It is a hard task to start a new life abroad and even harder to find a job to sustain yourself in a country where you are not familiar with its culture and language. Turkey, being a bridge between the East and West and blessed with incredible natural and historical beauty, is a hot spot for expats who want to experience living in a new country as well as starting a new life.
When starting a new life in a new country, the daunting part is to find a job that meets your requirements. To get the inside scoop about expat job hunting in Turkey, I talked to Tarık from Yabangee, an English community platform for foreigners and English speakers in Turkey, composed of members of many nationalities. He admits that finding a job is often the toughest part for expats, and they usually apply for jobs that only require the knowledge of a foreign language, such as teaching positions, tourism and sales positions where the clientele is foreign, or tech companies where they're trying to break into foreign markets.
But what should expats do to snag the right position? Although there are several online HR sites, expats have to be more diverse. "For example, our 'jobs' section on Yabangee is the most popular section of the site even though we only list a few job positions every month," says Tarık. "Word of mouth, Facebook groups, etc. are generally pretty useful," he adds.
According to Turkish law, a foreigner has to get a temporary work permit to get and start a job in Turkey. However, the application for the work permit can only be carried out by the company where the expat wants to work. In other words, expats cannot apply for a work permit by themselves in Turkey. There are two ways to apply for a work permit: For those who have at least a six-month residency permit, the company directly applies to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security online via "e-devlet." If the expat does not have a residency permit, the company has to apply to the Turkish Embassy in the country where the expat has a residency permit.
Although the application for the work permit is online, it still requires a lot of time due to bureaucracy. "So typically, unless it's a very well-established school/company - they [the company] don't offer one," says Tarık when asked whether the companies are willing to take up all the responsibility for a work permit in Turkey when they hire an expat. Yabangee features a section for expats hunting for jobs, but their main focus is more outside the job realm. Finding a neighborhood they like, finding a flat, getting set up, shopping tips, language guides on specific interactions - getting a haircut for example, event listings and cultural tips are what Yabangee is more interested. Yet, they still help expats find jobs and help them after.
"We try to help our audience find them of course via our listings. We also of course offer help if things turn really bad. We connect them with a lawyer if their rights were violated or if they have questions regarding a contract, and so forth," Tarık says.
Is knowing Turkish a plus?
"Yes, definitely," says Tarık. "Not just in work, but of course in their daily life. At the very least it provides for a better work culture for the expat - being able to participate in meetings, understanding what others are gossiping about, what does this thing they want you to sign really mean, etc," he adds. However, whether an expat knows Turkish or not, it is hard to start a new job and adjust to the environment. "Honestly, it depends on the expat," says Tarık when I asked if expats have problems in their work place and how they adjust. "There are the types who are fairly laid back and willing to deal with everything as it comes - understanding things will be different, and these types do pretty well.
Then there are also the types who expect a certain level of organization or for the administration to function like it does in their home country... and even if they stay in Turkey and continue to work, take on a lot of extra stress as a result of work. These are huge generalizations of course but they are the two main camps of experiences I've seen," Tarık adds.