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Teaching English in Denmark

TEFL in Denmark

Bunker Mules: installations on Blavand BeachEnglish is taught in state schools from an early age and it is something of a de facto second language in Denmark. Many Danish citizens study English as a hobby, so there are a number of adult education colleges that cater for this. These institutions look for confident and engaging teachers who can keep students involved in lessons rather than teachers who have many formal qualifications.

So while inexperienced English teachers can find jobs (albeit with much difficulty) the better paying positions are those that teach Business English‏‎. However, the requirements for these positions are tough with business experience and confidence often given more weight than qualifications and teaching experience when hiring a teacher.

Regardless of where you teach, however, you’re guaranteed to work with extremely motivated students with a genuine desire to further their already high levels of English. This means that most students will be intermediate level and above rather than beginner. Beware though: The rewards of teaching such high levels come with an increased need for thorough preparation for all lessons. It’s also essential that you have a very clear understanding of what you are teaching – particularly when teaching grammar – or you may find yourself being corrected by the very students you’re teaching!

On another tack, for EU nationals who plan to settle in Denmark for the long-terms, opening your own language school can be very profitable and certainly more lucrative than working for hire.

Finding Work

If you’re hoping to teach in either a state or a private school, you will need the following qualifications:

However, language academies are less stringent requirements for teaching positions so these can be a good place to start.

Most jobs are found through word of mouth. If you’re hoping to find a job before arriving in Denmark, it’s worth contacting the British Council‏‎ which keeps an updated list of both private and state language schools in the country. You can also find language schools advertised on the online Yellow Pages while addresses for adult colleges (Folkeuniversitet) are listed on Folkuni. Non-EU nationals will need to arrange a work permit and a job in advance while EU nationals have more flexibility.

If you happen to be in Denmark already, look for English newspaper or expat groups – particularly teachers currently working in language institutes. Ad hoc conversation lesson work can also sometimes be found by placing adverts in bookstores, libraries, coffee shops or key stores. Also, take the time to learn some Danish – it will help you to connect better with potential employers and/or students!

Salaries and Benefits

Living costs are fairly high in Denmark although it is a beautiful and safe country to live in with incredible architecture, a rich history and culture, and strong infrastructures. Income tax is usually paid by your employer but there are significant differences in the salaries and benefits of jobs depending on the type of institution at which you work.

Typically, a job at a language center pays $800 USD (€633, £509) – $1500 USD (€1187, £954) per month with two weeks of annual leave and national holidays. Working hours vary from institute to institute but you may be required to work six days a week.

In comparison, a position at a national or international school and/or university generally offers a salary upwards of $2500 USD (€1978, £1591) per month, 10 weeks of paid vacation plus national holidays. Office hours of Monday – Friday, 9:00 – 16:00 are common with some weekend work required from time to time.

Visa and Regulations

A residence and work permit are needed for Denmark if you are not a citizen of the Nordic countries or the European Union‏‎. Your eligibility for the permits depends mostly on your qualifications although Denmark also has a Green Card type system that offers a three-year permit to highly-qualified individuals, and a Positive Points system in which visas are granted to professionals who are skilled in fields in which Denmark has a shortage. In many cases, you may be required to produce an offer of employment and a signed contract in order to get the Visa.

Upon arrival in Denmark, you will need to register with the police, open a bank account for your salary to be paid into and apply for a tax number at the local tax office.

With the abundance of native English speakers already available among EU nationals, most private and state schools are not keen to hire teachers from outside of Europe due to the red tape involved in hiring non-EU nationals. However, when they do hire non-EU nationals, it is generally easier for American teachers to find work than teachers from countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Check with your local Danish Embassy for language exchange programs such as Interexchange for Americans.

Another complication is that high schools are obliged to register their employees for social security and pay part of their contributions. Since there is a reciprocal system in the EU, employers are reluctant to hire people from countries that are not eligible for this system. One way around this is to freelance at an institute, which makes you responsible for your own tax and social security payments.

Culture Shock in Denmark

In moving to any foreign country, regardless of the country, you are bound to experience some form of Culture Shock‏‎ & Being Homesick.

These are some of the most common experiences that expats experience in Denmark:

  • Danes consider themselves equally European and Nordic. They have a strong sense of identity, which affects how they relate to others.
  • Initiating small talk with strangers is not something many Danes do. It is seen as more polite, not unfriendliness, not to attempt to engage in such idle conversation to avoid invading the privacy of another person.
  • Work and private lives remain separate. It is rare to be invited to the home of a colleague. For Danes, inviting someone to your home indicates a significant change in the friendship and is something that should be considered seriously.
  • It’s acceptable to invite colleagues to a coffee shop after work, but don’t be offended if some of them decline the invitation.
  • Most Danes value being a member of a social or leisure activity. Sports clubs are the most popular.
  • It’s not unusual to see people drinking beer at 10:30am at a café. Drinking alcohol moderately is a normal part of life in Denmark, but moderation is the keyword.
  • If someone invites you out for dinner, they usually pay. Among friends, however, it is more common to split the bill and tipping is not very common. Service charges are included in the bills.  
  • Punctuality is highly valued. However, in social settings, punctuality means not being too early or too late. In business, it’s acceptable to arrive early, but you will be kept waiting.
  • If you’re invited to a birthday, wedding or similar event, it’s customary for guests to gather together to introduce themselves formally by shaking hands and saying their names before the event. The idea is that you will have already broken the ice when you’re later seated next to someone you don’t know.
  • Dress codes tent to be informal in both business and social settings. Ties are worn by executives and financial officers. Smart casual is generally acceptable for social occasions unless you are told otherwise.
Image © blavandmaster

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