Finding Work and Making Friends in Spain

With a bit of preparation, you can put your English skills to good use in Spain. Earn money, make friends, and begin to build your Spanish skills for other applications.

For me, finding work proved quite effortless. I found a job within three days of arriving in Marbella, teaching English at a local private school.

I’d done a T.E.F.L course years previously and remembered to bring the certificate with me before I embarked for Spain. The fact that I didn’t speak Spanish also helped me secure the job. The school specifically wanted a teacher who could not speak Spanish to force the students to speak in English.

The school contracted me to work 20 hours a week, which left me plenty of time to explore Marbella and make new friends. The pay wasn’t great but it was enough to cover my rent.

One of the fun parts of traveling alone is that you’re forced to get out and about and make friends. When you travel with a friend, you have an immediate safety circle. When you’re alone you have to find a new circle.

Marbella is a very different town today but back then it was a lively resort with plenty of bars. I picked an Irish bar in the old town and quickly met some other English and Irish expats who’d been living in Marbella for a number of years. Within two weeks, I felt pretty much at home.

I taught in the school from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm four days a week; some weeks I did a few hours on a Saturday morning. The classes were great fun.

As well as local Spanish people, I had students from Russia, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil. While I taught them English I was able to pick up Spanish from them.

Teaching the students English also gave me an understanding of the differences between Spanish and English grammar, which was a great help to me when I started to learn Spanish seriously.

I learned some great tips from my students too. For example if you put the question “¿Es possible?” or “¿Es necessario?” in front of a Spanish verb, the verb remains in the infinitive so it’s not necessary to know the verb endings.

I worked in that school for almost a year until, due to financial difficulties, it was forced to close. My students loved my classes. As a person at the beginning of a great adventure, I brought lots of energy to the lessons and the students picked up on that.

To make extra money, I started giving private English lessons and was able to charge a reasonable hourly rate.

When I wanted to practice the Spanish the students taught me, I headed out to a tapas bar and spoke with the local people. Spaniards are really appreciative of anyone who makes an effort to learn and they were more than happy to correct my mistakes and explain the right way to say things.

In fact the Spanish love to explain. They love to talk. Very often I’d think that they were giving me a big long lecture when actually they were simply saying the same thing in four different ways. I learned quickly that Spanish is a versatile language and the best way to approach it is with an open mind.

Our final article pulls it all together: From deciding where to live to setting up your personal finances and making friends, you can benefit from the lessons our author learned in her voyage to becoming a resident of Spain!