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Why English Teachers stay long term in Poland


CMC
10 May 2015 #1
I was speaking to a fellow English teacher yesterday. He told me how much better his life has become since moving here with his polish wife two years ago from Scotland. They now have baby and look forward to staying here forever. During the conversation, I brought up the topic of the economic situation in Poland. I asked him whether it was a good idea to raise his child in Poland instead of Scotland. I told him that living in Poland might be fun for you, but what about for the child? When he grows up he will face the problems of low wages and high unemployment. He could resent his parents for bringing him to a poor EU country instead of a richer one in Scotland. I told him that staying in Poland and teaching English is not a good long term decision and that it would be better to go back to Scotland. He then got a little offended unfortunately.

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Marsupial - | 888
10 May 2015 #2
Well I can't comment because your experiences there are opposite to my. Utterly. I think the scot could have got a little offended because he sees what I see and not what you see. I don't teach english though.
DominicB - | 2,678
10 May 2015 #3
Pretty much spot on, CMC. There are a handful of teachers that do have a clue about business, generally older folks, but by far most of the younger ones I met during my twelve years in Poland meet most of your descriptions. That is, of those few that stayed longer than a year or two.

A lot were also escaping personal or social problems that they couldn't deal with back in the UK or Ireland. Alcoholism is rife among this bunch. In fact, the low price of alcohol can easily be point 6 on your list. For many of them, it's number 1. Much higher than girls.

As far a the "girls" thing goes, if these slackers have a "girl" at all, they are hardly ever anything to write home about. Knew this Irish boy who went out with a serious of "girls", each more hideous and obnoxious than the last. To the point where I told him that any invitation to any of my parties most definitely did not include a "plus one". Apparently, no girl in Ireland would touch him because of his alcoholism and social ineptitude, whereas in Poland he could find girls who were happy to sleep with him as long as he kept supplying them with alcohol. Eventually, the invitations dried up because he would show up drunk and could not comport himself in public, offending other guests. Shame, because he once had potential and still might have had, were it not for his utter dependence on alcohol.
Roger5 1 | 1,458
10 May 2015 #4
Looks like you have an ambassador in Poland, Dom.
DominicB - | 2,678
10 May 2015 #5
If you have a different story to tell, Roger, tell it.

In my twelve years in Poland, I met only a handful of English teachers that I would characterize as serious. By far most conformed with CMC's observations.
Gosc123456
10 May 2015 #6
@CMC: how true!!!!! Like Dominik, I may have met 2 or 3 "English teachers" in Poland who don't match your description. The reason why they are not respected in Poland is that they come from the lowest proletariat in the UK and as to the Polish girls they attract, they come from same socio-economic backgrounds. Real teachers don't want to come to Poland (for obvious reasons) and this is the reason why Poland only attracts those as described by CMC.
Roger5 1 | 1,458
10 May 2015 #7
It's true that TEFL attracts more than its fair share of slackers, drunks and loonies. One guy I briefly employed was last seen running down Lipowa in Bialystok pursued by two men in white coats, and a drunk I had to supervise in Russia as DOS fell down a hole and died. Where I think our young friend is wide of the mark is in saying that teaching in Poland is a hopeless waste of time. I didn't go into teaching to make a fortune, and I haven't, but I live pretty well, with my own house, free and clear, and the respect of my peers and students. Life is what you make it. If you are serious about what you do, you can make a go of it.

Gosc. How wrong can you be?
DominicB - | 2,678
10 May 2015 #8
Where I think our young friend is wide of the mark is in saying that teaching in Poland is a hopeless waste of time.

For most, it is. It makes sense only for a select few. And, like you, those stand out above the hordes of beer-swilling, boob-fondling TEFL backpackers and slackers that litter the streets late at night, at least in Wrocław.

Sorry, to say this, Roger, but it is they who are responsible for the poor reputation of English teachers in Poland. They get noticed. And how. Puking, pi$$ing or passing out in the middle of the street draws lots of attention. So does shouting lewd remarks and obscenities at any passing female. So does showing up in class and being unable to string together a sentence in anything resembling standard English.
f stop 25 | 2,513
10 May 2015 #9
Good post, CMC!
Some become English teachers as a means to support themselves as they try to get the travel bug out of their system, before they settle down.

They might not mean to do this for too long, but then, the Polish girls.. ;)
jon357 63 | 14,137
10 May 2015 #10
Well, some choose it as a second career (or even a first career) and stay in Poland because they like it. In a decade of teaching EFl in Poland (and a decade in other places) I've never come across the

Puking, pi$$ing and passing out in the middle of the street

among language trainers - perhaps you associated with the wrong people.

Plenty have found that they like Poland, they've found themselves at home there, they've found the love of their life etc. often people have a private income from home, perhaps by letting out their house in the UK or US. Many just want to be in Poland because they have family roots there or enjoy some other aspect of the place. Warsaw is a great place to live

I do agree that the Middle East and offshore petrochemicals rigs/vessels pay much, much higher salaries however it doesn't necessarily mean

putting their lives on hold for years and years

- I've always managed to do it without being away for more than 3 months at a time and then back in PL for a nice while. I can think of quite a few people who do month on month off work (including myself) who choose to live in Poland. This gives you close to 50% of your time at leisure in your home and usually a 6 figure (in dollars anyway) tax-free salary.

So not as bleak as you make out.
OP CMC
10 May 2015 #11
Thanks for the replies. F stop, your comment: "Some become English teachers as a means to support themselves as they try to get the travel bug out of their system, before they settle down." Is pretty accurate for someone like myself. I came to Poland to experience living overseas for a year or two. During my time here, I started to become deluded into thinking that I could actually make a career from teaching. I posted here before about getting a CELTA and going to the Mid East. But after some serious reflection about my life and the life here in Poland. I realized it shouldn't be where my future is. I ought to work to become a success in the USA. A place with real money, real jobs, and real potential.

Poland is a good place to retire, but NOT to raise a family. I tried to tell this Scottish guy that his kids will resent him for bring them to such a poor country with little prospects. I feel sorry for them because they will face the same challenges that young Poles deal with today; high unemployment and low wages. I don't want to be like him by getting stuck here in Poland because of a beautiful polish girl. Also, I don't want to have to bring her over to the USA because she will most likely struggle to adjust, and thus will want to head back to Poland. Anyone coming from the rich world to settle down in Poland is probably deluded, desperate, and short-sighted. After thinking about it, the Scottish guy probably was forced to come to Poland because his wife became homesick, and so he decided to just take up teaching since its the only decent paying low skilled job available in Poland.
Harry
10 May 2015 #12
I thought better to just treat my stay in Poland as overseas experience to use to make a career back home in the US

HR people in the US will, at best, not care you spent a year teaching EFL. If you'd been doing Peace Corps (who aren't here anymore) or similar, they might care. But you didn't.

Seeing as how you aren't qualified to comment on your own career path, what makes you think you're qualified to comment on those of people who've forgotten more than you'll ever remember?
OP CMC
10 May 2015 #13
Moreover, the money is woeful. Even if you're a successful ESL teacher, your pay will only be $1500-$3000 a month. What if you decided to head home one day for good. You would not have saved up much despite your hard work and experience. Nobody, even the super teachers, should be in Poland. If you're a great teacher and love traveling, go back home, get a teaching license, and then work in an International school that pays good wages, and good benefits. Guys, don't waste your talents and energy in this country unless you are already well off like DominicB, Jon357, and some other guys.

Harry, you are right. Most HR people wouldn't care about a year abroad. But I want to work at a University as a Study Abroad adviser back home. Yes the pay is not that of a Engineer, but I think it would be pretty enjoyable career. I know a few of them, and they told me that just working and living overseas, whether teaching, at an Embassy, or Peace Corp, is enough to count as overseas experience. Yes, Harry, you are right that I don't remember more then others have forgotten, but I am just reiterating what many others have said on this forum and in real life. What I am saying is the consensus in Poland, unfortunately. I wish Poland was richer and more successful, but its NOT. If Poland was like Sweden, then I would be singing a different tune.
jon357 63 | 14,137
10 May 2015 #14
Seeing as how you aren't qualified to comment on your own career path, what makes you think you're qualified to comment on those of people who've forgotten more than you'll ever remember?

Pretty well my sentiments. The guy's still relatively young and wet behind the ears and only a couple of weeks ago was asking about method schools in South West Poland not knowing what it actually entails. A career start in Poland can lead in various directions. For some, doing military English at the British Council somewhere interesting in Africa, teaching EAP at a Japanese University or technical English upstream on an oilfield in Kazhakstan for megabucks is a nice career. For others, there's very good work to be found in Poland. Though not unqualified work at method schools in one-horse towns.

Nobody, even the super teachers, should be in Poland.

Remember, some people do like being in Poland. It can be a bit of a staging post, and when the Polish EFL gold rush happened a few years ago, a lot of people passed through and some stayed. Yes, some became washed up in situations similar to those you describe - the EFL 'stayed too long' person is a real phenomenon - but most didn't. Some found wives, husbands, partners, some found very rewarding work in Poland (it definitely does exist) and some do have qualifications that allow them to earn a good living, often textbook writing (can pay a fortune and most mainstream course books are trialled in Poland), EFL Management and/or Technical English which was the route I took, or as an examiner for the Cambridge Suite, LCCI, BULATS etc.

By the way, I certainly wasn't comfortably off before I came to PL - I brought very little with me having been a public sector worker only a few years older than the OP and a natural spender rather than a saver however life took off in so many ways thanks to the decision one day years ago to move to Warsaw.
OP CMC
10 May 2015 #15
My general advice for anyone who wants to teach English in Poland, or anywhere else, is to enjoy it and to learn what that country has to offer culturally, historically, and socially. Embrace the country for a year or two. I wholeheartedly believe that teaching abroad has made me a much more informed and en-lighted person. I don't regret doing this AT ALL. I will spend one more year here, and i will try to enjoy every minute of it. But for anyone who considering making this a career, they should seriously think long a hard because being an English teacher is like being the frog in the simmering pot--you think everything is great, but all the while the water is getting hotter and hotter and then suddenly you burn when you wake up one day realizing you have no real skill besides teaching at some language school in some strange foreign country.
DominicB - | 2,678
10 May 2015 #16
I don't think teaching EFL is what they had in mind when they said "teaching", unless it were under the auspices of some NGO or charitable organization. Have to agree with Harry here. No one in any academic institution anywhere is going to interpret ESL teaching as anything but "vacation". Sorry, but you got a bum steer there someplace. Putting ESL teaching (except for an NGO or charity) in the same basket as the Peace Corps or an internship at an embassy just leaves me shaking my head in despair.

Study Abroad adviser.....Yes the pay is not that of a Engineer, but I think it would be pretty enjoyable career.

Take it from someone who does it. Enjoyable is the last word I would use. It's difficult, stressful and frustrating 90% or more of the time. It's the remaining few percent that keeps you going and makes it rewarding. And, my God, is it time consuming. Paperwork, deadlines, more paperwork, more deadlines, ad nauseam. If you want enjoyable, take Harry's advice and go with engineering. Of all the people I have ever met, engineers have by far the highest level of job satisfaction.
jon357 63 | 14,137
10 May 2015 #17
I'm glad you don't regret it, CMS, however you might find you enjoy in-company teaching in Poalnd more than method language schools, though without a teaching qualification it does make things harder. The frog in the simmering pot is an interesting metaphor. Remember that after a while some people consciously choose to cut ties with their home country (Poland ceases to be "strange" after a few years) and others find the ties cut for them. Just as Poles who emigrated find that Poland has changed hugely in their absence, it also goes the same way.

There was a lady I slightly knew who'd travelled the world, really some amazing places as a (high-end) EFL teacher. She finally settled in Poland towards the end of her career and stayed on in retirement. A lovely home in a good part off Warsaw a few tram stops from the centre. The philharmonic twice a week, opera or ballet twice a month, plenty of art exhibitions and a great life in a nice capital. Then her health started to fail and she was faced with the dreadful prospect of failing Polish language skills. Her worst fear was realised and she did indeed end up going home to some god-awful place in the mid-west U.S., surrounded by miles of fields and the nearest professional theatre 300 miles away. Nevertheless shed spent a far more rewarding life than most career monkeys and even the most boring bits were better than day, month, year in year out staring at the water cooler in an office back home.

Life is what you make it; your career (if you're lucky) will turn out very differently than you plan. Poland can be a wonderful place to live, especially in my opinion Warsaw - others are happy in other cities and although many do move on, others realise that they've found their home.
cms 9 | 1,272
10 May 2015 #18
Don't bring me into it Jon - I'm CMS and this guy is CMC :)

My take is that there are many English teachers who have come here and after a few years of TEFL done other things - journalism, web design, remote working, media, advertizing etc and probably have as comfortable life as they would back in the US, UK, Oz or wherever. I certainly don't look down on those people and in fact I often envy them - more free time than I get, full lives, cute women. Yes they might worry about the future and pension and stuff but there are plenty of people back home with underfunded retirement pots.

And yes there are jarheads, junkies, people with personal problems but there are in every profession !
jon357 63 | 14,137
10 May 2015 #19
Wow - I hadn't noticed! Sorry :-)

And by the way, your assessment seems a good one - there are certainly people back home with the same problems, just as a profession which attracts eccentrics (come on, that's true - ordinary people get jobs in insurance with luncheon vouchers and a swipe card round their neck) will certainly have some wild characters.

By the way, CMC (not cms) was talking about

social isolation

in the Middle East and having to spend a lot to get out for the vacation. I don't think he realises that nobody actually buys their own tickets and that there's quite good social life there. More so than in small town Poland, which for someone as young as the OP must be a strain. When I worked for a large in-company EL provider based in Warsaw, they'd only send people out to the sticks if they were older and more self-sufficient.
f stop 25 | 2,513
10 May 2015 #20
I still think that teaching English in Poland for a year is more valuable for a new graduate that backpacking through Europe. At least shows some working experience. Also, more valuable, as a life experience, than working as a cashier, or a server in a restaurant.
DominicB - | 2,678
10 May 2015 #21
I still think that teaching English in Poland for a year is more valuable for a new graduate that backpacking through Europe.

Not really. Sometimes, backpacking can arouse more interest if it is off the beaten path (not Europe). I remember sitting on an admissions committee once and being totally amazed by a Chinese student who had spent a year backpacking in Peru and Chile, and working at odd jobs to pay his way. Showed inventiveness and resourcefulness. Also remember a South African applicant who spent a couple of years walking home from China.

But you're right. Backpacking around Europe is unlikely to impress anyone.

Also, more valuable, as a life experience, than working as a cashier, or a server in a restaurant.

Not from the viewpoint of a potential employer or admissions committee, who respect cashiering or waiting as real jobs, but not so with EFL teaching. A lot of employers and academics have a very big soft spot for cashiers, waiters, valets and the like that does not extend to EFL teachers.
Harry
11 May 2015 #22
Putting ESL teaching (except for an NGO or charity) in the same basket as the Peace Corps or an internship at an embassy just leaves me shaking my head in despair.

Same here, but shaking my head in despair at the ignorance you display about other people's professions while pontificating about them. I happen to have taught alongside Peace Corps volunteers, they were doing precisely the same job as me, along with VSO Canada people.
DominicB - | 2,678
11 May 2015 #23
they were doing precisely the same job as me

Which is precisely what this is not about. What is important is that they did so as Peace Corps and VSO volunteers. The programs lend substantial credibility and prestige to what they did. The fact that you effectively did the same thing on your own means little without the official sponsorship and documentation to back it up.

As a matter of fact, that is one of the biggest problems I faced when helping Polish candidates get into American schools: it is very hard to find officially sponsored volunteer programs in Poland that will supply the documentation needed to satisfy an American admissions committee.
Harry
11 May 2015 #24
The fact that you effectively did the same thing on your own means little without the official sponsorship and documentation to back it up.

Surprisingly enough, not a single boss I've ever had would agree with you on that.
f stop 25 | 2,513
11 May 2015 #25
DominicB quote:"A lot of employers and academics have a very big soft spot for cashiers, waiters, valets and the like that does not extend to EFL teachers."

That's too bad. When I was hiring, a stint in a foreign country, especially with employment, would count much higher than a job as a cashier in a neighborhood store. One takes more independent thinking, initiative, and generally, balls, than the other.
OP CMC
11 May 2015 #26
I was thinking about this last night. Many people from rich countries don't fully appreciate the opportunity of being a citizen of a economically successful society. I grew up like this. I didn't care about the economic advantage that the US gave me. The advantage is that if I just got a decent or average job back in the States I would have a higher standard of living than most people in the world (including Polish people). Living overseas in Poland has waken me up to this unfortunate reality. Most polish people would love to have my passport so that they can come and work in the USA. Poland is an okay country, but the economic situation is dire. I believe Poland has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world! Its because raising a family is a nightmare financially. I would never raise a family here. Prices are crazy, wages are depressing, jobs are scarce. While back in the US, the economy is getting better and better. The following are the questions that roll around in the heads of Polish people: Why in the world would someone start a life here in a Poland? If somebody wanted an exciting life why couldn't they just move to the city back home? What does Poland offer that the richer countries don't? Couldn't you go to another country for fun and adventure? Like I said before, Poles are suspicious of foreigners, they will stare at you and think to themselves, "why are you here?" Even in the biggest of cities this will happen. Many accuse Poles of being racist and xenophobic, but to be honest, who can blame them for being extra suspicious of foreigners. In rich countries, foreigners are seen as economic/academic migrants, or refugees, But Poland doesn't offer better opportunities economically or academically compared to the West. And Poland doesn't have a large scale refugee policy. Suspicion abounds here in Poland!

Living in Poland has made me a better American. I appreciate the country and when I come back I will have a new respect for it. I think more Americans and Western Europeans need to live abroad in poorer countries for a short while to appreciate what they take for granted.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,671
11 May 2015 #27
you do know that 50 per cent of the English teaching population is female right?
Shaman
11 May 2015 #28
Economical growth in US? Look at the dept of your country compared with GDP and compare it to Poland
It's true that there is big difference in wages and what you can do with a minimum wage however...
1 Poland is safer
2 You really don't have to pay for a private shool in Poland in order for your kid to have a chance to go to University.

I can't go into the list of why I think Poland can be a good country to raise your kid but maybe just one thought:

As much as I do believe that money play important part in life they're not everything. My parents never earned big money but they had jobs that gave them satisfaction, lived in a country they felt connected with and generally where happy with their lives. Do I regret I didn't have a computer for a long time, that we didn't have a car? No, not at all because there are more important things in raising a kid than money (we are not talking about necessities like food and clothes)

I also detest the fact that many ppl here seem to think that teaching kids is somehow degrading, means being unsuccessful. If you are a real teacher you are responsible not only for their knowledge but their character, their upbringing. Bringing up future generations is one of the most important tasks.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
11 May 2015 #29
CMC - I can see there is no room for your ultra-materialistic philosophy for love and that you have en extremely low opinion of females. They, according to your expositon, are all gold-diggers out to land a rich dude and nothing else matters. Sure, there are people like that about, but is that a fair appraisal of all womanhood?
Harry
11 May 2015 #30
So, you have about a third as much experience of living in Poland as him and no experience at all of living in the country he moved from or in providing for a family, but you still decided to berate him about the effort that he is making to provide for his family. How delightful of you.

He then got a little offended unfortunately.

You were lucky; there are more than a couple of Scots who would when faced by somebody belittling them respond by inquiring about your mother's needlework proficiency before suggesting that she practised her technique on the results of their next action and giving you a Glaswegian kiss.

Many get stuck in Poland with a Polish girl. This might seem cool in the short run, but in the long run it isn't.

And you're basing that statement on what, being knocked back by numerous Polish girls or having a long-term relationship with one?

I, myself, came to Poland entertaining the idea of getting a polish girl.

With an attitude as charming as that, one really does struggle to work out why you didn't need to beat the ladies away using a sh!tty stick.

I thought better to just treat my stay in Poland as overseas experience to use to make a career back home in the US.

a) Employers aren't really going to care.
b) Are you sure it was your choice?

4000 PLN to not like making $4000 or 4000 euros.

True, but life is cheaper here. Show me a two-room flat in central London for £350 a month. The average rent in London for a one-bedroom flat is more than that per week.

For $1000, an American can buy a Macbook pro.

No, for $2,999 an American can buy a Macbook pro:
store.apple.com/us/buy-mac/mac-pro

Just ain't got nothin' else to do.

There are lots of other things to do. Or at least there are for people who aren't stuck in tiny towns because they couldn't be bothered to get a basic qualification and so can't get jobs in bigger cities.

But once the Westerner says to a girl that they are only English teachers, they will realize how lowly regarded they are. The girl will respond with "what else do you do besides teaching?"

Strangely, in nearly two decades here, not even one woman has said that to me. Perhaps it's you rather than the profession?

It a dead end job.

Working in a method school in a tiny town might be, but working for good schools in large cities puts you in touch with all sorts of people and can be a very good way of opening all sorts of doors.


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