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Teaching English in Europe

With so many interesting countries to choose from, Europe is a great place to start or develop your TEFL career

Jetting off to Europe may not sound like the most exciting of things to do but it’s all too easy to ignore the treasures on your doorstep! The Eiffel tower, the Vatican, the Saint Sophia Cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, the Brandenburg Gate and the Red Square to name a few, Europe is full to bursting with plenty of wonders and new experiences that will make living and teaching here an enriching experience!

The names may be familiar, but the sights themselves are startlingly beautiful, and with 48 countries (49 if you count the Vatican) there’s no shortage of diversity and cultural difference around every corner. Living and working in Europe’s cosmopolitan cities will give you a unique perspective and an insider’s knowledge that a package trip never could.

Europe’s teaching market is so broad that it’s best if we use a little geography to divide it up, so here we go...

Western Europe

Culture

Politics aside the countries generally included in the ‘west’ of Europe are the UK, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, West Germany, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Switzerland. Quite a few there, and that’s only half of what Europe has to offer! Cultural experiences are available by the bucketload, whether it’s sampling ale at a German beer festival, trying your first wiener schnitzel in Austria or donning a mask for one of the world famous Carnivals in Italy or France. The people you meet will be more than happy to share their traditions with you and a little understanding of the language always helps!

Educational standard

According to the fifth annual "indicators and benchmarks" report, drawn up by the commission's Education Directorate General, the Western European countries with the best recent improvements in education are Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and Iceland. Generally Europe has a high educational standard but language is always an area for improvement. Although most schools implement a second language into their curriculum, it’s not always necessarily English. As the language of international business and politics, there is always demand for English teachers both in specific language schools and as part of a thorough education.

Teaching Opportunities

France, Germany, Italy and Spain have the strongest teaching markets with plenty of jobs both in the major cities and in other areas throughout the countries. Visa complications are almost non-existent for EU citizens as you don’t need one, but beware: they do happen! Different countries have different requirements, so it’s a good idea to check requirements beforehand. Teaching for a few months will usually require mo moer than a TESOL certificate, but a little knowledge of business or IT can go a long way to securing a good placement, particularly in Germany. Pay will again be subject to where you work, but on average you’ll expect to earn US$1500 to 2000 per month.

Facilities

If you’re looking at paid work then you may also be expected to find your own accommodation. House shares, flat shares or sharing with a live-in landlord are sociable and cheap, but if you’re staying for a few months it's worth considering staying in a hostel if your budget is tight! Standards are generally good, but be prepared for a few things you’re not used to, such as bidets and iron bars on bathroom windows!

Eastern Europe

Including far more snow capped mountains thzan its western counterpart Eastern Europe normally encompasses Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia and Albania. Turbulent pasts and the constraints of communist rule have left areas of Eastern Europe less affluent than their Western counterparts but no less culturally rich and visually stunning!

Culture

In a region so steeped in history, it's no surprise that there are plenty of sights to see and interesting people to meet; whether you yearn to see the internationally-acclaimed Russian Ballet, feast your eyes on some traditional Polish folk art or take a wander through the old socialist buildings in East Germany, there are countless points of interest! Most locals will be happy to chat if you show an interest in local history, and they might help you find the best bistros and vodka bars to warm you up on a cold night!

Educational standard

Education is of vital importance across Europe. Slovenia and the Czech Republic have made great progress with reading and keeping pupils at school longer, but the education system is still finding its feet. With the fall of communism the demand for English has become more apparent and many governments are working hard to bring about the necessary changes, but it can’t all happen at once! With improved economies, English teachers are needed across countries such as Russia but confused systems make placements hard to organise and volunteer work is more common. Some understanding of local language in places like Latvia, Estonia or even Georgia will prove useful in finding a place and you’ll find your pupils and the locals more responsive.

Teaching Opportunities

Not all areas are difficult to find work in and their stronger economies mean that the best areas are the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The EFL industry is just beginning to come into its own in these countries with foreign language schools popping up all over the place and private tuition becoming more popular as areas become more affluent. Being a non-EU Citizen is less of a problem here, as most countries aren't yet EU members. Entry requirements are generally quite relaxed and in areas where English teaching is in high demand you’re likely to be accepted Pay does reflect the cost of living, so generally it’s unlikely to reach US$1000 per month.

Facilities

It’s true that accommodation isn't what you’d expect at home, but it should still be comfortable. You'll usually have the usual modern conveniences, but you should be prepared for very cold winters, so take a spare jumper or two! As with Western Europe accommodation may be provided by the company that places you; it may even be a homestay, which is a great way to live and breathe the local culture and sample the local cuisine. Longer placements might require you to find your own accommodation but the low cost of living shouldn’t make much of a dent in your pay, leaving you free to explore centuries of history!

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