10 Questions for: Jeffrey Zamoff

Prague's favorite expat bookseller has a lot to say about life in the Czech Republic

1. Did you choose Prague or did Prague choose you?

A little bit of both. I met my wife in Philadelphia, we fell in love in Miami and moved to Prague in 2001. I stayed for a year and a half and then went back to Philly. Five years later we got married, had our first child, and moved back here for good. Now, after almost 6 years here as a permanent resident (I have the bulky green passport booklet to prove it) I can say that Prague is home and I am happy with a great group of friends and family.

2. What changes have you noticed in Prague or the country at large since your arrival?

The food is getting better all the time. When I first started spending time here it seemed like the only veggie option was smazak. (I love it at 3am but not every day) Now there are good veggie spots in quite a few parts of Prague.  Not only that but the actually tasty and affordable ethnic food available is growing by leaps and bounds from what it once was. Also, the happy noise level of people on the trams and buses and in the street has gone up. I love to see it, I enjoy seeing folks letting out their joy, smiling and laughing more, joking more in public. When I first came here almost everyone was stone faced in public, especially on MHD and it wore on me after a while. I am not like that, I am very expressive and feel better when I am around others who are the same.

10 Questions for: Jeffrey Zamoff

3. Which neighborhood do you call home and why is it better than any other district?

We live in Vrsovice and for us it is good. My wife grew up 3 blocks from where we live, her parents who are often with our kids live 5 minutes away by foot. We have a pool across the street, parks all around us, bakery, butcher, grocery, post office, and bus, tram, and metro. It is best because we found our kids’ preschool nearby. I am proud to say that our happiness depends on them. I also teach there 2 times a week and this September, three of us (the director, a fantastic teacher, and I) are opening a creative family space nearby which will be the main store for brown box books and an activity space for children and adults.

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4. Describe your perfect day in Prague or another beloved Czech city.

I wake up at 5am on a Saturday and am feeling fresh. I make myself a fried egg and cheese sandwich, drink a cup of tea with honey and am off to the flea market in Vysocany.  After 3 hours at the market finding all kinds of goodies and chatting it up with sellers and making new friends, I head back to my storage space to load up to sell books at the street market on the naplavka. The whole day the weather is beautiful, people are happy, and I see everyone I want to see- kids from my kids’ preschool, friends, family, and then my wife and kids come to visit as well. They have food !!! My wife brings me really good hummus and a cold beer and my kids hug and kiss me and we hang out laughing and being silly until I need to pack up. Then back in Vrsovice we all go swimming at the pool and watch the sun go down.  Damn, why can’t everyday be Saturday?

10 Questions for: Jeffrey Zamoff

5. How’s your Czech? 

It is okay. I want it to be much better so I can intimidate my daughter’s suitors. She is almost 6 so I hope I have at least a few years to improve.  I understand about 75% of what I hear, can express myself well, tell jokes, and ham it up with basically anybody who can stand me.  My current goal is to be able to watch the Jan Krauss talkshow and understand every word.

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6. Name your favorite Czech person, place and thing.

My favorite Czech people are my wife, kids, and parents in law. I know it is cheesy but what can I say? To imagine my happy life here without them is impossible. The ways they support me, inspire me, teach me, love me are countless.  Favorite place is the family chata in kostelec nad černými lesy. We were married there and go often. Favorite thing is a cold Pilsner Urquell and hot baked plums wrapped in bacon.

10 Questions for: Jeffrey Zamoff

7. What has been the biggest challenge/adjustment for you as an expat living abroad?

Finding out what makes me comfortable and happy here in a new place.  I did not know what I wanted to do when I moved here, I am a teacher so I taught. I like people and connecting with all kinds of personalities, but something was missing. Now I am running the book business and meeting so many expats and like minded people that I am almost drunk on all the positivity and down home humor.  A big thank you to my two assistants Leah and Lindsay, a Canadian and Michigonian who crack me up and only after I had become friends with them thru work did I realize how much I had missed their company before.

8. What is thing you miss most about your home country and how does the quality of life here compare to that of your home country?

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The quality of life is better. We see our extended Czech family on an almost daily basis and for my wife and I that is paramount.  Czech is a safe place, so much to do with kids, affordable for living, and close to all kinds of interesting places to visit in Czecho and in other countries.  What do I miss? We bought a small house in Philly and renovated it according to my wife’s design, with a rear garden and rooftop deck. We miss the hell out of that.  I also miss my family and friends in the states and Israel and I miss the sea/ocean and food in both places, especially Chinese and Vietnamese. I once tried to convince my wife to live in China town in Philly and she was not having it.

10 Questions for: Jeffrey Zamoff

9. Share the greatest lessons you have learned from living in the Czech Republic.

That in time I found a group of close friends that represents who I am, North American, Israeli, Czech, teachers, book nerds, flea market weirdos, general weirdos, loving souls. I believe that it will happen to everyone in time. That what fills me up the most is spending time with my wife and kids, the best is when we are not hustling, but relaxing and playing together. Everything else is gravy. That making time for basketball, reading, and riding my bike can change my perspective on everything for the better.

10. Describe the expat experience in one word.


Visit Brown Box Books’ e-shop (featuring a handful of adult titles as well) or Facebook page for info on where to find the next pop-up shop!

Want to answer our 10 questions and be featured on Expats.cz? Contact us at cs@expats.cz.

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