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This post was written by Guiri Guest writer: Meghan Modafferi.  Meghan is from North Carolina, USA. She is currently living in Prague and working as an English teacher. In her free time, she’s a freelance writer who’s particularly interested in politics, performances, and personalities. 

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So, now that you’ve visited Prague, you’re dreading leaving. Maybe it seems impractical to come back in the future, especially to come back and stay back. It’s possible though, and not so impractical either. If you’re reading this with relative ease, you’re already engaging the extremely valuable asset that can keep you here.

 Why:

Teaching English in Prague is in high demand. It pays the normal bills and the travel bills, while also feeding a traveler’s soul. I’m an English teacher in Prague, and the more I get into the job, the more I realize what a unique and wonderful position I’m in for learning about people.

No matter how many questions I ask my students, they aren’t annoyed with it. They know the point is to get them speaking, get them speaking better, and keep them speaking (better.) So they keep talking, and I keep asking, and it feels completely natural, until I get home and realize I suddenly know everything about their relationship with their mother.

I’ve thought a lot about this, and how strange it is that they tell me so much, and that I feel comfortable asking for more and more details. I’ve thought about other jobs I could do where I’d have to ask questions. If I were a journalist, my interviewees might (and have in the past) worried about ulterior motives or how their words might be represented on the page. Although it would be part of my job to ask questions, it would be a part that sometimes made people uncomfortable or defensive or guarded. Likewise, if I were therapist, a large part of my job would be to ask questions and keep my patient talking. But I’d need to be drawing psychological conclusions from the content of patients’ answers, and this might give them pause. If I were a teacher of anything other than language, my students’ answers would face scrutiny for accuracy in both grammar and content.

But as it is, in a conversation lesson, my job is to draw conclusions only from the form of my students’ answers. A student tells me, “I think I’m in fault for my divorce,” and my only critical response is “at fault.”

From this vantage point, I’m able to cultivate an incredible amount of intimacy with people from not only a different culture, but a different language. If I were in Prague for any other reason, I would hear “dobry den” at most from the majority of the Czechs I encountered. As it is, I hear their ideas about God, education, love, and politics. I feel extremely lucky and honored to have such a beautiful opportunity, and that’s why I want to pass it on to you.

How:

So I’m recommending it highly from a human standpoint, and from a culture standpoint. But logistics are important too. Just because you speak English doesn’t mean you’ll feel or be 100% ready to dive in. I was an English major at University, but still I was shocked by how many grammar rules I didn’t know. They’re intuitive—you know how to speak them, but not necessarily how to teach them. Learning to explain your language to someone who doesn’t speak it is like learning a new language yourself.

I got my Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate at The Language House TEFL in Prague. It’s a month-long intensive course. You’ll be in class more or less from 9am until 9pm. It will be your life for one month, but it can open doors for much longer.

During the day, you’ll take grammar and methodology classes. It’s all taught to you from within the strategy that you’ll be asked to master. In other words, they don’t have you read a textbook page about creative teaching. They engage the method in order to present it. It’s a little meta, and it’s not easy, but it’s a lot of fun.

In the evenings, you’ll be teaching real Czech students who signed up for free English lessons with teachers-in-training. You’ll give a 45-minute lesson, watch two of your classmates give 45-minute lessons, and then be subject to critique by a TEFL observer. It’s a little like a reality show. You get a challenge (to teach x grammar point to a group of Czechs in 45 minutes), you execute that challenge, and then you face the judges. The “judges” are strict, but only because they believe in how much you can learn and how much you can improve in just one month. Wearied, but optimistic for your next assignment, you’ll go home (to your house where you’ll live with your classmates who are all in the same boat) and begin lesson planning for the next round.

You’ll teach students of all different levels, and you’ll be prepared for how that should alter your lesson strategy. For true beginners, you’ll learn how to teach them sentence structure by building from such simple lines as “My name is…” For upper intermediates, you’ll learn to identify holes in their extensive knowledge, and begin filling them in. You’ll be sent across the city to meet privately with a student, so you can experience the difference from class lesson to individual one. And when the month is over, you’ll be qualified and confident, plus you’ll have connections.

The Language House TEFL prepared me for teaching in any situation. They helped me get my Visa. They helped me with my CV. They helped me find a job. And most importantly, they provided me with a community. The TLH Alums in Prague Facebook page has almost 200 members who are ready with support and friendship to make Prague not only a place to work, but a place to really live, a place to call home… at least until your next adventure.

 For more information, go to http://www.thelanguagehouse.net/, or send me an email at meggmod@gmail.com

The Voice of Americans Overseas

October 18th, 2012 | Posted by Karolinad in Government - (Comments Off)
 American Citizens Abroad (ACA), the voice of Americans overseas, is a non-profit, non-partisan, all-volunteer organization that represents the interests of Americans living and working outside the U.S. to the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Federal Judiciary to insure that Americans overseas are treated with equality and fairness.  If you are an American living in Prague – Check it out!
Introducing a fairly new website - Hello Czech Republic - launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Here you can get information on living in or visiting the Czech Republic straight from the source.   The website is available in 6 different languages and provides you with accurate and up to date information on a number of different topics.

You may have heard of it, you may have not, but you will probably will and you will definitely know someone has one or is the process of getting one. A Zivnostensky List or ‘zivno’/’zivnost’ for short. So for ease of use I’ll assume complete ignorance. Please also note that the following advice is only based on my experience and is not necessarily 100% reliable.

In essence if you wish to live and work in Prague or the wider Czech Republic on a freelance basis then you will need one. Or more likely your employer will require you need one. If you work for a large company and have a permanent contract then you will probably not need one (time to check the fine print on your contract). Your employer in essence will be taking care of two aspects of your life in the Czech Republic on two issues. These being firstly social security/unemployment payments and secondly health insurance. As you will probably know there is no universal system of healthcare in the Czech Republic. Instead you have to get your own health insurance. Usually if you have a contract your employer takes care of these two, however, please check your individual contracts.

For many of us, I and my fiancée included who do not have full-time contracts with employers to access these benefits. So we need a zivnost. In a nutshell, it is a ‘trade license’ which means you have officially registered as working independently in the Czech Republic. You get a number/code which you then use on all invoices with clients and in communications with the Czech authorities. Please note it doesn’t give you ‘the right to live or work’ in the country, this is related to visas and is a whole other issue. If you are an EU citizen then you automatically have the right to live and work in the Czech Republic.

A zivnost is particularly useful if you are deriving your income from a number of sources e.g. TEFL teaching/translating etc. Firstly and foremostly it means you are responsible for the administration of your taxes. Basically, the system works in a similar manner to those of ‘self-employed’ person across the world. The individual maintains a record of their outgoings e.g. running an office, transport, sundries etc and then offsets them against a tax allowance. Anything over this threshold is then considered as taxable income. I am not an accountant and will not attempt to put figures on this. Sound advice from other ex pats is to get an accountant to manage your tax returns and take advantage of their professional advice. I have been told anecdotally though that the percentage of expenses which you can claim is fairly high and that the Czech tax regime is not massively punitive.

The other issue of having a zivnost means you get access to social security and health benefits. BUT it also means that you have to pay for it. This is carried out via monthly payments split between social security and health insurance payments. The amount is worked out on a sliding scale according to income.

Having ascertained what a Zivnost is. I’ll next week look at how to get one….

Guiri Guest: Arian Alexander Danilovic

I moved to Prague four years ago after an exciting string of job assignments taking me to Russia, S. Korea, Canada, Kazakhstan and the USA. Having grown up in a number of cities across North America, I was looking forward to settling down in a city, getting to know it and become a part of it. It’s become clear that Prague was the right choice for me and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you.

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Office in Koněvova street (Responsible for Prague 1,3,6,7,8,9)

If you have read my previous post about the Non-EU citizen process for obtaining a visa, you will know that it’s not a walk in the park. Luckily, for citizens of the 27 countries within the EU, the process is very straightforward and relatively painless.  As an EU citizen, you are allowed to reside and work in the Czech Republic on an indefinite basis, with or without employment. Quite simply, your primary responsibility is to go to the Foreigner’s Police Department (Newly the Ministry of Interior) and register yourself in the Czech Republic.  To do that, you will need an address in the Czech Republic (Signed and notarized by your landlord / owner of the flat) and proof of Health Insurance from your home country. 

As of January 2011, there were many changes concerning the legislation and overall organization. In general, it has become much harder for non-EU citizens to reside and live in the Czech Republic;  The process of issuing foreigners resident visas has been taken over by the Ministry of the Interior and the Police Department only has a supporting role; Offices / locations have been re-organized and assigned based on your residence in Prague.  However, the process itself and supporting documentation itself has not changed fundamentally.  

The location I visited is located at Koněvova 188/32 in Prague 3, Žižkov (Responsible for Prague 1,3,6,7,8,9).  The trick here is that there are two entrances, one for EU citizens and permanent residents and one for first time applicants from non-EU countries. As you approach the building, you will likely see an unimaginably long line of people outside who are waiting under the supervision of some police. Luckily, if you are an EU citizen or permanent resident, this line is not for you. Be very happy.

Interestingly, the entrance is titled ‘Služební Vchod’ which translates into English as ‘Official Entrance.’ Don’t worry about that, trust the little EU flags and follow the signs. Once you enter the main room there is a ticket dispensing machine that will provide you a number. Lines here are always reasonable and the staff is polite and helpful (so long as you are also polite). You should be able to complete your registration within one hour.

Please remember that anytime you have a status change – marriage, change of address, etc., be sure to let the ministry know ASAP.

The following two links are both official and very helpful in terms of getting the latest information:

Information for Non-EU citizens here.

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