An entrepreneur, an English teacher and student from three different countries share their stories on how they found a job in Belarus. Exhausting paperwork procedures, language problems and even painful health checks didn’t stop them from pursuing their aims.
Emmett Valentine Reeb III
an English teacher and small business owner from the U.S.
I have been working in Brest, Belarus for over a year. I worked as an English teacher in Rwanda, Russia (where I met my wife Olga, who is a Belarusian) and China.
Over time we got a little tired of living in big cities and moved to Brest, where Olga has a family.
We decided to start our own language, open an art training center and a guest house in Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
Big plans and search for a perfect place
Before coming to Belarus, I had found a few English teaching training centers online, contacted them, and had Skype interviews.
Ultimately, we decided to open our own center, this would allow us to have flexible hours and time to work on our guest house. As to finding the location for our guest house, it took a bit more of a hands-on approach.
We visited different government offices that could put us in contact with sellers, spoke to realtors, constantly tracked Kufar (classified advertisements website – BelarusFeed) for deals, and even drove around neighborhoods asking villagers about houses they knew were for sale in the area.
We must have visited about 30 different places for sale in the Brest region before finally found what we wanted. After that, we spent four months completing the necessary paperwork to officially open our own language and art training center and guest house.
Recipe for success in Belarus
We are still making renovations to our guest house, but the school has been going strong for over a year. Though the paperwork and bureaucracy can be a bit daunting at times, we are still quite happy with our decision to move to Brest and open our businesses.
Belarus is hosting more and more international tourists every year. Therefore, we expect the demand for English in Belarus’ tourism sector to grow with its popularity as an international vacation destination.
We strongly believe that our pairing of teaching English to locals and hosting international guests is an excellent recipe for our success in Belarus.
Emma Lygnerud Boberg
from Sweden, works for the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund)
I am doing a master’s at Lund University, as part of the studies we have an internship abroad. The destination we choose by ourselves, so I decided to go to Belarus.
The UNFPA is working against gender-based-violence, which is my main field of interests. I learned about it from one of my closest friends, who lives in Belarus. Besides, I am interested in post-soviet states, so that was it.
Before my arrival, I had to collect insurance documents, docs proving that I am a student in Sweden and a contract from the UNFPA.
Also, a printed document of my mom’s passport as I am under 25, a bank statement and lastly I had to fill in a visa application.
Then I sent all the documents to the Belarusian embassy in Stockholm, which just opened this summer. I got a double entry visa that I had to extend when in Belarus.
At the same time, I had a separate process for a temporary residence permit. I went to the bank to pay for the visa and for the temporary residence permit, how they count the amount is still a mystery to me.
When I just moved here I lived in an apartment and I had to go to the migration office to register my place of living. When I moved to a new apartment I had to repeat the same process again.
This meant I had to sign a contract with my landlord. All my documents had to be translated from English to Russian and I had to bring someone to a lawyer to translate for me. And yet, it was difficult to understand the process and very time-consuming.
I was at the migration agency at least one time a week for 5-6 weeks.
The problem for me was that I’m a student in Sweden but I am working here. I don’t receive a salary so the migration office didn’t know which law they should apply to my case.
This meant I had to submit additional documents and go to the translation office again. My advice is to start the process early.
If you don’t know Russian (or know some basic things like me) you will need assistance to fill in the papers and even to figure out the opening hours of the migration agencies.
We are different
The working culture in Belarus is different. There is a hierarchy that is quite different from Sweden, where we usually have flat organizations.
Here people can have a harsh tone towards each other and the next second, they are very friendly instantly after the issue is solved.
In Sweden, this would be considered unprofessional and people are very afraid of conflict-situations. Also, Swedes are very keen on dividing working-life from private-life and usually end their workday between 16.00-17.00, here I feel people have their work as a part of their lifestyle.
an entrepreneur and English teacher from the UK
My wife is Belarusian and we decided to live here instead of England. It wasn’t a difficult decision because, at the time, I had a job which just needed a quick and stable internet connection.
After I started to enjoy my English conversation classes more than my online work I became an official English tutor and advertised myself on education websites. It didn’t take long to find a healthy amount of students.
My transformation into an English teacher happened by chance. Work found me rather than the other way round!
It took me over one year to get my first residence permit. I decided I wanted it in Spring 2015 and I finally got the wonderful green document in August 2016. To be fair, though, it wasn’t a huge priority and could have been done a bit quicker.
Read also: Typical problems foreigners face in Belarus
The main delay was because of my Criminal Record check; I didn’t know that I needed it to be apostilled and therefore I had to send it back to the UK wait for it to be apostilled and returned to Belarus.
Fingerprints and health checks
Apart from the usual translations and notarizations of passports and things one of my favourite things was giving my fingerprints. It was in a dark basement in a police station near Institut Kulturi and the officers were pleasant and had their jokes about me not causing any trouble!
There were also some mandatory health checks, most of which I have forgotten, apart from the one where a needle was inserted into my urethra – unforgettable!
An unpleasant sensation that lasted the whole day. I wonder if they still have the same procedure to check for STDs?!
Once I gathered all the necessary documents, I applied to local migration department and they said come back in three months. So I did – and low and behold a nice shiny passport-sized document was waiting for me.
BelarusFeed thanks everyone who contributed to the article.