How working outside Prague can improve work-life balance for expats

Knorr-Bremse has a 300-strong team in Liberec, offering a more relaxed pace of life as well as opportunities for personal growth.

William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 24.10.2023 17:00:00 (updated on 03.11.2023) Reading time: 4 minutes

Expats in Czechia often fail to look beyond Prague and Brno when it comes to choosing where to live and work. Smaller cities can be an attractive proposition, with beautiful nature close at hand and greater opportunities to stand out from the crowd than in major international jobs markets.

The north Bohemian city of Liberec, population 100,000, is a smart option for those looking to explore work opportunities in a smaller Czech city. Its advantages are numerous: close contact with nature, a multitude of cultural attractions, and a vibrant urban feel. Ample employment opportunities in Liberec offer the potential for a healthier work-life balance far (but not too far) from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

Knorr-Bremse, the German-based producer of systems for rail and road vehicles, is leveraging the potential of Liberec, operating a shared service center where expat employees can enjoy a quality of life that’s different to anything they’ll find in Prague.

By choosing Liberec for its business services center in 2017, Knorr-Bremse took an innovative approach to making the most of the potential of Czechia. This approach has been vindicated; its city center location currently employs around 300 people and is scheduled to have 350 employees by the end of the year.

An innovative location for service center excellence

The location isn’t just growing in terms of its number of employees, but also in the significance of the work undertaken within the company’s global operations. Knorr-Bremse is currently seeking candidates for positions in IT, HR, Controlling and other key areas of its operations. An increasing number of senior positions are available for skilled subject-matter experts, providing plenty of potential for growth within a multinational structure.

“Value added positions at this center are more specialized and of a managerial nature. Such employees are in contact with our German locations and other locations around Europe,” explains Eva Kubešová, HR Manager for Knorr-Bremse. “They have possibilities to switch to other locations; each year, we run career assessments and we support internal moves for our people.”

Promising expat careers

Although Liberec offers a different pace of life to Prague, the Knorr-Bremse service center is as diverse and international as shared service centers in the capital or other expat hotspots.

“We have an international environment with lots of foreigners. We’re used to having a large international community and we build togetherness through team buildings and other activities. People in this center are very open and friendly,” says Kubešová.

The community is tight-knit and youthful, with employees hailing from all over the world; from Italians to Indians and from Brits to Slovaks and, of course, Czechs. This diverse group comes together outside work, too, thanks to the friendly atmosphere of Liberec itself.

“Liberec is quite small compared to Prague, so people often meet up after work. They enjoy doing sports together and exploring nature, which is just a short walk from our center,” says Kubešová.

In Prague, people have so many possibilities, whereas people in Liberec are often more engaged with their work and their colleagues. They value the people they know in the office and even though we allow home officing, they simply like to come to work and spend time with each other.”

“I worked in Prague for 15 years before coming here and I really feel a change in the naturalness of the people,” she adds.

Best of both worlds

Prague offers great quality of life compared to many other capital cities, but Liberec provides expat workers with something else. Life here is calmer and more in sync with nature. For many, this means a better overall work-life balance.

Liberec is surrounded by attractive outdoor destinations, including mountain ranges such as Jizerské hory and Krkonoše. A short distance to the south is Český ráj, one of Czechia’s most beloved tourist areas boasting stunning natural landscapes marked out by distinctive rock formations as well as historic castles and chateaus.

Given this wealth of natural beauty, it’s no surprise that Liberec is a town of outdoor adventurers.

“Liberec is a sporty city. When she visits, my sister always comments on how active people are here, whether they’re running, cycling to work, or being active in nature! There’s so much to do, whether it’s skiing and snowboarding in winter or running and hiking in summer,” says Kubešová.

Liberec is also a vibrant university city, with cultural attractions including concert halls, theaters, cinemas, shopping and more. It’s well-connected, with Germany and Poland a short drive away and Prague easily accessible by car and public transport.

“Liberec offers a great work-life balance. You can leave work and walk to the mountains or take a tram and go skiing. You can live in harmony with nature, but if you ever feel the need for the rush of the big city, you can take a bus and in an hour you’re in Prague,” says Kubešová.

Not many other major employers in Czechia can offer a location with a similar balance of urban and outdoor opportunities. As Knorr-Bremse’s center grows, expats interested in a change of pace and life beyond Prague may find that Liberec provides the best of both worlds.

This article was written in cooperation with Knorr-Bremse Services Europe s.r.o. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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