While Spain has been a long-standing popular destination for teaching English in Europe, many teachers find Latin America to be a more suitable choice for their careers. Latin America offers a unique blend of cultural experiences, diverse teaching environments, and the opportunity to immerse yourself in distinct Spanish dialects and traditions. Additionally, the demand for English teachers in many Latin American countries is high, providing ample job opportunities. This region presents a different set of advantages, such as lower living costs and a variety of climates, which can be more appealing to some teachers.
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For many people, the opportunity to learn a new language is one of the great benefits of teaching English abroad. When it comes to learning Spanish, the assumption that Spain is the best place to do so is certainly a common one. However, in reality the type of Spanish used in Spain actually uses accents and slang terms that are vastly different to the language spoken in other Spanish speaking countries. In fact, many native Spanish speakers from outside of Spain have trouble understanding and being understood in the original home of the language. In contrast, if you learn Spanish in almost any part of Latin America, you should have little trouble being understood right across the region. In fact, many people are surprised to hear that Colombia is said to be the home of the cleanest Spanish language spoken anywhere in the world.
When it comes to the cost of living, almost every part of Latin America is more affordable than anywhere in Spain. The majority of teaching positions available in Spain are found in big cities such as Barcelona and Madrid where everyday living costs are very high. Essential things such as housing, public transport and groceries, as well as entertainment are all substantially more expensive than you will find in most teaching destinations across Central and South America. For example: The chilean capital, Santiago, is well known to be one of the more expensive places to live in South America, yet it is still around 20% more affordable than living in Barcelona, while Mexico City is bursting with teaching jobs and has a cost of living that is about half of that in Madrid. With so many savings to be made on everyday living, most teachers find they have more money in their pocket while living and working in Latin America than they would have if they chose to head to Spain to teach English.
Spain is a notoriously difficult place for non-EU citizens to secure an official work visa which leads most people to work with nothing more than a short-term tourist visa in their passport. This approach is common practice, although it is technically illegal and not a route that everyone is comfortable taking. In contrast, in many Latin American countries, including Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico, it is relatively straightforward for foreign teachers to get their hands on a long-term work visa. In countries where work visas are not so simple to secure, such as Costa Rica and Nicaragua, it is actually legal to work with only a three-month tourist visa that can then be easily renewed by simply visiting a neighbouring country for the weekend and getting a new one on the way back.
Throughout Spain there are specific hiring seasons when the majority of vacant positions are filled. To take advantage of these peak seasons it is essential that you are in the country applying and interviewing for jobs around September or January. If you arrive in Spain outside of these windows you might find you have a hard time finding a good quality teaching position. In contrast, Latin American countries typically have no specific hiring seasons which allows you to arrive at any time of the year and still have a high chance of finding a suitable job.
Other than positions offered via the Cultural Ambassadors Program, teaching jobs in Spain are largely secured following a face-to-face interview so few people arrive with a job already arranged. If you would prefer to have everything organized before you leave home, you will find many countries in Latin America where advanced recruitment is possible, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Mexico.
On top of all the previously mentioned benefits, teachers from North America will find the similar time zones to be a real advantage. As most of Latin America is within a few hours difference, it can be much easier for Americans and Canadians to stay in contact with home compared to living in Europe. Also, the shorter physical distance that most teachers will have makes returning home for short visits during public holidays much more realistic than taking the long trip back across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain.