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Teaching English in Hungary

Jobs Available Throughout Country

Although it may take a bit of work to find a position and you won’t get rich, there are living-wage ESL jobs to be had throughout Hungary.

Job Market

Native-speaking teachers are no longer novelties as they were some years ago. Schools typically want someone with an ESL teaching certificate and at least a year’s teaching experience. However, there are still slots for native speakers without either, especially in the newer, lower-paying schools. The vast majority of private language schools are in Budapest (over 200, rumor has it), but the smaller cities and mid-size towns also have schools. Pay rates vary considerably—from 2 euros to 8 euros an hour.

Working Conditions

Language schools are rarely able to provide full-time work, so while the hourly rate is often quite good by local standards, the hours may be few. Many teachers work for two or more schools and give private lessons in order to collect enough income. A monthly rate of HUF 150,000 (603 euros) should be possible by working 20 hours a week, and that’s enough to live on comfortably.

Finding a Job

Schools, don’t post job openings often, even in the local papers. The simplest way to find schools is to look in either the phonebook or the classifieds in PestiEst, a free events magazine in Budapest. While it’s best to drop into the school in person, emailing a short letter of introduction and your CV works as well. Most of the larger schools have web sites through which they can be contacted (for example, www.novoschool.hu, www.katedra.hu, www.cambridge.hu). Hiring time is normally in mid-September and again in January and February.

At the interview remember that a casual, tourist-teacher approach doesn’t go over well. If you’re serious about working in this country for a year or more, learn some Hungarian (it’s not impossible) and show an interest in improving your teaching skills. Most schools require trial teaching—anywhere from 15 minutes to, at English Success, eight hours. The average is one to two hours. Even if you don’t find work with a language school you’ll almost certainly find private students, either by word of mouth or by placing an ad in any newspaper.

Most schools offer open contracts that require only that you give notice (usually a month) before leaving. Although the more financially-stable schools will help you get work permits, others hire only those teachers with who can provide an invoice (those with a local freelance license). Of course, working illegally isn’t unheard of.

Students

Foreign teachers usually find Hungarian students a pleasure to work with. The students are very open, and almost always want a chance to express their opinions. Many prefer for you speak Hungarian but are usually too polite to complain if you don’t. Business students in particular demand well-planned lessons from a teacher who knows not only what is right, but why it’s right.

Living Conditions

Housing is good in all but the poorest towns in the east. Public transit is efficient, medical care of high quality, and food excellent and inexpensive.

This is not a society where everything is punctual and orderly: shops don’t always open on time and paperwork moves slowly. Not everyone everywhere speaks English, but you’ll usually find someone who does. Finding a flat in Budapest on a limited income can be a challenge. One-room flats in downtown Budapest cost about 280 euro a month, in the outskirts 202 euro. If your school doesn’t offer assistance, it’s usually more efficient to go through a real estate agency than the classifieds.

Hungary, like other Central European countries, is still going through a lot of changes. For information on the job market and the cost of living, don’t trust any resource that’s over a year old. For up-to-date information, try posting your question on an ESL discussion board.

MARIE KIRSHBAUM has lived in Hungary for four years, taught ESL there for three years, and completed the CELTA course there as well.

 
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