Teaching English in Europe: a life changing adventure

Europe is a dream destination, not just for young backpackers and gap year students, but for anyone who still has a sense of adventure and a thirst for art, history and culture, and generally meeting lots of friendly and interesting people. Europe is the real deal, the stunning architecture, incredible cuisines, fashion, art and history, beer and wine, and all its thousands of traditions, cultural events and wild celebrations of life; Europe is the reason journals were invented!

The culture, sights and attractions change not just from country to country, nor region to region, but from city to city, and with so many contrasting destinations being in such close proximity to each other, all connected through a vast network of well developed roads and railway lines, delicately cutting through immense countryside, chaotic cities and quaint villages, navigating around mountains, down through valleys and along rivers and canals, the experience of traveling across Europe is more often an additional chance of sightseeing rather than a pain or inconvenience.

To teach or travel.. Or both!

Even on a fairly generous budget Europe is an expensive place to travel around, the formation of the EU and introduction of the Euro may have made it simpler and smoother when crossing borders, but it has only helped to bring the costs up, most notably to the expense of tourists.

Being a TEFL teacher not only allows you to earn whilst you are abroad, but it also helps you to network with the locals and ex-pats, as well as becoming a part of an exciting teaching community. Teaching English in Europe affords you the opportunity to gain a unique experience of the country you are in, and with low cost budget flights available just about everywhere (think Ryanair and Easyjet), most of Europe’s capital cities are less than an affordable 2 hour journey away, making cultural escapes and wild weekends away a real option.

Salaries in Europe are generally good and English language teachers are not just paid in line with the cost of living, but in some countries they can expect to earn above the national average and live comfortably. TEFL teaching jobs are always available, especially for anyone with the golden ticket that is a TEFL, ESL, CELTA or TESOL certificate! Even in the UK there are always opportunities to teach English as a foreign language, with masses of traveling students in places such as London, Cambridge and Oxford.

TEFL teaching hot spots

It would be almost impossible to sum up a typical European experience in a series of novels let alone a single article, but it’s safe to say it is a magnificent continent, offering such a broad spectrum of cultures, customs and climates, the biggest dilemma you will face is choosing in which country to start your grand adventure. Here are a few places to consider..

In Germany there is currently a high demand for native English teachers, the country has a very well structured education system and they have a strong preference towards British and American English teachers. For those who have a TEFL or TESOL certificate, securing a residency permit is a fairly easy and painless experience and job opportunities should be plentiful thereafter. German’s are traditionally known to be well educated and well cultured, enjoying their art and history in equally high regard, it is a great place for like minded travelers who want to learn as much as they do party or relax. It’s also home to Oktoberfest, the world’s largest fair, lasting 15 days and known most famously for the massive amounts of local beer consumed (and the hangovers which follow!).

France is one of the most popular choices for teaching English abroad, and whilst it is still a valid and exciting TEFL destination, the competition for jobs can be tough. One way to secure TEFL teaching work in France is through business schools or corporate teaching; any knowledge or experience you have of the international business sector will be a major advantage. The French are known for their love of fine art, fine food and very fine wine, all of which are national stereotypes they rarely fail to live up to. If you are turned on by the thought of spending your early evenings sitting in a tradition Parisian cafe terrace, sipping on a smooth glass of red whilst taking part in the national sport of ‘people watching’, France may just be the place for you!

Spain has so much to offer TEFL teachers, both new and experienced. The English teaching job market is pretty huge, with plenty of jobs available in most major cities, and with many different employers always on the lookout for hungry TEFL teachers, from state schools to private language course. The only downside is that non-EU nationals may find it difficult to secure a work permit, but certainly not impossible. The country itself would suit those who enjoy being active and meeting new people. The Spanish are very much an outdoor community and they love to socialize, mingle and entertain; eating, drinking and partying (and napping!) from the cafes and calles of Madrid and Barcelona, down to the many laid back coastal towns and beach resorts, the Spanish are a very happy breed and it’s easy to see why.

The Czech Republic was long under the restrictions of communism but since becoming a free market economy it has grown to be a much visited and well loved European destination. As the Czech Republic continues to grow and modernize the demand for TEFL teachers is growing just as fast, with almost as many adult learners as young TEFL students. Most jobs are found in and around the capital, Prague. The country is steeped in history and moody Gothic architecture; it’s still very much an old fashioned society even within the Capital, and a great way to not only see traditions and customs but to experience them first hand. The low cost of living compared with other major European countries makes it not only possible to live comfortably in the Czech Republic, but also to save, and with its central position and large international airport, Prague is an ideal base for traveling and exploring many parts of Europe.

3 things I love about Europe…

1. The festivals
No one knows how to celebrate like the Europeans, and come the summer months the continent is awash with sports, art, music and cultural events celebrating just about anything you can imagine. From Bavaria’s Oktoberfest to the drama and comedy of the Edinburgh Fringe festival, to massive music events such as Exit in Serbia, Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight festival in the UK, the options are almost endless.

2. The food
In most modern world cities you can eat food from just about any nation, but nothing can beat traveling around Europe sampling genuine local cuisine and home style cooking; from Italian pizza and pasta, to Spanish paella, German sausage, Czech dumplings, French truffles, and even good old fashioned British fish ‘n’ chip!

3. The history
If there is one thing Europeans know its history. Since records began Europe has always taken pride in protecting and preserving its past, the famous battles and wars won and lost, the Kings and Queens, love and romance, betrayal and treachery. Experiencing history in Europe is not simply about visiting museums and monuments, listening to recordings and reading plaques, it’s about experiencing it, walking the battlefields, treading through the castles and palaces, and listening to those most passionate about it.

Count me in!

TEFL teaching in Europe is an experience of a lifetime, it’s a chance to travel, meet amazing people, see magnificent sights, indulge in the continents finest art, food and wine! The trick to making your time a success is doing your homework; read up on the possible destination, analyze your findings and choose the places that suit you. With the right knowledge and preparation there is no doubt you will embark on a life changing adventure.

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