Justin Loy is an American who has lived in the Czech Republic for almost 20 years with his wife and three children. He hosts the Behind the Curtain podcast, which takes an inside look at an expat life.
Transcripts are automatically generated and may not be an 100% accurate transcription.
Nicole (Host): Welcome to the moving roadmap podcast powered by Avvinue. My name is Nicole, and I'll be your host for the show. In this episode, we're excited to introduce our guest, Justin Loy, who is an American, who has lived in the Czech Republic for almost 20 years with his wife and three children. He hosts the behind the curtain podcast, which takes an inside look at an expert life.
Welcome to the show, Justin.
Justin Loy: Thanks. Nicole.
Nicole (Host): Love it. So tell me, okay. You're originally from the US where in the US are you from?
Justin Loy: I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and when I was about 10, we moved to, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and that was quite a big culture shock right there. Just going from, Midwest to, to Northeast.
So I have been a mix of both.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. I haven't been to Pittsburgh, but I've heard much about it. And everyone who comes from Pittsburgh is like so proud.
Justin Loy: Yes we are. All my, all my sports teams are from Pittsburgh and, that is. That is very true. We're all very proud. And this where people are spread everywhere, you'll, you'll meet them.
Nicole (Host): I met one person from Pittsburgh in New York while I was in New York. And that guy would not stop talking about Pittsburgh. Yeah. But you don't hear that with people from Boston. Well, unless it's baseball, but like you don't really hear that kind of Pride. So very cool.
Justin Loy: Pittsburgh. There's kind of a, like a diaspore of Pittsburgh people.
And they're always proud about that. Heritage is kind of a, more of a blue collar area, and I think people are proud of that.
Nicole (Host): Love it. So tell me, when did you know you wanted to move abroad? Cause I mean, you moved what? 20 years ago?
Justin Loy: Yeah, about 20 some years ago. I, it was, I've moved twice to Europe. The first time was in 1998.
I was in university and I was looking for, I guess, an adventure of sorts. I had been tired of school. And so I was looking for an adventure and I came, that was the first time I'd come. I met my wife. Overseas. She's an American, that's a long story, some other time maybe, but, we also came back. Yeah.
And we went, we got married in the United States, came back in 2004. So I have two different experiences of moving overseas.
Nicole (Host): Love it.
Justin Loy: So the first time was university focused, right there probably was like that guidance. And you just went to your study abroad program,
Nicole (Host): But great. That you were able to get that adventure, or was it not a study abroad program?
Justin Loy: Well, no, no. I was actually studying in Washington DC and, I had a couple of options, you know, it's that. I'm coming out of university, trying to figure out what I want. I do. And I had a couple of opportunities. I had an opportunity to interview for a job, down in DC. had an opportunity, a scholarship at a university for a master's degree program.
And then I had this unit, I had this, What should I say, this opportunity to teach English overseas? And, like I said, I was kinda tired of school and I really wanted the international experience because I wanted to go into an international field. So I just took the opportunity, not really knowing what I was getting myself into.
Nicole (Host): Love it. And then you met your wife overseas and then from there now tell me about your second move.
Justin Loy: So the second move, not as dramatic. I mean the first one was, Hey, I'm a young guy just going overseas to Europe and we'll see what happens. And, the second time we had gotten married and, we knew we wanted to come back.
I'd fallen in love with it, with the Czech people. And I really, really like working with them. And, we decided to come back as a married couple. And, but I was a little bit different cause you come back and now as a, as a married couple and you really need to start figuring out how to settle down.
It's not the same as you're just a young guy coming out of college. You can do whatever, live wherever. Yeah. And, it had its challenges and in the move.
Nicole (Host): Yeah, definitely. So, and of course, when you're moving with an extra person, whether it's, you know, your child or your, you know, any additional person, it's like, okay, now we just made things more complex.
So it was a lot more planning involved for sure. When you, you move abroad, and also getting settled. Right? Cause you're thinking for the future. Okay. Where do we want to settle? Where do we maybe want to have kids where, you know, things like that.
Justin Loy: Yeah, that's, that's so true. One of the biggest challenges was finding the apartments.
You know, you got the apartment, you got the car and you've got, what do you do about furniture? And trying to figure all that out. It's not the easiest thing. It's hard enough to do that if you're just living in the States, for example, and to do that with language issues, cultural issues, it can be quite challenging.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. So you said you fell in love with the Czech people. Did you go in 1998 to Czech Republic?
Justin Loy: Yes, I did, yeah, this is maybe a false boasting, but I like the first American to live in my little village. Students used to tell me I was in the Eastern part of Czech Republic.
Where Slovakia, Poland and Czech all, all meet together. So I didn't, I wasn't just the guy who lived in Prague, for example, or in the main city, but I was in a village and, that was quite, I had a lot of different experiences that were, that I taught me a lot, actually.
Nicole (Host): Yeah, I can imagine. Okay. Tell me, like, what was that experience like, like the first American to live in the village?
What was, how did they receive you? What was your cultural experience there?
Justin Loy: You know, I was 22 when I first moved. So I think, I think I kind of became like, Hey, that's our American guy. So, in my last episode of my podcast, I talked about renting from a 75 year old woman. Who became like my grandmother and the experience to be able to.
So there's the good and the bad or the difficult, I should say. The difficulty is that you're, you're, trying to get acclimated. It's a small town, you know, everybody's watching you and you're like, who's that guy. I remember one time being in a train station and an old lady was just looking at me cause I was a typical American shorts.
Ball cap. And she doesn't look at me like, I'm like, what's this guy doing here, but at the same time, there's a lot of good things such as. I got a Czech grandmother out of it. Yeah. She kind of adopted me like a grandson and she would cook for me. And I say this in the podcast, she would make something called a Cola, which is like a pie and bring it down on Sunday afternoons just for me.
And, you can't get those extremes. And so your story of the expat is it's all about the difficult times. But some of the most exhilarating times it's happening together.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. And I love that and I think that story really reflects how you just mentioned, you know, how the Czech people are and, That's so great that you were able to have that experience, you know, very different if you were to run from, let's say somebody else.
But you just like, you got a grandmother out of it, out of your time there. I love it.
Justin Loy: Yeah. Yeah. And like I said, it's, it's priceless. And, you know what, I want to go back to that world of, coming into the country. For the first time again, probably not to redo that, but, I am so thankful and blessed to be able to say that I had that experience.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. Absolutely. So tell us, like, how long did it take for you to feel ready to move abroad? And I know the first time, right? It was, you know, you were looking for that adventure, but what about now with your wife? Curious to know how long did it take you guys to go, you know what? Let's go abroad.
Justin Loy: So we had met here, that was nice, I guess a point that we both had in common was that we had the chair, she was the new teacher who had come in. It was the teacher and we had fallen in love. And, we went back to the States, got married. I think early on, we knew that we wanted to come back, but we also thought it was important to experience life in America.
Together. And so we, we were in the States for about three, two and a half years before we came back. So it didn't take us very long the second time, to come back. But, it was, it was, a good transition. What was important though, was that we did not come back to the little village.
We came back to the second biggest city at that time. Because I wanted my wife and I to experience something in a new city together. And, it was ironic, we ended up seven years after that in 2011, coming back to the village in which we met. And, and now I live here and teach English.
Nicole (Host): Oh, so now you live in the village back?
Justin Loy: Yeah. early in life. Do you get a second chance at something? And, I've, I've been blessed and so did have that. And I, you know, I go through this, I'll go through the town and there'll be people that I knew from like 20 years ago. And it's just sometimes I just stop and say to myself, how did I get here? How did I do my journey, what led me here? And it's again, it's that? The exhilaration of saying, wow, I've really had a, had an adventure of a license.
Nicole (Host): Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So definitely a romantic story. Okay. I'm just pointing that out.
Justin Loy: Yeah.
Nicole (Host): Back to the village seven years after. Okay. That's like recreating the love story, that’s where you met your wife?
Justin Loy: So, It's where I asked her to marry me. It's Oh my gosh. Yeah. You know, and you don't get that opportunity very often. And it became like returning home. In some ways. That was nice.
Nicole (Host): I love it. Alright, so we're gonna bring it back. Cause we just went into a romantic cloud there. I'm sure anyone who's listening.
Who's just like dreaming of, you know, meeting their loved one abroad. Okay. This is the perfect episode.
So, walk us through like some of the steps you took. To plan your move. So I know you said like two, three years you were in America with your wife, you experienced life in America together now you're ready. What did you do during those years to feel ready? To move
Justin Loy: Well, you know, One of the most important things before you go overseas is you have to try to learn a little bit about the culture, the language, as much as you can beforehand.
And so I remember when my wife and I were. Planning on coming back. That was, I guess, obsessed with just what is Czech culture. And I'd be reading, you know, literature on their former presidents and what they, what they, what they thought and, learning about the history more and more, even though I had lived there already and just trying to saturate myself with just knowing the culture as much as possible.
Now that's limited. You can only do so much when you're living in, in, in Boston. But, just preparing yourself for that move is important, but there's so many unknowns when you step off that plane, into that culture that it's almost like you can do all the preparation you can.
And that's, that's a really positive thing. And I would encourage everyone to do that, but. Life as an expat is going to give you so many uncertainties and there's going to be ups and downs and you always can't prepare for it. I do, I will say the first time I came back in 1998 when I was single, I didn't know what I was doing and I could have done more research and I should have done that.
And. I know that when. I stepped out. So I had met a Czech woman at my internship in Washington, DC. This is the first time. And I said, well, I need a place to stay at first. The first night as I traveled across the country, before I traveled and I, and I got there and her fiance picked me up.
And I stayed there at their flat for a night and they bought me the train ticket that I would need. And then, then they said this, okay, now. Your train leaves at like six in the morning, we can't help you. So you're going to have to find your way to the train station and, you know, good luck essentially.
And so at four o'clock in the morning, I have this big suitcase, a pillow and a computer bag walking through the streets of Prague at four in the morning, trying to find the train station, trying to find my train. And that was my first experience. And my suggestion to anybody out there is do some research.
Find people that can help you out. And, it'll make you don't make a difference when you get off the plane.
Sorry for that long answer, but.
Nicole (Host): No, no, but it paints a really vivid picture, right? Like I'm picturing you with your big suitcase and just like looking around, I have to say I'm looking for a train seat, especially if you're from a city that you're not really used to.
Navigating and trains or public transit. I remember once I was in Florence and we're ready to ride the bus, but we kept thinking maybe it's this side, that's going to go, Oh, no, maybe it's the other side. That's going to go. And we literally got to walking across the street, across the street. We're like, no, it's that one.
And then the bus passed. We're like, it was the other one. So I'm picturing that with you, like looking for the train station.
Justin Loy: It was dark and I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know any, it's very different than, you know, English language and, Yeah, I just, I was like, what am I doing? Why am I here? But those are the experiences, they make great stories right now.
Nicole (Host): The craziest stories, whether from frustration or whatever scenario. Later. They're funny. So at the moment it may be really tough. And like you mentioned, there's so many uncertainties, there's ups and downs. so many unknowns, but at the end of it, you're going to look back and it could be the most rewarding experience.
And it's a memorable experience. How many days do we not remember in our life? But those moments that stand out.
Justin Loy: And they make great war stories. I mean, you go back to the States and you're like, yeah, let me just tell you about the time I was walking through the streets of Prague. Only my suitcase, not knowing where I was going.
You know, those are, you know. Or your story with Florence. Those are great stories that you go back and can tell the tales or telecoms.
Nicole (Host): Yeah, absolutely. So tell me about the most challenging experience, in coordinating your relocation. Yeah, I know you mentioned the apartment finding.
Justin Loy: Yeah.
And actually that was, that was probably the hardest thing is when my wife and I came that second time, it was finding an apartment because then this goes back to the preparation because what we didn't know, I think we moved in June, end of June, but we didn't know that was that from. July 1st to September 1st Czech society essentially shuts down.
It's called an empty tie. It has a word empty in it and it's summer vacation and everyone's going off to Croatia or to the mountains and businesses aren't operating at the same level as of what they would be during the normal normal months. And. We had moved and we needed to find an apartment, but the real estate agencies, they weren't, they said, yeah, we'll get to it, we'll get to it. And they weren't communicating with us.
And we were having a really hard time finding an apartment for about, I'd say six to eight weeks, maybe just because people were on vacation, you'd write an email and they're on vacation and we didn't know that. And that was quite challenging.
And I think. The moving company we had, we had rented a container and had that shipped over and they were coming soon to drop off our little furniture that we had. And I think we got the keys the day that that container arrived. And thankfully, thankfully the man who was in charge of it, he actually helped move us.
And it wasn't his job, it was our job to move the furniture, but he came in and helped us and, and, that worked out. But yeah, we didn't understand certain cultural things and they made it difficult to find an apartment. I think it was the most challenging thing for us.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. You know, coming from the US a lot of things don't close during the summer, if anything, they like pick up hours.
So that's definitely a big shift in Europe. I think a lot of Europe closes and literally just shuts down for their summer, which. Culturally. It's great when you're enjoying it, but when you're moving, like you said, it's like, Oh, you need to be aware, especially when you need any kind of assistance.
Justin Loy: That's true. That's true.
Nicole (Host): So what were some things you didn't expect to happen during your move? And of course this could be, you know, logistics and planning, but also culturally, like, was there something you didn't really expect to happen?
Justin Loy: Well, the whole thing, I mean, there's the. Yeah, the stereotypical you've got language issues.
I know we didn't have a car for six months. and then I was just talking with my wife about this before I joined. You hear that, you know? When you're in the States, we have the cars that are automatic, mostly everywhere, and I have never driven a stick shift and, A manual and it's like, I came here, it's like, Oh man, wait a minute.
I don't necessarily know how to do that. And so I had to, I remember practicing on a friend's car, unfortunately for the car. I remember being up on a Hill and being like, give us some gas, give us, you know, and, I had to figure all that stuff out. language was, quite an interesting, challenge also.
I decided to go the route of language school instead of getting a tutor. And so I remember having a language teacher that would make me recite 20 verses. Of a Czech poll. Wow. And then she'd give us tongue twisters that we had to recite in front of the class too, you know, and those are things that you just don't expect.
And, and you're learning about the people and that's really what it's about. And if, if an expat out there, if anybody can, it can learn. To how to be an expat and fit into the community at the same time. That that is really, really important. And then, but that's a struggle and very difficult. And, we would have our shared adventures and language miscues and, a lot of, it's just a little, a lot of difficulty just trying to figure out what people think expected from us and what, and how to, how to react with that.
Nicole (Host): I love how you just mentioned, like how to be an expert and also fit into the community because it's kind of like a fine balance, like understanding, guess you are a foreigner, and you're bringing your cultural background with you, but also trying to fit into the local community. Because I think a lot of experts, they gravitate towards other expats and it's like a fine balance between okay.
You're communicating maybe with other Americans abroad or other expats, but you know, how can you really build your community and find your place in the community without standing out as much? You know, as an expat
Justin Loy: No that's the, that's a temptation actually, you know, that there's a, there's a big temptation to do you just hang out with your own, you know, from your own country or do you take those steps to actually try to try to get to know, Those from the country in which you're living in.
And you know, and when you're, when you're stressed, when you're tired, when I joke with people that, you know, every morning I have the ability to do something stupid, you know, I probably I'll say something a little bit off or I'll Czech or, or, you know, I'll make some sort of cultural gaff, And, and yeah, the temptation is, is to run to the, to your own community, but you got to keep pushing through, reaching that community.
You know, you were talking about challenges. Can I mention a challenge that I have that the humorous, I mentioned this, I think my second one about being in the grocery store. No. You think that grocery stores everywhere are the same, but one of my, one of my, struggles always is standing in a grocery store line at the counter.
And, you know, they're just beeping things in, the groceries that they're scanning them. And, there are so many things that go on in a grocery store line, that can highlight my foreignness. You know that, Hey, you're a foreigner and I try to hide myself, you know, like I just, I'll just try to just be Czech as much as possible, but there's, there's some days where I just want to make the cashier laugh and, you know, cause Czech’s won't laugh as much in that type of situation.
So I'll say something, or there's just so many cultural things that you'll find in the mundane, like grocery shopping. And, those are the, those are the things that you. Don't think about when you're preparing to go overseas and to have somebody on the ground who can be like, okay, when you go in the grocery store, this is how you need to act.
This is how you need to pay. This is how you need to handle everything. So those are, those are very things that are very valuable.
Nicole (Host): Yeah, absolutely. And I love how you mentioned that, you know, like you kind of stand out. In the mundane tasks, you know, realize some cultures. Of course, we like to have small talk or we like to just, you know, Chatter a little bit.
Whereas other cultures are like, what are you, what are you talking to me about? I had a similar situation also at the grocery store where I asked. The lady, her name, and she said, why do you want to know?
I loved it. I go home today. I see something wrong. Was that culturally inappropriate? Maybe she saw it. I was going to report her or something, but I was like, Hm, maybe I won't ask anymore. Like, what's their name? I just want it to be personable.
Justin Loy: Yeah. There's times you just want to make that connection. And sometimes the culture is not ready for that for us, I guess.
Nicole (Host): Exactly. I mean, we go to the same grocery store every single week, probably multiple times a week. And it's the same cash register that we go to. So, you know, it's like, okay, well we've been seeing each other for a while. And I think the most personable thing that happened was when she gave us the, the discount card or go, well, shoot, she should have given us. A long time ago, but I took it really nicely. Like this is our way of, of her recognizing we're here for the long haul. We're not tourists.
Justin Loy: Just in a different way, it's like I found a friend who's a guy, he gave me his discount card. Yeah. Oh, it's the little moments.
Nicole (Host): So, now looking back, what would you maybe have done differently in planning your move?
Justin Loy: I would have done more research. I would have been maybe even more intentional about trying to communicate, maybe try to find that person on the ground, to help. We did have a friend that really helped out in 2004 when we came the second time. But I know that 1998, I would have really wished that I would, I would have done more research, asked more questions beforehand.
Maybe even tried to learn a little bit more Czech than I had, try to, to continue to learn, and maybe I couldn't have done as much of that in the States as I think I could have, but ask more questions, ask questions all the time. Don't feel ashamed to ask questions, contact people, maybe in that, in that home country and how you should go about doing things, do some scouting out ahead of time.
See what's out there. What's available. I wish I had done that, but essentially more research. I think, I think I would've, I would have done some more research, but you know, at the, at the end of the day, no matter what you do as an expat, there's going to be a lot of uncertainty. And, I would have almost, Hey, you know, what, if I would talk to my younger self, I would say there's going to be uncertainty.
But you're gonna have a blast at the same time, and you're gonna be living an adventurous life and brace yourself for the uncertainty. And I think a lot of people need to, to, think about that. Ask questions. You know, ask questions, that people have been there before. That is so crucial because they can tell you that, Hey, you might experience some culture shock in, I don't know, in a month, or three or something.
You might, you might experience this in a month or nine, and talk to the people that have gone before, do your research and brace yourself for uncertainty. And if you can lean into that uncertainty. You'll find a lot, a lot of things that will just benefit your life and, really, bless you in a lot of ways.
Nicole (Host): I love it. That's really great advice for our listeners, you know, just brace herself for the uncertainty, but it's going to be an amazing experience. And I'm sure for those who are experts listening as well, they know that, you know, it has been really rewarding. We all learn things we grow and it's very beautiful to be able to live in another country, and embrace and immerse ourselves in another culture.
Justin Loy: And I, I want to say that finding the right people, at the right time, when you first step off the plane, in the country, in which you're going to, it's so important to find the right people to help you out because that's going to help you for the future. It's going to help you stay in the country in which you're living in.
Because if you go in there and you've got that uncertainty, and there's no one there to really help you out to walk with you. through that uncertainty, it's a lot harder to stay in that country. And so finding the right people will actually help you, survive. It'll help you stay in the country that you want to be living in and in that foreign country.
And so find the right people.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely, it completely can change your entire experience.
Justin Loy: Yes, definitely. So I kind of coupled in, like some different advice there. So for people, this is perfect.
Nicole (Host): No, that's great. Like you, you added in a lot of great advice, you know, for people listening cause that's, you know, the purpose of our podcasts really help people as they're moving abroad.
So thank you so much for sharing all of that. I always like to end with a nice little question, a tricky one. Where is your favorite city that you've visited?
Justin Loy: Oh, okay. So. I've done a lot of travel in central Europe. So are we, are we talking city here? Or are we talking any city?
Nicole (Host): Any city, that's the tricky part.
Justin Loy: Yeah, I know. I was actually gonna say Provence. But, but, because this is my favorite place, but okay. So the city I'm going to say, I'll say Berlin. I like Berlin, Berlin. you know, when I was living in Washington, DC there's, this there's a vibe of like, this is where things are happening and Berlin has that on a European scale.
It doesn't, it doesn't get thrown in with, with, with Paris or London. When you think of. Exotic places to go to, but I like history. And so Berlin's got lots of history, but there's something fun. I would say about Berlin. You got the East part, you got the West part, you got that, that, that mix in between.
And, I like that. And if I, if I'm going to cheat here a little bit, I'm going to give you a smaller city too, since you scared me with a tricky question, I'm going to give you a second one. also hidden I want to say Dresden. There are a lot of little towns but, It's a city, Dresden.
I would recommend that to anybody also, but yeah. Yeah. Now you got me thinking, I'm thinking of all these cities, right? They just tell all your, you know, let's talk about Salzburg. You know, that's where my wife and I really fell in love, and answer for another, again, this is the romantic podcast.
Right. And all those are all great, great smaller cities there, but I'll go with Berlin. Because it's a lot of fun.
Nicole (Host): Love itt. Thanks so much for sharing. Yeah. You're probably going to be thinking about it all day. That's the tricky part.
Justin Loy: Thanks. Thanks.
Nicole (Host): Yeah, of course, of course. So how can our listeners find you on social?
Justin Loy: Yeah. So my podcast is starting, it's Podcast: Behind the Curtain: An Inside Look at an Expat Life podcast.buzzsprout.com. That is where my podcast is. And, you can look me up, I've got, episodes on what it's like. It's an inside look at an expat life behind the current podcast. And, I try to, just, it's a, it's a short podcast telling little stories about what it's like to live as a foreigner.
And at the end, try to pull out a little bit of a deeper meaning. about the expat life, not just the, the, superficial, yeah. Things like the grocery store, but there's actually deeper ideas behind that. So you could, you could find me @thebehindthecurtainpodcast and I'm also on Spotify iTunes and all podcasting, listening apps.
Nicole (Host): Awesome. Thank you so much, Justin, for, for sharing your journey with us and great to see that, you know, 20 years, plus you're still living that life and Czech Republic and excited because our listeners can follow your journey and listen to your behind the curtain podcast. So we'll include the link as well in the description, make sure that those who are listening can also follow your journey.
And thanks again for being a guest on our show.
Justin Loy: I appreciate you having me on.