TEFL in Poland: What’s it like?


Welcome to Poland. The land of mushrooms and mountains. Beautiful Eastern European architecture, incredible frost-bitten scenery and of course, lots of meat’n’beer, are some of the main draws of this highly-developed EU member state. If you want to check out some cool visuals of Poland, this article has some pretty decent pictures to whet your appetite. Otherwise, read below to check out our low-down on what it’s like teaching EFL in Poland. We conducted this short interview with a real-life English teacher named Shaun. Some names have been changed.

TEFLExchange: Hi Shaun, thanks for catching up with us!
Shaun: No problem!
TE: So first question, the thing on everybody’s mind… How’s the pay teaching in Poland? Can you survive? Europe is expensive!
S: Actually, teaching EFL is a reasonably well-paid job by national standards once you have a TEFL or CELTA qualification under your belt. Some private schools still pay rather badly but there are plenty who are competitive, well-resourced and up-and-coming.
You can also choose to work in-company or do private tutorials. You can charge between $10-$25 USD for a private lesson, depending on your qualifications and experience. Working in smaller, less popular urban centres will make you a real novelty and help you learn the language more easily. Less fellow native speakers means more motivated students for you and less time speaking in English socially!
Or, failing that, setting up your own company can also pay off, giving you the autonomy and freedom to choose who you want to teach, when you want to teach them – on your own terms. Freeing up time for you to go mushroom picking or hiking in the mountains to avoid talking about politics with the locals.
While Poland is no longer considered cheap, it is still much more reasonable when compared to other countries in Europe. The cost of living is lower, so that means good value food, transport and rent. Although you won’t earn much when you exchange your zlotys into euros or dollars, it’ll go a long way in your local shop and you should still be able to save a little for a rainy day.

TE: Cool! Sounds a lot better than some gigs in Europe (UK, we’re looking at you). How about other benefits? What else do you like about living there?
S: Seasons. Yes – there are four of them here. While winter can be gloomy and frozen (there are plenty of cosy bars to hide out in and drink warm beer with cloves), the other three more than compensate, with autumn and spring being particularly life-affirming.
Food. Although rather meat-based and heavy, Polish traditional food is undoubtedly some of the best central/eastern Europe has to offer. The culinary scene in the bigger towns and cities is in the midst of a renaissance right now, with smaller ethnic restaurants popping up overnight like chanterelles, in what is becoming a very dynamic and competitive dining scene that caters for all tastes. It seems Poland is going all foodie.
Natural Beauty. Poland really is a stunning country and although the population of 38 million is by no means small, the country is large enough to offer wonderful natural diversity to suit any tastes. Choose from lazing by the white sands of the Baltic in the summer, gorging on gofry (waffles) and blueberries, to a spot of skiing in the lofty peaks of the Polish Tatras in Winter. Few countries in Europe have more forests, including the majestic Primeval forest of Bialowieza (Puszcza Białowieska) in the northeast of the country, which straddles the border with Belarus and is home to over 800 wild bison. Get there soon before the current government cuts it all down!
Location. Nestled in the very heart of Europe, Poland is a wonderful location to explore the lesser travelled places on this side of the continent. Travelling east is always better value for money and in a matter of hours by car, you can find yourself in exotic places like Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

TE: Sounds pretty dreamy, but we bet it’s not all sunshine and warm beer. What don’t you like about living in Poland? There’s got to be something…
S: Of course! Nowhere is perfect. Firstly, there’s the government. Then there’s some other stuff too, like…
The language. While Polish is unquestionably a thing of rare beauty and a source of immense pride for all Poles, it is a bit of a bitch to learn for foreigners and you will need to apply yourself if you want to fully integrate and really feel like a local.
The pollution. Some of the bigger urban centres in Poland suffer from some of the worst pollution in Europe due to the burning of poor quality coal. A few towns in the south regularly have levels on a par or worse than Chinese cities with bigger populations. Krakow is one. You have been warned.
Monoculturalism. Sad to say, but Poland is one of the most culturally homogenous countries in Europe and the government plans to keep it that way with a strict anti-immigrant policy. Yes I know 10 million Poles have emigrated to America. That’s different.

To sum up, Poland is not without its flaws – but where is? If you’re looking for a dynamic and energetic European destination with plenty of students, good nightlife, rich history, outdoor activities and delicious local food, it might just be for you.
You won’t get rich here. But there is more to life than money – right?