The rewards and challenges faced by an American couple who moved to Prague in their twenties
While leaving work one day in Kansas City, Missouri, Kayla Cook found a note left on her car. Nathan Force, her boyfriend, who’d driven by earlier left it to convey how much he loved her. That note made Kayla realize all her worries were irrelevant if this simple note brought tears to her eyes. Over two years later, they live, laugh, and adventure together, as a newly married expat couple in Prague, Czech Republic.
Nate, 25, was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, living there for 21 years without knowing that his future wife attended high school just blocks away from where he did. When he was little he had big plans for his career.
“I wanted to design rollercoasters. That was my dream job. Then I got into math class,” said Nate, laughing.
Nate never thought that he’d end up living in Europe. Before moving to Prague, Nate had never even been to Europe. He did imagine, though, living in places such as Africa or South America to work with NGOs, but the Czech Republic called first.
Kayla, 24, also was born and raised in Topeka with her twin sister, and graduated from University of Kansas in Lawrence with a marketing major. She visited Prague during the summer of 2014, and immediately loved it. With just four days in the city, she fell in love with the unique culture and architecture. “When I went to Prague and then came back home to the states, I told all my family and friends that I was going to live in Prague one day,” said Kayla.
Growing up, Kayla’s Aunt Susan impacted her to become the adventurous person she is today. “She always traveled a lot for her work and I’m just really similar to her, a lot more than my parents,” said Kayla. “She always inspired me to go out and do things.”
It wasn’t until 2014, when Kayla saw a picture of Nate and learned that he was in a band that she knew she had to meet this guy. Not long after, they went on their first date, where Kayla spilled her smoothie all over herself. Two and a half years after that, they became engaged.
During their seven month engagement, Nate and Kayla became serious about moving to the Czech Republic. Nate had connections here with a church, and Kayla always loved the city; it was fate. When Kayla told her family about moving, she asked: “If I could move anywhere, where would it be?” Both her sister and her parents said Prague, because they knew how much she loved it after coming back in 2014. Despite this, she was especially terrified to tell her parents about the move. “They are not risk takers and they are very happy with the same life that they’ve had since they’ve been out of college,” she said. Nate’s family was a bit more supportive, yet everyone was sad to see them leave.
During the 1990s after the Velvet Revolution, Prague became a popular place for younger North Americans to move to, with approximately 20,000 expatriates living in the city. In 2011, there were about 3,700 Americans living in Prague, according to Expats.cz. Three months after their dream wedding, Nate and Kayla packed up their lives to join the expat community in Prague, moving almost 5,000 miles away to from their homes to make a new one.
On the third floor of a pink apartment building in Prague, is Nate and Kayla’s first ever shared home, and they love it. After almost 7 months of living here, one of the best things, they said, is being able to experience life and grow together. “It’s been tough, but it’s been good. Being stretched in new ways and being able to have this experience with Kayla is the best,” said Nate. “Second best thing is public transit,” he added, laughing.
Despite Prague being Kayla’s dream home, with the move came many hardships and surprises. They took what many would call the hardest year of marriage and added more on top by moving to a foreign country.
“It’s more difficult, but I think because of that, it’s good. We came here and encountered some things and experienced a different culture and different situations we were forced to have certain conversations that maybe would take a lot longer for people who stayed in the same place to get to,” said Nate. Some of these encounters included cultural differences, language barriers, and traveling experiences.
Finding adequate jobs is another problem the Forces deal with. Nate is currently starting up a website design and marketing business and Kayla works at an international preschool. Because Nate is launching a business, there isn’t much income as of now.
“I want to be able to provide [financially]but I’m not able to do that since we moved here. My hardest experience in figuring out how to do that,” said Nate.
Kayla doesn’t enjoy her job as much as she’d hoped, saying that it is more of a daycare then a preschool. “We are figuring out how to be married, thrown into a culture that is new, languages that we don’t understand, and jobs that have been a whirlwind of an experience,” said Kayla.
Overall, the good outweighs the bad for the Forces in Prague, they say. They look at all their experiences with an optimistic viewpoint, and say that being out of their comfort zone helps them grow together and individually. Of course there are things they miss, first being their amazing community of friends and family back in Kansas. “And, of course, baseball,” adds Nate laughing.
Nate says that anyone can do what they are doing if they have the right mindset. They moved here with a suitcase and distant connections and still survived, so anyone can, says Kayla. “We can take our experiences now and how we’ve been growing back [to Kansas]and knit that into the incredible community we have,” said Nate.
In five years, the Forces see themselves living in a house in Kansas City with a Vizsla named Tortilla, surrounded by friends and family. Kansas City holds the community and careers that are best for them, so they plan on moving back this fall. Kayla hopes to have a more stable job and Nate hopes to finish up his schooling there. But for them, nothing is set in stone.
“It’s good if you don’t have a plan for your life, because it’s not your plan, it’s God’s,” said Kayla.
Photo by Georgi Shillington.