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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Berlitz Moscow, Russia

Posted on the "Nominate a School for Blacklisting" section. Any comments?

"I nominate Berlitz Moscow for blacklisting since the company has advertised a teaching job in Perm, Russia for the past 2 years when no such job actually exists. This recruiting effort is a classic bait (Moscow and Perm) and switch (Berezniki) tactic, i.e.

Q. Where is Berezniki?
A. Berezniki is a small Communist mining town which is North of Perm. All teachers are recruited for Moscow or Perm and then are informed they will be going to Berezniki immediately once they arrive in Moscow. They are flown on a 1950s Aeroflot aircraft from Moscow to Perm where they are then driven 3 hours by car to Berezniki. Berezniki suffers from extreme isolation and poverty. See:

Q. Why should Berlitz Moscow be blacklisted?
A1. An instructor is expected to fulfill a rotation in the city of Berezniki for 26 weeks out of the 52-week year without prior notification (not in contract) before arriving in Moscow.

A2. An instructor is expected to fly back and forth on 1950s Aeroflot aircraft between Moscow and Perm every three weeks.

A3. Berezniki is dangerous to go out at night, as it has three local prison populations that release prisoners regularly into Berezniki. Also, Berlitz tells the instructor not to go out of the hotel.

A4. There are no laundry facilities in Perm, instructors are expected to wash all of their clothes in a bathtub and are allowed only one suitcase on the aircraft due to weight restrictions.

A5. Instructors are placed in a hotel for 3 weeks and expected to be on-call for the company across the street from the hotel from 6AM to 10PM. Most scheduled courses result in cancellations.

Q. Why am I telling us this?

A1. I witnessed at least two instructors going through severe isolation sickness; one actually was close to a nervous breakdown while I was there due to constant schedule changes and the isolation.

A2. I spent 3 weeks in Berezniki, when I returned to Moscow I confronted Berlitz Moscow management with the breach of contract and notified the consulate much to the chagrin of the company.

A3 When I quit for breach of contract, I was given my last month's pay, was driven to my apartment and told to pack immediately and I was driven to the Moscow rail station.

A3. When I informed Berlitz Moscow of the contract breach I also mentioned that I was terrified of flying 7-10 times a year on an Aeroflot 1950s aircraft; I was told to see a psychiatrist by the manager.

Unfortunately, September 14, 2008 confirmed my worst fears and made me grateful that I quit when I did otherwise I might not be here today to tell you this: i.e. Aeroflot-Nord Boeing 737-500 for Aeroflot, flight SU821 from Moscow Sheremetyevo to Perm (Russia) crashed into a railway line southwest of Perm about 3:10 AM MSK (5:10 AM local time, or 13 September 2008, 23:10 PM UTC). Perm's police said the crew attempted an emergency landing due to an engine failure. AFP reported 88 including 21 foreigners killed at 5:15 AM Perm time. See:

This is the same route that a Berlitz Instructor is expected to fly 7-10 times a year. Please stay away from this company, I personally witnessed that the center manager has no conscience and sees all instructors as her chattel. No one at Berlitz International ever answered my emails despite this horrible situation and repeated requests for assistance.

I do my research before speaking and this is what the research says about Aeroflot:

Shame on Berlitz Moscow for not honoring its contractual terms and endangering the lives of its foreign instructors with this shabby behavior and continuing to post a job in Perm that does not actually exist."

Inspector McHammered of the Lard in Pamplona, Spain
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The Tefl Tradesman said...

I would say that this tactic is a lot more common than people might believe. I think I was hoodwinked twice in this fashion, both times in Turkey, but I was a bit too naive to notice at the time.

The first time it happened to me I was told by my new boss that I would be teaching some morning classes in "the other building". When he took me to visit "the other building" (what WAS I expecting - an annexe, or something?) it turned out to be about 10km away, outside town - a secondary school! So I had to get a bus out there EVERY morning, then dash home and start teaching again in the evening. Sod that for a game of soldiers!

The second time I was told, by my subsequent employer, I would be teaching at weekends - a Wednesday to Sunday job based at the school premises. When I turned up, it had all changed. I was now a Monday to Friday teacher at the local Uni. - again, a long hike away (not that I minded that change, really). Silver lining, I guess, in that case.

I think the moral here is to study your contract well before you sign, and see if it actually states where you will be teaching. If it don't, make enquiries, and if the school is cagey, make a case for yourself.

Otherwise, you might get recruited for Istanbul, and end up in Izmit - not a nice proposition!

Anonymous said...

Methinks the Berezniki Blogger may be embellishing his/her situation a bit. Having read the blog, I couldn't help noticing some obvious inconsistencies.

I'm pretty sure that the Soviet Union, and the communists who ran it, disbanded in 1991. Even though that is only 17 years ago, chances are that are that the communists are no longer in power in Berezniki.

Regarding transportation between Moscow and Berezniki, The Berezniki Blogger mentions the necessity to fly on 1950's Aeroflot planes three times. The recent tragedy, however, was the crash was a Boeing 737.

Considering that the Berezniki Blogger quit, it seems generous of the company to immediately deliver the last months pay as well as bring him/her home. Not to mention a ride to the train station.

Sounds like sour grapes to me.

Inspector Mchammered of the Lard said...

The original post sounds like the truth to the Inspector which is why it was published. You however sound as if you work for Berlitz Moscow.
The Inspector has flown with Aeroflot only once and it was the worst flight imaginable so you can stick your comments about "sour grapes" where the sun doesn't shine along with a large cucumber.

Anonymous said...

I am the original poster. First, I question why you think its generous to pay someone for the work they have done, i.e. this sounds like that twisted Russian logic that I encountered at Berlitz Moscow. Second, the Communists are still in Berezniki, all you have to do is look at the V-day parade when I arrived and all of the proud communists marching through the streets. Berezniki has Communist propoganda still posted through its streets with the communist flag still flying and the Russian Federation flag absent. Third, sour grapes? You bet, after being lied to and brought from one great job to this. The Inspector is right and I know exactly who wrote this. For the record, could you state why you brought a Berlitz Certified Instructor from another country location by lying to him about an opportunity that never existed. Sounds more like your sour grapes for having been called on it. As I told you before I quit, if you follow the contract and provide what you promise you would have had a gifted teacher for more than a year. Instead, you chose to lie and he stayed long enough to call you on it. Should I contact the other teachers you lied to and have them state their same impressions?

Anonymous said...

D, I still consider you a pretty decent person, so please stop supressing the truth about Berlitz Moscow at your bosses' bequest. I know you are a career oriented person, but honestly, think about whether long-term connections with these terrible people are good for your own career and reputation. Don't be a comrade-in-arms with their lies; telling the truth is easier than they may lead you to believe. Think about all of the teachers you could actually help move forward with their careers who were and are still counting on you. Leaving people jaded, which for some is their first experience in teaching or living abroad is to set them up for future failures and perhaps false perceptions which they will carry with them every day of their lives and possibly pass on. I was personally counting on you only to provide what you promised after a 6-month interview period, and by not following through on those contractual promises you let me down in a big way, because until this I considered myself a Berlitz Instructor and respected the organization. I was especially disappointed because you know what its like to be a teacher. That said, a paycheck or a promotion is not an excuse to check your conscience or your soul at the door, and I know you can be a better person and more professional than this. Join us amateurs (Etymology: French, from Latin amator lover, from amare to love) who teach because we truly love to teach and reach out to people in friendship. The main mistake you made was to believe that we like you are solely in it for the money. Please D, I would still be working with you, had you told me the truth and followed through.

Anonymous said...

The lies continue at Berlitz Moscow and they are still advertising the bogus job. Where exactly does it state that the job is in Berezniki? Perm sounds like a beautiful place, too bad there is no job with Berlitz there:

Anonymous said...

I also lasted about a month, and quit for the very same shabby behaviors, and I would have to completely agree with the first poster's comments. A prospective teacher only has to ask themselves one bloody question - would you want to risk flying for an awful and isolated teaching job, since Aeroflot has been dubbed, ''The World's Worst Airline''. Prepare your will first mate!

Anonymous said...

Berlitz Rus removed the phony job listing for Perm and has redirected the link I provided to the main international jobs page, which was most thanks to the Honorable Inspector. This doesnt particulary mean that they might not use the same bait and switch tactics in the future, but it is one positive step in the right direction for the truth. Thanks again most honorable Inspector for your dedication in exposing this type of behavior, and thank you to Berlitz Rus for its removal.

BTW, I should mention for the record for future aspirants that I am now about $8000 in the hole six months later from expenses for pre- and post- arrival. I spent $5000 on new clothes and misc. stuff before I left home (another reason I was reluctant to wash dryclean only clothes in a bathtub)since I was counting on a full-time job for a year in Moscow; and the $3,000 was my out-of-pocket travel/living expenses for getting out of Russia to a teacher friendly country once the breach occured. I did have to take a train, ferryboat, and plane in order to get home. Two of my former students who I taught at Berlitz in another country were eager and generous enough to foot my bill for my plane ticket back to the U.S. on a first class airline; I was a highly regarded and respected Berlitz teacher before coming to Moscow. The $3,000 expenses were mostly due to the fact as a U.S. citizen I didnt have a job or a residence to go to immediately after I left Moscow, but I did survive Aeroflot and that really counts for something as the Honorable Inspector can attest!

I would advise anyone who wishes to risk working for Berlitz Rus, that they leave themselves an exit strategy and some extra cash, e.g. most Russian work visas do not permit the employee to leave Russia without the permission of the employer, which means if you attempted a runner you would be most likely stopped at the border and refused an exit visa. This is part of the contractual agreement when you apply for the visa since it is sponsored by a company. There are also no 6 month contracts even though they are offered online. Also, the Russian government must grant you permission to leave the country, so this is not Asia or Europe folks! Further, you can also be fired, which did happen to one instructor (whom I didnt meet before my arrival), from what I udnerstand was in his first month due to his drinking habits. To be honest, I dont think that Berlitz would attempt to stop you from leaving if you wanted to, they are more than willing to part company with anyone that may cause them a black eye in Russia or with the higher-ups at Berlitz International, i.e. since they are not a franchise, they have profit and loss responsibility to corporate. However, you should know that you if they did attempt to block your exit for whatever reason, you would be responsible for paying your own way in Russia until the contractual matter was settled by a Russian court which could take months, if not longer of course, since most school Russian contracts are written by lawyers in favor of the employer and the courts and immigration have little sympathy for a breach involving a foreigner. Remember you are not guaranteed housing if the company separates you. A man who worked for another language school in Moscow found this out the hard way and wandered the streets for days with his luggage. Also, a reality check may involve knowing the price of a Russian hotel per night before arrival. The consulates will not be much help either, they will tell you that you are subject to Russian visa laws, which not surprisingly are changed more often than I change my socks. Also, my final paycheck was sent DHL from a U.S. bank to Moscow, so during my Summer hiatus after leaving Moscow I had to send it back to my bank in the US for about $100. I think that this is highly unethical and most likely unlawful, i.e. to work in one country and be paid in another while you are under contract in the former.

Regrettably, I really wish Berlitz Rus had followed the contractual agreement, because I could have been in month six of my contract and writing about what a great time I was having in Moscow. Instead, I write with hopes for a far better life and employer, c'est la vie and live and learn!