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.
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.
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.
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!