Category Archives: Jobs Abroad

Life as a foreign English teacher

I wrote this a long time ago, but now I’m thinking it’s not so bad and I’ll publish it as my dirge to my life as a foreign English teacher. Though I enjoyed the work and time abroad, it’s not the most positive review of the career. In the end, I grew tired of the work and life, but I’m glad I did it.

What is a foreign English teacher’s life like anyway? It’s not entirely romantic, but there are some romantic aspects to it.

For one, you live abroad in a country you don’t know much about and navigate it using your wits, friends and a bit of luck. You live on the margins of society. You’re neither an immigrant, a working citizen, a student or poor, but you have similarities and sympathies with all.

You live near downtown, most likely, and pay a good amount of your income on rent, but you’re near the action, even if you don’t have much space, which is what matters to you.

You’re underpaid and likely don’t work very many hours. Since your hours are dispersed throughout the day you spend a great deal of time using public transportation, time you use to read, observe people and think.

You probably drink a lot. It’s the thing English teachers do when they go out. If you don’t have any other hobbies, it’s a good idea to get some. Playing the trombone, writing plays, racket ball, etc.

Days vary. Some pass quickly, some slowly. Your roommates move in and out. There’s constant noise. It’s like you’re in college sometimes and it’s hard to deal with. You crave space. You think you’ve made the wrong decision constantly.

But then you look around you and … you’re out. Your life is simple. No rat race. No keeping up with the Joneses. You have your easy job, your little money, your small flat, simple food, a few good friends, and a place that is foreign so that you never have to worry about its problems relating too much to yourself.

Unappreciated? Not really. If you go out, it’s easy to meet people who think your job is interesting. But it’s also the most common thing for Anglophone foreigners to do abroad.

Yet the pay remains low and you get tired of living like a student and feeling like one. If you acquire a significant other, and start to make plans, it’s unlikely you’ll remain at the job. If not, then it’s probable you’ll continue to drink and party and the months will pass rapidly.

Work? Oh yes, work is a part of this life. And when you are there you put in your most. But there’s little incentive to really excel, so you put in your hours on site, not worrying too much about your lesson plans after you’ve got the gist of it all, and focusing on acquiring private lessons which pay much better.

Is it hard? Sometimes surprisingly so. Kids are awful most everywhere. You have to put up with a lot of crap. But it’s rewarding, too. You have the enjoyment of knowing that your job is different. That you are your primary employer, and that your life outside of work is what you’re really living for.

If you’re a guy, probably the only thing to keep you in the field is a foreign girlfriend. In reality though, you don’t have much luck with the foreign girls and are much more likely to end up with another expat, who also has plans to go home and grow up eventually.

Would you do it for a lifetime? Therein lies the rub. It’s hard to say how long you’ll last… But after a while all the things your friends in the real world are beginning to work towards begin to draw your envy and appreciation… And then you start to think you should have planned ahead a little better…

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Posted by on May 18, 2014 in Career, ESL, Expat, Jobs Abroad


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No logical reason to bring cash abroad

This post is mostly targeted toward future auxiliares de conversacion trying to figure out how to get their money to Europe safely and effectively. But it also has some general rules for dealing with money and living abroad.

When you decide to travel or move abroad, you have to deal with annoying currency exchanges a lot. Also, you have to worry about transporting your cash, credit cards or traveler checks and finding ways to get money without racking up large fees.

So what’s the best way to go about this?

Simple. Use your debit card and Capital One credit card. If you don’t have a Capital One card, get one before you go abroad. To my knowledge, apart from fancy cards which require excellent credit and involve yearly fees, the Capital One card is the only one which does not charge you each time you use it outside of the country. A good credit card is a must for emergencies, especially when you move abroad.

As for day to day cash, if you are moving abroad, I see little logic in bringing more than 300 dollars cash with you in hand. Currency changes are notoriously bad, almost everywhere you go. People nowadays like to deal in digital money. There is no labor in making computer transactions, as opposed to cash shuffling. So, generally speaking, apart from a small ATM fee, you get the best exchange rates through withdrawing money directly in the foreign currency of your choice. With your debit card you can take out enough money to open a bank account and start depositing it. It’s also easier for you to keep on eye on the exchange rates because they usually follow a day behind what’s going on on the market. The day your currency is up, the following day go and take out a lot of money and bring it to your new bank account, or to spend.

Cash is bad. I made the mistake of moving to Europe with most my money in hand. First of all, forget the scam of cash exchange rates. It’s just dangerous. People can rip you off at your hotel or on the street. In Spain, where I moved, pickpocketing is common, as are hotel maids who will steal your money without so much as a flinch.

Banks are pretty bad in Europe, not because of charges or anything, which aren’t very bad, but because of their lack of working hours. This will be a continuous problem, so make sure that when you get an account you get an ATM card with it or else you’ll often be out of luck.


Never pay to work

I just wasted some time looking into journalism internships in the US and Spain and had a hard time finding unpaid internships. And in this day and age, you’re often lucky to get an unpaid internship if you’re career is not in accounting or engineering. What they did have, in plenty, were internships for which you pay to be a fact-checking, coffee-getting peon, along with a slew of internships for which you pay to be able to volunteer your time, teaching English to children.

Ridiculous. You pay, sometimes 3k for a month or so, to be able to take a flight to a foreign country (another thou) and live in camp-style lodgings, pay for your own food and drink, and spend your days dealing with bratty, obnoxious, snotty-nosed kids. While I’m at the point where I’d take an unpaid internships for some sort of in to a job which I might immensely like, I’m not about to volunteer my services, especially for something I don’t enjoy (aka, work), and on top of that, pay bank to be able to do so.

Whoever set up this system is brilliant. I should probably open a school in Spain and do the same thing. Think about it. You can charge the kids’ parents a ton for summer camps, you can charge your foreign teachers to come and “volunteer” from abroad, while you just sit back with a rake and bag for the dough falling into your lap. Hell, why not put $50 application fees, so that way you can get something from all the people you reject.

Really, people. Make it your policy never to pay to work. Do a little research. You can have my job, working 16 hours a week, and make a livable (albeit, far from lavish) wage, or you can, at the very least, volunteer on a farm (wwoofing) and get free food and board, or find some kind of volunteer work that doesn’t send you to the poorhouse. And then, there’s always South Korea, where English teaching is an actual career.

But I’m sure I’ll continue to run into people, as I did the other night, squandering fortunes on these silly programs (scams) which should probably not even be legal. Some probably go by the exalted pseudonym of non-profit, but generally speaking there’s some dude at the top taking in a good 100k a year for all the effort he puts into his philanthropic work.


Warning to Auxiliares de Conversacion in Spain

NOTE: I haven’t checked in on the status of this in a LONG time. I don’t think there’s much concern about this situation and I don’t want to discourage anyone from taking part in this program.

After looking over the Facebook groups, here and here, for Auxiliares de Conversacion in Spain, I saw mentioned that some Auxiliares are not getting paid, or are getting paid in strange ways. Anybody considering this program should be made aware of this immediately and should take this into consideration.

The problem is mostly regional. The regions worst affected are Murcia and Galicia, whose government coffers have been emptied. Some people have not been paid in several months are running out of money. One girl is apparently down to her last €2.

Madrid is apparently affected too, but I have not had any problems, nor have my friends. Keep in mind though, Madrid is the region with the largest number of Auxiliares. I do know of one girl who had to wait a long time for her check. Also, whenever she was late, they threatened to cut her salary—which is pretty much unthinkable for most funcionarios.

In all regions, there’s another big problem. Often they withhold your first check for a month or two or three until the Autonomous Region deposits your funds into their account. I didn’t have this problem at my school, but I was somewhat lucky. Most people, however, don’t have this problem for more than a month, but some have it until December, which means living off of pasta and margarine and worrying about the rent until Christmastime when you get a lump sum in your account.

Also, some regions don’t pay you monthly. One girl says that she only gets paid twice a year in Pais Vasco, once in November and once in April. It means you have to manage your money better, but at least they pay you early rather than late.

Keep in mind, if you’re considering this program, that you make more money in Madrid, even if Madrid is going broke and has a higher cost of living. At €1000 you make €300 more than all the other regions (including the very pricy Basque Country and Catalonia). The Spanish government, fearing that you’ll take this use this information to your advantage and apply to Madrid, doesn’t tell you this until after your placement, but I think you should know now.

This is still your best bet (if you’re an American, at least) for getting to teach in Spain, but as the economy of Spain worsens you might want to pay attention to any slashes in government spending which could spell the end of this program. As of yet there has been no mention of this. In Madrid, the government is planning to step up its English teaching programs and make the entire Community bilingual. I suppose their intentions for doing this are so that they can enable their youngest and smartest to be able to move abroad for work, because Spain won’t be offering them much any time soon.

Nevertheless, these cases are rare and most people don’t have any problem. The safest regions are probably the central ones surrounding Madrid (Castilla y Leon, Extremadura, Aragon) followed by Madrid, Andalucia, Catalonia and Basque Country, while some of the smaller ones like Galicia, Asturias and Murcia probably have more problems.


TEFL job search websites

If you’re looking into teaching TEFL and have a TEFL certificate, these are my personal favorite job sites to look at. It helps forming a profile and asking questions in the online forums. A wealth of online jobs. You can upload your resume and send them automatically to jobs all around the world. Best site by far.

Dave’s ESL cafe. Most informative forums about Tefling on the web. One downside, the job section is less extensive than many other sites, unless you are looking to teach in Korea or China. Due to the great forum, it’s the most informative site by far.

ESL employment. Similar to, but somewhat less easy to navigate. Good place to find esl jobs (especially for private students). One downside: you have to look specifically by region.

Esl jobs. Minimalist layout and regional searches. Overall, not as good as the above sites though.

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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in ESL, Expat, Jobs Abroad


(More) English Newspapers in Spain

I was gladdened to find an English version of El País in English. El País is one of the two main newspapers in Spain, the other being their rival, El Mundo. El Mundo, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have an English translation yet. Maybe they should hire me to get that started.

In addition, I found there are in fact quite a few more English newspapers in Spain, though most are small and focused solely on regional happenings. The few Spain-centric ones include Expatica, ThinkSpain and Typically Spanish, all of which cover the variety of issues you’d find in any major newspaper. Given that there are so many British expats in Spain (some estimates say it’s almost 1 million), I’m actually surprised there aren’t more.

Some more sites for people living abroad include SpainExpat, Transitions Abroad and EasyExpat, though there are numerous more.


“Intercambios de idiomas” in Madrid

Intercambio roughly translates to “exchange.” An intercambio de lenguas is a language exchange, a meeting of people who speak diverse languages. Usually these events take place at bars (alcohol always facilitates language speaking), and usually are centered around English-Spanish conversation, although a good number of German, French and Chinese speakers tend to show up.

While they’re marketed toward foreigners, the majority of people I meet at intercambios are Spanish, and a good portion of the time they end up speaking in Spanish to foreigners wanting to learn Spanish. They’re usually a lot of fun and are a great way to meet people if you’re new to Madrid. Think of it is a bar where everyone is open to talk to everyone else in whichever language they feel like speaking at the moment. Oh yeah, it’s totally free, too.

I’ve compiled a small list of intercambios below, sorted by day. I’ll update them as I hear about more. Don’t fail to let me know if you know of more.

O’Neill’s, 22:00; Bacchus, 21:00


Beer Station, 22:00; J&J Books and coffee, 21:00

4D, 22:00; J&J Books and coffee (quiz night), 21:00


And apart from going out, there’s also the option of looking on loquo to meet one-on-one. Though I’d be careful with that. I’ve heard most people on there want to exchange more than languages.