Teaching in Belgium offers a combination of eager students and a comfortable lifestyle. Belgium is most famous for its waffles, chocolate and beer- an excellent combination in the eyes of most teachers. Finding a teaching job in Belgium can be competitive and most positions are found in universities or language schools. The cost of living in Belgium can be expensive, especially if you enjoy dining out, so a realistic budget will be important while living on a teacher’s salary. Belgium has some fantastic, historic cities for you to explore on the weekend, Bruges and Brussels being among the favorites.
Increasing in popularity, language schools hire teachers for adult language learners, business professionals, and children. Courses may be held after school hours or during the evenings. Thus, there is high demand for teachers in these schools, as a great deal of Belgian professionals hope to increase their knowledge of the English language. Some examples of these schools are the English Academy or one of the CLL Language Centers.
Teachers have the option of privately tutor on the side, or enroll in hands-on programs such as Greenheart’s Language Exchange Homestay. Applicants will receive room and board in exchange for about 15 hours/week of tutoring (a bit similar to an au pair situation). As a “live-in” tutor, there will be plenty of opportunity for cross-cultural exchange between you and your host family. In addition, this volunteer-like situation will allow for plenty of free time to travel within Belgium and explore your surroundings. No official teaching experience is necessary for these type of tutoring placements; though, it is helpful to have some background in dealing with children.
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
Most jobs are located in the cities of Brussels (the capital), Antwerp, Ghent, or Bruges. It is recommended that teachers begin looking for jobs in early September and through October. Also, January is a prime time for hiring teachers in Belgium.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and TEFL/TESOL certification. Schools will likely require a face-to-face interview before offering a contract. Even though many schools and recruiters post online, it is easiest to obtain the job once inside Belgium.
Salary & Cost of Living:
Belgium’s cost of living is equivalent to its Western Europe neighbors (i.e. living costs are pretty expensive). However, English teachers are paid a decent wage and you will definitely have enough to live comfortably. Rent might cost anywhere between 400 and 800 € per month, and a loaf of bread will only set you back 1.50 €. Try to eat at home, rather than splurge at restaurants and cafes regularly, and you will not make a huge dent in your wallet.
Classroom & Work Culture:
In higher education, grading is based on whether you place within 1 of 5 brackets: excellent/very good/good/sufficient/failure.
It is best to shy away from religion, income, and regional politics in conversation. Also, the Flanders-Wallonia debate is a touchy subject; do not speak French in Flanders or Dutch in Wallonia. Additionally, do not tell Wallonians that they are French, and Flemish that they are Dutch. As a tourist or expatriate, it is best to start a conversation in English.