A good life abroad. A little bubble.

Living in Spain and constantly hearing about the increasing unemployment rate makes me grateful for having a teaching job, courtesy of the Spanish government ministry of education language and cultural assistant’s program.  My monthly wages may not seem like much at 700 euros but it’s certainly enough to live- pay rent, pay bills, buy food, enjoy tapas and still  have a little extra for whatever I fancy. I’m lucky to live in a town in Andalacia where the cost of things are less than many cities in Spain and if I want to earn more, I can teach private English classes.

When I told my brother last August I was going to Spain to teach English, his first question was “How much is the pay?” and immediately calculated my soon to be earnings and laughed at me.  “You’re doing well, Lauren, really well. You’re going to make less than your current job.”  Ah, Thanks little brother. I can always rely on you to lift me up and make me feel good. Note to self: Don’t tell brother my goals.  I wasn’t moving to Spain to make my millions, I was coming for the experience. Wasn’t it obvious? I guess not. But you know what, his calculations weren’t accurate because he forgot to crunch numbers that health and dental insurance are included and the cost of living is less than California. Call it ironic but this is the first time a job has provided insurance.

I work 12 hours a week. 12 hours,  Don’t tell anyone I told you.   I’ll admit I feel uncomfortable when some Spaniards are curious about my job here. I try to dodge the question. I know I have it really good,  especially considering the state of the economy in Spain. Every day the news tells of new cuts in an attempt to stabilize the economy and the rate of the unemployed increases (Currently, it’s at 20%, it’s higher in some regions). I don’t know what to feel but grateful to have this opportunity.  I’m in a bubble. A bubble of employment with benefits, making a good living with minimal hours, and being able to enjoy the Spanish lifestyle.  

At the Mirador (Look out) in Granada, Alhambra in the behind me!

A teacher who often asks about my weekends and always says with a big smile on his face, “Tienes una vida buena. (You have a good life). Yes. I do. It’s true. And I’m enjoying every moment.  I’m reminded how lucky I am. Privileged to have been born speaking English, a prized  language around the world.

Yup. Sure is.

Being a teacher in Spain appears to be a good profession; Teachers don’t seem to work the crazy hours or attend endless meetings like they do in the States.  Unfortunately, the government has recently increased teaching hours from 18 to 20, in addition to their meeting and guardia (watch over a class) hours, totaling around 30 hours a week.  Salaries will be reduced next year. I’m not sure how my salary compares to their earnings but when the monthly minimum  wage is 641.50 with a 40 hour work week,  I KNOW I have it good.

I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting some expats, who after a few years as language assistants  decided to call Spain home. They find work as, English teachers teaching private classes and at Language Schools (aka as Academies). I’m reminded again  how my life in Spain is a bubble as they usually work double the hours to make a decent income. Academies often pay by the hour, a lower rate than what one can charge for private classes, and they have more responsibility and work to do (grading, lesson planning, talking with parents etc.),. They also don’t always provide health benefits or have all the holidays as many schools and banks.

Tell me, how many places or rather opportunities can you work only 12 hours and make enough to cover all your expenses and then some? Please! I was working my bum off in the Bay Area just so I could make ends meet and I was working almost triple the hours of what I work now, without health or dental insurance. Yes, I was pursuing something I loved but I knew the job wasn’t going to sustain me much longer. And, I was eating my savings each month.

Beautiful art on the walls in Granada

As I think towards the future, it’s difficult to consider jumping back in the fast lane in California after a year of the simple life filled with travel and time! It’s also hard to imagine starting a new in Spain because if I have a second year,  I’d live in a different region to experience and learn more about Spain, naturally.  I’m not sure where the road leads but transitions are guaranteed no matter where my path takes me!


20 thoughts on “A good life abroad. A little bubble.

  1. Pingback: Confessions of an Expat « Roamingtheworld

  2. We’re a lucky bunch. 😉 Though I think the bubble, at least for me, burst a while ago! I miss working for the Junta – better pay, better hours, AND benefits.

    It’s always a relief reading your posts, and talking with you, knowing that I’m not alone in feeling the same way towards Spanish life compared to life in California (aka, the fast lane!). Ah gotta love those forks in the road. But you’re right, transition is guaranteed, no matter the route. I’m often curious as to what lies ahead depending on the road I’ll choose to travel… I wish I could have a peek sometimes!

  3. You deserve the life you’ve created for yourself!!!
    I love the photo of you in Granada. You look VERY happy.

  4. I’ve wanted to come to Spain to teach English for over a year now. Ask Michi, she knows. But all the negative news of unemployment and the European debt crisis made me hesitant and it didn’t help that things were only getting worse. So I settled for teaching English here in SA.

    • Wow. I adore South Africa but never thought to go to teach English there. With such diversity, I assumed, they’re wouldn’t be programs like the one in Spain that pay you to teach. You’ll have to tell me more!

    • Thanks for commenting Azra. Come to Spain, Come to Spain. The program isn’t perfect but a great opportunity to live in Spain (one of the few, if not only). I adore South Africa but never thought it would be possible to teach English there. I assumed with English being one of the Nationally Recognized languages there wouldn’t be teaching programs similar to the one in Spain. Will have to talk more, I’m curious about your job in SA!

      • There are huge African contingents – native French, Spanish and Portuguese speaking students and professionals that come from all over Africa to learn English before they continue with their studies or advance in their careers. In addition, we have a lot of Brazilians who want to learn English as well as Chinese students who are immigrants. It is really diverse. Many of them choose South Africa because it is cheaper to learn and study here than in other countries. If you are ever interested, email me and I’ll tell you more – like which schools to avoid and which to apply to. Also, it doesn’t pay much but it is doable 🙂

  5. It is not how much you make that matters, it is how much time you have that matters. I am back at work and time flies by, weeks fly by, weekends are a blur.

    You have a great set up.

    • Thanks Guri for commenting. Yes. It’s so true. I wish more people ‘got this’ mentality. Sometimes I feel I’m swimming up stream trying to defy convention and enjoy my time. Time is all we have.

      This weekend a Chilean uncle asked me, what are you doing with your life? Just traveling! How does it help you any? I tried to explain in Spanish but knew it didn’t matter what language I explained, we will just never be on the same page. I have to accept this is ok. This is my life and I decided how I live, despite cultural and societal ‘expectations.’ There wasn’t any acknowledgement that now my Spanish is improving because I am living in Spain and can communicate a whole lot better with him! Ironic?

  6. Wait! Teachers in Spain do attend meetings! I work at a private shool, which means a two hour primary school mtg, one hour English dept mtg and two hours week mtg with parents. Enjoy auxiliar life whle you can! I got my salary slashed this ywar, along with my free hours and healthcare benefits.

    • Hi Cat,
      I want to say that teachers in Spain ‘seem’ to work ‘less’ than what teachers do in the States but of course, it depends from state to state and city to city. I know this next year, teachers are having hours increased and salaries cut! thanks for commenting!

      • Dude, i was an auxiliar for three years and loved the teaching without all of the extra work. Do you plan on staying long term? That’s where thongs get sticky, sadly. I couldn’t agree with you more that the auxiliar job is great, despite its shortcomings…but at least we aren’t in Greece!

  7. I know what you mean; I always feel a little guilty for living in the bubble. Just because I grew up speaking English, I know I can make a good life for myself in China, or Thailand, or even here in Paris — and get paid really well just for *talking*. It seems crazy sometimes.

    • Hi Edna,
      Thanks for reading. It’s good to know I’m not the only one and that other English teachers have the same sentiments teaching in other countries! How lucky we are!

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