Country info and advice - Czech Republic
The following comments are from teachers who have taught, or are currently teaching, in Czech Republic. If you are a teacher and have some advice to share, please add it here.
My name is Tanja. I'm a 29
year-old Dutch girl. I came to the Czech Republic about 3 years ago. I had
developed a project for children at a grammar school and lived in Jablonec Nad
Nissau for two months to monitor my own program. I went back to the Netherlands
and after my graduation party I decided to try my luck in Prague. Prague was
fine, but I figured it would be even more relaxed to live in the mountains, so I
moved to a town close to Karlovy Vary (nearby the German border) Last year I
opened my own little private English language school here. I have about 50
students. (between 10 and 69 years old) and live very happily.
Of course, there are (and hopefully always will be) lots and lots of cultural shocks when you live in another country. Here are the three things that have affected me most:
First of all I think people, in general of course, are very closed. They would not easily make complaints or openly disagree with you. They often think their own thing and complain about it to other people, rather than facing a conflict. This is actually one of the hardest things for me to handle, because I was taught, both at home and at school, to have a strong opinion about everything.
Secondly I think that, compared to Holland, people are very old-fashioned here. In Holland I was pretty normal. Now, all of a sudden, I am a feminist, because I want to carry my own bag and I let my boyfriend iron my clothes. The role patterns between men and women are strictly set here and you surely get comments when you act differently. What I can appreciate is that ladies always enter a room first, except for the pub. A man enters the pub first, because there might be a fight going on. He basically has to check out if it is safe to go in :-) But being old-fashioned also shows in education - clothes - etc.
How people behave and react has got, of course, a lot to do with the history of the country. I had to learn a lot about the history of this country in order to understand and respect the differences.
What I like much more here than in the Netherlands is that hardly anyone is rushing anywhere. Life is more relaxed. (maybe, in the end also because not everyone is so desperate to tell you his opinion about things :-)
Anyway, some tips that might help you if you are interested in teaching in the Czech Republic:
* read about the history before you leave and be careful to start a conversation about communism. People tend to be easily offended or they feel ashamed.
* buy a small pocket 'how to say it in Czech'. The moment people find out your Czech is even worse than their English, they lose a lot of their fear to speak and most probably start in English themselves. (if not... you still have the book :-)
* don't think you are cool/nice when you give big tips. People hate it.
* in Prague, there is no need to arrange a job before you leave. When I got to Prague I opened a phonebook and called 5 schools and had 4 jobs... It is better to work at private schools. They say teachers don't get paid well, but I think they don't work much either!! An average day is from 8 to 1300 or 1400. Between every 45 min. lesson there is, at least, a ten-minute break. Once you get more settled you would have enough time to do some extra teaching here and there, but your social and health insurance are covered right from the start.
* living in Prague is a bit more complicated. It starts from 6.000 crowns (200 Euro) and you probably have to share a flat with one or two people for that kind of money. It took me about 1 week to find something, but people say I got lucky. Adverts are in the daily newspapers, but it is better to try your luck on the Internet. I got my room because my flatmate was interested in having to speak English at home.
* I think as a teacher of the English language you can basically find work all over the Republic and outside Prague cost of living is lower and in my opinion more pleasant, but less 'exciting'.
* public transport in Prague is fantastic. Get yourself a monthly (or annual) pass and travel everywhere in comfort (even at night)
* just be friendly and people will invite you home and let you taste typical Czech food: strawberry dumplings with cream, zeli - vepro - knedliky (mjamm :-)
I guess I can write for hours, but in the end you have to experience things yourself anyway, right?
Finally I would like to add that if you either have some more questions or if you are interested to come and have a look/teach here in Nejdek, feel free to write me! My students and I would be happy to hear from you! M.R.Bot@seznam.cz
I am a retired business woman and after some courses in teaching ESL and receiving a certificate I took a position in Prague at a language school run by the State. I found the students in general very inattentive, some were disruptive (maybe because I was older) but I knew two Australians who had the same experiences as I did. The hours offered for working were changed to less hours and the pay was not good - you really need some extra money to cover your expenses. There is always a great possibility for private lessons but they don't pay too much. Nobody helped me to find accommodation (my son works in Prague and finally found me a small apartment). If you are a foreigner the landlords will always increase the rent - unless the school has accommodation for you. Many of the positions are outside the city. There is not much to do, however, unless you find a position in a city, and besides Prague, there are not too many of them. I stayed 8 months and then returned home. Of course if you are a young person it might be a different experience. The Czechs don't care for Americans very much and blame us for all the evils in the world!!! Prague is a beautiful city full of history, they have modern cinemas and the public transportation is excellent. If you have any questions you can email me at email@example.com.
I was in Prague 93-95 on a crap salary with quite a bit of free time and an open mind. I still have a sympathy for Czechs and things Czech. Cheap life if you keep out of the centre and the ex-pat haunts. Lots of good music and cultural life and some great people if you can ignore the drunks and keep a positive outlook and learn to get your tongue around consonant clusters and haceks. Moravia was even better. Slovakia has pluses and minuses over Czech. I also have fond memories of Slovakia and Slovaks. Real snow - one crystal seen with a blue-sky-backdrop. Hills and forests - great territory for cross country. Czech beer #1... Czech and Slovak food the worst of anywhere I have lived. But if you are not worried about paying a mortgage or an ex-wife back home, you can have a rewarding time in the former CZ. Czech students? - pussycats. Don't teach anywhere else if you cannot manage hesky czesky.
Before you teach in the Czech Republic, be prepared. Czech students know how to study languages, and compared to English speaking people have a good knowledge of their own language! They can easily see through "teachers" who do not know how to really teach, and the country is full of these people who give native speaker teachers a bad name. Do not work without proper documentation, permits etc. You could well find that you will not be paid, as only cowboy schools will employ people illegally. Non-EU citizens can be deported for working without papers, which takes months to sort out before arriving. For example, Canadians have to wait 4 months for clearance. Like every country there are good and bad people, but in general if you respect the people and the culture, they will do the same to you. Good teachers are respected and can earn good money. Regarding red tape, just smile and try not to get angry in state offices.
Hi, I've been living in the UK for the last two years but my nationality is Czech. I have to strongly disagree with ~Siddharta~ that we have the worst food (or whatever...). In fact, everyone I've talked to from the UK fell in love with Czech food. It's very different from the English food but for you -siddharta- and others who probably expected to pig out on chips or burgers - should have stayed home!!!
I worked in the Czech Republic for a few months near the polish border. The pay was low and I was made to sign a contract which stated that I was a cleaner! This was so the school could avoid tax. I was never paid correctly or on time, also when lessons were cancelled I was not paid even when I was sitting in the room not knowing that the class was cancelled. Most Czech people seem to dislike foreigners and people will try to rip you off all the time from taxi drivers to schools and shopkeepers. However, the landscape of the Czech Republic is amazing but Prague is the most over rated destination in the world and is a long way from being one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It has a small nice part and a good metro system for a city of its size but much of it is a dump and rough. The small good part is nothing spectacular unless you are from the USA.
The wages are very very low. I spent more than I earned. Rent in Prague is very expensive if you are not Czech! Tax is around 30 percent. The wages and working conditions are poor, Prague is quite rough but has a good cheap metro. This is a place people go because they have to get TEFL experience.
I worked for a large school in Prague and I would say, go to the Czech Republic with savings because your pay will all go on rent and food. I worked split shifts which felt like working 14 hours a day! Good luck.
I have lived and worked (teach
2 different languages) here in Prague for a little over 2 years. A lot of what
the others have written is true. However, about salaries: Yes, it is not
fantastic - but you need to bear in mind that the average Czech salary is about
20.000KA. This is enough to not only pay rent (unfortunately, usually in a
shared flat) and food and transportation costs (some schools subsidise this,
mine doesn´t), but also entertainment and travel costs.
The biggest complaint heard from foreigners who live here - particularly language teachers - is that it isn´t enough to travel or save. Bollocks! You CAN save money AND travel, but it all depends on your lifestyle. Here in Prague, most expats are the type who go out and party every night, spending hundreds of crowns on beers, food and cocktails. As with anywhere else in the world, if you carry on like that every day, then of course, all extra money will go down the drain and you won´t have any savings. Many non-EU expats in particular, want to travel all over Europe. Understandable. But it costs money, so apart from getting pissed every day, they spend the rest on travelling. I have been able to travel but I keep it to a minimum and plan my trips carefully. I also don´t go out and spend all my money on beer and food. I cook at home, eating out once in a while, and I limit my beer intake -- because beer here is really cheap, if you don´t hang about expat places which many do. A typical Czech pub sells really cheap beer and bad wines (once in a while, though, you do come across a decent glass of red or white). If you stick to Czech food or Italian (Czechs love Italian-style foods), then you can also eat on the cheap. But a great many expats favour those places dear to their hearts like pseudo-Mexican or the (slightly) higher-end restaurants in or close to the centre.
Life in Prague is nice and it can be enjoyed. The Czechs who live in Prague are, like any city anywhere, full of harried, stressed, rude people. But on the other hand, there are also plenty of nice, friendly, polite Czechs including those in the service industry or those in shops. Speak Czech -- doesn´t have to be fluent or perfect, I am still trying to learn the language! - and it will go a long way. Learn how things are done here, for example, saying a greeting when entering an establishment, saying goodbye when leaving, asking - in Czech - if the person speaks English. Be firm but polite, observe the formalities, show an interest in things Czech, and when the people start to talk about how life used to be like when it was a communist government, be ready to listen. Contrary to what some may say or think, a lot of Czechs do like talking about life before the Velvet Revolution. It is not an easy country to know and it takes some time to get to know the people and understand the culture. But if you really are interested in learning and knowing, then it can be a very enriching experience.
Paddington (06/08/09) - thanks for your comments! I am planning to move out to Prague in September. The other posts worried me slightly, but what you said make sense. Like anywhere you have to consider your budget and I will definitely be interested in understanding the culture and learning the language. I've loved the city for a long time as I have family connections there, so I hope this is going to be a really rewarding experience. If you have any tips on finding a house share at a decent price I'd be very grateful! I will share any useful tips on here once I'm there! www.expats.cz has been very helpful so far though.
I have lived in Prague for six
years. The older students that I had were the best students of my teaching
career. I looked forward to every lesson. Some of the younger students,
especially the females (20 and 30ish), were very disruptive. But everyone else
was extremely serious.
Public transportation is fantastic and safe. In my opinion, public transportation is the best part of Prague.
Don't believe any of the salaries that are offered on the internet. Here is the con: 25 hours of teaching per week will get you 5000 CZK per week; but those hours are spread throughout the day and require travel time. A day with five hours of teaching can last from 7:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night. Also there is a problem getting paid at many of the schools so be careful.
Czech food is disgusting and bland compared to Mexican, Thai, Indian, etc. The Czech eat lots of fried pork and the colon cancer rate is high. You can find some nice ethnic restaurants if you look.
For the guys, the girls are beautiful, but very problematic. The divorce rate here is around 68 percent. A recent Czech geneticist just published a report that said around 20 percent of Czech Fathers are tricked into thinking children are their own, but they are really another man's children. How could that be? Czech women are notorious for their infidelity. Many of my older female students told me privately they would not allow their son to marry a Czech Woman. Personally I never had a Czech Girlfriend. All the horror stories from my divorced male students and expats with children and the divorce court horrors put me off. I will put it bluntly: no one comes to Prague looking for a wife. On the other hand if you are looking for prostitutes, Prague is great. But no matter what she says, always use condoms. Don't use her condoms because there are many tricks here the girls use to get pregnant and one of them involves putting condoms in the freezer so that they will decompose and break during sex.
I can tell John has been living in the Czech Republic for 6 years, he has the humor and bluntness that is so typical of this culture. If you do not get this culture then you will probably not get his humor or bluntness. I was married to a Czech for 6 or 7 years and I am a North American woman! It was the best and the worst experience of my life. What does this have to do with teaching English? Nothing - but if you are lookng to teach English in a foreign country you should not be going there to experience North America. Well, the Czech Republic at least outside of Prague is definitely not North America. Hang in there though, and if you are lucky you will make one good friend and if you do, you will get to know a people and a country that have a lot to offer. But women, from America, never ever be taken in by a Czech man no matter how smart you think u r or how sophisticated and Euro you think he is.
I spent 8 months in Prague and
was cheated every step of the way and back again. So far, everything that has
been mentioned here is true. Come with enough money to either make your escape
or to compensate very low wages for very long hours and high rent - I paid $580
for just 2 rooms with a private bath and kitchen in the corner. Crazy. Housing
is very run down and frightfully expensive.
The food is disgusting. The variety in the markets is very limited. Fruit and veg tired and always look to be more than a few days old. Potatoes, cabbage, onions, turnips, apples - not much more. Package sizes for food and toiletries are small to sample size and sold for full price. Meat is mainly pork, sausages are chock full of huge hunks of white fat. Steamed rolls of white bread served with meat gravy is the native delicacy is pasty and bland. Ugh! Yes, if you search you can find Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants. The beer is great. Hot chocolate and the different varieties of it incredible!
Transportation is wonderful! Get a monthly pass. See the sights if you have the time and energy left over from 6 days of slaving. Architecture and history abound. Infant Jesus of Prague, Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle, Astronomical Clock, Alphonse Mucha Museum, Kafka, the train stations, etc. lovely. I found the main areas of the city beautiful and the neighborhoods behind them rather rough and run down.
Winters are cruel with white out blizzards lasting as long as 2 days non stop. Bring your ski pants, thick insulated boots and gloves and sunglasses. If you like to ski you're in the right place. At the weekends Czechs escape the city to the country.
I made great friends with my landlady and we are still in contact today, 7 years later. I will stay with her for a visit soon. She made life bearable and helped me out like nobody before or since. When they love you they love you, but most Czechs dislike foreigners and view us as walking wallets to be at best lifted or picked.
I lost a lot of money in the time I was there, but I loved the city and countryside very much.
I don't know what liverpoolmomtwo is talking about, but as someone who was there only 8 months, she didn't experience life there long enough to get enjoy the greatness of Prague, or the country in general. "Czech don't like Americans and blame us for the evils in the world"?!?! Wtf?! I lived there for three years, and I can't recall even ONE Czech person saying anything like this to me. If anything, I found they were largely in awe of, or at least very impressed, with America. One student of mine, a company mgr. and very intelligent man, regularly spoke with great admiration of America and American businesses. I, myself, made great money there. Yeah, it took a bit, but you have to put effort into succeeding no matter where you live. After a while, I was making upwards of 28-30k crowns a month working for a private school, and without all the legal bureaucratic paperwork, either. It was all cash, under the table. I lived like a prince. Know this, though, that Czech is a very difficult language. The good thing, though, is that is not so hard to learn the basics for ordering food in a restaurant or a grocery. Aside from that, the younger people speak English pretty well.
It seems like most of you guys were expecting the Czech Republic to be like far eastern countries. Prague is central Europe and yes it's expensive like other European capitals but I'd say, in comparison to other capitals like Amsterdam or london, it is still much much cheaper. People are often naive when they move to another country and have high expectations. London may pay me twice more as in Prague, but I spend 2x more for ridiculously expensive rent, transport and other expenses but I am here to study. You say that Czechs are cold. Yes they can appear cold on the surface, instead of British or Americans who are very open minded, but inside, when you get beyond the surface, they have passion, they have strong feelings, empathy, heart and soul. This I am searching for in British people, looking beyond their comedy smile, looking for soul, but never find it. In fact, A typical Brit, American or anybody from the west seems cold blooded for a Czech person. Czechs are often very talented, intelligent, cultivated people with strong culture and history, that's why they will never have much common with a typical western person. This is the difference and you shouldn't forget it while you are there... but both sides should learn something from each other.
Hi! I'm not really sure if
this is the place to ask in, but I've been interested in travelling to
Prague/Czech Republic for a while now and have been hearing wild blend of
things. Some say that the pay is bad and the costs are high (Which I hear most
of you here agree with). On the other hand, I also hear that the pay can be
worked around as long as I get smart with the contract drawn.
I'm an Indian by origin and have been teaching English and training corporates on Communication skills for over 4 years. I'm not really sure if taking this step to move to Prague is a sensible one at all. On the other hand, I'm quite bored with the job I do and am looking for a change with hints of adventure if it comes along. I love all sorts of food, especially Italian and Chinese.
I'd like any suggestions from people who are working/have worked in Prague/Czech Republic to weigh my decision. Thank you!
WOW all these Prague haters here. I have been living here for 11 years, ok I teach in Brno but have only had my fingers burned twice in all that time by schools not paying. I average around 30-40K a month, and have just started my own language services business up. I am married (yes she's czech) we have been together for 7 years and have 2 great kids. To be honest I can't think of one negative thing about living over here, having moved from Bristol in the UK where things weren't that great i haven't looked back since.
I cannot believe your opinion
that Czech food is terrible. Czech food is supposed to be one of the best in the
world. It is not true that there are only several kinds of fruit or vegetables
in the markets. You can find much more...it depends on the season. Where on
earth have you heard that steamed rolls of white bread served with meat gravy is
the native delicacy? It is absolute nonsense! Our native meal are typical czech
meals done at home - see Tanja.
I agree that accommodation is very expensive and people immodestly to try earning through it. The conditions for Czech lodgers are not much better.
I lived in the a small town
near the Czech-Polish border for 18 months, not for the purposes of teaching
English, but in order to do field research for a postgraduate degree (I've also
spent several months in Brno and Prague). I did, however, occasionally act as a
classroom volunteer for English lessons in various venues - a vocational school
training students to work in the hotel industry, a gymnazium (high school) where
the most academic teenage Czech students study, and a so-called 'special school'
where predominately Romani students attended. I can only speak about my own
experiences, but here I go...
Academics: The highly educated have traditionally possessed a lot of cultural capital in Czech society (even during the communist period, when PhDs might make close to the same amount as unskilled laborers), so if you encounter smart-mouthed students (and there are always a few), don't take this as being indicative of the whole. The students DO expect a high degree of preparedness and authority from their teachers. Do not try to be your students' 'friend'; they won't know what to make of it.
Gender: Maybe it has changed in the past 7 years, but when I first went to the CR, even among those with advanced degrees, 'feminism' was considered something suspicious; I actually had one woman tell me that feminists are "women who want to pee like men"! Obviously, there will be more acceptance among the intellegentsia in Prague, just as there will be of discussions about homosexuality and racial/ethnic minorities. Many women are very feminine, and men expect it. I didn't get the impression that men invest a great deal of time into their looks; the metrosexual craze hasn't caught on!
Race/ethnicity: Okay, I met many Czech people during my time there, and 'the Roma' (Gypsies) are not a topic you want to get into with them unless you are well-informed and not looking for a heated debate. 'Prejudice' and 'discrimination' are terms that many Czechs will state do not apply to them. Why? They don't dislike the Roma because of their genes, they say, but because of their behavior. I.e. 'Racists' are people who think the Roma are genetically inferior. Since Czechs have a beef with their lack of 'decency' rather than their skin color, they are not racists. I had many experiences with Romani persons there, some good, some bad, just as I did with Czech people. I could write for ages on this topic, but suffice to say that it's a sensitive issue, and to the eyes/ears of North Americans and some Western Europeans (among others), some of the comments you will hear about 'Gyspies' from Czechs will leave you reeling and shock you. But rather than be reactionary, try to understand the whole phenomenon, and don't try to preach to people because it will not win you any fans.
Food: I'm a vegetarian, and even Czechs wondered how "I survived" there. Actually, even in small towns you can often find tiny natural foods stores that sell tofu/soy/tempeh/etc. In the bigger towns, you can find vegetarian restaurants. At restaurants, while there might not be veggie entrees, there are often tons of sides to choose from. Unless you are a vegan, you should survive a night out. As for 'bad Czech food', I don't agree, even if it would be far down the list on my national choices.The fare is definitely heavier, yet there isn't an obesity epidemic. In smaller towns, the variety of fresh fruits/veggies is naturally lower, but unless you refuse to prepare your own food, you can make a very decent salad at home. The one thing that remains a mystery to me is the obsession with rohliky - white, twisted rolls that Czechs buy. There is little nutritional value there, yet they seem to prefer them to other multi-grain rolls with seeds and nuts....
I could write much more!!
I was in the Czech Republic in
the Spring oif 2002, then Summers of 2003 and 2004. I have been to other
countries as well and I could see the Czechs are among the nicest people I have
met. Their food was not really my favourite but I didn't expect them to prepare
my North American favourite just because I am coming. But I would not say the
word, 'disgusting'. That is far too disrespectful to the people and to the food
I understand the negative posts from North Americans. For one, they seem to have come assuming the Czechs will worship them for being Americans...not anymore. Also, anywhere you go in the world, you must do some basic budgeting. Do not live like a prince if you're not.
Make some Czech friends and they'll tell you honestly about life there. Don't drink too much - many have staggered out as alcoholics. Teaching isn't the best paid job anywhere in the world. Be open-minded and you'll have fun. I read a great book about the life and times of an English guy - very funny, but also informative, called Bus to Bohemia. Nazdravi!
Hi, no need to comment on some of the hateful comments above (if somebody slams czech women as not good enough to have relationship with but won't forget to mention prostitutes are ok... how could something like that ever be taken seriously?) Pay in general is low (especially for teachers) but it's low for everyone and there are families of 4 that have to live on 15-16k a month. Don't expect to get rich. You can live a decent life though if you stick to your budget.
Accommodation - flatshare is ok, relatively cheap, just look well in advance.
Transportation excellent as mentioned above.
Food very tasty - Czech cuisine is based on meat, gravy, dumplings, potato... homemade is usually delicious and you won't get that in a restaurant. English and American tastes are just different!
Comments about racism - cannot agree more - don't try to impose your views about czech racism on anybody. True racism is extremely rare (much less common than in the US) but there's the Gypsy issue. In fact most Czechs truly and passionately believe they're not racist and indeed believe in equality of all races and 'good' and 'bad' people with all skin colours... but at the same time would claim they are apprehensive about Gypsies and don't like them/ fear them. Majority wouldn't say that about black or asian people particularly about those coming from western societies. When I ask why the answer is Because they behave more or less like us and respect us whereas most of Roma people don't (and they have had a few centuries to learn to do so). When I say that's generalization and everybody has their right to be different they say (quite rightly so).. don't preach we know very well that kind of behaviour would be totally unacceptable where you came from and they'd be forced to change rapidly otherwise they'd get rough treatment .. and also: I have been robbed/beaten etc only twice in my life and it was always a Roma. Maybe it would really help stop labelling this issue racism (Czechs REALLY hate that) because it's much more complex and specific issue and people would perhaps get more open to different opinions. So the advice is unless you really know what you're talking about and know the background intimately don't bring this issue up.
I have a few czech friends and they're just amazing. Very intelligent and educated and warm towards their friends. What strikes me is the low level of self confidence... as if somehow these people knew their worth deep inside but never act on it... ever. I've heard so many times... we are just a small country.. you know we are not important... come on there are so many small countries out there behaving like sharks, why are you people so defeatist? On the other hand Czechs are extremely sensitive to being looked down on. That is the easiest way to make sworn enemies in the blink of an eye.
Well when you come the Czech Republic don't expect things to work the way they used to at home (in a bad AND !!! good sense) just be friendly, learn the language, be respectful and you'll be fine.
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