Katie from www.tefllogue.com must be trying to get herself into the Guinness Book of TEFL Records (which sounds like the title of another post to me!) , because after being the first person to review TEFLtastic she is now our first guestwriter too. Now, without any further ado, here she is, give her a big welcome round of applause ladies and gentlemen, it’s Kaaatiiieeee:
Do’s and Don’ts for Bosnia and the rest of Eastern Europe
I heard that teachers are beating down the TEFLtastic door with requests for information on Eastern Europe, especially Bosnia. So I thought I could help out by sharing a few hard-earned do’s and don’ts for Bosnia and its region.
Do go there!
Do try local foods. In Bosnia, try cevapcici [which I’ve heard described somewhat unappetizingly in English as “skinless sausages”] with kajmak [its mottos are: “The Most Difficult Cheese to Translate” and “Actually, Not a Cheese At All!”], and pita [pick one at a time: meat / cheese / spinach / potato pie].
Don’t eat these food every day.
Do ask locals to tell you jokes. Bosnia may be the only country in the world where people are okay with laughing at themselves. Rest assured there are plenty of general jokes, so you don’t have to be in the position of laughing at Bosnians. Don’t accept it when they say they cannot translate these jokes.
Don’t think too hard about why DVD’s at the outdoor market might cost €2..just stock up!
Do make sure you do everything right with your metro ticket in Budapest, because they will seek you out, find you and fine you if you don’t. Public transportation systems in other cities, most of which use the honor system, vary in their “ticket inspector aggressiveness” level…but you probably will get caught if you don’t stamp your ticket. Not worth it.
Don’t assume that what you can read or google about Bosnia or other countries in ex-Yugoslavia reflects the views of people who actually know the country. Some of it might; but stereotypes about this region and its people are unfortunately a dime a dozen.
And a few for teaching:
Do try to speak the local language once in a while in class – a well placed and correctly pronounced “egeszsegedre” goes a long a way in Hungary! And if you mess it up, that’s funny too. Local language grammar may be a hurdle, but people everywhere like it when take the time to learn to pronounce their names correctly. I’ve even reached the conclusion that, once you learn their basic pronunciation rules, Eastern European surnames are easier to pronounce as a group that surnames in the US.
Don’t expect anything less than a cloud of second-hand smoke during class breaks or if you join your students somewhere after class. You’ll get used to it.
Do know that, while I suspect cheating happens fairly equally throughout the world, it seems to take the tone of “we’re all helping each other, I can’t let my classmate fail” in former socialist countries.
Do take of your shoes or at least offer to when you visit a home anywhere in Eastern Europe…but don’t assume those who remove shoes are necessarily adhering to any ancient tradition other than “keep the pretty carpet clean”.
Do visit residential neighborhoods out of the center; there is nothing quite like gigantic socialist high rise apartment buildings against a stunning mountain backdrop.
Thanks to Alex for giving me this opportunity to spread the word about tips in this region! I hope it serves to address the mad rush for Eastern Europe info.