The 3400-year old city of Athens is a sprawling metropolis today, undoubtedly part of the modern era while still proudly wearing its ancient Greek heritage. With two UNESCO World Heritage sites and numerous other attractions, you will never run out of places to explore in the city or the region. With a love of good food, good friends, and a good time, the Greeks will make you feel more at home than you realize. Choosing to teach in Athens is a choice you will not regret.Photo credit: Travel Coffee Book.
There are a couple of types of teaching jobs in Athens. By far the most popular option is private language schools. These schools generally teach those 18+ in age, with most of the students being businessmen and college students improving their skills to work or study abroad. Language schools pay well and generally offer year-to-year contracts, many of which are renewable.
Another option is working for large corporations, who will sometimes hire an English tutor for their employees who work internationally. Though public schools generally hire EU citizens, private schools are a little more open to hiring non-EU teachers.
Businesses and private schools both pay well and will most likely offer short terms contracts, businesses for a couple years and the schools for a year with the possibility of renewing. The last option is to offer private tutoring sessions to pick up some extra spending money. Your employer should be able to give you some ideas for where to advertise.
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
The easiest way to find a job is through your TEFL program. Pretty much every program provides you with job assistance (some for life) by giving you directories of schools, contacts and references, resume help, and more. They will even help you look while you are training; there's no need to wait until your program has finished to start looking for a job. There are a large number of private language schools in Athens that hire English teachers.
If you plan to look for a job working for a specific company, there are many choices in Athens and you should see if your TEFL program has any connections you could use. In addition to getting a regular job, many English teachers advertise at schools and businesses to offer private lessons.
For jobs at private schools and language schools in Athens, many will do their hiring right before the beginning of school in August/September and may do some hiring in January. For businesses and tutoring lessons, there is no specific time frame.
To teach English in Athens, the requirements are the same as most of the rest of Europe. You will need a Bachelor's degree, TEFL training, and be a native English speaker. If you haven't looked at TEFL training before, there are plenty of options to complete it. TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and the program teaches you how to teach.
Even if you have a teaching degree, your prospective employers will expect TEFL training. There are a number of programs available, in person or online, in any number of countries. The reason for being a native English speaker is this: No one will ever speak a language quite the way a native does. You understand the idioms, slang, inflections, and dialects of your own language better than anyone who learned it as a second language.
Salary & Cost of Living:
Choosing to teach in Athens will probably provide you with a better salary than any other city or town in Greece. Your salary will depend on the school or field that hires you. Language schools and large businesses usually pay better than the private schools. Their salaries are usually $850-1300 per month. Some do pay less than this, but it will still be enough to cover your regular costs.
Renting an apartment will be your biggest cost in Athens. A studio apartment can start as low as $250-400 per month, while a one or two bedroom apartment can be $350 and up. The key is to look in the right neighborhoods. Like any large city in the world, Athens has several districts, each with their own identity (and cost). For a teacher, especially those with a lower salary, the fashionable Kolonaki neighborhood will probably be a long shot for finding a cheap place to live. With its central location and high-end shopping, Kolonaki is one of the most expensive neighborhoods. You can locate an apartment online or with a housing agency when you arrive. Your employers might be able to give you some helpful information as well.
How much you spend on food will really depend on your habits and your diet. If you eat out often, especially for dinner, your costs can easily end breaking your budget. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go out. The food in Athens is delicious, so please do go enjoy it. But you will have to cook for yourself in order to keep within your salary. Groceries for the month (eating in almost every meal) can cost as little as $200 per month; some people can even make do on $150.
The key to low grocery bills is to buy seasonally and to avoid pre-prepared foods. Produce and grains (bread, pasta) are very cheap, meats and dairy just a bit more, and pre-prepared are the highest. It all relates to the Mediterranean diet, which does revolve around seasonal and local produce, grains, a little dairy, a little meat, olive oil, and spices/herbs. In Athens, some produce can cost as little as $1.30 per kilo (2.2 pounds), but a box of cereal or a small jar of peanut butter (meaning 6-8 oz.) can be about $5.25 each.
Classroom & Work Culture:
The Greeks are a relaxed people, though they still very much adhere to the European ideas of respect and propriety. Manners and respect will get you through any situation in Athens. When you meet someone for the first time, smile, shake hands, make eye contact and greet the other person. A good handshake goes a long way. Business relationships are very important and should maintain a degree of formality unless you've been told not to be so formal. Think proper but personable.
The Greeks have a very traditional background and still adhere to that in many aspects of their lives. One way will definitely affect you is clothing. Women will be expected to have their shoulders covered and all skirts should go to the knee; for men, slacks are a must, most likely a jacket, and maybe a tie (not always). As a teacher, the environment may be more relaxed or more formal. Ask in advance and take cues from your coworkers.
In the classroom, you are in charge. With their proper upbringing and manners, your students will always (well, should) be respectful of you, since you are the authority in the room. Authority and respect does not mean rigid, but it means not informal/casual.
Things to Remember
- If you are ever invited to dinner in a Greek home, remember to bring a small gift for your hosts. And remember your table manners!
- If you pass someone (at work, at home, or on the street) and you make eye contact, manners requires that you greet them. It’s very rude not to say anything. Kalimera is good morning and Kalispera is good evening.
- No one is more proud of their heritage than the Greeks. Studies have actually proven this. The Greeks are still miffed at the Turks. So things like Turkish coffee that the Greeks love are known as Greek coffee.
- Speaking of their coffee, if rocket-fuel-espresso-syrup-esque Greek coffee isn't for you, try a frappe. It's an iced coffee that is delicious. Potentially also rocket-fuel-ish, depending on where you buy it.
- Maria's in the Kolonaki district has €2 souvlaki and it’s really good. Order it with everything and ask for sauce (pronounced with a ts- sound at the beginning).