Turkey is a very nice country to work in with its hospitable people. It has got lots of historical places to visit and beautiful beaches. Life in turkey is not very expensive and finding a job for a foreign teacher of any language is quite easy in any language course as long as you are good at it. Turkish people like helping and looking after their guests. It’s cuisine changes by region but usually it’s spicy and if you don’t like it you can find fast food restaurants anywhere. And Turkish students are usually quite interested in learning foreign languages.
Duygu, 5 January 2007
Turkey is a great place to live, but beware, the only way to legally get a working permit is in your own country through the consulate. Most language schools tell you to come on a tourist visa and they’ll sort it out once you are here – they’re lying. The majority of EFL teachers in Istanbul have to leave every three months to renew their tourist visa, and of course, being illegal isn’t helpful if you have any problems with your language school.
Anonymous, 18 February 2007
I have been in Turkey for ten years. The people are ok but I find it very difficult to teach English here and I suppose the main reason is the traditional hostility to anything ‘foreign’. Though I am a muslim they still are suspicious and even call me ‘gaur’ which is an offensive word for a non-muslim. You’ll have to consider the linguistic differences as well. Things are changing for the better but it will take a long time.
Anonymous, 5 March 2007
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t stop laughing at Turkish students calling a foreigner “gavur”. This word has become common among people in Turkey for some odd reason. It is not always about religion and it is not always offensive. Sometimes people from villages call foreigners “gavur” too. But, they don’t mean to offend anyone. For example; Turks call people with dark skin “Arab”, but not all Arabs are dark skinned! Turks have odd words of expressing stuff, don’t they!?! If you’re planning to teach in Turkey, you need to be prepared for such things. Turkey needs you! Don’t give up and leave!!! However, Turkey is a beautiful country, with plenty of opportunities for teaching English. Turkey is a country that doesn’t have a second language (unfortunately!!). Thus learning a second language (English, German, French etc.) is very important to learners.
Hilal, 18 March 2007
I am sorry but I totally do not agree with the fact that there is “traditional hostility to anything ‘foreign'” in Turkey. Moreover, people are aware that they will not be able to make a career without English and therefore they respect people who teach them the language. I have a native-like English and teach at a language school and all of my students do respect me a lot even though they think I am an American.
Itirtunay, 22 March 2007
I can’t say I’ve had the best teaching experience in Turkey so far. The private school kids I teach could care less. They are very disrespectful. But then, I can’t say that this is the case with other students at other schools.
Anonymous, 11 April 2007
Please, do not come to this country for the purpose of teaching English if you are not dedicated, well educated and qualified as Turkish students are fed up with many incompetent foreigners who call themselves teachers but just work for money and do not care about the students. Please, respect the effort, time and money that the students spend in the language schools that are mostly prone to deceive the students by hiring such incapable teachers.
Anonymous, 8 July 2007
English is a prerequisite for a good job and career in Turkey. Turkish people like guests and are very hospitable to foreigners, not hostile. They know the value of learning another language. The only problem you may have in Turkey is the learning style of the students. They certainly have a different learning style so instead of accusing them of being hostile ask your colleagues to give you some hints about the students. I am sure they will help you and you will have an unbelievable experience.
Anonymous, 29 January 2008
I cannot speak for the whole of Turkey, but teaching English in Istanbul can be frustrating, but rewarding as well. Adult students are very motivated to learn English, and respectful as well. However, the differences in learning styles take some getting used to. Most adults learning English do so for business purposes and because they are business people, they often have to miss classes or private sessions. This makes it difficult if you are only getting paid for the lessons you teach. Also, in some cases it can be frustrating and sometimes infuriating to be a female teaching male students. Turkish people are generally friendly and congenial, but the men view foreign women as easy and easy targets. It will not matter if you are married, they are married, or anything in between. And this is not just with the students. I had an experience interviewing with the Turkish head of an English school which seemed to go well, but which ended not in a job offer, but a steady barrage of flirtatious text messages. I was told initially that they would be hiring part-time teachers. This was reinforced in the interview and I was offered a job. However, I believe not only did they not have any part-time positions, but no full time positions either. The first thing they asked for before the interview was a photo! I suggested that perhaps it was more important to see my credentials, but they insisted on a photo. I passed that test, but when I refused to hang out on a Friday night with the boss, he rescinded his job offer (albeit with a good nature).
Anika, 8 May 2008
Turkey is an exciting place, with a interesting and exciting culture. The cost of living is low, and the people are hospitable. The Turkish men, although flirtatious, are very friendly, and are always willing to lend a hand, as long as you keep your wits about you. Finding low cost goods is never a problem, and a bit of bartering is always advisable. Bat your eyelids, and the price will drop considerably! Teaching, is an interesting experience, and I would advise anyone to research a lot about the culture and country, like I did before moving. Although some students are quite ignorant to education and nonchalant, for those who are willing to learn, it is a rewarding and breathtaking experience. The sights are incredible, as well as the cuisine. I would definitely recommend Turkey. It’s a surreal experience.
Jennifer, 16 August 2008
The majority of the small English language schools in Istanbul are operated as businesses and could really care less about their students and the level of education that they give them. They often put students of very different levels in the same classes just so they can add another student and make a little more money. They usually push students through a level in 64-80 hours when they need much more time than that, and then often allow them to continue to the next level even if they are not ready for it. This can make teaching quite frustrating, not to mention the frustration the students must feel. And most of the schools don’t care less about their teachers either, leaving them with a high teacher turnover rate and further lowering the educational quality. Working for these schools, knowing how bad they are, knowing how much better they could be, knowing how much money their students are paying, and having no control over the situation because they only see $$ can leave one feeling quite low. As for the students, most of them are quite endearing, respectful and polite, however they are intelligent and can be quick to challenge you if they notice any flaws. The most difficult ones are the ones whose companies are sending them to a course, simply because it’s not their choice, therefore they are often not motivated (normal anywhere I suppose). As for a work visa, forget it, unless you have a bachelor’s degree in education, and even then, good luck. You’ll probably have to do border runs. For those who don’t have a bachelor’s in education, I highly recommend at least a 120 hour TEFL in-class certification course. Although I can’t say this brings you anywhere close to being a qualified teacher, at least you’ll have a little insight and a crash course teacher training. And your students deserve AT LEAST that much!
Anonymous, 6 September 2008
I am a teacher of English. Regarding one of the comments above about the necessity of a second language in Turkey, the difference between “second language” and “foreign language” should be explained. Second language is the language spoken in the post-colonial or colonial countries such as India, Australia, New Zealand etc. There are more if we want to add those who had lived under the influence of other countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan etc. All of these countries have their own languages or used to have. However, after they were invaded by other countries, they had to adapt the languages spoken by other countries. Therefore, it is weird to say that Turkey must have a second language since Turkey has never been under the control of other countries. Contrarily, Turkey has foreign languages such as English, French, German, Russian etc. They may not be taught effectively but it is impossible to demand a second language for Turkey. So with this, I have to say please pay attention to the difference between second and foreign language.
Omar, 16 January 2009
Istanbul is a very expensive city and most schools don’t offer housing allowance. For instance, minimum rent is 700 Liras but schools offer 150 towards rent. Most schools pay on time. If you are an illegally working teacher and if you got caught doing that I would report you to the authorities myself because Turkey is not a Ding Dong place to work and make some quick cash and qualified legal teachers are welcome only rule applies. It’s getting quite strict with new regulations and you definitely need a TESL/TESOL Certificate to get any kind of teaching job here. Pay is average 1500 dollars.
Anonymous, 15 March 2009
Living and teaching English in Turkey is a fantastic experience. The only trouble a qualified, dedicated and enthusiastic teacher will come across here is the crazy bureaucracy that goes with obtaining a work visa. I am lucky enough to work in a school that is doing most of it for me. Despite this, it has been quite a pain in the backside to have all of the legalities sorted out. If you are unlucky enough to have the police come looking for illegal teachers they will most likely take bribes from the school managers/owners. However, if you are caught in the act (of teaching) you will be fined. If you have residency they can’t kick you out of the country for working illegally, they will just fine you.
Anonymous, 9 May 2009
I’ve been a teacher for about six years at different school and found the most important things are your attitude and management. If you don’t like who you’re working for, you won’t do as good a job as you are able to do – basically enjoying going to work is a big factor. As for the students, once again it’s all about the school. Immature, unprofessional, disinterested students are attracted to schools with the same approach to business and education. A place that charges a bit more than the others doesn’t necessarily mean ‘more quality’ either. It’s the school’s reputation and overall air that matters as I’ve stressed so far. If you are open-minded, patient, talented, careful and positive there shouldn’t be anything you can’t do! =) Hope this helps.
ESL Mel, 11 July 2009
I have been living in Turkey for nearly 2 years. I did not come here to teach English, but rather fell into it because I don’t have much else to offer. I absolutely love this country and the majority of the people I have met. I am also married to a Turk and plan to live out my life here so I’m not seen merely as a tourist or foreigner, although that first impression will follow me everywhere. Women who come to Turkey especially alone should be extremely careful. This is true for any women traveling alone, but the stereotype of western women is that she is most likely easy, vulnerable, likes to drink and party, and she doesn’t share a similar respect for marriage and sex as Turks do. Even if that is true for you it’s better not to seem that way. Be careful with your reputation; never flirt with your coworkers or men you do not know very well, gossip is deadly to your career and happiness. A smile or silly laugh is not seen as friendly, but flirtatious and inviting to men. They will not respect flirty women regardless of her marriage status. Hang out with and travel with other women as much as possible, it’s the norm here. Try to fit in and people will respect you. How you dress is very important, shorts are not appropriate anywhere unless you are on vacation in a tourist spot or sitting at home, and guard your cleavage for God’s sake! Basically don’t give anyone a reason to believe the stereotypes. Touching men other than a handshake is not necessary, even if you are friends, but you can hug and kiss your girlfriend’s cheeks as often as you like. I don’t want to scare you away, not at all, but please research the culture here before you visit. It will make life so much easier. In general don’t take anyone’s word for anything. Work under a contract and stick up for yourself, if the going gets tough, fly back home. Never let your bank account get lower than a ticket back home!!
Mrs Ugur, 31 August 2009
Hello! I have been teaching English in Turkey for about 2 years in one of the private schools. I must admit that the most important thing you have to look for when finding a job here is the reputation of the school, that’s number 1 and number 2 is the attitude of the management. I have had a good experience and the students are so sweet and very interested in learning English as long as you know how to manage a class. Good luck to all of you!
Anonymous, 11 September 2009
I look at this advice page and I shake my head – it is just not complete enough for anyone to get an idea of what is going on. You should understand this about Turkey – Turks work to live for the most part. They don’t live to work. They would rather be somewhere else than work if they had a choice. A generalization with exceptions you will find out when you come. That means that some work priorities you might find in other northern countries are ignored – competence is important, yes, but since Turks have no real world perspective on what that means you get a wide variety of abilities and knowledge by businessmen/employees, etc. Some grossly incompetent teachers/administrators can be found – promoted by seniority, aggressiveness, and for some, how long they have been around. A lot of them don’t know much, but think they do. Pride ignorance = Pain/inflexibility/unhappiness for a lot of people. That means seek out someone that thinks like you do, or you will have some of the above. Incompetent mudurs are widespread in Turkish schools for many reasons (some from above): because they are interested in money (business managers) and want to build an empire (sometimes in their own minds and to their egos). Egos are catered to in Turkey – beware. Also, education is needed in Turkey, but it is a low priority for them even if they don’t admit it. This is a cause for some of the problems. Also, they are conformist – they go with what their group does or believes in – like other Asian/Mid east countries. They are more individualist and logical than some Asians though – that is why some Turks are breaking out and becoming rich. Also, if you speak good Turkish as an English teacher, then you will have many more students or privates than if you speak English alone, and not only because of ease of communication. Because if your teacher speaks Turkish then it is easy to convince yourself as a Turk your English teacher is part of your group, like you. Turks like being in groups, love relationships. So you might make some nice friends of Turks who are more Western orientated if you make an effort to blend in – just don’t expect to be a “blood”. You will be a taiza (aunt) or inishte (uncle) by marriage so to speak. Get it? And don’t fool yourself, the pragmatic I’m for myself thing might be triggered in your Turk friend if he is tempted by making a buck off of you and getting himself out of his poverty jam. That is the downside/dark part of some people here – if they think you are weak or vulnerable, be prepared for some sabotage(if they are jealous) or betrayal. Don’t take it personally, this is a recent habit from bad conditions in Turkey over the last thirty years. Survival of the fittest!
Once you know the game – you know to weed out the jerks. Don’t hesitate to take people to court too, make a lawyer a friend and get advice on when to act or not. Turks may discourage you, but a letter from a lawyer straightens Turks out. As does someone with influence/ respect in Turkish society. Cultivate contacts. Don’t threaten, do! Turks don’t respect a bs’er. They are experienced at the power game, so you had better learn too. In the worst cases,you can hire an independent investigator from a European company to gather information on people for your use to protect yourself. Expensive, but a powerful help.
With that information, you have some strength going forward and can enjoy your new friends and time in Turkey.
Anonymous, 15 January 2010
I just left my job as an English teacher in Turkey because I could not handle the gossipers. If you get a job here as a foreigner please do not trust anyone at the school because they can use what you say against yourself later. They are usually jealous of foreigners and they do not respect foreign cultures, they will just like you when you say that turkey is nice and the food is good and things like that. Praise the Turkish culture always. The students may be more respectful than in western countries. The main problem is the management and jealous people. Do not trust anyone, do not talk about your private life and try to have a life away from other teachers. Turks like grouping and they change their minds according to their groups ideas. Be careful!
Anonymous, 21 February 2010
How right you are! They are friendly until you dare to disagree, and the food is fantastic until you dare to disagree. Teacher, teacher, how is the Turkey? (Do you like Turkey?) There is only one answer… Having said that, I am married to a Turk and the family are great but I am not allowed to complain!!
Anonymous, 21 May 2010
I read all the posts. For the most part, all are correct. I lived and taught in Turkey. Married a Turk…moved back to the States…had a baby and he left me. Yes… he came for a visa but I got a beautiful baby girl. For the teaching part, if you don’t know your grammar, study study study. Know it before you teach it! Plan your lessons and know your info. Your students will become your friends and that can be great for them to learn English in a conversational setting. I can’t wait to get back to Turkey and enjoy my life there. I loved it and would recommend Turkey (Istanbul) to anyone who wants the best cultural experience. Istanbul is truly the hidden gem!
Farah, 20 August 2010
By far, the best advice was written from anonymous on 15/01/10. My best friend is Turkish, I am American, and I can tell you all of what he/she said is 100% true. Best advice column!
Anonymous, 20 August 2010
I came here with stars in my eyes and thinking that Turkey would be a utopia of sorts. No racism, people are friendly, people love each other, etc etc. How wrong I was. There is little cultural sensitivity here – they do not care about other cultures but you must never EVER disrespect theirs. They never show any respect to other countries and apparently, nobody in the world likes Turkey. And for the poster who wrote about the gossiping and talking about foreigners, I will add to that and say: I concur. Yes, I do. I HATE HATE HATE the gossiping. If you want a professional environment, please forget it. They prefer relationships to real professionalism.
Anonymous, 22 August 2010
I read all the above posts. What valuable and different experiences people have!! I’m from Australia . I speak, read and write Turkish fluently. I was wondering about looking for private tutoring in Istanbul since my husband was born there. (I was born here and have lived here all my life). I finished University here and am teaching ESL to Adult migrants. I’m wondering if anyone can tell me what the best option would be. I’m also thinking of moving to a smaller city-be it Antalya, Sakarya, Marmaris etc. What do you suggest? Experienced comments appreciated. Thank you in advance.
Anonymous, 25 January 2011
I was considering all the above comments. I am a little disturbed actually by experiences, mainly negative of people with Turkey. However, I would like to point out that these things tend to happen in all cultures, especially male-dominated ones, and depends on the area as well. But, if people start prepared, remain independent and know what they are aiming for, there should be less bad experiences when working/living in Turkey. I plan to live there some day too, maybe not forever, but I would like to understand the feelings that other international students have when traveling and staying abroad. Thanks for everyone’s viewpoints, it was eye-opening.
Anonymous, 3 March 2011
I’ve been here in Izmir for 4 months now. With 10 years experience teaching to foreigners (mostly one-on-one), I come here with enough knowledge and experience to teach. There are extremely few native speakers giving private classes here so I think I’m one of the only. However, I receive few phone calls even though I have the cheapest rates and wonder how the rest of the year will go (can I make it?). For the most part, the adults who call me are serious about learning. But there doesn’t seem to be much of a need for private ESL teachers here. In no way is this city cheap!! I thought Turkey, being a poor country, would be equivalent to other poor countries. NO! Food is expensive (except veggies) as are other products.
Cheryl, 15 March 2011
It is interesting how we all find different things in Turkey. We all come with our own perspective, with our own conditioning and expectations. This is normal. One of the things that attracted me to coming to Turkey was the fact that I knew it would stretch my mind beyond belief. The values here are different. The Turks highest value is people, not money or possessions. In Europe we are losing our value of people, we are building walls around ourselves literally and living on our own. We work too long and play by going to the shops.
I love Turkey, I love Turks that is not to say don’t keep your wits about you. I think one of the main differences between Turkish people and English is that in Turkish culture it seems OK to ask for what you want. English tend not to ask for what they want, but expect it without asking. Also English find it hard to say no, which is why so many of us get into a financial tangle with Turks. Finding work here as a teacher is not easy. Getting a work permit is not easy, it is applied for by your employer, which means that you have no control over any of the paper work or progress whatsoever. I understand the majority of teachers here teach with work permits.
In Turkey rules are rules, and as long as you don’t admit you are breaking the rules, it’s fine. If only it were just a case of applying for job and getting it! Life would be good. Having said that, Turkey is a wonderful country, it forces you to know who you are and what you value. It will change you forever. It has a lot to offer if you keep your centre and keep your focus.
Anonymous, 9 April 2011
I’ve traveled a lot in my life, lived for long periods in several different countries all with very different cultures and languages, met good people, met bad people, been lied to, been taken care of… you get the idea. I’m open minded and adaptable.
One year in Turkey (Ankara) and I’ve become a cynical, closed minded bastard. The lies! Lying is a way of life here. Every beautiful and wonderful thing about Turkey (and there are many) is canceled out by the the deception that seems to line absolutely everything. From business relations like with a boss or landlord, to relations with the police and government officials, to personal and family relationships… everything is not as it seems in Turkey. The jealousy, greed, the gossip, the stealing… I admire people who overcome adversity so in that sense I admire all Turks. However, I will not be living here any longer than I can help it.
Anonymous, 1 May 2011
I am South African and it seems to be a lot more difficult to get into the country on a tourist visa and then leave after 3 months and return. If there are any South Africans that have taught in Turkey please send me some advice. Thanks!
Sim, 5 July 2011
Turkey is great place, depending on where you live. No one tells you the truth. SOME Turkish people are nice, SOME are hospitable but more harass you. They do not understand the concept of personal space, nor do they grasp the concept of manners or what it is to be rude. Starring is their favorite! No matter what you wear or how much skin you show or even if you stand in complete silence they will stare at you like you are a piece of fresh meat! In every city too, not just the small ones. They are extremely rude and are pushy. Some of country is nice, other parts are polluted and crowded, cities filled with factories on top of factories on top of factories. No one tries to speak with foreigners because they do not care.
Jenn, 21 July 2011
I don’t want to complain about Turkey or the education system so I won’t. I have to agree with much of what the other contributors have reported. The best place to be is Istanbul. Avoid any other region or city. The best of everything is there. I’m presently in the Gaziantep region and it was a HUGE mistake. As soon as I can get another job in Istanbul I will pay the price to ship my household back there. A few words of advice – if you are a certified teacher do not teach in language schools where cheating teachers is a perfected art. Work for private high schools teaching kids where the benefits and salary are way better and you are guaranteed to be paid. Get your work visa in the Turkish consulate in your home country BEFORE you leave and have your contract in English! Good luck, behave sensibly to keep out of trouble and you should enjoy your stay in Turkey.
Dharma, 17 August 2011
Turks lie, almost invariably. It is a way of life with them. They are submissive and will profess their love for you and their desire to be friends. Do not be fooled. Business ethics do not exist’ everyone cheats and steals, even dentists will want to be paid in cash to evade tax, and I have heard many cases of teachers being offered jobs’ only to find there was no pay packet at the end of the month. Turkish men are a dead loss. They are ruined from birth’ and respond like mewling infants if you do something they don’t like. I have a theory that goes like this. Turkish tribesmen invaded Europe and kidnapped all the clever and beautiful women. So, Turkish men are barbaric – many have a very limited awareness of personal hygiene, and are rude in a way which would get their faces rearranged in most countries. The women are elegant, graceful and intelligent – and I am no feminist by any means. I married a lovely Turkish woman and I am incredibly happy – but our wedding cake was stolen by the waiters at the restaurant where we had our wedding dinner and someone in the wife’s family made off with the wedding gold. Need I say more?
oscarweird, 22 August 2011
I was warned by a few teachers beforehand not to divulge things about your personal life when at work. The reason is because of the gossipers and some will use what you say against you later on. I think it’s good advice not to say a lot where ever you are (no matter what country). I do work with a lot of gossipy Turkish English teachers and it’s ridiculous how much they gossip. Schools differ and so all won’t be the same. I’ve worked at a really professional school and also at one that wasn’t. I think Turkey is a mixed bag. I think most people like foreigners, but of course there are some who will tell you to your face that they don’t like Americans. I’ve experienced this and they knew nothing about me except for the fact that I’m American. Some coworkers are jealous and unfriendly because of foreigners teaching at their school and so that can be difficult to deal with. But it’s a challenge to overcome. Turkey is a nice place, but not perfect as there is no perfect place. Need I say more?
Anonymous, 14 October 2011
Wow! I’ve been here 3 months. I was lured here by a couple of crooks who run a school in Mersin. I spent $1300 on airfare and freight, bringing with me all my ESL materials that I’ve made over the years.
Before I came I spoke, Skyped and emailed with the male owner–but not with his wife. It turns out that she’s the man of the family and everything we had agreed upon prior to my arrival was cancelled by the he-woman.
No guaranteed 1 year contract. No residency permit, no work permit, no apartment near to work. They gave me a run down apartment 40 minutes from work with no heat, no AC, plenty of noisy construction above my floor and below. I was a nervous wreck after 75 days and had to simply demand either they give me my working permit or I leave. They had kept all my documents: passport, teaching certificate, letter confirming previous years as a teacher. You name it, I provided it and they provided me with nothing.
I think I’ll have my lawyer friend send them a letter demanding the $1300 I wasted in flight and freight charges.
I don’t know about all the lying within the teaching environment, but I was lied to plenty to convince me to come.
Don’t leave your present country until you receive a signed and notarized job contract from your future employer!
Last October I entered into a week-long discussion with a Turkish boutique ESL language school in Mersin. As you may know, boutique refers to a high-priced language school with ultra-modern building, swank furniture, high-tech equipment to dazzle potential students out of large amounts of money.
As soon as I arrived the salesman, who was more like a slick time-share closerâ€”squeezed $2000 USD out of a married couple. $2000 USD for 50 classes = $40 per hour! She, a Turkish English teacher herself wanted her husband to become fluent in English. He was assigned to me as my private student. I earned 10% of the gross. The relationship I built with the couple in the end was to be my salvation from the clutches of this mob-like organization. The general manager discussed everything that could possibly need discussing prior to my 3 flights spanning 4,000 miles–except for one item: who really runs the school.
25 hours teaching per week
Rent-free apartment near school
Salary $1,200 USD a month
Residency permit and health insurance promptly issued upon arrival
Work permit would take between 1 and 2 months.
Exactly NONE of the agreement was complied with because the General Manager is owned and operated by his wife, the accountant. I was paid 2000 Turkish Lira which was far lower in value then the USD promised. Also, I was hit with every imaginable bill for the run-down freezing apartment 30 minutes by cattle–car bus from school. The building was built about 30 years ago but had never been completed. There was constant construction on the floors above and below. Finally the showdown came on day 75. I had asked, begged and pleaded for the residency card, health plan and WORK PERMIT to no avail. I had no choice but to DEMAND these items because day 90 was approaching at which point I would have to leave Turkey.
The mob-boss wife of the general manager refused to provide me with anything–not even a SIGNED CONTRACT. I was lucky to get my passport, diploma and teacher license back.
Anonymous, 22 January 2012
I am a US citizen and a certified teacher with many years of experience. I have taught in the US, Kuwait, and China. I have taught a variety of subjects, but mostly English to special education students and in China I taught English as an Additional Language. All of my experience has been in US public schools and overseas in private, international schools where I am paid very well and respected for my experience and work ethic.
I will not teach English in Turkey. I lived in Turkey for one year, in Selcuk. I took the year off from teaching to try opening a business, and after one month of living in Turkey, as well as the six previous visits to Turkey, I decided that not only would I never open a business there, I would never consider teaching there. The only way I survived my year in Turkey is because I lived near a beach (although not a good one) and I had a few friends and I rented a beautiful house for almost nothing and could spend my year relaxing, traveling, and discovering all the horrible things about my Kurdish, and now ex, boyfriend. Discovering enough to know I did not want to be part of his culture, his life, or life in Turkey, at least not long term. But that is another story.
While living in Selcuk, I did cover work at an international school in Izmir, including one two month cover assignment at the end of the year. This was a very positive experience as this is a truly international school. There are students and teachers from all over the world working in this small school and they welcomed me, helped me and I made friends with some teachers there in the very short time I worked there. The foreign teachers at this school all have proper work permits and the school helps them, not only with work permits but many aspects of life in Turkey. I have nothing negative to say about this experience.
However, I have visited one very expensive private school in Istanbul while on a school trip with students from China. The students there were rich, Turkish, and unruly. They loved nothing more than the sound of their own voice. There were some extremely talented students at the school that put on a fantastic show for us, but in the classrooms, I observed the behavior I have read about several times on this site – unruly, disrespectful students who are not at all serious about learning and the teachers at the school – some of them – said this was true of many of the students and made their jobs very difficult. I have no desire to teach in this environment and while I know I would enjoy living in Istanbul, I would not if I had to deal with these kinds of students every day.
The school in Izmir is also not an option for me as that position was in primary, and I do not enjoy primary, not for any amount of money. But while that school also has its problems, the teachers there are happy for the most part and many have been there for many years. I also think Izmir, while expensive, would be a great place to live had I given it a chance. Selcuk? No way. Selcuk is full of uneducated people and outside the tourist areas it is a bit dirty. People are pretty nice, but my whole experience there is clouded by how my ex boyfriend completely changed after I moved there for him, and he became, just overnight, disrespectful and verbally abusive and ignored me unless he could benefit from me in some way. He works in tourism. Any Turkish/Kurdish man who works in tourism in Turkey – beware and be on guard. Fortunately, I did not give my ex any money, which is what he was really after.
But I am getting off the subject. It appears with the new visa laws that teaching at language schools (which I would never do in Turkey because of their bad reputations) illegally will become significantly more difficult.
If you are considering teaching English in Turkey, try to visit the school you are interested in and spend an entire day there. Ask to shadow a teacher and see what the work day and students are really like and if you think you’d be happy there. I was very interested in teaching at the private school in Istanbul until I visited it with my students from China. They tried to recruit me while I was visiting! I was not interested at all after that trip.
Toosahn 6 February 2012
There is an awful lot of incorrect information on this website. It would be a great pity if anyone decides not to work in Turkey because of comments such as those above. There are thousands of foreign English teachers working in Turkey and enjoying themselves here. The experiences related above are a tiny proportion of the teachers who are here and working happily. There are bad employers, as there are bad teachers, but most teachers manage not to get ripped off.
Teachers can do a lot to protect themselves from bad employers. The main thing is to find out as much as possible about a potential employer by searching the web, by making contact with current or past teachers of the school, or by visiting the school (if possible). The schools that do not pay properly are well known in a given area, so it should not be too difficult to get the low-down on what goes on. If a school doesn’t pay you, or treats you in an unacceptable way, then be ready to move on, there are always lots of other opportunities around.
Trying to get everything agreed in writing before arriving provides little protection, as a school will easily be able to find a way out if they want to. Demanding written guarantees over and above the job offer letter may sour relations with a decent employer and signing them will not worry a dishonest employer one little bit.
To correct some of the misinformation above, teachers coming to work in Turkey should know:
1. It is not possible to arrive with a work permit, because the work permit has to be applied for by the employer after the teacher has started work.
2. It is possible to arrive with a work visa, but it is not necessary, and in fact it is currently virtually unheard of. Almost all teachers arrive on a tourist visa, get a residence permit and the work permit comes much later on, it takes weeks if not months to come through. Arriving with a work visa cannot speed up the process.
In order to work happily and successfully in Turkey teachers need good qualifications, flexibility and determination. That is probably true for teaching everywhere. Determination is the most important. The teacher needs to be focused on what they want to get out of the experience- fun and travel, professional development, money or whatever. Many things will happen to blow you off course and stop you achieving your goals: annoying managers, silly students, other teachers who will wind you up and make the situation feel worse than it really is.
I’m supposed to be starting work teaching English with a university in Turkey for 3 months, starting at the beginning of July. I’ve had emails telling me the terms of my contract, but as yet no contract through the post, despite requests. They’ve told me I can work on a tourist visa, though I know that is not the case.
Experienced Teacher, what you say is interesting. I’m concerned about getting my work visa before I go. Horror stories abound of police turning up to schools and fining teachers, before deporting them, never to be allowed to return. Obviously in light of this I am reluctant to enter the country on a tourist visa- but you seem to suggest that it is fine to do so. I’m worried it is too late now to get my Work visa sorted (they say it takes 8 weeks), but don’t want to risk deportation. Any advice, anyone? I’m stressed!
Dan, 23 May 2012
I worked in Turkey for almost three years from 1997-1999, so my perspective might be a bit out-dated. I worked in a language school in Hatay province, near the Syrian border. When I went to Turkey, I already had 12 years of experience in America, the Middle East and Central Asia. I had the CELTA and an MA, but was looking for a new experience. Remember, these are just my opinions and are colored by my background and expectations..
School managers/owners – a mixed bag, but are generally not very good. They are interested in making money, not in providing a quality experience for the students. They are often not very honest and will try to cheat both students and teachers. Having said that, if you have a bit of experience and know how to stand your ground, things generally (not always) work out. On a personal level, after having just tried to screw me out of some pay or screw around with one of my classes, the manager/owner would always invite me around for the holidays and be a wonderful host.
Turkish teachers – generally friendly and helpful, but remember that this is a conservative society. It’s like small-town America – people gossip, so be careful what you say. I found my fellow teachers to be either warmly welcoming or politely stand-offish. I am still friends with one of the teachers and one of the owners. Sniping/power-plays on the part of Turkish teachers is more likely in a university setting than in language schools..
Students – I taught young adults and adults. With five or six exceptions, I have never had students I liked more. They were enthusiastic, fun, warm, welcoming, charming, respectful. I was completely bowled over by them. I loved most my classes. Outside of class, there was hardly a week without an invitation or two to a picnic, wedding, snack/meal in a restaurant, drink at the local tea garden, etc. And students did not get marks, so these were genuine invitations, not bribes.
The community – Again, I was bowled over by the hospitality. People politely ignored me or were genuinely friendly. I enjoyed going to several restaurants and shops because the owners/employees always wanted to have some chai and chat. In fact, some times I wished people were less friendly so I could get things done. And nobody was ever setting me up to ask for a favor.
The food, the history, the scenery – great.
Speaking Turkish – knowing a bit of Turkish goes a long way. And think about this – what would you think of a foreign language teacher who came to Britain or America and who couldn’t have a basic conversation after a year or two?
In conclusion – not a place to get rich (unless you have some good private lessons) and not for the faint of heart. But if you either want to get your foot in the door of the EFL world or want to earn a bit a money while having a wonderful experience, you could do a lot worse than Turkey. Just remember that you are going to a new culture – if you aren’t ready to adapt, stay home. Be polite, discrete and respectful – but be respectfully firm and uncompromising when it really matters. And as with any job in a foreign country, have enough for a flight home if you decide you have made a mistake.
By the way – you have to be a real teacher and give good lessons. If you are just an adventurer pretending to be a teacher, you won’t get much love or respect. (I’m not questioning the professionalism of any previous posters – just warning people considering teaching overseas).
John, 25 May 2012
I have been teaching in Istanbul for almost two years. Overall, it has been a very enjoyable and rewarding experience. I am lucky that my employer has been diligent about getting and updating my residence and work permits. There are some teachers at the school who don’t have the security of a work permit because they don’t have a BA/MA. They get the residence permit, but live in a state of limbo, afraid that the government inspectors could show up at any time. Try to find an employer who will guarantee a work and residence permit. It will save you a lot of stress. Good employers will cover the cost of the residence and work permits. You shouldn’t have to pay for them out of pocket.
In general, Turkish students are OK. They tend to speak Turkish while you try to teach, and will have conversations while other students are speaking. It’s a very difficult habit to break. You’ll have three types of students; the ones that need English for their jobs, the ones that need English for school, and the ones that want English for the hell of it. It can be very frustrating when you have a classroom filled with people learning English for different reasons.
I have also noticed that in Turkey, there is a tacit understanding that, “I paid a lot of money for the course, so I derserve the certificate, even if I can’t string a sentence together.” In Turkey, it’s all about the certificate. I have taught Business English courses and had employers pissed off when I failed students. They told me that they needed 50% of their employees to be at an intermediate level. They didn’t care if their employees could actually understand English at an intermediate level, they just wanted to show that their employees had the Intermediate Certificate.
Finally, only come to Istanbul to teach if you are familiar with English Grammar. You may have spoken English your entire life, but can you explain the difference between Past Perfect and Simple Past? Turkish students are taught black and white rules for almost every subject, and they expect the same for their English lessons. They want rules and explanations. “What is the best answer?”
Istanbul is an amazing city. You should come and teach English in Istanbul, but do a lot of prep; dot your i’s and cross your t’s and enjoy!
Anonymous, 7 June 2012
I’ve just read all of these posts after walking from yet another job, feeling ‘it must be me…’ I’m heartened to see it’s not, and I’m not inexperienced having not only taught in the UK, but also Istanbul and Izmir and more recently, a small but rapidly developing town on the Agean coast. I also have a DELTA but I really feel like I’ve reached the end of the line trying to teach here.
I don’t need to repeat a lot of what has been said regarding language schools, private schools, managers, students, contracts, gossiping, jealousy, permits etc.
What has really got me this time is the fact I’d been through all of this and thought I knew what to expect and how to handle it, but having been issued with 2 work permits in the past 2 years, I have been refused this time on the grounds that the initial of my middle name is not printed on my CELTA or DELTA certificate and does not match my degree certificate. The ministry apparently has had a shake up and they are being very strict. The school are now asking for a reissue of these.
If you are thinking of teaching in Turkey, please make sure all these small details are attended to. It was no use me explaining it hadn’t mattered in the past, that my middle name is not important. Another head banging experience. Middle names ARE important here. And watch out too if your name contains a ‘w’. They will type it as a ‘v’ and then tell you you have spelled it wrong. The whole visa thing can get quite draining after a while, and against the backdrop of all of the above, it’s no surprise that sometimes it feels like it just isn’t worth it.
As for me, I’m not sure what to do next. I love Turkey and have spent 7 years on and off trying to make it work. Despite the difficulties, I can’t go back now. It has taught me many things, not least never to be complacent about who you are or where you are from. I have met many people and stayed close to a few. I’ve never appreciated the value of family relationships as I do now.
Anyway, as life is full of surprises here, I’m sure something will turn up. Dont be put off, come and have the biggest challenge of your life :-)
A Non E Mouse, 12 Sept 2012
I’ve been living in Turkey for a year now and after deciding I didn’t want to work in tourism or be a Thompson Rep like a lot of other English people do, I decided that I wanted to start teaching English. It wasn’t something that I decided lightly, but more suggested by my private Turkish teacher. I was gathering information about the CELTA, TEFL, ESL courses that I could do online or in a classroom. But the parents were so persistent and desperately wanted a native English speaker to teach their daughters, that I started straight away. I was completely thrown in at the deep end. I have continued to teach just two girls of primary school age, and they have to be the most willing and able 8 year old girls I have ever met. I have found that there is a complete lack of Native English teachers at their private school, as when I look at my students English work from school, the amount of mistakes is absolutely atrocious! They pay a LOT of money to be at their private school, and the least they deserve is correct teaching! I have had to correct all of these mistakes, and it is so difficult as they are taught something completely wrong at school, then I have to correct it each time. These are not major mistakes, which makes it even more baffling, as these teachers have apparently graduated from an English teaching University.
Obviously I’m not in Istanbul, or a large city, but in a smaller more traditional town, Fethiye. I am fluent in Turkish, as I have had private Turkish lessons for 6 months. It’s helps me greatly, teaching girls of a primary school age.
I would suggest to anyone thinking of teaching or even working in Turkey…you need to learn Turkish! This is why foreigners have problems in Turkey, people will not take you seriously if you do not understand the language.
This is obviously a very different point of view, but I hope it will be helpful to someone.
Hannah, 24 Oct 2012
Hey everyone, I just want to say I am a teacher in Istanbul and my first advice to anyone considering working here is… Do not under any circumstances tell them intimate details about your life. And secondly, do not buy into their friendliness, it’s a charade. The fact that you are a foreigner attracts them. But their friendships are shallow. And they WILL gossip about you. So be very careful with the information you provide.
Lee, 19 Feb 2013
I have been reading the posts and I thought I would share my experience over the last year and a half that I have been living here in Istanbul.
First of all, I am middle aged and female. I came here from the US for the purpose of teaching English and adding a new chapter to my life. I have many years of teaching experience, although I came here with zero experience teaching in a foreign country or in a classroom setting in a foreign country.
I work part-time in a language school and part-time with private students. I earn 3000-4000 lira/month. My rent in Istanbul is 750 lira/month. My bills are another 200 lira/month. In addition to my experience with Turkish hospitality, I have found my students (ages 16-60) to be respectful, ambitious and fun. The language school ALWAYS pays me on time. My private students ALWAYS pay me on time. I am not aware of the language schools motives, but my motives are really simple: help my students to learn English. 99% of my students are kind, hardworking and sincere.
Over the last three years I have traveled all over this country, which is beautiful and diverse and steeped in history. The food and music are fantastic. The culture is fascinating. My negative experiences, all of which have been related to my cultural ignorance/insensitivity, are heavily outweighed by my everyday positive experiences.
The people are kind and helpful as I struggle with the national language – when I go out to eat with my students they ask me to order, giggle at my Turkish and help me with local expressions, pronunciation and my incessant word order errors. Perhaps if I were younger, or had a different attitude, I would have more negative things to say.
Since my education as it is related to being “the foreigner” is only beginning, I can only imagine that I will have more positive things to say next year at this time.
Also, there is another language that is spoken in this country: Kurdish. A number of my students are bi-lingual in this regard. Many of those people are well on their way to being tri-lingual!
Anonymous, 19 Feb 2013
Hi. I am a new English teacher and things have worked out for me so far. it took me two weeks to do the the work so far. I am in a nice city but it is something to get used to. People don’t all speak English and things aren’t always very clear. I am glad to be here, so far, but a lot of things happen in a certain way, and you often have to control yourself and not get frustrated fast, because your the one who is new and who simply should be patient.
Willi, 3 Jan 2014
Don’t come here and expect professionalism! Turkish people prefer to be your buddy than to do their jobs and they spend so much time behind your back gossiping and spreading lies about you.
Anonimo, 13 July 2014
Turkey has changed a lot over the last couple of years. I teach at a private university and things are very strange. Teachers are afraid and everyone is very mindful of what they are saying because there is always someone listening and reporting to the admin. Even my neighbors have grown more suspicious of the yabancis in the neighborhood and some don’t even say hi anymore. I would not recommend coming here unless you have a guaranteed job in a private, secular school with really good benefits. I can’t wait to leave the country.
Anonim, 1 Aug 2014
I have been teaching English in Turkey for 2.5 years and it is the worst country to try to work in. I have taught in 15 other countries and they are all better than Turkey. Here are my reasons:
1. Because you are a foreigner, you will get taken advantage of financially. You will not get paid what you think you will even if it is in the contract. The school can make up any bogus reasons to subtract money from you. If you rent an apartment, this is the biggest complaint from all foreigners. You will live in a slum basically. Living expenses are high. Food, transportation, entertainment do not equal what your pay in TL will be. You will end up shopping at the cheapest generic store for food BIM and still struggle to get by.
2. Get used to dealing with sleazy people who ask for money.
3. The frustration of the language barrier.
4. Noise and air pollution.
5. Unstable political situation.
6. Over, over, over crowded with cigarette smoke blowing in your face.
7. Get used to the sweat and armpit smell.
8. You will never feel welcome or accepted.
9. Do you like chaotic environments? Okay come over. I have been here for the sole reason that I have dug myself into a financial hole because I was underpaid and I tried to switch jobs, but each other has its own problems. I wish that I could help people by telling them it is not worth it to come. You can come as a tourist, but please don’t think that you will have a great life here. I recommend Japan. Even Saudi Arabia is better and you get more money. Qatar is also good. Please believe me. I am not sugar coating it for you. This is the truth. Anyone who will counter this opinion, either doesn’t understand the culture or is unaware at what is really going on. If you don’t believe me just look at the Blacklist either on Google or Facebook. You will always have to chase your salary or sometimes it will never get paid. Can you imagine working hard and teaching for a month and not getting paid? It is a regular occurrence here. Everything is fake. I have survived by milking the system and playing hardball. Living here has changed me. I was sweet and friendly with a big smile and now…
Rose, 11 Oct 2014