Making a Living Teaching In Turkey


I read the title also and, yes, I understand your trepidation. Given the current political, social and martial climate of the country, why would a teacher wantonly move to Turkey to teach English? The rest of the world seems very attractive in comparison and safer.

As usual with complex situations, there is more to the story. Prior to the failed military coup, the bombings in five cities and the indeterminent fear of what could possibly come next, Turkey was a desireable vacation destination for many reasons. There is natural beauty, gorgeous resorts, the largest city in Europe (Istanbul) and ultimately the best resource of the nation, the people of Turkey. The generosity, sincerity and welcoming nature of the people in every city is unwavering and undaunted. The Turks are crestfallen, but never broken.

Home to almost 80 million, Turkey commits to speaking English in order to compete on a global stage with the preferred language of commerce. Medicine, business and travel all require English and your students want to learn; as a former teacher, this reporter cannot undervalue this unique characteristic.

Teachers are honored and valued for their contribution to the future greatness of the ailing country and gratitude is given for joining a school now, especially.

The truth of the matter is, teaching in South Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam or the United Arab Emirates is considerably more lucrative. The Turkish Lira is a flagging currency and converting a Turkish teaching salary to that of your home country results in a decisive paycut (even with Brexit). The relative salaries mean the cost of living decreases to match making the difference in pay negligible whilst living in the country. Without boring you with a lecture on inflation rates and comparitive economics, let me assure you you will be able to afford the lifestyle of the café society, if you are duly inclined. In addition, foreign English teachers demand and receive some of the highest salaries in the school. (I told you you would be valued.)

Achievement and work ethic are quickly recognized and if you are willing to spend more than one year in the country and impressed the administrators, your contract quickly becomes very attractive in your second year. If you are willing to move, your resume after a stint in Turkey makes you a much more desirable candidate.

Schools have been known to find and pay for apartments for foreign teachers taking some of the anxiety of moving across the world out of the equation. The accomodation does not impact the salary and can, all told, become luxiourious living for your adopted home.

Residency permits and work visas are generally included and require health insurance to qualify. (Hospitals are prevalent and prescription drugs are relatively inexpensive.) The school will work to arrange all three for the teachers and include the caveats in writing. Turkish national holidays are honored along with the holidays of a teacher’s native country. Semester break gives a two week vacation to travel and see other parts of the country or the world.

When the second term is finished, summer pay fulfills the typical twelve month contract paying teachers to recuperate as they see fit. Contracts can also include airfare to home country or next destination upon completion.

What is not mentioned, but occurs with similar frequency, is the staff and/or administration transporting teachers to doctor’s check-ups or hospital stays. Moving to a wholly different climate can wreak havoc on the immune system and illness is likely to occur. When it does, the care shown by the Turks is unparallelled.

Of course, there are better schools than others and better cities than others, especially for foreigners. Taking a realistic stock of what sort of amenities you expect and the social life you desire increases the chance of being happier. Small cities and large are choices. Living on the coast means beaches and tourists. Large cities mean culture and access to foreign goods and services. All of Turkey means rich history and something to pique the interest of everyone. If you have the time and means to visit schools and cities during the interview process, take advantage. Skype interviews are not good at getting a feel for anything beyond the interviewer.

The policies and procedures will be different and adaptability is a must for anyone seeking to teach abroad. Walking into a position expecting everything to be like it was back home is a recipe for disappointment. Turkish administrators and heads of departments empathize and will do his/her utmost to resolve any situation brought to attention.

Being a foreigner living in any country where the culture and language differ can be isolating and lonely. Strength is required to be extroverted and perservere when things are are difficult. Meeting people and trying as much as the culture offers is more than pacification, it’s rewarding. A willingness to learn Turkish is admired and reciprocated by anyone and everyone who is able to speak even a few words in English.

The Turkish students love their teachers and will welcome you with a genuine desire to learn both your language and your culture; it’s like being a celebrity for simply speaking your native tongue. Lastly, your fellow teachers tend to be a close knit group of instant friends to meet for tea or vent about the inevitable pitfalls of an underappreciated and oftentimes stressful career.

Enjoy teaching. Enjoy helping young minds expand their world. Enjoy your colleagues and the many excuses to have cake (pasta, Turkish for cake). Enjoy Turkey, there is no other place like it in the world.


Posted on | 06/02/2017 | Shan S.Haider