EXPAT VOICES: Foreigners in Czechia hope new president will promote inclusivity, lead with dignity

Our recent survey had a multitude of responses, many of which revolved around Pavel better representing Czechia on the world stage.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 09.03.2023 18:00:00 (updated on 19.04.2023) Reading time: 6 minutes

Today is symbolic for Czechia – the country gets its first new president in 10 years. Petr Pavel this afternoon is inaugurated as president, replacing Miloš Zeman, and begins his five-year term as president.

Although the president does not have nearly as many powers as Czechia’s prime minister, he can still very much influence the shape of Czechia’s future. As well as promoting change, and being able to pass or veto laws, he is also able to shine a light on aspects of society that need changing in the country.

He can, and will, affect the lives of expats.

A few weeks ago, we asked you what changes you hope Pavel would make to the country. We received an impressive amount of replies, and – although unfortunately we can’t feature them all – here are some of the highlights of what you had to say.

(Answers have been edited for length and clarity)

The president representing Czechia and ‘Westernization’

Zeman’s sympathetic views toward China and – prior to 2022 – Russia undoubtedly caused tensions within society. Many of you expressed a wish to see Czechia firmly stay on its Western path.

Reader Ben said that he would “love to see the Czech Republic show more leadership on the world stage in terms of diplomacy and democracy.”

“Compared to [Former Prime Minister Andrej] Babiš's toxic greed and lies and Zeman's bizarre antics, we have a great chance for more internal stability and for the Czech Republic to be seen internationally as an intelligent and inclusive democracy.” - Ben

Julie took a similar line, saying that Czechia should keep its pro-NATO and Western orientation “while being a part of the larger global community and supporting Ukraine.” One reader also said that Pavel should help “fully Westernize society.”

Speaking English

The most predominant theme was improving the English-language skills of government offices, civil service staff, and other areas of public life. 

While the president is unable to directly change the law in this field (and any others), he can still promote change and pass or veto any laws relating to it.

The oftentimes lack of English-speaking staff at Czech public institutions has, indeed, caused frustration in the past.

“More English-language adoption in people-facing offices and institutions and organizations,” said one reader. Another agreed, saying “more English-speaking employees at all types of jobs here…people need to stop talking about how life was years ago.”

Reader Bogdan called on for more of a broader shift in Czech society regarding this issue. He hoped that Pavel prompts a “shift in Czech people’s mentality” to help them better accept and understand English. “Not everybody is of Slavic descent, some people come from Latin languages, and so it can be very hard to speak Czech,” he added.

Bogdan also hopes that Pavel's "Western vision" and liberal nature will help promote and encourage the better adoption of English throughout society via orienting the country Westward.

One person said that they “consider the language barrier as one of the biggest issues here” and that it “would be great if the president passed some rules that helped expats get [more] information in English.”


Readers Jeff and Lee also hoped to see “more transparency” in the Presidential Office’s domestic and foreign dealings, with better and clearer communication to the public (such as for the appointment of Czech National Bank board members or senior judges).

Jeff specified that he wanted to see an “out and about” president in Pavel, not someone “hiding in their villa or office.”

Daily expat life

Expat life in any country can be tricky, and some of you expressed ways that Pavel could help make things a little easier for new and current expats in Czechia.

“Better integration courses for expats and a more effective foreign police division,” said one reader. Interestingly, they went on to say that the foreign police could not solve their issue for two years, and in some cities it was impossible to reach government immigration departments. 

“Simplified bureaucratic processes and online options for simple issues." - Megan

One person simply hoped that, under Pavel, there would be more job opportunities created for expats.” Michael also hopes that, with Pavel as president, it becomes easier for native English speakers to teach English. According to him, there are currently more requirements in Czechia than in other EU countries.

Another comment Ben made was that the "Czech school system needs a massive overhaul, and teachers need more pay and respect. This isn't the president's responsibility, but he could definitely shine a light on local issues that the government needs to improve."

On housing, one reader hoped that Pavel would help make it “more affordable,” and Michael also would like the president to “simplify and shorten the approval process of building a new house, which currently takes six to 12 months.”

"I hope President Pavel will implement the euro as a currency for Czech Republic. This was one of his pledges during his campaign. So, I hope he can achieve it in the next five years." - Bogdan


Any foreigner who has applied for temporary or permanent residency knows it is no straightforward task; this was also a popular topic.

Easing “immigration and permanent residency rules” was something that Arvind hoped for. One reader called for “easier access to the blue card.” 

Joseph also said that Pavel could help create “an easier method to give permanent residency status based on the number of years’ stay, education, and salary.” He added that “permanent residency status based on language only is quite difficult for expats.” 

Donald also alluded to permanent residency requirements, asking that the mandatory level of Czech language for non-EU citizens be changed back from A2 to A1 level.

(P)VZP and insurance

The decision in 2021 to make it mandatory for foreigners with a long-term stay in Czechia to have insurance only with PVZP (the private arm of state insurer VZP) rather than other health insurance companies angered many. Former President Miloš Zeman signed off on this law.

“Other private medical insurance for foreigners should be reopened. Expats should be able to buy insurance other than PVZP,” said Hadeed.

“The PVZP insurance system is nothing less than discriminatory and unjust…as an expat from a non-EU country, I think the PVZP insurance system needs to be abolished and the option to 'buy' VZP should be introduced,” said another reader.

“Stop the PVZP monopoly on health insurance for expats." - Vladimir.

One more reader added that they hoped Pavel would help introduce “free insurance for the dependent(s) of people on a scientific visa,” such as children and unemployed spouses – a similar policy had been in place before the pandemic. 

LGBTQ+, inclusion, and equality

Although Czechia is relatively progressive in comparison to its former Eastern Bloc neighbors, the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities are still often marginalized in everyday aspects of life. Zeman's previous anti-transgender comments will make many feel relieved that he is no longer president.

Reader George added that “no discrimination regardless of race, sex, and education…equality for all sexes” should be promoted by Pavel.

One reader also hoped for “greater open-mindedness" and for Pavel to help Czech society "with a fear of foreigners."

“I hope for the better enforcement of LGBTQ+ rights,” said Lina, a point that Megan echoed. Another reader hoped that Pavel would contribute toward the introduction of gay marriage and promote gender equality. 

Amid the backdrop of a war in Europe, huge inflation, and persistent threats from China and Russia, Czechia's new president has no easy task ahead of him. Pavel will, however, hopefully make life easier for expats in the months and years ahead.

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