Cultural differences

As has happened for the last three years I am in Leeds working.

Living in Strasbourg and working as an English teacher, the work at the University in Strasbourg ends at the beginning of June and there is nothing until the middle of September. Previously I have gone to the UK to work at Summer schools. Then, as for the last two years. I got a job on a pre-sessional at Leeds. A course to help people, largely female and largely from China, to get used to what is expected of them in a British university before they start a Masters in September. Not so much teaching English but, as it is known in the jargon, English for Special Purposes.

Living and working in Strasbourg has not been helped by changes to the law by the government which has cut the money people have for training, a lot of which had been used for English language training. Similarly the restrictions put in place by the university to avoid people being considered a full-time worker mean there is some work there but not lots.

The most important part though is that in France I am self-employed. I prepare my lessons at home and then turn up and deliver them. Then I go home. Most of the time there is no-one else to share ideas with and talk about what you’re going through, no colleagues. Here I am part of a team. We share an office. We talk about what’s coming up and share ideas on how to deliver our lessons. There is none of that in Strasbourg. As a teacher I learn so much from my colleagues. I also go out on the evening after we get paid, have an after work drink, doesn’t happen in Strasbourg, and then go out somewhere for something to eat and chat and put the world to rights.

What’s nice here is that I get paid at the end of the month after having worked it. Who knows when I will get paid in France. I worked five contracts in France this year. I have been paid for two. Who knows when I will be paid for the rest. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity? Don’t make me laugh. Particularly not if you are an English teacher at a French university. Despite which Strasbourg is my home and, despite being on the wrong side of the Pennines, and me born in the south, Leeds feels like my cultural home.

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