for those with a limited time here, but for others, hard work is awaiting to learn, and to love.