Looking to Teach English in Europe? 6 Reasons Why You Should Choose Poland
When most people look into teaching English in Europe, it’s usually Spain, France, and Italy that get all of the love. Maybe the occasional Germany or Czech Republic mention gets thrown in.
Yet so few ever think of Poland; the EU’s 5th largest country by size and population, and 6th largest economy. Having lived in Poland for three years now, I still wonder why this may be. Poland offers the same quintessential European lifestyle and experience as anywhere else on the continent.
It’s only when I go back home to the USA and my friends are like “Poland? Where’s that?” does it strike me how little most people know about this European gem.
So what exactly does Poland have to offer to an English teacher? If you’re considering teaching in Europe, why choose Poland over a more well known destination in Western Europe? Let me give you 6 solid reasons why Poland is the best country to teach English in Europe.
1. It's extremely affordable
It’s very rare that you’ll hear travelers referring to Europe as “affordable.” And let’s be honest; if you want to teach English in a cheap country, save loads of money, and live like a king by local standards, go to Asia.
Although the prices are increasing as the country’s economy booms, Poland remains one of the cheapest countries in Europe. Possible the cheapest. It is still possible to rent a private one-bedroom apartment for €300 per month; eat out for €4; get a beer for €1; and have a 30-day phone plan for €7.
You might think that because the cost of living is low, salaries are also lower than Western Europe. While that may unfortunately be the case for many locals, the ease of movement within the EU combined with the oversaturation of the TEFL job market in Western Europe has made native English teacher salaries basically the same all over the EU.
Whether you’re teaching in Madrid, Milan, Marseille, or Gdansk, a native English speaker with no experience and only a basic TEFL certification will earn somewhere in the area of about €1000 per month. But the difference isn’t in the salary, it’s in the prices: that same €1000 goes far, far further in Gdansk than in Milan or Marseille.
You certainly won’t get rich teaching in Poland. If you want to save money and pay off debts, Poland certainly isn’t the place for you. Most teachers here end up breaking even – there’s just so much to do in Europe that your excess earnings will more likely be going to fund a weekend holiday in Prague instead of your 401k savings account.
But if you want to experience living in Europe and still want to live a comfortable lifestyle, without being forced to share a cramped apartment and survive off cheap grocery runs, Poland may be the perfect balance.
2. It's clean, safe, and modern
Usually if a travel destination is “cheap,” there’s also some fine print. Travelers who’ve travelled Asia will know that while it’s incredible to be able to get by for $10 a day in Thailand and Vietnam, for that price you miss out on some of the comforts of living in a developed country. Public transit isn’t great, nor is sanitation nor safety.
But that’s not the case in Poland. Despite being far cheaper than most other countries in Europe, the country is in every way as advanced, safe, clean, and modern as its Western neighbors. In fact, many travelers find Poland’s infrastructure to be even more modern and convenient than some countries in Western Europe.
Warsaw’s metro is one of the newest built metro systems in Europe. And it certainly has a fresh and modern feel to it!
Trams and buses are air conditioned, fast, and run on-time. Apartments are usually modern and well-equipped. The streets are clean with cycle lanes and organized traffic.
In terms of safety, Poland constantly ranks as one of the safest countries in the world for visitors. And being in Poland really does feel like another level of being in a safe society. In my three years in Poland, not once have I ever thought about or been advised on avoiding a certain “rough neighborhood.” Not once have I felt the need to look over my shoulders and be extra cautious walking home late at night. Not once have I felt the need to maintain my senses on a crowded metro out of fears of pickpockets. This type of stuff just doesn’t happen here.
Growing up in a crowded American city with it’s fair share of sketchy neighborhoods, and having traveled to plenty of rougher cities in Spain and Italy, this came as quite a pleasant surprise for me.
3. It's the perfect central base to travel Europey
Poland’s location in Central Europe make it an ideal home base to explore the rest of the continent. From the south and west, direct trains and buses can get you to other Central European gems such as Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Berlin. From the north, ferries cross the Baltic Sea to the Scandinavian and Baltic wonders of Helsinki, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and more.
Beyond land and sea travel, Poland’s tourism boom in the past decade has led to Poland’s major cities becoming huge hubs of budget air travel. Europe’s budget air carriers – namely Ryanair, Wizzair, and EasyJet – connect most Polish cities with virtually every other city in Europe for as low as $20 (!) round trip. So while you can’t quite fly to Paris for the price of a Starbucks latte…well you can come pretty damn close!
Spontaneous budget savvy teachers can hop onto Google flights, run a search for “anywhere” this upcoming weekend, and book the cheapest flight that comes up. What can go wrong when exploring a new European city for the weekend?
Who would have guessed that teaching in Poland would also mean hiking in the Caucus Mountains of Georgia? Well, I guess thank Ryanair for the cheap flight!
And sometimes it’s not a European city! In my few years of playing this game, I’ve come across a $30 round-trip flight from Warsaw to Tiblisi, Georgia; a $40 round-trip flight from Krakow to Tel Aviv, Israel; among many others, to destinations in Asia and North Africa I’d never heard of.
4. Almost everyone can speak English
According to a study conducted by Cambridge University in 2019, Poland ranks 9th out of 26 non-English-speaking countries in Europe when it comes to English proficiency.
While you might struggle a bit in small towns, in any major city, you should have no problem getting through your day-to-day life speaking only English. In my time living in Krakow, not once have I struggled with ordering a coffee, getting a meal at a restaurant, signing an apartment lease, going to the doctor, or getting an appointment at a government office using just English. The only place I sometimes struggle is the grocery store (no idea why, but store clerks always seem to be the only people in town that don’t speak English), but Google Translate really helps!
I must say it’s a bit embarrassing that I’ve been here for 3 years and still can only speak the most basic “travel phrasebook” Polish. But from the point of view of someone moving to a new country, I can’t stress how much easier it makes life when you aren’t feeling the pressure to learn the language in order to get by.
The Polish language. For linguists, it’s a fascinating yet highly complicated language.
But for the rest of us? Well, a few words really help at the grocery store.
The country’s high proficiency in English is also evident in the classroom, if you’re a teacher. Unless you get a job at a preschool or nursery, you won’t be teaching kids how to say “banana” over and over again. The overwhelming majority of your students, both kids and adults, will already have at least an intermediate understanding of English.
This means your classes will go into deeper topics such as travel, science, and politics rather than teaching the colors or the letters of the alphabet. Even local teachers will usually speak only English in class once students advance beyond the elementary level.
Outside of the classroom, the prevalence of English in the country leads to a very vibrant and international social scene. Walk into any pub and you’re bound to see groups of foreigners from all over the world, together with locals, socializing with English as the common language. It’s not uncommon at all to sit down at a table with Poles and watch the entire conversation just switch into English.
And speaking of Poland’s international community…
5. There is a huge foreign community - and not just expats teaching English!
When I taught in Spain, it was so easy to stereotype people. You were either a) a Spaniard; b) an exchange student; c) a tourist; or d) an English teacher. When I went to Asia, it turned out to be exactly the same.
I was expecting Poland to be more or less the same, and that may have been true 20 years ago, but the times have changed. Poland’s economic boom has led to hundreds of international companies moving into Poland in the past decade, and with them thousands of expat workers from every corner of the globe.
We English teachers only make up a small slice of the thousands of internationals who call Poland home. And don’t get me wrong, I love to hang out with fellow teachers and talk about our job, but being stuck in a bubble of ESL teachers gets boring sooner or later. The international bubble you’ll end up in living in Poland feels more like the breakroom at the United Nations Headquarters and less like the breakroom at your language school.
Living in Poland means making friends from all over the world. Fellow English teachers, locals, and other internationals alike.
Nowhere in the world that I’ve lived have I felt more welcomed as an outsider than Poland. With foreigners being a relatively new thing for the country, the Poles haven’t yet lost their sense of curiosity when they meet outsiders, especially outside of the bigger cities.
“Why did you move to Poland?”
“Do you like living in Poland?”
“Have you learned any Polish? Do you want to practice with me?”
“You’re an English teacher? That’s so cool! Can I practice with you?”
These are the questions us foreign teachers get every day. From students, from locals at the pub, everywhere.
Living in Poland, you’ll realize that most younger Poles not only can speak English, but are usually very happy and eager to practice. If you make an attempt to speak Polish (even the most basic attempt no matter how bad), you’ll notice that locals will be extremely, extremely impressed.
I can remember quite a few times when I’ve said “pszepraszam, nie mowie po polsku” (sorry, I don’t speak Polish) and have gotten a wide-eyed reaction that meant something like “Wow, did you just say a sentence in Polish correctly?!”
I can only dream about getting a reaction like that from Spaniards when I say “no hablo español” in Spain.
6. There's a huge demand for English teachers - and not that many teachers yet!
Sure, not every foreigner in Poland is an English teacher, but that certainly doesn’t mean the country doesn’t need English teachers!
Since Poland was formally part of the Eastern Bloc, Poles over 35 did not learn English in school, and for the past decade have been working to catch up to the younger generation. While most younger Poles can speak a basic conversational level of English, fewer can speak at the professional level required to work at an international company, or to get a job overseas. More and more Poles are also seeing the value of teaching their kids English from a young age, and invest in sending kids to bilingual preschools or afterschool language centers to get them practice with native speakers.
Poland’s economic boom and influx of international companies making inroads into the country has created a demand to learn English that has been increasing exponentially over the past decade. Today there are over 1000 language schools in the country, a number which is increasing every year. And all must supply their students with English teachers.
Poland’s economic boom has lead to an unprecidented demand for English langauge education. Yet the country remains mostly under the radar for most aspiring teachers looking to teach abroad.
Despite the unprecedented level of demand for teachers, Poland hasn’t seen a huge surge of TEFL qualified native teachers arriving the way that Spain, Italy, France, and Czechia have. For whatever reason, Poland remains niche destination for young British and American teachers making their way to teach in Europe.
With a job market that clearly favors the teacher, coming to Poland as a TEFL qualified teacher means you’ll have a much more robust selection of jobs than you would in Western Europe. And much more leverage when negotiating your salary.
If you’ve never taught overseas before, this is likely much more important than you think. As teachers in Europe will almost always work on a freelance hourly basis, having more than one job offer available can be the difference between barely paying your rent versus living comfortably, traveling, and even saving a bit.
So there you have it! 6 reasons why you should consider Poland as your next destination to teach English in Europe.
Have you taught in Poland before? Leave a comment and let us know your experience!
Still looking to start your adventure and want to learn more? Check out our Program Options to see how to make this a reality.
Want to learn more about teaching in Poland?
Apply today to start your journey teaching in Poland