Where Should you Teach English in Eastern Europe?
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, or Slovakia
Although closely situated to one another, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia possess remarkable differences.
Each country has much to offer, but choosing a final destination requires consideration. Don’t fret too much, though, because travel within East Europe is both inexpensive and efficient. Should you change your mind after selecting your first destination, it would not be unreasonable to pack up your stuff and move on.
There are a few noteworthy traits shared by all four countries: public transportation is generally efficient (especially in the larger cities), violent crime is virtually nonexistent, the cost of food is relatively low, and housing costs are generally reasonable, with the notable exception of Prague, where housing costs have risen sharply in recent years. Yet, in Prague or Budapest, it’s still easy to step out your door, catch a tram, transfer to the subway, and arrive at your destination without spending much or getting mugged. Thieves and pickpockets are not unheard of, though. Common sense and street smarts are invaluable in any part of the world.
EASTERN EUROPEAN EXCHANGE RATES (as of June 2011)
1.00 United States dollar (USD) =
16.91 Czech koruna (CZK)
2.78 Polish zloty (PLN)
186.84 Hungarian forints (HUF)
The Slovak koruna is no longer in circulation; it has been replaced by the Euro.
On the downside, the vestiges of the communist era still weigh heavily on anyone who wants to achieve something quickly. It’s virtually impossible to get any official business accomplished without running into dull-headed career bureaucrats. No matter whether you are applying for a work permit or merely trying to send a package home, you are bound to encounter resistance on some level. Waiting in lines for one rubber stamp or another is part of the daily routine almost anywhere in Eastern Europe. The daily groove you take for granted in North America will be steadily chipped away and replaced by a distinctly different version of the everyday grind.
Trying to determine what sets each country apart from the others is not always an easy task, not to say that they are all the same. The Iron Curtain that separated Eastern and Western Europe did act as something of a common denominator, but there are more than a few subtle differences between each country. Real opportunities for both enriching experiences and employment exist throughout these countries. It is up to you to decide how much effort you want to expend during your time in Eastern Europe. In general, there are several points and questions worth considering, regardless of which country you choose to visit:
- Hungary is the only non-Slavic country under discussion here. Hungarian (Magyar) and Slavic cultures (in general) are fundamentally different, given their divergent histories and dissimilar languages.
- Are you interested in language? If so, how do you want learning a new language to be part of your immediate experience as well as part of your future?
- University or college towns generally offer more social and employment opportunities for young people regardless of the type of work you seek or the type of social circles you want to investigate.
- If politics are important to you, small towns and rural areas are usually more conservative, and perhaps more constricting.
- What sort of support system do you require? Are you comfortable confronting new situations on your own? Or, do you expect to have access to an expat community of like-minded people?
Click on one of the below links to get a summary description of that country: