Saturday, May 23, 2009

My First Taste of Czech Village Life

The waffles are cooking!
In early Spring, my friends Jana and David invited our TEFL class out to see their home in a village outside of Prague. Little did we know our class was soon to scatter to the winds due to our visa problems! We're now in the States of Oregon and Wisconsin in the USA, Croatia, and Istanbul, Turkey. What a wonderful day we had though. It was the first time I had ever visited a Czech village, heard about buying a home in the Czech Republic, learned about how Czech taxes work (it's so interesting!!!), and just generally hung out to a non-city Czech vibe.

Jana and David had bought their home and remodeled it to take advantage of a fantastic pastoral view of the valley outside their kitchen. The original walls of their home are so thick! I admired how strategic they were to purchase right on the railway line. Gas prices may be cheaper today but it won't always be so. Jana and David have their own well water, pay a minimal price for garbage pickup (like 500 crowns or $25 a year), and also have minimal property taxes.

The idea of minimal property taxes was a new one for me. Here's what I love about it. The Czech government instead has a consumption tax of 20%. I know, if you're in America and you hear 20% sales tax, your hair stands on end. But the delightful thing is, I never notice paying it! It's included in the price of everything and since everything is cheap it's not a big deal. And isn't that futuristic and capitalistic to tax people on what they consume? Not their creativity in what they earn?

Home Sweet Home
with a
beautiful and typical Czech tile roof

Here's three HUGE advantages of the Czech way of doing things as far as I can see: when property taxes aren't so high, people don't feel compelled to sell their home immediately just because the kids grew up and moved away. Indeed, these village homes are often lived in for life and passed on to the next generation. Now how carefully do you think people are going to take care of a home if it's going to last their whole life and part of their children's? Czech tile roofs are expensive but they frequently last for 80 years.

Wouldn't minimal property taxes attract tons of foreign investment to the Czech Republic? Tell me if I'm not understanding something here. If you knew you could buy property in the Czech Republic and wouldn't have to pay $4000-5000 or more in yearly property taxes for a detached home, but you would have to do so in America, where would you buy a home if location wasn't the issue? An apartment building? An office building?

The third advantage of consumption taxes that I can see is that the money goes in one big pot and is distributed EVENLY for education. The quality of your schools doesn't depend on whether or not you're parents can afford to live in a great school district. I find that admirable. Isn't that a children-centric way of doing things? What do you think, gentle readers?

Enjoy our beautiful brunch and then we're off to catch a train for our afternoon road trip -- wait, it's not a road trip, -- it's a TRACK trip!

Is it just me,
or does Czech glass rock?
I loved this chandelier!
The original wall to the house
before David and Jana
added on - it's so thick
The view from the new kitchen window
Jana and David
Three gal pals:
Gulnara, me, and Anna

Justin knows how to entertain little girls.

Two ladies who don't need tiaras
to claim princess status
Jana shares her art work with us
Racing to catch the train that comes every half hour.
Yes, America, you read that right.
And no, the Czechs have no idea what outstanding service that is.
They take it completely for granted.

If you're Czech and reading this, I used to live in an
American city of 150,000 who would have loved train service
to Chicago (around 3 million people) - no train yet.

There are probably less than 1,000 people in this village
and the residents can walk to the train station
which comes right through their town.
Czech train infrastructure is INCREDIBLE.
Cost to Prague and back -
less than $2
for a half-hour ride each way.

You might also enjoy the rest of the adventure:

July 7, 2012
A postscript to this post:

The producers of the TV show House Hunters International were looking for an expat family to be featured in their show about Prague housing. As I had lived in a mere apartment, I thought "who do I know in Prague that has TV charisma. They should get this opportunity. David and Jana! The two of them are sooo funny and say the kind of things that have you silently giggling -  they are complete and total hams. I thought they'd be perfect." I asked David and Jana if I could forward this post to the producers and they said yes. Voila! It's now a TV show with over 9,000 hits on YouTube. Who knows how many people watched it on TV. 

House Hunters International, Country Houses Outside of Prague - Part 1

House Hunters International, Country Houses Outside of Prague - Part 2

The third episode is blocked. Jana and David probably would not recommend going through this process to another couple. They felt it was contrived as the show needs to set up he wants/she wants scenarios for dramatic tension. It also is contrived because in David and Jana's house, they themselves did the remodeling. It's a good reminder not to believe everything you see on TV.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with regards to the public transportation. We live in Paris and it's simply fantastic!
We are moving back to the US and I honestly don't know how my daughter will get to her HS without me driving her! Apparently, the teens get their license asap, in order to 'free up' the parents. Couldn't a bus, or 2, go around the city to pick up these teens, instead of all those cars going to the one school? Plus, I'm not so sure about all those teens driving!

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