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Overview

Think Hungary, and you’ll probably think of paprika, goulash, and horsemen on the Puszta (the Hungarian plain). Those who know a little better may think of the many and varied cultural and scientific bequests it has made to the world: it numbers Liszt, Bartok and Kodaly among its composers, for example, and boasts inventions and discoveries from the simple ball point pen to Vitamin C. As a partner in the mighty Habsburg alliance with Austria, Hungary has a feel and identity more readily squared with Western Europe than the Balkans. This is most evident in the capital, Budapest: proudly labelled the Paris of the East by its inhabitants, it is a city of boulevards and cafés, magnificent eclectic architecture, and a hub of the rich Hungarian cultural heritage.

The TEFL market in Hungary is highly competitive with a huge number of language schools battling for the custom of both the man on the street and the company client. Almost all teachers here are self-employed with their own limited companies which bill the schools they teach for; this is standard in Hungary, though knowing this does not make starting up here as a first time teacher any easier, particularly given the complex nature of the bureaucracy.

The bulk of the work is centred in Budapest, which is not surprising when you consider how much larger it is than any other Hungarian cities, and how much foreign investment is focused here.

English-learning in Hungary continues to grow and grow; Hungarian learners have long been schooled in a very analytic and teacher-centred way, which may initially make them appear less dynamic learners than, say, their Mediterranean counterparts. Scratch this surface, though, and you’ll find warm, welcoming individuals who have a strong motivation to improve their ability to communicate in English, and who cherish any opportunity to share with the outsider the intricacies of Hungarian culture, its history and language (the notorious difficulty and uniqueness of which they are very proud).

Salary and hours
As already mentioned, the majority of teachers work freelance and teach anywhere between 20 and 30 hours a week. Those in full time employ can expect to be contracted for 25 hours teaching a week, although at busy times of the year they may be asked to do extra. ‘Split shifts’ are the norm – students tend to expect lessons early in the morning (7.30 starts are common, especially with company teaching) or after work (at, for example, 17.30). This means a long day for all concerned, often with large gaps in the afternoon - effective time management is essential. Saturday morning teaching can also happen, though it’s not as common as in other countries.

Salaries tend to be around 2500 – 3500 HUF (Hungarian Forint) per 45 minutes teaching.

Type of teaching
Teachers can expect to teach a variety of age-groups and class-types. Business clients are as common as general English adults. Exam preparation classes are popular though these tend to be for locally accredited exams rather than Cambridge main suite (which remains a niche market in Hungary). Younger Learners are reasonably common, though more often than not this involves teaching English conversation classes at a local gimnázium (secondary / high school).

Accommodation
Accommodation tends to be organised by teachers themselves through local agencies. Language schools sometimes have contacts who rent out to their teachers each year. Accommodation can be expensive so it is common for teachers to share. If renting through an agency you’ll need to provide a deposit of at least a month’s rent in advance. You are advised to ensure the flat has everything you need or feel is fair for the price (e.g. a washing machine) and make a clear inventory of items before you sign a contract and pay the deposit, which can be difficult to claim back in full.

Start of school year/ best time to look for work
The few schools that offer full-time contracts tend to do so from September, with hiring taking place late spring or early summer. In fact though it’s possible to find work any time of year, as enrolments fluctuate and a school can find itself suddenly needing 5 teachers almost overnight—thanks to a big company contract or a big enrolment. Having a CELTA or equivalent qualification is essential for full time work at private schools and gives you a significant market advantage elsewhere.

Red Tape
As mentioned earlier, teachers who are serious about earning a living legally here for any length of time will need to set up a ‘BT’ i.e. a private company, as most schools will insist on you providing bills for the hours you teach. Unfortunately, this is a relatively costly and complex process – it can cost 100,000 + HUF to set up and you’ll be required to pay an accountant on a monthly basis. There are alternatives to this however, or at least there are at this writing: one is to bill using either a UK self-employment tax number or a UK company (if you’re from the UK!); or in the case of Americans, to bill via an American company. Your employer here wants most of all to cover itself in the case of inspection, and to be able to show that it is reporting and paying taxes for all employees who are billing via Hungarian entities. Another alternative is to have someone bill on your behalf, and yet another is to simply work “black”; it’s still common for schools and certainly individuals (i.e. 1-1 students) to pay cash, off the books. Yes, it’s illegal to do so, yet very much common practice.

Non-EU citizens will need to establish residency here if planning to stay longer term—again, another bit of bureaucracy to wade through—a challenge and an adventure, but do-able.

FCO

Lonely Planet Guide - Hungary