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EU special: Czeching it out

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Declan Carey, an English teacher in Prague, gives you the low-down on teaching in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is a fascinating country in the heart of Europe with a booming expat community. In fact, the UK government reports that over 10,000 British nationals are currently living here, many of whom are teachers or work in the English language industry.

According to the Czech Ministry of the Interior, there are 8,966 US citizens registered as living here too.

People come for a variety of reasons, and many (like me) fall in love with the place and choose to stay. Its location in the middle of Europe, its ancient history and its charming culture and people make it a great place to be.

Finding work

Finding a job in the Czech Republic isn’t extremely difficult. In Prague, there are several language schools that hire teachers all year round, such as James Cook Languages and Jipka, and there are also many Czechs who seek private teachers. English is used widely as an international language in the Czech Republic, and that means there are plenty of opportunities for teachers. One such teacher working in Prague is Tom Jowett, a British teacher who moved to the Czech Republic several years ago and studied for his teaching certificate in Prague.

‘I had been volunteering to help the EAL teacher in a local UK school before moving to Prague to do my Tesol, but I found that even without this the number of jobs and language schools hiring was very high.

I had more than a few job offers the week after I finished my Tesol course. ‘I’ve experienced a steady progression in my career, taking on different challenges and tasks and slowly moving towards teacher training and development.’

Getting a flat

There are a lot of flats in Prague, but there’s also a lot of competition for rooms since many students and workers come seasonally.

Mostly, teachers live together in flat-share arrangements to keep the costs down.

These can be found through local Facebook groups.

There are also Czech websites that advertise vacant properties available for rent without commission.

Managing your living costs

The Czech Republic is well known for its low cost of living compared to other European countries. Beer and food cost very little if you avoid tourist places in the centre of Prague. Eating out and going to the hospoda (pub) is very common and a great way to sample some Czech and Slavic culture. Other amenities are also generally cheap, and it’s certainly possible to live comfortably and travel around the continent on a teacher’s salary.

 People

Czechs are a friendly bunch with a dark sense of humour and a thirst for good beer and food. Anyone who has ever visited small villages with Czech friends will confirm that they treat guests extremely well and do their best to make you feel welcome.

The friendships and welcoming approach of the Czech people is something that encourages many teachers to stick around.

When I asked Tom Jowett what keeps him in Prague, he told me: ‘A mix of friends, relationships and other factors are among the reasons, but in addition I find that life here is quite easy. By this I mean I am able to easily afford to do my hobbies – sports, hiking, travelling or eating out at restaurants – without breaking the bank like it did back in the UK!’

Attitudes towards teachers, foreigners, non-native teachers

Teachers are respected in the Czech Republic, and students value their time with you. But in my experience there does seem to be a bias towards native speakers. I’ve been contacted by many students requesting a teacher with a ‘British accent’, which is an unfortunate but true part of life here.

Also, it’s worth noting that the recently re-elected Czech president, Milos Zeman, ran on an anti-immigration platform in which posters could be seen around the country with the message of ‘Stop Drahos [the pro-European candidate], stop immigration, this is our country.’ However, these sentiments are rarely expressed in any way other than at the ballot box and I personally know very few people who have ever had any bad experiences for being a foreigner.

Travel opportunities

Being in central Europe, the Czech Republic is an excellent place to be for those looking to travel. Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria share a border and are easy to access on local buses, and there’s also a very good international airport in Prague with connections all over the world.

Arts, culture and history

Anyone who comes to visit or work here must keep in mind that the Czech Republic is a country that has experienced great change over the past forty years. Not so long ago, it was part of the Eastern Bloc, and it has gone through a revolution and many major identity transformations since then. This experience can still be felt and is remembered by the local people.

That said, the Czech Republic has a much longer history, which can be seen on the ancient and beautiful streets of Prague’s old town.
In terms of culture, there are festivals every weekend in the summer in Prague. Many regions of the country are famous for their wine and cuisine, which is definitely something worth experiencing.

There’s also a lot of nightlife and events happening that include a mix of different cultures. It really is a global city and the cultural events reflect that.

Dos and Don’t for English language teachers in the Czech Republic

Dos
√ Get a trade licence (Czech: Živnostensky) to earn more money as a freelance.
Contracted employees usually are paid less at language schools.

√ Look around for work, and take advantage of different language schools and their resources/contacts/training sessions.

Don’ts

× Expect an easy ride. Students here can be demanding, so be prepared to teach all kinds of lessons, e.g. grammar, exams, business etc., not just conversation.

× Stay in Prague. There is loads to see in Central/Eastern Europe, so get around and see as much of this beautiful part of the world as you can.

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Declan Carey is an English language teacher based in Prague. Alongside teaching, he volunteers supporting human rights and educational causes.