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Teaching in...Western Europe
Western Europe is steeped in history, nationalistic pride and, in many places, romance. It is hard to walk for the first time through a city like Paris, Barcelona, London, Venice or any one of a multitude of European cities and not be touched by their classic beauty. And for all the of unifying force of the European Union, each country still exudes its own unique character and flavor. Some areas of Europe are quite crowded (especially in and around the big cities) and yet there is also a multitude of remote and picturesque places in the mountains, plains, hills, beaches or on an island off the coast. The Mediterranean is a big pull for many and the countries that encircle it are always attracting droves of tourists and people in search of the good life and, for some, to learn or practice some of the world's romance languages.
Few schools in Europe pay teachers as much as teachers get paid in Asia or the Middle East, and combined with high costs in the main cities, the standard of living for teachers in Europe is not very high, which doesn't allow for saving much money. However, living a comfortable lifestyle in Europe often doesn't cost very much either. Most jobs only require staff to work 20 to 25 hours a week, and classes are often held in the evening between 4 to 10 p.m., allowing teachers to pursue other interests, like learning a language or taking cooking classes, during the day. Most places in Europe have a vibrant nightlife, and the bar and café culture is a part of everyday life. Though teaching jobs in Europe rarely provide accommodation or flights, some are willing to provide private health insurance for those not covered under the European Union system of coverage.
People, Culture and Politics
Europe is very diverse in many ways, though having such a shared history means that the different regions also have a lot in common. Language is a large defining feature of each country and this is one of the reasons why English has become so popular, allowing neighboring communities and countries to communicate. While it is hard to see similarities between the bull-fight-loving population of southern Spain and the ultra-liberal Dutch, there are underlying aspects of European culture that are universal. For one, all the countries of Western Europe are governed by full democracies.
- To Germans, punctuality is a must, and arriving late for a gathering is unacceptable.
- In a number of European countries, it is vital that you look your companion in the eye when you touch glasses at the start of an evening to toast the night. Not to do so is a sign of insincere friendship.
- Body language in a number of Mediterranean countries is much more noticeable than in the U.S. For instance, boundaries of personal space are much closer and people are much more tactile. This doesn’t hold true for the British, who find physical contact with most acquaintances and strangers a little unsettling.
- Many countries in southern Europe have siestas (naps/relaxation time) between 12 and 3 in the afternoon (sometimes to as late as 4 p.m.) and therefore the working day can go on to 7 or 8 in the evening. Shops can also close on Saturdays at 1 and not reopen until Monday.
- Most Swedes take their five-week annual holiday immediately after June 21st (midsummer’s day), so don’t expect many schools to be open during this period.
- Switzerland is run on a system of direct democracy, allowing its citizens to vote on almost everything from hikes in the price of postage stamps to whether or not to go to war (though the latter is very unlikely).
- The French do not like rules. As such, it is not expected that anyone there is likely to adhere to the ban on smoking in public places at any time in the near future.
Recruitment and Positions
Most recruitment for jobs in Europe is done locally. This is less of the case in remote areas where fewer ESL teachersare likely to be passing by pushing their resumes under the door. Teachers are advised to apply directly to schools and try to set up interviews. Many schools may then want the teacher to travel there to meet in person before they will be willing to commit. Of all the regions in the world, Western Europe is the hardest for Americans to get legal teaching positions. Teachers in this situation either track down a distant relative with E.U. citizenship, apply for a student visa (you’ll need to be accepted into a course to do this) or work illegally. Due to cultural issues and the demand for teachers, some countries are much more lenient to Americans working illegally than others. (Teaching House in no way endorses people working illegally in any country.) Virtually all teachers working in Europe have a schedule that combines working with adults with some classes with younger learners (whether children or teenagers). The exception to this is probably Germany, where the teaching of business English is very common.
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