Working Within the Expat Community in Turkey

Working within the expat community is a tempting option for foreigners arriving in Turkey. It is, in many ways, simpler and more straight-forward than finding a job with a local employer. However, it does have its downsides...

Who works within the expat community in Turkey?

There are many foreigners who would like to work in Turkey. Unfortunately, most of them do not speak Turkish and would find working for a local business difficult.

Many of them may not have a visa permitting them to work in Turkey, so making it almost impossible to find a proper job there.

Yet many will have skills of great use to the local expat community. They may find a niche in a local business where the owner is himself an expat (and struggles with Turkish) and where the clientele is also almost exclusively expat (and so would find it difficult dealing with a local employee whose English was not great).

Others have manual skills that would be really useful to other foreigners living in the area. They may be a car mechanic, or a pool maintenance engineer, or a plumber, or a hairdresser. There are lots of foreign residents in Turkey who prefer to deal with people of their own nationality. It eliminates the language issue and both parties will be working on the same page culturally. So, the obvious thing is to offer your services to the expat community.

In some cases, those services can be offered via paid employment: perhaps in a bar/restaurant, perhaps in a property maintenance company or perhaps in a car hire firm. However, to work as an employee you need a work permit, and your employee is unlikely to get one for most of these jobs. In other cases, you will need to set up your own business and then offer your services to individual clients.

Working for expats as an employee

Legal position

The rights and obligations of an expat working as the employee of another expat are the same as they would be if you were working for a local person.

See our Guide to Employment Law in Turkey.

Having said that, there is – unfortunately – a strong tendency within the expat community to seek and offer work on an ‘unofficial’ basis – i.e. with no contract, paying no tax or social security and cash in hand.

Often, that work is offered to people who do not have a work permit allowing their employment in Turkey: sometimes even to people who do not have a visa authorising their presence in Turkey.

In every case this type of work is illegal. Both the employer and the employee can get into quite serious trouble with the Turkish authorities.

In the case of employment offered to someone who does not have a work permit to work in Turkey or a visa to be there at all, it is not only illegal from the employment law point of view but also as a matter of immigration law.

The immigration authorities are a great deal more robust when it comes to enforcing the law than are the employment law authorities – partly because they have far more resources at their disposal.

Working illegally is not a good idea. See our post on Working Illegally in Turkey.

Finding a job working with expats in Turkey

Finding this type of job within the expat community tends to be quite different from finding a job in the local Turkish community.

You’re far more likely to hear about employment opportunities in the local bars, or from other expat contacts, than you are to see them advertised on the internet or in a newspaper.

The employer is far less likely to require a formal job application, including a CV, prior to an interview. They tend to see you, have an informal interview with you and then offer you a job.

A good starting place when it comes to finding jobs is to look at the general advertising in the local expat press. It contains extensive advertising aimed at the expat community, and it will be obvious from the names of some of the advertisers that an expat runs the business.

Your first stage should be to contact these businesses operating in the area of interest to you. You might get lucky.

Jobs as a nanny, a companion, or a care assistant are often circulated via the local expat churches, clubs or other places serving a significant expat community. There are also specialist international online facilities for people looking to work as nannies, English teachers etc.

Often, searching for a job like this is going to involve a lot of telephone work and an even larger amount of legwork.

It is not advisable to place an advertisement saying that you are seeking work. There are two reasons for this. Very few people who have tried this have succeeded in finding a job this way and it will put off any employer looking to employ you on any ‘unofficial’ basis if you have raised your head above the parapet.

Dangers of working for expats in Turkey

There are three main dangers when it comes to seeking employment from expats.

  1. Many of them – particularly if you are offered a job as a cleaner or gardener in their house rather than via their business – will want to employ you ‘unofficially’. This means illegally.
  2. In these cases, you will not be paying tax or, more importantly, social security contributions. Thus, you will have no protection in the event of accident or illness. You will not be entitled to the benefit of the state healthcare system. As far as the Turkish authorities are concerned, you are simply not there.
  3. Many foreigners feel no shame when abusing their fellow countrymen. They will know the delicacy of your position and will often offer you very low rates of pay. Worse still, they may simply not pay you what they have agreed. This applies just as much if you’re being employed in an expat’s business as it does if you’re being employed in their home.

Working for expats in Turkey on a self-employed basis

As we’ve already explained, getting a visa to work on a proper self-employed basis (as defined in Turkey) is very difficult. You, therefore, end up either working illegally (with all of the dangers and disadvantages already mentioned) or you will need to set up a proper Turkish company in order to provide your services. See our Guide to Setting up a Company in Turkey.

Finding customers

If you are a proper registered business, you can – of course – advertise. You can also distribute flyers in the places where you are likely to find lots of expat customers.

A cheaper and often more successful alternative to this is establishing a network of contacts and then passing around the information about your business through those contacts. Word of mouth and personal recommendation go a long way in Turkey, including within the expat community. This is particularly important as a source of work if you’re going to be working in someone’s house.

Many people have been successful by cold calling residents in areas which are known to have a very large expat community. People can be very helpful and, even if they don’t themselves need an odd-job man or a hairdresser, they may know someone who does.

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