If you want to save a huge amount of money when you’re teaching English, then unfortunately Turkey isn’t the right place for you. To live in, however, the country is remarkably affordable, and unless Turkey does join the Euro then it’s likely to stay that way!
Turkish TEFL employers tend to offer free accommodation as part of your overall salary benefits package. The quality of this accommodation will differ greatly dependent on where in Turkey you are! If you’re teaching English in a remote part of the Urfa province (close to the Syrian border) then you could expect a small, stone building with no air conditioning whereas in Istanbul you could be in a city centre apartment with all the latest mod-cons.
If you would prefer to seek out your own accommodation then expect to spend around 45% of your teaching salary on rent, with a one bed flat in the city centre (including bills) costing around £278/$448.
Food is cheap in Turkey and on a teacher’s wage you’ll be able to eat like a King (or Queen). You’ll find that Schwarma (kebab) shops cluster around the cities major universities and if you’re planning to indulge, expect a takeaway to cost around £1.50/$2.50.
As Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country (and drinking is therefore the pursuit of tourists and expats) alcohol is expensive outside of the major tourist regions.
Turkish food has strong Middle-Eastern influences, with a fusion of spices that makes the cuisine very unique. Possibly the most popular Turkish dish is a kebab, which is marinated meat that is either stewed or grilled, and stuck on a skewer. You can choose between a Shish Kebab which is lamb served on a skewer; or a Doner Kebab, where the roll of lamb is shaved off the skewer and put in a pita bread.
Despite the fact Turkey is a Muslim country, the laws on alcohol are relatively relaxed, with foreigners and even locals (mainly men) enjoying a drink. For a traditional Turkish experience, try Raki – it’s the most popular alcoholic beverage in Turkey, with over 60 million litres consumed every year. Similar to Greek Ouzo, Raki tastes like aniseed, and is drunk diluted with water and ice cubes. You can pick up a litre bottle of the popular brand Yeni for just £7/$11.20 in supermarkets.
For a drink to enjoy throughout the day, try a Turkish coffee – it’s very strong and dark, but how much sugar you have is up to you. The Turks drink it slowly, leaving the dregs in the mug where the ground coffee is left.
Because Turkey is such a huge country, the weather varies in different regions; Western cities such as Izmir enjoy a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters, where it rarely falls below 10 degrees Celsius. Towards the Black Sea round Istanbul, it rains a lot in the winter, so be sure to pack an umbrella if you’re teaching English in Turkey! The weather is the most extreme in the East by the Georgian borders, where heavy snowfalls are extremely common, and sub-zero temperatures are a daily occurrence in the winter.
Most Turkish employers will offer free accommodation close to your place of work, with another English teacher. However, standards vary depending whereabouts you live and how old the buildings are: modern apartment blocks are of a very good standard and will be what you’re used to at home, whereas older housing will be a lot more basic; so it’s good to see what accommodation your employers are offering before you agree to anything. Water and electricity cuts are a common occurrence in Turkey, so it’s a good thing to bear in mind when flat hunting!
There is a huge demand for English teachers in Turkey, from small towns to huge cities; although Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir offer the most opportunities.
The peak hiring times in Turkey are August/September and December/January, so that new employees are ready for the start of the following term. However, as demand is so high, vacancies are advertised year round, with the average English teacher finding a job just 1-2 weeks after having started applying.
If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of a big city, then both Istanbul and Ankara would be ideal for you. The shopping in Istanbul is without a doubt the best in the country, and you can pick up everything from traditional Turkish rugs, to vintage jewellery in the Grand Bazaar.
Ankara is seeped in history, with Ataturk’s Mausoleum drawing in thousands of visitors, as it’s the resting place of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; the founder of Turkey. Despite being the political centre of Turkey, and home to many international offices, Ankara has a crazy nightlife, with cheap bars and clubs thanks to the thousands of students living there! Ankara and Istanbul are both very noisy and gritty, so if you’re not a fan of huge cities, they’re probably best to avoid!
If you would prefer to live somewhere quieter, Izmir is a good alternative, with its position on the Aegean Sea making it pleasant all year round. Spend your weekends off from teaching relaxing on the white sands of Ramo Beach, and enjoy a stroll down Kordonboyu, with the view of the bay and mountains on one side, and the range of shops and café’s on the other.
All of the major cities in Turkey including Istanbul, Izmir and Antalya have a network of buses and metros, stretching from the centre to the outskirts. The metro is the favoured route amongst commuters, with a regular service running through until midnight, with a one-way ticket costing just 55p/$0.90.
When you’re teaching English in Turkey, you might find yourself working a longer week than you’re used to with average contracts asking teachers to be in school for 30+ hours. Plus, some smaller, private schools don’t honour contracts and insist teachers work longer hours, so it’s preferable to work for a chain of schools.
It’s likely you’ll be working in a private school, so you’ll be working evenings and weekends to fit in around students’ needs and regular daily schedule. Even though you will have 2 days off a week, they won’t necessarily be consecutive. If you’d prefer a 9am-5pm Monday to Friday job, then universities offer these contracts.
During your holidays, you’ll no doubt want to explore a little further afield, and nearby Greece is the perfect opportunity to enjoy some summer sun and a change in pace.
Work visas can take a long time to process, often taking longer than 6 months, so if you want to teach English in Turkey, make sure you get TEFL-qualified and apply for jobs in plenty of time!
You have to visit Mount Nemrut, near Adiyaman in the South of Turkey! It sounds strange, but there were once statues of King Antiochus, eagles, lions and Greek and Persian gods, but their heads have since toppled off and are now scattered round the mountain, which is over 2,000 metres high.
Although modern by Middle Eastern standards, sexism is rife in Turkey, and as a woman, unfortunately it’s very likely that you will be subject to verbal abuse in the streets. It’s also common for Turkish men to follow you around even if you say you’re not interested – if this does happen to you, find a Turkish woman for help, and not the police as they can’t always be trusted.
If you’re keen to find out more about teaching in Turkey then you’ll want to check out the i-to-i TEFL free guide. You’ll find out loads more useful information on finding your first job, where you can teach and how to negotiate the best salary package.
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