10 Questions for: Kevin Dobson

The English owner of Prague-based company Vice Audio sounds off on life in the Czech Republic

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

I had no idea where Prague was when I came here in ’97, so it definitely chose me! I ended up coming here because some DJ friends of mine from DIY Soundsystem in Nottingham were playing at a party on Štvanice island. Me and my friends had just started Quadrant Soundsystem I’d just built a pile of speakers and wanted to get out into Europe and do some parties. They needed a second system so they asked us to come and I agreed. I remember going to work the next day and telling one of my colleagues that I was off to Prague and then he told me it was what used to be Czechoslovakia. I was very excited.

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

A lot more English people here now. Most English-speaking expats were American when I arrived. It seems crazy to write this but I’d had almost no contacts with Americans in my hometown of Nottingham (because I suppose there were almost none there) but now I count quite a lot amongst my friends. I remember German and Russian being the most prevalent languages after Czech with English speakers really being quite thin on the ground. Food and its availability has improved an awful lot thanks to the Vietnamese taking over the corner shop businesses (which used to close at 6pm and stock pretty much nothing). Back in the day we used to live mainly in the night so that meant trekking to the 1 or 2 nonstops that were around where we would ogle disgusting-looking stuff like aspic whilst buying beer.

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

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Žižkov…cos it’s Žižkov, baby! It has a vibe all of its own and there is always something interesting, scandalous or illegal going on. What’s not to like?   

10 Questions for: Kevin Dobson

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

People watching on a hot sunny Sunday afternoon in Riegrovy Sady with my girlfriend and friends. Sitting on the grass from where you can watch the sun go down behind the castle. Drinking wine to the soundtrack of people doing the same, girls hula-hooping, people playing guitars, ladies sunbathing in very un-British states of undress, people still out from the night before and still ‘avin it, smokers blowing trees, embracing the Bohemian spirit. Then wandering off up the street to have dinner in the garden at the Taverna Olympos on Kubelíkova. It doesn’t get much better.    

5. How’s your Czech? 

You just know when you meet someone new who is Czech and they ask how long you’ve lived here that the next question is “So you must speak Czech very well?” I try to change the subject very quickly cos my Czech grammar is a disgrace. My Czech swearing, however, is exemplary.     

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

Václav Havel because he just seemed like such an affable man and despite being president he really did seem like a guy you could meet in a bar in town and have a beer and a laugh with. He had no pretenses and wore his heart on his sleeve. And his castle. What a truly great man. I see no other of his ilk in these parts that’s for sure.     

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

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I changed my job from working in a small rural workshop near Derby making high precision parts for companies like Rolls Royce to making a living providing sound for events and putting on parties in a country 1,000 miles away from home. It was a very steep (and sometimes expensive) learning curve. I worked briefly for Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Prague as technical manager at their conference centre but that was definitely not the environment I wanted to work in. For a while I was spending a month at a time in the UK, working at my old job 18 hours a day, to get enough money to buy more sound equipment and live here for a few months and travelling there and back by coach because budget airlines didn’t exist.

10 Questions for: Kevin Dobson

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

I think the quality of life in Prague at least, far outstrips that of the UK. In the UK people are generally saddled with huge amounts of debt due to the consumerist nature of the system and you have no choice at all but to work hard to have the most basic existence. When I arrived in Czech I could see that it was not like that here even though it is changing. Czech attitudes to work seemed a lot more casual, I think, due to the lack of being driven to work by debt or a high cost of living. The fact that all the shops are generally closed on the weekends is a classic example. People here value their leisure time and that has to be a good thing. The UK is always open for business and has lost some of what life should be about. I doubt very much that I will ever live there again. Another refreshing thing about this country is the lack of violence and violent crime. I don’t think there is a part of Prague I would not walk through at night. UK cities can be very dangerous places and fights in English pubs are depressingly common. Having said that, some years ago in IP Pavlova I honked my horn at a guy jaywalking in front of me. He then followed me and while I was stuck in the inevitable traffic jam was yelling at me and tapping on the window of my van, next to my head, with a pistol. That was scary. The only time I’ve ever seen a gun in the UK has been attached to a police officer. Things I miss: English food and real ales although the lack of both of those things here has probably prevented me turning into a bloater!

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

Don’t let moody shop/bar/restaurant staff wind you up, just take the piss out of them…but only after you have been served! Beware of getting into road rage situations. Some of those cars are tooled up. Never, ever trust a taxi driver you pick up on the street.    

10. Describe the expat experience in one word.


For more info about Vice Audio visit www.viceaudio.com

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

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