Not only is Greece a hugely popular destination for tourists, it also tempts a large number of English teachers. Of course, many people are attracted by the historical remnants of an ancient civilization, characterized by famous landmarks like the Acropolis, in Athens. Others are drawn by the superb climate, beaches, and hundreds of islands scattered along the Aegean and Mediterranean coastlines, many of which are unspoiled and sparsely populated. Whether you are looking for a vibrant nightlife and a party atmosphere, or peace and solitude, with a slow pace of life, they can be found in Greece. Not only that, but Greeks are a warm and friendly people, renowned for their generosity and hospitality toward foreigners. All in all, Greece has an exotic culture, but one that most westerners won’t find entirely alien, so it’s quite easy to adapt to the way of life. It’s highly likely that, having spent some time in Greece, you will want to stay far longer than you had originally planned.
Salaries aren’t particularly high for English teachers but, with a relatively low cost of living, the money you earn will be sufficient to support a fairly active lifestyle, and provide the opportunity to travel around the country. One of the big advantages of teaching in Greece, compared to many other European countries, is that accommodation is often provided free of charge by your employer. It’s worth bearing in mind that salaries can vary enormously from one company to next, with €500 (US$643) per month being at the low end of the scale, and €1,000 (US$1,286) being a high average. It’s worth ‘shopping around’ to make sure you get the best deal available, so don’t automatically accept the first post offered to you. Many teachers supplement their regular income with private lessons, and these can be quite lucrative. Most teachers can expect to charge around €15 (US$19) per hour, but more experienced teachers can easily charge €20-25 (US$26-32) per hour. Private students are most often found by word of mouth, so it pays to get to know the local people.
Most job opportunities are to be found in language schools, known as ‘frontistiria’. The highest concentration of schools can be found in the capital, Athens, and the second largest city, Thessalonica, but there are schools scattered all over the country, and even on some of the larger islands. Outside of the major cities, language schools are sometimes referred to as ‘Kendra Xenon Glosson’ (Centres for Foreign Languages). It is highly unlikely that you will find a teaching position in a state school unless you speak fluent Greek, and have some Greek heritage. Jobs at language schools are advertised in newspapers all year round, but the major hiring period is between August and October. It can also help to build up local friends and contacts while you are in Greece because the longer you decide to stay, the more you will discover that there is a large degree of nepotism in the hiring process.
To teach English in Greece, it is necessary to be a native speaker with a university degree. Any subject or major is normally deemed acceptable, but those with a degree in education, linguistics or a foreign language are like to have an advantage. It is also becoming increasingly common for schools to only hire teachers in possession of a TEFL qualification. This is especially true where some of the bigger schools are concerned, and such a qualification may also secure a higher salary. Please be aware that only internationally recognized TEFL qualifications, such as CELTA and Cert. TESOL, are acceptable. TEFL certification obtained online is not generally considered to be a legitimate qualification. Even those without a TEFL qualification are still likely to find a teaching position, but it is likely that salaries and benefits will be less attractive. However, it is quite possible to gain certification while you are working in Greece and, in some cases, employers will sponsor such courses. Some ability with the Greek language will certainly help you to find a more lucrative position but is not usually required as most classroom environments are English-only.
Conditions vary from school to school but, in general, teaching hours are between 3pm and 10pm, Monday to Friday. Most schools guarantee to pay teachers for a minimum of 25 contact hours per week, but you will also be expected to spend a proportionate amount of time preparing classes and materials. In total, you are likely to work in the region of 40 hours per week. Most language schools teach mainly children, in the 8-15 age range. Unless you speak Greek, it’s unlikely that you will be asked to teach the youngest students. Some institutions also offer classes to older students, with a focus on preparation for examinations, such as the Cambridge FCE and CPE. These classes may be scheduled on weekday mornings or on Saturdays.
An abundance of fruit and vegetables are produced locally, so they can be very cheap when in season. If you often shop and cook for yourself you will find that you can get by on a fairly modest budget. Seafood, vegetables, lamb and feta cheese are prominent in Greek cuisine, so it can be quite a healthy diet. Most goods are extremely fresh and you can expect to eat seafood caught that very morning.
Public transportation in Greece improved immensely in preparation for the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. Metropolitan and suburban rail networks were upgraded and bus and trolley-bus fleets were completely overhauled. A number of new road systems and bridges were also constructed, improving road travel considerably.
Nightlife in Athens is comparable to any major city in Europe, although it has to be said that air pollution has become a problem in the city. The resort areas on the coast also have a long party season, and can be good places to live and work, or simply visit on the weekends. There are many great tourist destinations, including Mykonos, Crete, Santorini, and Rhodes, although many people prefer the more secluded and less well-known islands. These places provide ample opportunity for sight-seeing, scuba-diving and other water-sports; the chance to experience a multitude of local festivals; or a place simply to chill-out. Greece is quite literally a country that has something for everyone.
Detailed living costs for teaching English in Greece
Information on visa requirements to teach English in Greece
TESOL Greece An independent, non-profit association of EFL teachers in Greece.
TESOL MACEDONIA-THRACE An independent, non-profit association of EFL teachers working in northern Greece.
Greek National Tourism Association (Travel guide)