Is Prague Still Cheap to Live In?’s forums are proving to be a good source of inspiration for the Prague F.A.Q. One person asks, “Is Prague still cheap to live in?”

Hm. The answer, as usual, is that it probably depends. It depends on your lifestyle in the place you’re coming from and the lifestyle you plan to live here.

It’s never really been true that you could live like a king on $100 USD a month. I know, because that was my first salary at Prognosis in 1992. For that, half of my salary went for rent, and the other half for food and drink. And when I say food and drink, I mean two hot dogs and a bowl of soup per day. But the lifestyle was excellent, and it was one of the few times in my life where I loved what I did completely. (My current employment’s not bad, btw. ;-))

When I left Prognosis to join an evil German ad agency, I was thrilled because I was going to get the princely sum of $1500 per month, and the difference was visible. I could afford taxis at night instead of waiting in the cold for the night tram, or to go shopping without really looking at the price tags. But the bargain was definitely Faustian, and for that salary, my employers believed they owned my soul.

Nowadays, the only people who are enjoying a truly decadent lifestyle are the ones who’ve always been in the priveleged class of Prague expats: employees of the diplomatic corps and multinationals. It used to be that you could get a cushy job at a multinational by just showing up. But nowadays the job market is much more competitive, and fluency in Czech, as well as having the skillz to pay the billz is important.

So is it affordable? Unless you get completely ripped off by your landlord, rent will probably be a substantially lower percentage of your monthly income. So will food and drink, if, like me, you tend to go to places offering “tepla jidla po cely den.” In other words, four-fingered-one-eyed joints.

But wait. Even when I lived in Santa Barbara, we always tried to make up stories to scare the tourists away. Hell, in Ventura there were beaches that were so strongly locals-only that you’d get your tires slashed for surfing there.

So yeah, it’s way more expensive. You can’t afford it. Stay where you are. šŸ˜‰

UPDATE Wed Jul 16 16:35: Reader Michal points out that nowadays there are lots of Czech managers making salaries in line with their western colleagues. This is true, and I didn’t want to give the impression that the only people living well are the diplomats and multinational employees; the point was that there are lots of Czech white collar employees living very well now, but the ones who are making the really astronomical sums are still in the expat “bubble.”

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