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Post new topic   Reply to topic    Job Discussion Forums Forum Index -> Macedonia and the Balkans
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Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 13
Location: Skopje, Republic of Macedonia

PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 5:50 am    Post subject: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT MACEDONIA Reply with quote


I will answer all your questions, but let me begin with a major caveat. Since the Republic of Macedonia gained its independence in 1991, the economy has gone into a prolonged tailspin. As a result, the unemployment rate here ranges from 32% to 37%, depending on who you listen to. What that means is that almost any expatriate who comes here and takes a job will deprive a Macedonian of a job. In all probability, that Macedonian will be an excellent teacher with almost flawless English, even if she (it usually is a she) has never set foot outside the Balkans. (You notice I said “almost” any expatriate. In my case, I was involved in a project funded by the U.S. government, so we actually created exceptionally well-paid jobs for around a dozen Macedonians.)

To supplement what I am going to tell you, I recommend that you get a copy of the Brandt Travel Guide “Macedonia” by Thammy Evans. ISBN 1 84162 089 0. It was published in 2004, so the information it gives is still fairly accurate. It also happens to be the only travel guide in English devoted exclusively to Macedonia.

“Had you taught other places earlier?”

I’ve been in the business for over 25 years so yes: the United States, Korea, and Saudi Arabia

“How did you end up in Macedonia?”

The American company I was working for in Saudi Arabia sent me here.

“Why aren't you teaching this year?”

I am deathly tired. Two years of working 24/7 took it out of me.

“Why are you staying there?”

I think Newton’s Laws of Thermodynamics apply to human behavior as well as planets and stars. One of his laws says something to the effect that a body traveling at a given velocity will continue to do so unless it is affected by some external force. To answer your question, I am staying here because I am here. Additionally, I am a life-long nomad, and home is wherever I happen to be. And finally, I like Macedonia and most of the Macedonians I have met.

“Do I need to know a foreign language to get along?

No. Most of my expatriate former colleagues could say little more than “Zdravo” (Hi) and “Hvala” (Thanks) in Macedonian. (I was the quirky exception because my undergraduate degree is in Slavic Languages.) I find most of the people I need to deal with here speak some English.

“Next, do I have a chance of employment if I just show up or should I try for a position with a NGO to ease me into town, so to speak?”

If I were in your Reeboks, I would try and land an NGO gig to start with. You get so much more support from that type of employer. Also, my impression is that most of the local language schools have very little experience hiring expatriates and probably wouldn’t know how to go about getting you a work permit. (When was the last time you saw a job in Skopje listed on Dave’s ESL Café?) Incidentally, one non-Macedonian employer you might want to consider is the Peace Corps. They have a fairly large contingent here, mostly doing ESL work, I believe.

“Can I hope for a job (ANY kind of job) in Skopje -- like tutoring businessmen, college students? Working for a business with helping with communications?”

That’s a bridge I haven’t crossed myself yet. My hunch is yes, but you would need to be very familiar with the terrain first. Also a job is not necessarily a living. You didn’t ask about the kind of salary you could expect. My Macedonian teacher told me I could probably make 900 denars an hour working for a language school. (The exchange rate is currently 50 denars to the dollar, which, conveniently, makes the denar equal to 2 cents US.)

“Actually, I would PREFER working for a language school at first. Or would I? There is one school whose website says they hold interviews -- up north, on the east coast, at universities there. Far from me. Maybe they only want teachers with an total ESL education?”

I’d be interested to know the name of that school. What the local language schools would be looking for I don’t know.

“What about getting an apartment? What sort of money should I bring with me in order to get settled in?”

There are a couple of real estate agencies here that cater to the expatriate community.


Typically they deal with international bureaucrats and NGO people, so the rents tend to reflect the tenants’ ability to pay. At my last place, the monthly rent was four times the salary of any of my students! Currently I’m paying 350 Euros a month for a fully furnished and equipped apartment. A former Peace Corps volunteer told me recently that she found something shabby for 150 dollars.

If you rent an apartment through an agency you will probably have to pay the first and last month’s rent up-front. You may also have to split an agency fee with the landlord. (Astoria doesn’t charge the tenant a fee.) To take my own case, I had to come up with 875 Euros ($1050) when I moved into my latest apartment.

As for the cost of living here, I have been keeping strict accounting of every denar I’ve spent since January 1, and my spreadsheet projects that it will cost me around 10,000 Euros ($12,000) a year to live here. (I have a frugal, nay ascetic, lifestyle.)

“My needs and wants are limited and simple. I do not go out drinking or partying.”

Then brace yourself for a slight change of lifestyle. Macedonians are party animals par excellence, and like to treat their language teachers to a four-hour dinner at the end of term. The rest of the time, though, you can be as reclusive as you like.

At this point a word of warning: if you are anti-tobacco, this is definitely not your country. Many Macedonians smoke, and at a party even people who don’t smoke will light up.

In general, I would rate Skopje as one of the most heavily polluted cities I have lived in. (London, Seoul and Los Angeles, among others.) On weekdays, the pollution in the city center almost always exceeds EU limits. Most single-family homes in Macedonia are heated by wood-burning stoves, almost all vehicles are powered by diesel engines that are in dire need of a tune-up, and in Skopje there is no place for the pollution to go because we are virtually surrounded by mountains.

“Macedonia is a country I can imagine retiring to someday, buying a home. Is foreign ownership of property possible or wise?

I don’t know if it’s possible, but even if it is, I would consider it unwise. Whatever the situation is now, it will probably change radically when Macedonia joins the EU. (I fully expect every square inch of Ohrid to be bought up by the Dutch.) I would never buy property here; this is not a country where the rule of law prevails, and there is not even a reliable registry of land-ownership. A former colleague who bought an apartment in Skopje (probably in the name of his Macedonian wife) has gotten into some quite unpleasant legal tussles.

“What sort of training is most advantageous in finding a ESL job in Macedonia?”

Since Macedonia is in Europe, schools here tend to take their cue from the UK rather than the US when it comes to professional training and qualifications. The CELTA certificate would probably be good to have. I hear there is a school in Sofia which offers a CELTA course.

As in the rest of the world, the kiddie market is booming here. Just the other day, a flyer was pushed in my mailbox announcing the opening of a day-care center that offered instruction in English. Experience teaching children as well as adults would therefore be a definite asset and something to emphasize on your resume.

“I believe in Macedonia's future... I believe it has incredibly potential.”

Most people can’t even place Macedonia on the map, but you obviously know something about the country. How and why?

Sorry this is so skimpy.


David R. Boxall
Republic of Macedonia
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'up north, on the east coast, at universities there'

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Joined: 16 Jan 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2006 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

scot47 wrote:
'up north, on the east coast, at universities there'

Never said it did, Scot .. but was betraying a stateside orientation of not naming the country.

Was referring to the excellent school in Skopje that conducts interviews at several US Universities on the east coast.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2006 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How remiss of me. I should have realised that to you the centre of Planet Terra is Des Moines Iowa. Consequently ' on the NE coast' means in New England in the USofA !

We lesser mortals from outwith God's Own Country have a different geographical perspective.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 11:02 am    Post subject: Journey to the Centre/Center of the Earth. Reply with quote

Nonsense, Scot47; Onyb'dy wi ony sense kanes that "on the north-east coast" means "Eberdeen"!
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