I lived in Spain from October 2008 until June 2012. In that time, I spent one year in A Coruña, one year in Logroño, and two years in Huelva. For the first two years, I worked as a teacher for small private language schools, and I spent the last two years teaching for International House.
I travelled extensively throughout the country during these four years.
All the below views are my own and were true for my time in Spain- but things may have changed since writing this.
Spain is a real behemoth in ELT. There are small private language schools, large chain schools, university programmes, and plenty of teachers doing private lessons. International House and British Council have a major presence in Spain.
I never worked in any of the big cities (Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, etc.) and I think this is why I was always well paid in Spain. In the bigger cities, there are so many English teachers available that it drives the wages down. Not so if you go to a small city in Andalucia!
Learners and colleagues
Spanish learners are the best. Adult learners are open and willing to make mistakes. Teenagers are friendly and try their best. Primary children are warm. The parents of young learners are eager to chat to their child’s teacher about their progress and welfare.
My colleagues in Spain were just fantastic. I found two distinct ‘types’ of teacher- one more experienced and settled in Spain long-term, and one with less experience and new to Spain. Both were wonderful colleagues.
Most small language schools offer nothing in the way of training or support- it is very much a moneymaking venture for them. However, larger schools and especially International House, offer regular and high-quality training opportunities for teachers. I know from experience that International House in Andalucia have an annual conference for teachers, too.
There are many teacher organisations in Spain, such as TESOL Spain and ACEIA (Asociación de Centros de Enseñanza de Idiomas de Andalucía). These organisations offer a healthy calendar of events.
Standard and cost of living
The standard and cost of living vary depending on where you are in the country. If you choose to live in Barcelona, for example, prices will be high and wages will be low. However, if you work for International House in Andalucia, prices will be low and wages will be sufficient for you to live well- or they were when I lived there.
Trains and buses are reasonably priced and plentiful, throughout Spain. Plenty of budget airlines operate out of Spanish airports.
I cannot stress this enough: Spain is the most fascinating country. Its diversity is astounding. Compare Galicia in the north west with Andalucia in the south. In Galicia they play the bagpipes; it’s cold and wet. In Andalucia they have flamenco, and the dry heat of Seville. Compare the greenery of the Basque Country with arid Extremadura. Compare the fresh and delicate seafood on the coasts to the hearty stews in the north. You will never be bored travelling in Spain.
Culture and cultural events
Spanish culture defies a simple summary. Everything you have heard about the Spanish and their culture is true- and then some.
As for cultural events, this really depends where you live. Smaller cities don’t have big concerts or great museums, but they do have the evening paseo, when people walk (often in the main square) to see and be seen. Smaller cities will still have delicious Spanish food and going out is a cultural event in itself.
Larger cities have the usual concerts, museums and galleries. It goes without saying that Madrid and Barcelona take the lead in this. When in Madrid, why not have a look at Picasso’s Guernica, at the Reina Sofia? Or perhaps check out the works by Velázquez, Goya and El Greco in the Prado museum.
As a woman
I always felt comfortable in Spain, especially as being out late at night is the norm.
Catcalling was rare- I only experienced it in the bigger cities.
Plenty of English teachers move to Spain and fall in love with a Spanish person. It’s easy to meet people, including friends of friends, so if you are looking for a relationship, I’m sure you’ll find one!
So, should I teach English in Spain?
If you are even slightly considering it, I recommend you go for it! I loved my time there, and still miss it.