English-language learning, especially with native teachers, is in great demand in Hungary, at all levels—primary and secondary school, colleges and universities, business English and private tutoring. Having been admitted to the European Union in 2004, Hungary is quickly expanding in areas such as industry, transportation, media, and the Arts, and in many more exciting ways.
Ferihegy Airport in Budapest is the hub when flying into Hungary, and from there you can connect to short flights or bus terminals that offer international and intercity transportation by bus or to train stations that connect to major nearby cities.
Full-time work is most likely to come from colleges, universities or primary and secondary schools, and occasionally through private language centers. Most of these will help you to obtain work permits, though some private schools hire teachers who have a local freelance license.
Alternatively, you can find private tutoring jobs by checking local newspapers, posts around town, or online at places like Learn English Budapest.
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
Begin to look for teaching jobs early in the spring for a fall position (school starts September 1st), and as early as possible in the fall—or even summer—for a January position. Most contracts end in late June. Some positions will pay through the summer if your contract will be renewed through the fall, but if not, there are opportunities to teach at summer English camps, summer college programs and language schools. The work week can run from 20 to 25 hours per week for a full-time position.
The most popular city to teach in is, of course, Budapest, which is the central hub for travel into and out of the country, and the pay is higher. However, the cost of living is also higher. Organizations like the Central European Teaching Program, CETP, aim to place teachers in schools outside of Budapest, in the smaller cities in Hungary. It is also possible to find work by contacting schools directly—some have websites from which you can glean contact information and other details—but many times it will require coming to Hungary, c.v. in hand, and knocking on doors to find work. Some web sites are NovoSchool, KATEDRA, and Cambridge.
To work in Hungary, you need a university or college certificate, and most language schools require a TEFL certificate. If you are a college instructor at the Ph.D. or master’s level, you may not need to show a TEFL certificate. An in-person interview is normally required, with trial teaching for an hour or two and possibly up to 8 hours. However, newer schools or lower-paying schools seeking native English-speaking teachers may not require a TEFL certificate.
Work Visas in Hungary:
While EU Nationals don’t need a visa to work in Hungary, the employer must get a labor permit for them. All other foreigners working in Hungary, other than those from Britain, need a work visa and a residence permit. The working permit process has changed in the last few years and from what long-term expats say, it is much smoother and easier now. Most schools will provide help with submitting papers. Organizations such as CETP, which help place teachers in schools in Central Europe, provide the paperwork and it is up to the teacher to obtain the work visas from the embassy or consulate of their host country.
A notarized copy of your college or university diploma (certifying that it is an exact copy of the original) along with other documents must be submitted by your host school to local labor authorities. A doctor’s letter stating that you are in good general health and free of communicable diseases is also required, including a copy of lab results of a TB test.
In Hungary, virtually all official paperwork—including library cards, residence permits, and health cards—requires your mother’s full maiden name, and the city where you were born. Be prepared to use passport name, including, if you are a married or divorced woman using a spouse’s name, your maiden family name. More information on visas can be found at VISA HQ.
Salary & Cost of Living:
The average salary for a language teacher can be about HUF 150,000 to 200,000 (about $700 to 900 USD) or higher at the college or university level, depending upon credentials, which is a comfortable salary, especially if housing is provided. While not all schools provide housing or help pay for housing, many schools provide living arrangements of varying types—from living on school grounds, to a hostel situation that provides a room and bath with a shared kitchen, to an apartment or money to be used toward finding an apartment. In smaller villages, a teacher may be given a whole house to live in, but it may be far from the city. It depends on the economic situation of the school, and recent economic downturns have affected the availability of funds for housing.
(Note: most schools that provide funding for housing that you arrange for yourself require an official receipt, which means the price of the apartment will normally be 10 to 20% higher to cover a landlord tax. Many landlords are happy to give better deals, but not when they have to provide a receipt).
Airfare is not normally reimbursed directly, if at all. At the university level, the salary may be raised slightly to compensate for travel to and from the host country. Monthly public transportation passes in Hungary can run up to as much as HUF 7,500 (about $30 USD). Most are not covered by the school, but may be negotiated as part of the salary if you are lucky. Food costs can run about HUF 100,000 (about $450 USD) per month for one person.
Costs for teachers beyond airfare may include fees through the organization that assists you in finding work—for example, CETP charges total fees of up to $2,700 with a $500 cancellation fee. These fees include airport pick-up in the host country, an orientation session, furnished housing and utilities (not phone and internet service), a newsletter, social events with other teachers, training classes, and ongoing support from a director in the host country, who can help with a variety of problems that may result from language gaps, cultural differences and other in-country needs. It also includes support from a program director in the U.S., as well. These services can be extremely helpful, if not comforting, when you are living on your own in a remote area and need a lifeline on occasion.
While salaries in Central Europe are often lower than other countries, such as those in Asia, most living expenses and healthcare are covered. Being located in Central Europe can allow you to travel to other European countries, though one CETP teacher recommends saving up US dollars before arriving in Hungary so that you have a travel fund to allow you to do that, as the teaching salary is not normally large enough to provide for extensive or expensive trips throughout Europe. Private teaching is also widespread as is work for businesses looking for tutors for their workers. These kinds of arrangements can help supplement a modest teaching salary.
Classroom & Work Culture:
Hungarians are extremely hospitable, helpful, and friendly, especially in smaller cities. Interdependence and closeness of family ties are strong values, and they willingly share what they have with each other, and strangers in need. This is often because their lifestyle has had its limitations and they have had to take care of each other. As a result they expect less, in general, and are more accepting of things as they are. This may be reflected in a simplicity and a frugality of what is provided and a somewhat slower pace of life. People re-use things whenever possible, and share resources. In colleges and universities, students are not necessarily required to purchase books, and they will go home every weekend rather than stay in the student hostel.
Laundromats are not the norm. If there is not a washing machine in your apartment, you could find a place that will wash, dry and fold your laundry for you. Even if you have a washing machine, most places do not offer clothes dryers, rather a clothes rack is set up inside or outside for hanging clothes.
Most people take their shoes off when entering the house, changing into slippers (papucs) indoors, and offering their guests a pair of slippers to wear, as well.
Lunch is the big meal of the day and normally includes soup and an entrée. Breakfast is often a sandwich or a small pastry. Hungarians often drink a shot of brandy or the national drink, Unicom, before a big meal to aid digestion, and they are very proud of their fruit brandies (palinka), which are often homemade.