“Things have changed for the better”: Raymi Britto on life in Czechia and his Instagram account

Raymi Britto

Twenty-five-year-old Raymi Britto had no intention of starting up an Instagram account that would garner thousands of followers when he first moved to Prague eight years ago. But today, the Italian native reaches audiences from local Czechs, to expats living in the country with his funny videos documenting his life and experiences as an Italian living in Czechia. He came by our studio to talk about the account, how he learned Czech, and how he’s observed Prague change since he first landed here nearly a decade ago.

I’m a big fan of your Instagram account. I’ve been following you since I first moved to Prague. I noticed two flags in your Instagram bio, one is Italian, the other I didn’t recognize. Can you tell me a bit about your background?

“It’s probably the Peruvian one you didn’t recognize! My father is Peruvian. I was born in Milan, Italy, but my father is Peruvian, my mother is Italian. I was still raised with two languages – Spanish and Italian, which luckily are quite similar. I’d say I don’t feel Peruvian, because I didn’t grow up in that world – but it’s still a part of me, so I like to represent it.”

So how many languages do you speak?

“My mother languages are Italian and Spanish. I speak English, and Czech. That’s it! And I would say the best part about speaking Czech is that you can travel to a place like Poland, and can get by with the language, because it’s a Slavic language. So that’s really cool.”

Milano | Photo: dimitrisvetsikas1969,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

You’re from Milano originally, and you’re now here in Czechia. Tell me about your journey getting here.

“It’s a long journey I’d say. I’ve been living in the Czech Republic for eight years now. I originally wanted to study cinema at the FAMU school here in Prague, but let’s say things went a different way for me. I met my boyfriend when I was visiting Prague on a trip with friends, he was working in a fast food restaurant.

"We fell in love, and from that moment it was clear to me that I wanted to live abroad in Czechia. So that started the journey, and I moved here right after my high school graduation.”

Eight years is a long time, how have you seen the city change since you first came?

“I think things have changed for the better. At the beginning, it was hard for a foreigner to move to Prague because people didn’t speak that much English. To be able to find a job in Prague seven or eight years ago, you needed to speak a little bit of Czech, which wasn’t the case for me.

"I come from Italy, where we speak a Latin language, which is nowhere near Czech. It was hard, but I got there with time, and luckily I found a job outside of Prague at the Terezín Memorial.

"I’ve also seen in Prague that the people are changing, becoming more open minded and tolerant."

“There, I found my home. The people who work there are incredible and really took me in, and I learned Czech. I’ve also seen in Prague that the people are changing, becoming more open minded and tolerant. Of course there are some things that still need to change, especially outside of Prague – because we all know that Prague is Prague and the rest of the Czech Republic is a different story. But it’s changing, and that’s nice.”

For me, whenever I hear you speak Czech in your Instagram videos, it sounds perfect. How did you learn?

Raymi Britto | Photo: Amelia Mola-Schmidt,  Radio Prague International

“I feel like I don’t speak good Czech, maybe I’ll get there one day in 20 years. I really try to replicate the sounds people do, and try to make my Czech sound as natural as possible, but it’s not easy. I started with intensive courses in Prague, just to understand the structure and logic of the language.

"Languages are logic, and I tried to understand that – which for me made no sense, because Italian has a totally different logic than Czech. My point was to try and understand the logic of Czech, so I would slowly be able to understand the mentality of Czechs, because everything is connected.

“My suggestion would be to speak – even knowing you will make an error. Maybe someone will correct you, but you can still try. Somehow, you will get there.”

Let’s talk about your Instagram account – tell me about you got started with it, you’re at around 25,000 followers now?

“I actually started on Tik Tok about three years ago, and it really started as a joke. I was sitting on the couch one day, and my boyfriend’s brother came over and he was scrolling through Tik Tok, and I had no idea what it was. He made me an account, and I thought ‘now what?’, and he said, well you can make videos.

Photo: StockSnap,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

"At the beginning I really had no idea what to do, but then I thought about expressing how I live and how I think about this country, and maybe someone will like it and see things they haven’t noticed.

“In the beginning my idea was to show Czechs things they don’t realize by speaking or living in their own country that might seem strange to us, but not to them. It started like that, and it started growing, and I decided to publish the videos on Instagram, and from there it all started to grow very fast.”

How has the response been from Czechs but also foreigners?

“It’s been different. Different groups have responded distinctly. There are Czechs who like the videos and enjoy them, then there are the Czechs who like the videos but criticise them, and then there are the Czechs who tell me to go back to my own country – of course because that’s always the best answer!

“Then there are the foreigners who typically laugh at the videos and agree with them. Of course you have different generations on different social media platforms. On Tik Tok, people tend to be younger, on Instagram they are of all ages.”

I want to talk about your creative process. There is one reel you made about a situation at Česká pošta that really killed me. Are a lot of these reels based on your personal experiences? Tell me about that.

“The situation with Česká pošta was something that happened to me. I needed some documents confirmed, and all I needed was a stamp. I was waiting at the office for about 20 minutes, and when it was my turn, the woman working knew I wasn’t Czech, and my Czech was fluid at the time, but not perfect.

"The woman signed my document, but then told me I could not get a stamp, which was a problem because it’s not official without a stamp. She sent me to the city office, and when I arrived there, they told me to go back to Česká pošta to get the stamp. And this was just one of the million situations I’ve had here that was absurd, but that’s the Czech Republic.”

The videos you make about being a foreigner in the Czech Republic are things that so many people have experienced. It can be so isolating to be a foreigner in a country where it’s so different from your home, so it’s nice that you make these videos because it kind of validates people’s experiences.

“It is really hard to be a foreigner, and that was the goal with these videos from the beginning. Czechs are typically rude with Czechs, and if you’re a foreigner, it’s emphasized even more. I think it’s a normal thing, and it’s just culture, and it takes time for these things to change.

"I don’t think it’s Czechs fault that they can be this way, I think we expats need to be patient with them. As foreigners that can be a hard task to pardon Czechs for being them, but we just need to accept them and their culture.”

I think one thing I have noticed after having been here for a year and a half is that Czechs can be cold at first, but once you break the barrier with them – they are some of the most loyal and kind people.

Photo: Anastasia Gepp,  Pixabay,  CC0 1.0 DEED

“That’s the thing, if you go to a Czech speaking English, they will probably be quite closed to you. But if you approach them with a smile and try to speak Czech, then they are so friendly. I think speaking Czech is so important for integration.

"Once you speak Czech, you won’t have that feeling of being cut out of the society. That’s the barrier you need to surpass now as foreigner in the Czech Republic. Learn the language, speak, and you get integrated.”

And I don’t even think that this is something that’s isolated to Czechia, I think everywhere you go, language is so key.

“Absolutely, like if you go to Italy and don’t speak Italian – forget about it! You’re totally cut out of the world. Like my mother for example, she speaks a bit of English, but not that much.”

I think it’s all about being shy too, because people are always a bit more shy and timid when they’re approached in a language they aren’t comfortable in.

“Yes, people don’t want to risk making an error and feeling embarrassed. When you speak Czech here, don’t be afraid, make errors – it’s normal, and you will get through it.”

Has making this Instagram account helped you cope with being a foreigner in Czechia?

“It helped me mentally to deal with being far away from my mother and grandmother, and friends. Because when you leave your country, you leave everything and everyone behind, and suddenly you’re in a country where you don’t know anyone.

"I found making these videos liberated my feelings, and I hope that there is someone out there who can relate to that. It’s a feeling you have when you move anywhere in the world, you need to be able to express yourself."

"I found making these videos liberated my feelings, and I hope that there is someone out there who can relate to that. It’s a feeling you have when you move anywhere in the world, you need to be able to express yourself. So it’s helped me mentally a lot.”

You mentioned earlier that people are starting to recognize you from your videos, and really show their appreciation for them – tell me about that.

“I was at work doing a tour, and a guy stopped me and said ‘I love your videos!’. I never thought that people would learn from my videos, and it was so funny when this guy approached me about this one video and telling me it helped him learn something about the Czech language. I realize now, even though it might sound absurd, that these videos are important for people.”

What’s something that you’re grateful for about your time here in Czechia so far?

“That’s a tough question. But I think it’s shown me what a poor lifestyle we live in Italy. I was 19 when I moved here, with no knowledge of anything – just school. When you end high school in Italy, you get a number out of 100, I had 93 points. With that number, I would have a good chance to find a good job or get into a good university.

"When I moved here, I realized people value what you are capable of doing, and that’s how the world really works. I realized I was really living in a bubble, and I needed to learn to do things for myself. Czechia has helped me develop personally and mentally.”

"But it’s really sad that in Italy, they value a number rather than your knowledge.

"When I moved here, I realized people value what you are capable of doing, and that’s how the world really works. I realized I was really living in a bubble, and I needed to learn to do things for myself. Czechia has helped me develop personally and mentally.”

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