James Cook Languages is NOT a good place to work

prague_toutI love Prague. Even right now as I sit here in my kitchen, a little hung over from last night, I love Prague. I love cooking my Tortellini soup while watching the snow fall outside my window. I love going down town and looking at the big ol Christmas tree in Old Town Square. I love dancing at Blind Eye every Friday night and having brunch the next day with new flat mate. I love Prague. I love bundling up in the winter and the Beer Gardens in the summer. This city takes my breath away. Having lived most of my life in the L.A. area it feels amazing to live in a city rich with history, and a well respected history at that. I never felt a sense of history in Los Angeles probably because there really isn’t any. I mean this is a city that constantly tears down its historical landmarks and creates new ones. In 50 years the Disney Concert Hall will be replaced with something new. And that’s just the way it is.

And you just have to deal with the way things are.

Having said that, let me explain a little something about living abroad. It’s cool and all that, but you have a lot of bureaucratic bull shit to deal with. Like getting a Visa so that you can live and work in said country legally. Some countries make this extremely difficult – i.e. Spain, Germany, England, USA. And some countries like Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic make it, well, not easy but doable. There are lots of forms to fill out and lots of lines to stand in. Basically you have to jump through a lot of hoops before they let you stay here. And that’s fine. I am willing to do that. I am going to Berlin on Tuesday (because you have to file for the Visa in a country other than the country you are requesting the Visa for) to submit my Visa paperwork. Gonna be a pain in the ass, but it’s just the way it is.

And then there are the little annoying things that happen to you as a foreigner. Like – you get the “asshole” tax when renting a flat. They charge you more because you are American and there is nothing you can do about it. You can get screwed at restaurants and end up paying more because you are American. It happens. I get it. But…you shouldn’t be getting shafted by the people you work for.

I have worked for James Cook Languages since I got my TEFL certificate. They are one of the biggest Language schools in Prague – a city that hosts about 100 of them. They pay their MANY teachers an average salary (you can make more at other schools) and charge the businesses at least double what you make for teaching the actual lesson. I have not had any major problems with them until now. Now? We have a problem.

You see, they have started taking taxes from my salary and I do not have a Visa yet. That means that they are basically stealing from me every month. Once I have a Visa I am legal here which means that I am liable to pay into the social system – before that I am a tourist. The system is set up so the employer is screwed for a few months when they hire a foreigner, but that is NOT my problem. That’s the way the system is. I don’t like being taken advantage of. They told me it was a new “policy”. Uh huh. I am doing battle with them to get my money. Other language schools don’t do this and if I didn’t need the money right away I would quit and go someplace else. But for now all I can do is help out any of you would be English teachers: If yo come to Prague to teach – DO NOT WORK FOR JAMES COOK.

Try these instead: British Institute, Polyglot, Ulrich

I still love Prague and living here, and I am not going to let this bad business practice upset my life, but I know a lot of people read my blog and trust my TEFL/teaching experience so…

That’s my little PSA for you. I’ll return to my regularly scheduled blog next time. Until then…JAMES COOK = BAD.


18 thoughts on “James Cook Languages is NOT a good place to work

  1. just a little remark: you don’t especially need to be american to get the “asshole” tax and special prices, coming from a country positioned on their left on a worldmap is enough! 😉for the rest of your article:First, I’m sorry for you, that sucks! Second, I didn’t and still don’t understand why you need to give in your files for your visa in another country than the one you’re applying for.

  2. A) I stumbled upon your blog on some other blog about teaching English in Prague (myself and a friend are planning to do the TEFL Worldwide program in August). Just wanted to throw that out there so I don’t come off as a creepy stalker.B) I e-mailed TEFL Worldwide a few weeks ago asking them about the work visa situation because I was afraid of the very same thing you’re describing, as I know you have to leave the country in a lot of other places to file for a work permit, and they told me I wouldn’t have to leave the country. Or specifically, “Most employers will help you though the Visa process, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. You will be able to file for the work permit and Visa all from the Czech Republic.” So that’s lame. Guess they’re not so up to date on the work permit situation! Ah well. Would you say getting a work permit is something I should worry about, or just something that will be a royal pain in the ass, but not so much something to loose sleep over? It sounds like you’ve worked there awhile before even applying for the visa, is that true? So many things to learn!

  3. Hey Nicole…I sent you an email about work permits and stuff. But…no you don’t need to worry about it. There is nothing you can do until you have your TEFL Certificate and a job. You need both of those before you can file for a permit or Visa. So…just wait. Most schools WILL help with all of that. 🙂

  4. It is too bad that James Cook are being so lame. When i was in prague the school i worked for did help the teachers who wanted to get a visa ( i didn’t get one ’cause i knew i wasn’t going to be staying for more than a year) but they also took taxes off your salary even if you didn’t have a visa. i like how you put out a psa on james cook! sharing all the insider tips you know 😉

  5. You could always come back to the good old U S of A where we will screw ya in the back and smile at ya in the front, all while telling you that it’s good for you and that you are un-American if you don’t like it! That’s how we getter done here!

  6. By the way, what DID happen with good ol James Cook? Did they budge and see the error in their ways? Have you decided to suck up the bullshit? Or is your theatre looking to happen somtime in 2009?

  7. Hi, I have also “stumbled” across your blog and have to say “very interesting.” I am signed up for the TEFL Worldwide program for Sept. and was happy to see you had it listed as something good. That’s a relief! I’ve been living and teaching in Mexico for the past 16 years but the peso is taking a serious dive and it’s time to move on. Looking forward to the whole Prague experience–cold weather and taxes notwithstanding.

  8. It is not just in Prague. I am English and have been working for James Cook in Bratislava for three years. I have lived in Bratislava for 15 years and have taught English here for 8 years. I guess I am a bit older than you guys because previously I worked in the IT Industry for 30 years. So any case after 3 years the coordinator down here sends me an email asking if my wife (a Slovak) can help her. I say yes and forward it without trolling through the Czech. So the tax laws are changing down here from 01Jan2013 and it means that you have to work through a Trade Licience (Zivnost). My wife sends back NO and then gets a email offering to reduce my rate by a third.

    The MD at another school I work at explaned it all face-to-face in less than 5 minutes. So in the end I now have a bright new Zivnost. However, James Cook’s strategy is still to attempt to reduce the rate and try to negotiate with me at the Christmas get-to-gether infront of 5 other teachers (yes a whole 6 turned up out of 16) still attempting to increase their mark-up to more than 100% even after I used the term Contructive Dismisal 5 times.

    Good luck to all of you. I have already replaced all of the lessons I lost (took less than a week) and now am making more money than before and travelling much less, because the other schools actually have offices in Bratislava (which James Cook does not) and classrooms (which James Cook does not). Maximum travelling time 30 minutes for a 3 hour stint.

    James Cook talk about cooperation when they should talk about working together to a comon goal. What they actually mean is screw the teachers into the ground and reap in 100% plus mark-ups. That is called ‘Usury’. I only got that return when I used my own full-time employees in the software house I ran. They got paid travelling time and expenses, company cars and petrol and running costs, holidays, training, sickness, private healthcare, private non-contributary pensions, etc., etc..

    James Cook also does not seem to like employing PhDr’s They much prefer to employ students for peanuts and Managers with Busness Diploma’s from schools that nobody in their right mind would go to if they had any choice (I did the Banking Exams in England the hard way – so I have pretty usless qualifications too). At least I can actually speak English and not just hide behind a Grammar Book like so many of the locals do. I also ran several sucessfull businesses before the evil devorce lawyers reemed me,

    BRING IT ON. Let’s show them what Capitalism really means. Let’s nhave some proper competition.

    Please accept my appologies for any sepling mistakes. I no longer have a secretary to get the little details right for me.

    • Thanks so much for commenting! I started teaching in Prague when I was 32, so I get what you mean. There are SO many different schools that one could work for which would treat you fairly. If you work for JCL you deserve what you get. And what you get is not a lot of money and a really long and unfair contract.

      • So. why do we put up with it? We are also able to work together for a common goal. Why don’t we see if we can change things for the student’s and the teachers benefit. I have contacts in Kosice as well as Bratislava. What contacts do you have in the Czech Republic. Check me out on Google and email me (if you spend 5 minutes googling me you will have all the contact details you need plus a photo). Do you have a Zivnost or your own company?


  9. Hello, I am a former JCL employee. I worked there through 5 contracts. I do not like to slander. However, I find James Cook’s company policies morally and legally suspect. A couple of examples; requiring a deposit posted by the employee ( me) until the visa paperwork was satisfactorally processed by the government. Then an option to insure that the “process” would work by using an affiliated service. I saw the scam said no. It turns out that the service would simply tell people to go and do not saving time etc. After I submitted the paperwork to the government JCL decided that they would not pay me until they saw the visa in my passport (they disregarded the gov form saying that I did what I was supposed to do). Anyway, I dont mean to turn this into a rant but I did not get paid one krone ( or any other currency) for 5 months. Watch out for scams. The biggest scam is when an employer tries to make you believe that you are a criminal when it is them. I assume that anyone reading this is most likely a teacher. Teachers make the world a better place. Remember that, and do it.

  10. I don’t even understand how I stopped up here, but I thought this submit
    was great. I don’t understand who you are but certainly
    you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already.

  11. Agree everything written on the page. l was asked to do a SKYPE interview and asked to prepare a lesson plan, because, l would not be able to travel to Prague. Did my interview and they asked me to come to Prague for demonstrate my lesson plan. Explained their email and politely, l would not be able to do it because l cannot afford a plane ticket for a trip like that. I had a feeling that, this place is or the person is not even exist 🙂

  12. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to
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  13. Hello,

    I stumbled upon your blog while doing a Google search of James Cook Languages as I found an ad on an expats website. I am in the process of completing my TEFL and hoping to move to Europe (ideally Prague) by the fall. Is there any way I could chat with you via email or private message about your experiences with teaching abroad? I would love as much advice as I can get!!

    Thank you,


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