Hungary is a country many choose to visit repeatedly. Its fine wines, dynamic and exciting cities, hot spas, and friendly people all combine to draw tourists and those job seekers alike. Much has changed in Hungary since disintegration of the Eastern Bloc in 1989, and much to its credit Hungary has adapted well to these changes, and put programs in place to better integrate everything from the economy to the education system into a world that has a broader context. One of the benefits of this rigorous programme of adaptation is a stable and even strengthening currency. Hungary joined the EU in 2004; however, reciprocal transitional controls have yet to expire, so there are still visa issues that must be dealt with.
The population of a shade over ten millions fits into a landmass of thirty-six thousand square miles. Hungarian is the official language; however, there are still vestiges of Russian, which used to be compulsorily taught in schools, and also German from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. The population is sixty eight percent Roman Catholic, twenty one percent Calvinist, six percent Protestant, and five percent ‘other’.
Since 1989 the transition to a market economy in what was the old Soviet Bloc has led to huge demand for English language skills. Everything from tourism to commerce, to membership of EU depends heavily on English, and natives who want to make the most of this free market recognise that English Language skills are a must. Major cities are now awash with tourists, and many TESOL teachers fall in love with the major cities and the Hungarian lifestyle.
Since the market in this region has matured there it is no longer simply the case that one can walk in to a job in a high school simply because you are a native English speaker. Indeed, as well as a TESOL certificate, it is becoming more often the case that a undergraduate degree is required, though certainly not always. In addition to this some experience in teaching is often a requisite. However, many voluntary service organisations (VSOs), place those with TESOL qualifications in ‘Language Assistant’ positions.
The Hungarian Department of Education has done a highly noteworthy job of retraining its language teachers to become highly proficient in English, rather than Russian. Hence, in a state school it is more realistic to aim to be a language assistant, looked to for the development of conversational skills, with the hardcore grammar being left to a Hungarian teacher.
Outside of the official education system there is a plethora of language institutes, and these tend to be on the look out for well-presented, confident candidates, and, of course, all the qualifications you can muster will help you gravitate to the better institutes. Business and diplomatic English is highly sought after, and there is a huge market for this. Hence, if you have any business experience at all you should emphasise this on your resume or CV.
Another thing to be aware of is that many companies and public bodies run in-house English language training programmes, and these tend to be the better paid, more stable and predictable posts. In addition to this, for those who do not wish to commit themselves to a full academic year, language summer camps are very popular, and can represent a fulfilling way of experiencing the country for those who do not wish to commit to spending a whole year in the country.
Both with high schools and with business students you can expect attentive and highly motivated students. You must pass a demanding English exam if you wish to gain entry to a Hungarian university. Similarly, business students must improve their English to permit them to carry out their work.
Visas and Regulations
Because Hungary is in state of transition old visa regulations are still in place. In short this means that if you are British you will find it very easy; if you are not you have a job of work on your hands. Some people choose to stay and work, illegally, beyond their ninety-day tourist visa. This is not advisable and can make you liable to deportation.
Britons, and everybody else, must apply for a labour permit from the Hungarian Labour Office. For this you will need originals of all your education certificates, a copy of your CV or resume, and a medical report stating that you have no communicable diseases. Your certificates and resume must be translated officially, and the cheapest and best place to have this done is the Central Translation Office in Budapest. In addition to this it is easiest to get your medical report carried out in Hungary, since it will be cheaper and there will be no need for translation.
Britons must then report to the Hungarian Police within fifteen days of arrival and obtain a residence permit for the period covered by the work permit - normally one to three years.
The rest of the world has to go through all of the above, but then return to their country of origin and get a work permit from their local Hungarian Consulate, and then go back and register with the police within fifteen days.
At time of writing Hungary’s changing EU status means that the visa/work permit situation is developing. It really is best to contact the Hungarian Embassy in your country of origin and check what regulations are currently in place. It is also worth enquiring about any teaching programs or contacts they may have. The questions you need to ask are what is your tourist visa entitlement, and how can you renew it - all the way back home, or does a cross-border trip do nicely? How many times can you renew your tourist visa? Finally, how do you go about getting a work permit?
Regarded by some as the Paris of Central Europe, Budapest is strong on parks, tree lined avenues, and turn of the century architecture. As it is the capital of the country, it also has fabulous nightlife, great restaurants and bars, and a really cosmopolitan atmosphere about it. You can also spend many a happy hour wandering along the banks of the Danube. However, as with any capital, this all comes at a price. In addition to which there is no shortage of TESOL teachers in Budapest.
These two facts may steer you further a field, to cities like Eger, a day trip from Budapest, with its rolling hills and Mediterranean feel, and its baroque architecture. Or alternatively, the very interesting Pecs, strong on Turkish monuments, and having an abundance of museums. A fascinating place to stay, where, again, you can enjoy the Mediterranean climate.
Getting a Job
Jobs in Eastern Europe continue to be advertised in the educational press. In addition to this there are a number of organisations who recruit directly into Eastern Europe.
With this said there is a great deal to be said for getting work on the spot. This gives you the opportunity to negotiate a salary, evaluate class sizes, timetables, teaching materials, hours and, where applicable accommodations.
For many, getting a job will mean knocking on doors - another occasion where you will need your certificates and your CV or Resume. Local telephone directories detail universities, schools and language institutes, etc, which are often only too willing to interview candidates. Highly-qualified, and more importantly, well-turned-out, organised and enthusiastic teachers are in short supply. If they like you they will most certainly find some teaching for you!
Hence, one of the best and most realistic propositions is to build a working life based around gaining a contract even if its only for a few hours a week, and then trying to develop a portfolio of ‘privates’ bearing mind that revenue from ‘privates’ can double a teacher’s income, one should always be on the lookout for private students, whatever one’s employment or visa status. The market for those wanting private tuition or conversation practice is huge, and potentially very lucrative, therefore, not be neglected. Give yourself time to build a portfolio of work. This is best safeguard to both your income, and employment status.