When toying with the idea of teaching abroad, the possibilities are endless. Narrowing it down to a few locations can be overwhelming. Also, without visiting the country first, it can be very hard to know if you’ll end up loving it, or just chalking it up as a great experience.
It’s a roll of the dice, really!
Here are some ways to help you find out if Spain is right for you. Of course, not all of the below are necessary, but agreeing with most of them should assure a much easier transition into the land of tapas & siestas.
You want to live abroad, but without as much of the culture shock as other countries
If your goal is to relocate to a country which is completely different from your own in terms of written language, food, customs and society, Spain might not be the place for you. While Spain has its own set of cultural intricacies which make it unique, the differences aren’t as drastic as they would be in Asia. Western brands, foods and social customs are pretty similar to most English speaking countries. In Spain, it’s relatively east to adapt, relate and adopt this new way of life.
Sometimes the challenging moves are the most rewarding. Other times, moving somewhere with less of an extreme culture shock, especially for your first move abroad, can lead to an easier and overall more pleasant experience. Of course what can render all of this irrelevant is a genuine desire to learn about the country and culture you have chosen. In this case, no leap is too drastic or too grand.
You can speak some Spanish or want to learn
While I was able to navigate through my time in Korea with very limited Korean, I find being able to communicate in a foreign language as an expat much more pleasant. Life flows easier and getting to know the culture and customs happens quicker. There is so much you can learn about a culture from the phrases and words they use in the native language.
In Korea, the writing and grammar system was completely different to that of English, so there was a barrier early on. Spanish is much more similar to English, easier to pick up, and language exchanges and cheap classes can be found everywhere. It is very easy to obtain a basic level of the language if you put the effort in. Furthermore, locals encourage you to try rather than find it amusing.
The Spanish don’t have the same English proficiency as other countries in Europe. They are a chatty and outgoing bunch, but it is likely that many of the Spaniards you work with won’t have a high level of English. Brush up on your Spanish if you want to build more relationships.
Also, the Spanish (for the most part) are really patient and understanding when it comes to foreigners wanting to practice the language. Don’t be scared, just speak and chances are that things will go well!
You enjoy staying up late
The Spanish are nocturnal, and I’m convinced they genetically require less sleep than the rest of us. Even some of the elementary students don’t go to bed until 10pm or later!
In the city center during the week, locals will still be slowly sipping a glass of wine or walking around hand in hand until 10 or 11pm. Even though the unemployment rate is surpassing 25%, most of these people must still have jobs to wake up for!
At the weekend, don’t expect to go to a friend’s house for drinks any earlier than 9-10pm and then don’t expect to actually go out until after midnight (unless of course you are trying to catch the early entrance into a club). All nighters in Spain become somewhat regular, and if you are a social person, you’ll have to get used to it!
You don’t mind a slower pace of life
Maybe it’s because everyone is always so tired, but the daily routine is taken at a very slow pace. The “siesta” in fact exists, and even in the city center of Madrid, shops close for a few hours in the afternoon.
This also means it can be somewhat impossible to carry out administrative or important errands. For example, the banks usually close around 2pm, along with the post office. If you can’t make it there that early one day, it’ll just have to wait for another!
You want to be able to travel during the weekends
If you teach anywhere from 16-20 hours at your assigned school with programs like BEDA or Ministerio, it is highly likely your Fridays will be free. Take advantage of this, and the European budget airlines, and travel!
These low cost airlines are both a blessing and a curse. They allow you to travel anywhere around Europe for fares much cheaper than a long distance bus or train, as long as you can deal with awful customer service, expensive add-ons and silly costly rules (like forgetting to print your boarding pass at home, which will set you back $50).
That being said, using airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet during the weekend is an amazing way to see different cities around Europe.
You wouldn’t mind teaching children of all ages, or teaching extra private classes
I asked to be placed in a middle school, or a school in which I could teach older children. I ended up being placed at a school that could only offer me to teach elementary. These classes range from tiny little toddlers to 12 years of age.
It is good to remember that when applying to teach with a program, you can’t be too picky about your placement!
Like I spoke about in another post, the salary isn’t spectacular in Spain. For this reason, many English speaking expats teach private classes in the afternoon. This is just something that comes with the territory of teaching in Spain, and it is something you would have to be up for, especially if you plan on making enough money to travel.
You wouldn’t be too scared of coming to Spain without pre-arranged accommodation or roommates.
One of the biggest no-no’s of moving to Spain is finding an apartment before arrival. You should never commit to an apartment and never-ever send any money without seeing it beforehand. That being said, a lot of people come to teach in Spain alone, which means arriving in the country with no place to stay and no arranged roommates.
Most people arrive in Spain a week or two before their contract starts to solely look for an apartment. If you are just looking for a room in a shared apartment, it´ll mean spending a few days checking out listings on sites like Idealista before making your choice. Although it sounds overwhelming, it is really the norm when moving to Spain. Most people end up finding nice places to live with people they get along with very well, whether it be Spaniards or other expats.
You don’t mind getting touchy-feely
The Spanish greet and say goodbye with a kiss on each cheek. This can make for many awkward situations for the rest of us who value a safe distance between strangers. The worst of this is the, “Are we about to kiss, hug, or handshake? Oh God, I-don’t-know-what -I’m-doing-this-is-awkward¨scenario you might find yourself in.
On my first day at school I was greeted with about 50 of these ¨besos¨over the course of the day from colleagues, and some more from the students. Theses little kisses still continue today when my 5 year-olds ask me to bend down so they can plant one on me. Some of which are a bit….sloppy.
Other times, I’ll be watching the kids at the playground and my Spanish coworker and I will walk arm in on. Sometimes, I’ll be having a conversation with another teacher and they insist we touch in some way as we chat
Having grown up in a society that loves their personal bubble, the problem is really just us. Regardless, the touchy feely-ness is something to get used to!
Do you want to move to Spain? If so, spill the beans below!