Teaching English in Greece

by Kathi MacNaughton
(Boise, ID)

Sarah Receiving Her TEFL Certificate in Greece

Sarah Receiving Her TEFL Certificate in Greece

In 2008, my oldest daughter gave up most of her possessions, including a car, and took all her savings and sunk them into a TEFL course in Greece, a place she longed to see.

She said her goodbyes to the family, and off she went on her grand adventure. This was quite a step for her, as she is not the biggest risk taker in the world... to do this all on her own really took courage.

She thought she'd done her research on the program ahead of time, but apparently, she didn't do enough. Almost as soon as she got there, but too late to withdraw or get her money back, she learned that Americans can't legally teach in Greece, as they won't be granted work visas.

There is a slight chance you could get sponsored by an employer and be able to get the visa, but it's extremely rare, as there seem to be plenty of non-American teachers to fill all the spots.

She didn't know what to do, but she'd paid her money and changed her life, so she went ahead. There was also the possibility of working illegally under the radar, but my Sarah is not one to break the rules easily.

During the 6 weeks of her schooling, she made some fast friends and she did well, graduating without any problems. And she did manage to finally secure a position, having decided to try working illegally for a bit.

But the woman she worked for gave her very few hours and Sarah just couldn't make it financially after a few weeks. All the good teaching positions had gone to the non-Americans in her class.

So, she had no choice but to come home. At age 26, she was forced to live with me, her mom, for a year, while she got back on her feet financially and saved for a return to Texas and an apartment of her own.

It was a crushing disappointment and a financial disaster, although the school experience itself... and experiencing Athens and Corinth in Greece... were wonderful.

My advice is if you're American, don't try to do the TEFL thing in Greece! The school Sarah attended was more than happy to take her money, knowing full well she'd never be able to teach legally. Do your homework before you hand over your money!

Perhaps Sarah was naive, but she's an intelligent girl with good common sense, great financial management and she's a great internet researcher... and still she was taken advantage of. I'd hate for anyone else to experience such things.

She really wanted to teach overseas... unfortunately, she chose the wrong county to do it in.

Comments for Teaching English in Greece

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Feb 25, 2011
It's still hard to make money teaching English in Greece
by: Mark (Admin)

I'm sorry to hear of Sarah's difficulty in finding work teaching English in Greece. I don't think her experience is so uncommon. Teaching English in Greece has always been hard - in terms of making money. Now, with Greece's financial problems, it has become even harder.

For Americans who hope to teach English in Europe legally, I suggest teaching English in Germany or Portugal. Not that everything is so easy there, but these two countries offer the best opportunities for non-Europeans, as their visa laws are a little more relaxed. However, you would still need to find a sponsor to get a work visa.

Mar 02, 2011
Warnings made public
by: Kat

I appreciate you sharing this story, and I'm going to link to it.

Had Sarah come to my website, she would have seen articles I posted in April and July 2007 that warn about Americans having a difficult time getting work visas in Greece, plus additional requirements demanded of non-Greek English teachers, namely that they must speak Greek and get a certification. They cannot even tutor on the side without significant trouble.

How Americans can work in Greece

Teaching English in Greece as a foreigner

As Mark said above, it's also difficult to earn a good wage after finding a job and someone to sponsor a permit. In neighboring Turkey, it's far easier.

Mar 11, 2011
Teaching in Greece
by: Mark (Admin)

Kat, thanks for the comments on teaching English in Greece. I recommend Kat's website for further information on living in Greece. For more information on teaching English in Turkey see this article.

Apr 10, 2011
ESL in other countries?
by: Crafty Grl


Thanks for sharing your daughter's experience. Did Sarah pursue teaching English in another country besides Greece?

Apr 11, 2011
New Plans
by: Kathi

Actually no... she had planned to, possibly in Korea, but while waiting for a position to open up, her sister got engaged and asked her to be maid of honor. So she ultimately decided to stay in the U.S.

Since then, she has decided to take her life in a different direction. She is now enrolled in nursing school. She is still interested in traveling the world, but I doubt it will be to teach English!

Jul 05, 2011
why not try Taiwan
by: deb

hello there, thanks for sharing sarah's story. i was just thinking of teaching english in greece myself and now i will definitely do more research on it before my departure. would she consider teaching english in taiwan? i was born and grew up in taiwan where english education and business are growing biggerand bigger.i know things havent been changed since i moved to australia years ago. i knew quite afew american english teachers back home having a lot of fun and job security there. if shes interested heres a link she might find some helpful info, http://www.tealit.com/ . cheers

Sep 04, 2014
Daughter Did Not Do Her Diligence
by: Meltemi X

I'm sorry, BUT, if your daughter was so intelligent and such a great researcher, she would know not to go to a country on the throws of an economic crisis and, consistently, in financial mire as one of the bottom 3, in Europe.

She would have known, through either common sense or diligent research that locals like to take care of their own, first. This is not Big City, USA. This is a small homogeneous country of, then, less than 10 million, with an immense illegal immigration problem.

Your daughter was unprepared due to not being thorough. No excuse to blame the country. One can find many reasons to point the finger at Greece but, this, is not one of them. Sorry.

Sep 05, 2014
ELT in Greece
by: Mark

Meltemi X

Her experience teaching English in Greece was in 2008. At that time the economic crisis was not nearly as bad as it is now. The point of the story is to warn people to do more research, which I believe is a good point.

Nowhere does anyone point any fingers at Greece. Quite the opposite. She enjoyed the country and the people. The language school was another thing.

Sep 12, 2014
ELT in Greece
by: Anonymous

Meltemi is not wrong. Did Sarah go to Greece with any type of prearranged work and housing plans? What about speaking with the directors of frontistiria before actually going there? The directors may have been able to tell her how involved the procedure for hiring an American is, or even if they had vacancies AND if they would consider filling them with an American. The procedure is lengthy, and most of the work is the responsibility of the director. It often isn't worth the directors' time to go through the hassle and paper chase to hire an American, especially when there are plenty of Greeks who need work and do not have to go through the same rigmarole. I am sorry that Sarah went through this, of course, but to make a move like this, it is crucial to know what you're getting into. I hope she truly did get to see some of that beautiful country and has a few good memories of life there, and I hope she is doing well with her new pursuits.

May 24, 2015
Truly sad story, I would change the title into choosing a bad school for your TEFL certificate though....
by: Gina

The school where your daughter did her TEFL certificate is probably the worst choice in Greece. (I assume she did attend the school that is in Corinth).

I understand that through their webpage they promise students that they will have a work placement after having finished their TEFL course, but isn't this a bit too good to be true?

On the other hand, through a brief research it is obvious that there are other certificates in TEFL, such as CELTA or TESOL that are widely recognised. There are schools that teach CELTA and TESOL in Greece, and none of them promises they will land you a job once you are qualified.

I am sorry about your daughter's choice, she went to a school that charges a little less money than the places that offer accredited courses, (Celta & Tesol) and promises a job afterwards, but there is a catch.

As another posted mentioned, before moving half the way across the earth, one must research carefully and she should have called an embassy for instance and ask whether an American needs a visa in order to be able to work in Greece.

Nevertheless, having said that, I need to stress that THAT SCHOOL where your daughter went is horrible for not giving all the information needed to people coming from abroad.

Therefore their course is NOT as advertised, which really means that your daughter should have reported them. There is the agency for the protection of customers (prostasia katanaloton) here in Greece, which deals with such issues.

Sorry it did not work for your daughter, and I am happy she has chosen a new career...

Mar 13, 2016
Thanks for the healthy dose of realism
by: Davide

Thank you for your balanced post. I'm sorry that your daughter didn't have a better experience in Greece and glad that she has moved on with her life positively. I think it's important that more critical accounts of teaching english overseas, such as yours, are available so that young people may make better decisions. I am an EU national living in Athens, Greece, and working as an english teacher part-time; it's not the easiest job I've had, or the most renumerative. But the sunshine, which brought me here, has certainly delivered and when I hear about the lives of some of my students I remember to count my blessings and to smile in the sunshine. I never thought, for instance, how grateful I would feel for all the high-quality public education I received growing up in the UK and for being fluent in the english language.

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