EXPAT VOICES: From hot sauce to jeans – readers reveal what they bring back to Czechia

Lower prices, more variety, and memories of childhood were among the main reasons expats gave for bring certain items with them to Czechia.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 06.10.2023 17:04:00 (updated on 07.10.2023) Reading time: 10 minutes

In August, we asked which items you typically bring back to Czechia from your home countries. Over 100 of you responded, with your must-import items spanning a fascinating spectrum from hot sauce to hair products. You also told us why you prefer to buy abroad: quality and affordability were among the most common answers.

While it was incredibly difficult to choose from so many practical, passionate, and sometimes outrageously hilarious, responses, this article attempts to give the best overview of what you bring back to Czechia and why.

 Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

'As a German, I think that life without curry ketchup is possible, but pointless!'

Snacks, meals, ingredients, and drinks – these were by far the most frequently cited items that you bring back to Czechia from your home countries

“Peanut butter and Old Bay spice. The peanut butter is better quality and cheaper back home. Old bay is a special spice you can only get from my home state, and is also better quality than the Czech equivalent”, writes Allura from the U.S.

Chris from Germany finds food helpful in reminding him of home: “I bring Heinz Curry-Ketchup to Czechia. As a German, I think that life without curry ketchup is possible, but pointless! On a more serious note, it was just a very common thing in Germany to have this particular curry ketchup when I grew up and as it is not easily available in the Czech Republic,” he explains.

"I take a little piece of childhood back to Prague when visiting Dresden."

Chris, from Germany

Sweet snacks from home are important to Robin, who hails from Belgium. “I will always stock up on some Belgian chocolate even when it's a trip with a small suitcase. If we drive, then I will visit a supermarket for more sweets and we bring beer. I get almost everything to give away to other people actually,” he comments.

Tessa – also from Belgium – airs the same view as Robin. “I bring back chocolate: the quality is better in Belgium and I know where to get it cheap,” she says. Tessa also mentioned that she brings back sparkling Lipton Ice Tea, Lay’s pickle-flavored chips, and “cécéme”l (chocolate milk) – all of which are unavailable in Czechia.

On the subject of crisps, Jon from the U.S. also notes that he brings to Czechia Lay's BBQ chips and Crunchy Cheetos, which cannot be found in Czechia.

Almost all people said they would bring back food and drink that were unavailable in Czechia, and – notably – many also said that the same items were much more expensive in Czechia.

Sérgio from Portugal brings back “cod fish, local cheese and prosciutto, and port wine” to Czechia. He says that “these items are either extremely hard to find in Czechia or are very expensive.”

“Black tea from Kenya connects me to my homeland because we usually cook tea and milk in the morning and sieve the tea leaves, so I always bring lots of it with me."

A reader from Kenya

Luis – also from Portugal – echoes Sérgio’s sentiment. He says that he always brings wine back to Czechia because it is good quality. “There have been times when the biggest share of my luggage weight was taken by 6 bottles of red and young white wine,” he added!

Thanos from Greece said: “I bring to Czechia Greek olive oil, feta and Greek coffee. I can find all those in Prague as well, but sometimes for more than double the price.”

Stefan, also Greek, says: “I bring back Ouzo [an alcoholic drink]! This is because I can't find Varvagianni ouzo anywhere outside of Greece.”

Some say that they take beloved regional ingredients with them. “I always bring toasted manioc flour to create farofa and sour manioc starch to make pão de queijo [Brazilian cheese bread], plus some cans of good quality guava jam. These are three things from Brazil that don’t exist here – and I miss them,” said Marina.

Another reader from Indonesia said that they brought back “cheese, coffee, Indonesian ingredients, baking soda, and white natural vinegar.” Availability and quality once again crop up as issues. “These products are either not available or of less quality in remote Czech regions.”

"I go shopping in my home country a few times per year, fill my fridge, replenish my cosmetics supplies, buy clothes – the same that are also available in the Czech Republic but are 30 to 100 percent more expensive. So even with travel costs, I'm saving."

Aleksandra, from Poland

Rupal from India mentions that he takes “spices, pulses, veggies, and Maggi noodles” back to Czechia, because in his home country he gets “a much wider variety to choose from and much, much cheaper options.” Notably, several other readers from India mentioned bringing spices back to Czechia.

“I buy cheddar cheese and tea bags, because of the better availability, cost, and quality,” adds Ian from England.

Jay, also from the UK, says he brings back “HP Brown sauce, Bistos Gravy, and custard powder, which is not always easily available here, if at all.” Another Brit, Andrew, brings with him Heinz tinned food.

“I take with me delicious Cholula green hot sauce, made with jalapeño and poblano peppers! It's essential for spicing up my life in Prague. I bring four to six little bottles every trip!” says Jennifer from the US.

Sean from neighboring Canada says he takes “Kraft Peanut Butter and Coffee Crisp Bars” with him, and Megan from the U.S. explained that by taking Chex Mix cereal back to Czechia she is reminded of a “taste of childhood.”

"I bring with me condiments and mixes, such as Peranakan Nonya laksa paste, dark soy sauce, and my favorite chocolate malt drink, Milo. There’s also no Singaporean community outside Prague, so I have to rely on these to satisfy my cravings for local food."

Genevieve, from Singapore

Reader Melody from the U.S. says: “I bring back vanilla extract because here it is either fake or exorbitantly expensive. I also bring chocolate chips because it's difficult to find them here and if you find them, they are very expensive”

Coffee is important to many people, and Illaria from Italy says that she brings back “ground coffee – the good-quality type – because in Czechia it is really expensive compared with Italy.”

Other mentioned products that readers gladly took back to Czechia with them were: Wisconsin cheddar cheese, beef jerky, gravy, olive oil, honey, and chocolate chips – all because they either very hard to find or lacking in quality. 

'The UK price is CZK 10 for 16 tablets, whereas the Czech price is CZK 99 for 24.'

Indispensable for everyone and highly inconvenient when unavailable, medicine was the second-most frequently cited item that people took back to Czechia.

Jon from the U.S. writes that he brings back to Czechia allergy and antihistamine medication (such as Zyrtec and Benadryl), because “it is way cheaper to buy in the U.S. and there is also a greater variety of vitamins and supplements.”

Richard from the UK says similar – he brings back paracetamol because “the UK price is CZK 10 for 16 tablets, whereas the Czech price is CZK 99 for 24.” He also makes an interesting observation: he can buy generic paracetamol in the UK, but in Czechia he can only buy the branded, and therefore more expensive, type. 

Joel from the Netherlands says almost the same. He buys “paracetamol in huge quantities because 100 pills of 500mg costs the equivalent of CZK 50 in the Netherlands – the price for a box of 24 in Czechia.”

“A lot of medicines are not available in the Czech Republic due to EU regulations or medical approval regimes. For example, a certain medicine for urinary tract infections is banned because it contains a dye that 'might' cause cancer."

Olivia, from the U.S.

Several people also commented on the difficulty of obtaining a prescription for some medications and even over-the-counter (OTC) pills.

“Czechia has a different approach to insomnia, so the OTC pills I was able to buy in the US do not exist here. They work better than anything I was prescribed by a doctor here,” says one reader. Another reader also mentioned they brought sleeping pills from the U.S. due to their availability.

Lulu from Argentina similarly remarks: “I bring with me medication because it's so hard to get some things OTC in Czechia, and even if you do it's usually less strong (as is the case for Diclofenac). Doctors do not like prescribing medication in general.”

Rafael from Brazil says similar to Lulu; “Medication is what I take back, because its extremely difficult to get a prescription here,” he says.

Amanda from the U.S. says she takes topical antibiotics Bacitracin and Neosporin back to Czechia due to these drugs being unavailable OTC.

"I purchase electronics, clothing, vitamins – pretty much anything and everything, because it’s usually about 20 to 30 percent cheaper in the U.S. compared to Czechia."

Adam, from the U.S.

Other readers also mentioned purchasing hydrocortisone cream, blood pressure strong pain-relief pills, and cold sore treatment abroad due to no OTC options in Czechia for these types of medication.

Several readers also said that they would purchase multivitamins and supplements abroad simply because it was much cheaper.

'The Czech Republic is rich in alcohol, but it's hard to find rubbing alcohol!

Comestic and hygiene products – used by everyone every day – were also high on people’s priorities.

“I tend to take tampons with cardboard applicators back from the U.S. They're pretty rare here (only plastic or applicator-free ones are available), and I think they absorb better,” says Olivia. 

Melody, also from the U.S. takes with her a range of hygiene products when returning to Czechia. “I buy witch hazel [a skincare product] because it is difficult to buy in Czechia. I also buy “Tom's Natural Toothpaste” because natural toothpaste in Czechia is very expensive and tends to be low quality.

Melody adds that although Q-tips (cotton swabs) are available in Czechia, they aren't as fluffy as some U.S. brands, leading her to purchase Q-tips in the U.S.

One reader remarked that they brought nail polish from their home country (Brazil) because it was far cheaper. Rebecca from the UK said the same of facial-skincare products. 

Ali from the U.S. says that they bring certain hair products (such as bleach and developer) to Czechia because they are expensive to order and require extra payment even when importing from nearby countries, such as Germany. 

"I buy rubbing alcohol when I visit home...the Czech Republic is rich in alcohol, but it's hard to find rubbing alcohol!"

Melody, from the US

Kahynna from Brazil says that she brings back with her special types of cosmetics that suit her curly hair. “Even though is possible to find some here, they do not come close to matching the variety and quality of the ones available in my country,” she explains.

Agatha from Canada brings with her “a specific brand of tinted moisturizer” not found in Czechia, and other readers cited items such as hair dye, make-up, fluoride-rich toothpaste, high-end shampoos, and anti-chafing cream – all were either unavailable or much more expensive in Czechia.

'I always stock up on clothes because they're better quality and cheaper.'

Some of our readers mentioned garments – almost always alongside a comment saying that clothes were often cheaper in their home countries. 

“I always stock up on clothes because they're better quality and cheaper,” says Allura. This sentiment is echoed by Ian from the UK, who also adds that the same is true for shoes.

Jon from the U.S. also prefers clothes from his own country. Branded jeans, pants, and t-shirts are cheaper to get in the U.S., especially at discount department stores like Ross, Marshall's, TJ Maxx, and Nordstrom Rack – none of which exists in the U.S.

"It seems like many brands only have licenses to be sold in the U.S., so sometimes I buy or 'import' things from there, but the cost always ends up being double or higher, after the postage to EU and duties charges for customs. If I can, I try to have them sent to my friend's house in the U.S. so that they can bring them over for me when they visit. The postage and duties charges here are horrible!

Lija, from Canada

'iPhones in the U.S. are more affordable than in Czechia'

It was not availability – but price – that was the main reason for being electronic devices abroad. 

Ruchir from India also said that he prefers to buy mobile phones in his home country due to the lower price. This is a sentiment echoed by Lenny from the U.S., who interestingly notes that iPhones in the U.S. are actually more affordable than in Czechia.

“High-end electronics like laptops are more than twice the cost of what it is back in the U.S. It's much cheaper to just pay for an extra check-in bag when I return from there."

Ali, from the US

'Quality books in English are difficult and expensive to find in Czechia.'

Readers bring with them a variety of other items, explaining why they do so.

“I take with me daily household items – such as bedding, mirrors, book holders, slippers, etcetera – because it is much cheaper in Taiwan (owing to China-sourced imports),” explains Yi-Chen.

One of the several readers who mentioned they brought books back to Czechia said: “Quality books in English are difficult and expensive to find in Czechia.”

“Taking books in my native Portuguese to Czechia is a must, as often I can’t find the book I want on Kindle, and reading in one’s own language is always more comfortable… it helps me keep connected to my roots," says Marina.

Whether it be availability, price, variety, or simply a comforting reminder of home and childhood, readers' preferences underline how even simple items can make a big difference.

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