Spain is one of the most popular TEFL destinations in Europe and it attracts thousands of teachers from all over the world every year. However, before you jump on the plane to sunny Spain, you might want to consider what Latin America has to offer. When armed with all the facts, many teachers decide that a country in this region is actually better suited to them.
Where is the best place to learn the Spanish language?
One of the many benefits of teaching English abroad is it provides a perfect opportunity to learn another language during your stay. Many people choose Spain as their teaching destination as they assume it is the best environment for learning the Spanish language. However, the reality is that the Spanish spoken in Spain uses an accent and slang that is very different to anywhere else, to the point that Spanish speakers from other countries can find it difficult to understand. This is even more of an issue in certain regions of the country such as the Basque Region and Catalonia where the regional dialects are even more unique. In contrast, the cleanest Spanish is said to be spoken in Colombia, although the Spanish learned in any part of Latin America will normally be understand throughout the region.
What is the cost of living in Spain compared to Latin America?
The bottom line here is that almost any destination in Latin America will be a more affordable place to live than Spain. The majority of teachers who head to Spain will live and work in Madrid or Barcelona where the cost of living is very high. Rents, transportation, groceries, eating and drinking, and other entertainment will all cost substantially more than in the most popular teaching destinations across Latin America. For example: Santiago is one of the most expensive cities in the region, but it is still at least 20% more affordable than Barcelona. If you choose Mexico City as your destination, you will not only find a huge number of teaching jobs on offer, but also a cost of living that is around half of that in Madrid. When you add up the savings you can make on everyday expenses, you should find you have plenty more left in your pocket each week when working in Latin America than you would in Spain. Due to favourable exchange rates, any money you bring with you to Latin America will also go that much further than anything you take to Spain.
How do work visas differ between Spain and Latin America?
As official work visas are difficult to obtain for non-EU citizens in Spain, most foreign teachers end up working on nothing more than a standard tourist visa. Although this is common practice, it is still illegal and not something everyone is comfortable with. In contrast, many countries in Latin America such as Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico, make it relatively straightforward to obtain a work visa. In other countries such as Costa Rica and Nicaragua where work visas are not so easy to get, it is perfectly legal to work on a tourist visa that can be renewed every three months by crossing the border into a neighbouring country.
What about hiring seasons and getting a job in advance?
If you want to get a teaching job in Spain you really need to be on the ground job hunting during the peak hiring seasons in September or January. Outside of these times it can be much more difficult to find a suitable position. Latin America is largely open to teachers at anytime of the year, so there is no need to wait until September comes around. Also, unless you sign-up for the Cultural Ambassadors Program, it is very unlikely that you will find a teaching job in Spain in advance from within your home country. Almost all employers will want a face-to-face interview so you will need to travel to the country to interview for jobs. In Latin America there are many options for advance recruitment in several countries including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Mexico.
What other advantages does Latin America have over Spain?
One big advantage that applies to teachers from the USA and Canada is the difference in time zones. Latin America falls within the same time zones as these countries making communication with friends and family much more straightforward than if you are living in Spain. Also, the physical distance is generally less which makes it more practical for teachers from North America to head home for a visit during holiday times than it is when coming all the way from Europe.