I was born in the city of Kingston Upon Hull known by all and sundry as just plain Hull (‘Ull). In 2011, the population of Hull was 256,000 although the Hull area must be significantly more. Today, I live in the city of Brno in the Czech Republic. It too is a working-class city with a heavily industrialized past and it is a bit bigger coming in at 371,000.
I like both cities in terms of their location, attractions and so on. Brno is a bit more attractive but likely that is simply because it is a bit more varied in its architectural styles and it has many more green spaces and parks. What utterly amazes me is the difference in an aspect of city life and that is personal safety.
One of my abiding memories of growing up and even visiting England and Hull in particular, is how easy it is to attract physical violence. The number of times I have been asked to explain who I am looking at are countless and the number of times I have observed all out drunkenness and violence in Hull cannot be counted. I actually get the Hull Daily Mail feed on Facebook and it is a constant stream of murder, violence, street gangs, assaults, robberies and so on.
Meanwhile, I have lived in Brno 6-years and 8-years in the Czech Republic. Public intoxication is rare despite the fact beer is preferred to water as a drink and slivovice, a distilled spirit, is knocked back with every beer. I have never seen any violence here. No fights, no stabbings – nothing. Perhaps it is the Communist background where their was no state tolerance for such activities or maybe it is just in the Czech character I do not know but I feel safe walking home with a skinful at 4am here. Hell, I don’t worry about my partner walking home a bit typsy at 4am either and that isn’t something I would feel good about in the UK.
This contrast and comparison isn’t something just I have noticed either. Other British exPats say the same.
Yes, there are homeless people, there are drunks on the street. Yes, there is poverty and low incomes. Yes, the political system here is no better at producing results than that in the UK. But, there is no culture of violence nor of binge drinking. It would not be tolerated by the people. There is a culture of drinking and being happy. There are more pubs and bars in Brno per capita than I have seen anywhere in the UK. There is a much healthier attitude to sex here too….. but thats another article.
It’s a sad reflection really but it’s true. The question is why?