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Russia vs Turkey

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Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 539
Location: 21 miles from the Syrian border

PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:10 pm    Post subject: Russia vs Turkey Reply with quote

I was originally going to post this as a PM to Sashadroogie, who having worked in both Turkey and Russia frequently sings the praises of the latter on these forums wherever a poster asks where in Europe, Asia, or Mars they should go to teach English. However I realized that A. other posters who've worked in both might have some insights, and B. even if not, other posters might also benefit from Sasha's experience.

So I'm wondering how the two countries compare.
I can only speak to Turkey which has:

1. Mediocre salary (1-1.8 USD/month, net) for entry-level or near-entry-level teaching jobs that will nonetheless more than cover the cost of living and even let you save a bit unless you take a bad job in an expensive place (e.g. Taksim or Antalya). However this salary range has been about the same for years, while living costs steadily rise, meaning that more places may soon require taking a job that involves sharing on housing and scrounging on meals to make ends meet.

2. A choice between A. language schools, which tend to have motivated students but are never good about work permits (either not getting them at all, or delaying getting them until you prove your loyalty to the master); B. universities, which tend to have mediocre to difficult students; or C. or private primary/secondary schools, which I hear tend to mix and match the cons of A & B.

3. Excellent food, wonderful people and culture, decent to tolerable weather in most of the country, and a decent expat community in the "Big 3" cities (Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir). A great place to retire, but possibly not the best place to work (though still probably better than most or all of the EU in that regard if you don't have specialist qualifications).

Russia by contrast I can only judge by jobs I've seen advertised. However those jobs have salaries that seem to be about 2/3-1/2 of salaries in Turkey, and tend to include shared housing. Language schools have to get work permits since most English-speakers can't go to Russia on a tourist visa, but the Russian forum seems to have many cases of mistreatment and arbitrary firings. And the weather in most of the country swings between extremes of "too hot and too cold."

That said, Sasha's a smart and experience teacher who abandoned Anatolia for Muscovy years ago and apparently never looked back, so I imagine it can't all be the vodka talking. Would Sasha (and anyone else who's worked in both countries), give me some insights on how you think the two compare?

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Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 11061
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two giant cultures, historically in opposition to each other, hic! Many differences, yet many things in common, surprisingly. My comments are based mainly on my experience in Moscow, not Russia as a whole. Too vast : )

Starting with salaries, I'd be wary of judging earning potential by what you read in adverts. These ads reflect only bottom, entry-level salaries. Anybody with a bit of nonce can earn up to 4 or 5 grand a month, depending on how many private hours they punch in.

Cost of living is indeed much, much higher. A cup of coffee in Starbucks will set you back silly money 10 to 15 dollars if you get a fancy one with trimmings. But basic staples are not as exorbitant.

Language schools are the only type of institution to make any sort of living. Forget universities - pitiful salaries, with very high entry quals required. Really only for locals, as afar as I know. But those who enjoy teaching teens can do very well in private schools or colleges.

In all contexts you will be dealing with well-read, savvy students who are far, far better learners than your typical class in a dershane in Istanbul. They start with a more solid base, even at Beginner level, and tend to reach 'take-off' fairly soon. For example, I have never encountered a Beginner Russian student who didn't know the Latin alphabet, whereas even in so-called advanced groups in Istanbul endless written work correction seemed to be devoted to getting learners to refrain from using characters like and .

It is true that Russia is a much harder place to enter with a view to work. I wouldn't bother with tourist visas - you'd still need to leave and re-enter even if you managed to find an employer to sort out a proper work permit. This seems to be a commonality: Byzantine processes and endless paperwork. I blame the Greeks for this legacy : ) It is also true that the law is very much an abstract idea for many Russian employers. However, I do not remember this being any different in Turkey. In any case, given that most of your work will be 'black', the law is not something to get overly attached to... hic!

The weather is harsher in Moscow, as every one knows. What fewer people seem to be aware of, though, is Russians are well-prepared for dealing with the cold. Thick walls, non-stop central-heating, armies of street-cleaners to clear the roads. I have been frozen in my flat in Istanbul, when the temperature was only about minus 5, yet I wander around in a t-shirt in my flat in Moscow even if it is minus 40 outside. Never been cold here. The opposite - very sweaty betimes.

Food. Yes, Turkey has great cuisine, and fresh produce. Clearly way ahead of Moscow, and far more affordable too. However, the sheer range of foreign food and restaurant types available in Moscow is far, far greater than Istanbul. Russians eat dishes from the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as more Germanic fare. The names are even Turkic - plov for pilav; sashlik for sis kebab. And in keeping with global trends, you can't walk down a street without tripping over a sandwich board for a sushi or pasta restaurant.

People in Russia tend to be ... well, dour and not really over-brimming with the milk of human kindness. At least, this is so on the streets. Turks tend to be much more effusive and expressive. Which is 'better'? A nonsensical question, in my view. I think, though, I am happier with Russian neighbours than with Turkish ones. I basically live my own life, quietly and privately, with no interference from anybody in my block. This is in stark contrast to the oppressive 'curiousity' in Istanbul. And that even when no women were being smuggled past the kapici.

Which leads to the next point. Wine women and song are your own business in Russia(so long as you have the money to support your pleasures). Just don't disturb the neighbours with loud music, and they really couldn't care less what you get up to in the privacy of your own flat. Meeting girls in bars is just the same as at home, though maybe a little 'wilder'. Certainly no signs bearing the inscription 'damsiz girilmez'. Alcohol is cheaply available in every kiosk (gasp!) I think the contrast is self-explanatory hic!

However, I have had some occasions when both Turks and Russians sprang to my defence when a local member of the constabulary was over-stepping his authority, though they were strangers to me. Both peoples share a rather subversive view of their own authorities, which I admire ... so please do not read my ramblings as being pro or anti either people.

Ah, my breakfast vodka bottle is empty now, so I have to nip down to the shops to re-stock. But I'll finish with one final point to consider. I think Turkey is an excellent place for new TEFLers to learn their job. I think Russia would be a lot harder for newcomers. Not impossible, just much more demanding and certainly less forgiving, hic! Moscow does not believe in tears...

Hic! A well-known Turkish tune to play us out hic!
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