Just saying the word “Turkey” brings to mind indulgence, fat pants, and a post-feast nap. I mean, uh, it brings to mind thoughts of a stunning Mediterranean coast, a rich history that spans three different empires, and one of the most incredible capital cities in the entire world, Istanbul. Known for its hospitality, Turkey offers a wide variety of job opportunities for expats, thanks in large part to an economy that has seen a fairly stable growth period. With an incredibly warm and mild climate, combined with a booming metropolis, Turkey is the perfect destination to make yourself at home and begin working abroad.
Never before in history has a country launched itself into the modern world as rapidly as Turkey has. Given its rather large population, there are quite a few metropolitan cities where foreigners can find work in Turkey, from the capital of Istanbul to the old capital at Ankara.
Istanbul. Affectionately known as the “cultural capital of Europe”, Istanbul is home to one of the most inclusive and open communities in the world, making it an ideal place for foreigners to find jobs in Turkey. The only city that was built on two different continents, Istanbul is the perfect place to immerse yourself in a culture that is built on the foundations of multiple empires, a plethora of cultures, and a complex mixture of modernity and antiquity. Since Istanbul is a large city that holds a rather important position in the region, and the world, there are many different kinds of job opportunities available, ranging from au pairing and teaching English to hospitality and business administration.
Adana. Located in southern Turkey and a measly 19 miles from the beautiful Mediterranean coast, Adana is the fourth largest city in the country and an excellent place to work abroad in Turkey. Though much smaller than Istanbul, Adana still has enough of a big city feel to satisfy urbanites. Similarly to Istanbul, Adana features a range of job opportunities.
Ankara. The capital of Turkey since 1923 and located in central Anatolia, Ankara is a charming metropolitan city that is well known around the world. Ankara is a fine arts hub, encompassing the State Opera and Ballet, the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, and several national theater companies. The two most common types of jobs in Ankara for foreigners are teaching English and working in the sports industry.
Jobs in Turkey
Turkey is much more than a popular tourist destination (though for anyone looking for work in tourism and hospitality, you’re in luck!). Expats from all over the world are drawn to Turkey for its warm climate, infamous Turkish hospitality, and vast array of job opportunities.
The most common job in Turkey, and arguably the most rewarding, is teaching English; however, plenty of other opportunities abound for those who are willing to really do their homework. Keep in mind, the more skilled you are with specific experience, the more likely a Turkish company will be willing to hire you for more permanent employment.
Hospitality Management. Tourism in Turkey is booming and constitutes a major part of the country’s economy. It’s considered the sixth most popular tourist destination worldwide, with tourists bringing in huge revenue annually. This is good news for expats looking to work in hospitality management in Turkey. Hospitality jobs will require minimal working proficiency in the Turkish language, though you can expect a lot of tourists to speak at least a little bit of English. Tourism jobs will typically require at least a ten to 12 month commitment and you can expect an average work week of 30 to 40 hours. Although, depending on your specific job title, you may work irregular hours, especially if you work at big hotels or resorts.
Education. One of the best and easiest ways to get a good paying job in Turkey is by earning a TEFL certificate and teaching English at a local school. As an emerging global leader, the demand for English language skills in Turkey is rapidly increasing; hence, it is getting easier for Americans and other native English speakers to find teaching jobs in Turkey. Although Turkish language proficiency is not required to teach English in Turkey, it is recommended that English teachers learn at least the basics of Turkish to be more productive both in and outside of the classroom. Teachers can expect to work for around 20 to 30 hours a week in Turkey.
Salary & Affordability
The amount you’ll get paid in your job in Turkey depends on a variety of factors, including the location, position, and length of contract. If you want to work in Istanbul, your salary will most likely inflate with the size of the city and the general price of goods. However, if you work in a smaller city, like Adana, your salary will probably be a little lower, but the cost of living will also be lower.
English teachers’ salaries depend on the school and each applicant’s experience, but generally teachers have a little bit of negotiating room in their contracts. The main benefit of teaching English in Turkey is that you can tutor privately on the side to gain a bit more pocket money. Salaries for hospitality jobs in Turkey vary by experience and job function, but hotel management staff can make upwards of $500 to $600 a week.
Istanbul can be a little pricey, as far as cities go, but Turkey gets more affordable the farther you get away from Turkey’s biggest international hub. In general an apartment in the city center will cost about $300 a month and a meal at an inexpensive restaurant will cost about $5.
Accommodation & Visas
Depending on what job you choose to have in Turkey, your housing may or may not be provided for. Housing is sometimes included for hospitality workers in the hotel with other staff members. If you’re working in Turkey as a teacher, your host school might help you find an apartment, and in some cases help pay for it, but be prepared to be on your own in terms of housing. With any other job in Turkey, expect to find a place to stay independently, just like you would anywhere else in the world.
At least one month prior to your arrival in Turkey, make sure to apply for a residency permit. Residency permits allow you to live in Turkey for at least two years, but can be extended up to five years after it has expired. You must apply for this, in addition to to a work permit, before you can start your new job. Usually visas and permits can be taken care of by your employer, but be sure to check; otherwise, you can visit the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to apply for it.
Benefits & Challenges
Hospitality. The Turkish people are renowned for their hospitality, and it is a very important part of their culture. Be prepared to have a host of people invite you over for some incredibly delicious meals!
Food. Without a doubt, Turkish food is some of the tastiest food in the world. From kebabs to hummus, it is amazing. Just be prepared to say “bye bye” to your beloved bacon; Turkish cuisine, due to religious and cultural traditions, is served without pork.
Politics. While working in Turkey, try to avoid sensitive issues that are political. These can include: Turkey’s relationship with Cyprus, recent elections, and the treatment of Armenian and Kurdish minorities. If you have a close Turkish friend, maybe just ask their opinion about it, but keep yours to yourself.
Honestly, Turkish food is reason enough to pursue work abroad, but if you’re looking for more pragmatic reasons to embark on an expat adventure consider the long-term career benefits of working abroad in Turkey. Your resume will stand out in any applicant pool with relevant international work experience as more and more companies expand their reach worldwide. If that still isn’t enough to get you moving, consider this: life is too short, the world is too big, and your passport is begging for a shiny new visa to add to its pages.