Archive | July, 2014

Salaries in Spain

Posted on 26 July 2014 by American expat!

Salaries in Spain and How People Live on Them

I’ve talked about this topic before more or less in my Cost of Living in Barcelona post, but in this post I’ve interviewed another American expat for a little different perspective (though it turns out it is not so different than mine).

My interviewee makes about 2K a month by teaching private English lessons. That’s a decent wage here. She works about 20-25 hours a week, not including travel and prep time. She will work out of people’s homes or set up meetings in cafes.

I started the interview by bringing up a well known fact: Many people in Spain and in Barcelona live on 1000 -1500 Euros a month salaries (salaries are monthly here and they receive 14 of them – a double payment in August and in December). My interviewee took it from there:

“Yep, 14 thousand bucks a year people are living on. Can you live comfortably at 1100 or 1200 Euros a month? Yes…comfortably means you are going to share a flat, eat moderately–Euro style, not American style–meaning eat at home most days, or else go for cheap tapas places, and you’re going to know all the places that are 5 euros and under, and you’ll still have a nice social life.”

I asked about what kinds of activities one would be able to do, and what would need to be to scaled back.

“If you make 1200 a month, you’ll still do stuff, but again, you’ll eat moderately, not American style, because its more expensive here and the portions are smaller. You’ll take your lunch or go home to eat lunch or even dinner. You’ll buy food a the grocery store and prepare it at home. When shopping, it’s different and can be cheaper because things are not pre made for you already like in the US. So you don’t pay for all this packaging and pre-chopped or separated stuff. You buy mostly fresh, and it’s all local so it’s quite cheap.”

For your leisure time…You’ll have some cheap drinks before you go to the club…then you just do some budgeting to take some travel or other leisure time. You could say that it’s the equivalent to the US standard of a University student standard of living. But that’s how Europeans live-they live in smaller spaces, they are on top of each other, and it’s OK. Europeans live smaller in every way, but their social lives are much richer for it, because you just walk out into the street and pay to be entertained: Picnics with friends, free concerts, free movies, neighborhood celebrations and events, free everything. There are a tons of free city sponsored events, especially in summer, and Europeans take advantage of it.”

“In terms of space…everything is like 50 percent smaller, or even more. No one has dryers…So, because of this, you can live a comfortable Euro style life and on 1200 a month you’re basically fine. And if you are making 1500 or 1600, you are golden.”

My next question was one that I imagine my readers would ask: What about if you don’t want a “University student lifestyle” and want your own space?

“If you want your own space, you better have a decent job, like in technology or a US company that has an office here (HP is a big one in Barcelona) because rent will be like 700 to 800 Euro or more for a one or two bedroom space. And then you still have to pay electric and gas–if you even have gas [Note: many places don’t]. And you’ll need money down. One month’s commission to the agency, because you will use an agency, and then two months rent deposit. You’ll need a NIE to get your own place most likely. An agency wants to see your income, they need to secure as much money down as possible. As a language teacher, not unless you work for an academy that is giving you a long term contract with a salary, you won’t find an agency that will give you your own place. And then you are going to end up renting a room.”

So what’s the cheapest room a person can find? And would you want to live there?

I’ve seen some rooms that go for as little as 300–that can’t be good place though. That’s an interior room with no window, and it will be a closet. And you’ll be sharing a bathroom with 4 other people. And everything else. But a place in the center, or a desirable part of town [near the Parc Ciutadella, Gracia, Eixample Izquierda], or with your own bathroom and/or balcony or terrace…You’ll  pay 400-500 on average. Depending on how nice the place is and if it has natural light, a lift, has been renovated, is big, is full of other people, it can go up or down from there.

I hope this interview has shed some light on what you can expect to find in Barcelona and the other big cities in Spain. Rent takes up a big portion of people’s salaries, which is why you will find 35 year old’s still living with their parents. Of course, outside the city, property values and thus rents are much lower, with a few exceptions.  But then…you are outside of the city.


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Expat Interview: Lisette on Teaching English

Posted on 03 July 2014 by American expat!

This is the first in a series of interviews with fellow American expats, where I ask them the questions that my readers ask me.

In this interview, I talk with Lisette about teaching English as a non-EU resident. I hope ya’ll find it helpful and informative.

How difficult is it to find a company that will hire a foreigner to teach English?

“I’ve never gone to an academia [language school] for work, but this year I will and it is not difficult. It isn’t difficult if you know how to write your CV and if you are presentable – like if they meet you they like what they see. Some places will give you a test, like answer how you would teach XYZ, where you describe how you would teach a certain topic. You can’t fake teaching it because they’ll know.

Some places will just hire you because they are only going to pay you 9 or 10 bucks an hour. But you can find work in an academy, but it’s important to look at the beginning of September, end of August, also the beginning of summer.”

Do you need a NIE?

“It depends on the academy; if they are willing to work with you then it’s no problem if you don’t. You just tell them up front. You say: ‘I don’t have a NIE, I don’t have the papers to work, will that be a problem?’ and then they either say yes or no. I’d say there is a 50-50 chance either way. Some good schools need official paperwork, and then there are others where maybe the pay isn’t great but it isn’t so bad that you would turn them down if they offered you a job, then there are others that are far outside of town, that you’ll have to travel to that will be willing to work with you because, hey, they need teachers out there.

And there are some that are looking for British teachers over American teachers. I’d say that is the biggest competition you will find, is the British teachers. They are looking for them because obviously they have the paperwork, but they also have European English and accent they are looking for. In my experience I’ve never had a problem with documentation for work. I think if they really like you they tend to bend some rules, though they are getting stricter this year I’ve heard. They’ll pay you less without papers however, some schools will use that as leverage to pay you less. The average for an academy is like 15 an hour.”

You’ve gone and set up your own particulares [private lessons] What do you charge for those?

“I charge 25, and won’t take less. There are some younger students that I might take 20 for, because they are just children so really I’m getting paid to play with them. And even some of those repeat customers I’ll go down to 178 an hour because I see them so much. But with my professional students and test prep students I charge 20-25.”

Where are you finding your clients? and But I haven’t had one hit from Donprofesor, at least I don’t think so. Both are free sites though.”

Are you getting students from referrals?

“I get referrals all the time and I get repeat students all the time. They might disappear for a year but then come to me first when they want lessons.”

How important is your CV when looking for a contracting company or an academy? What information do you need to include on it?

“You know, I have no idea! I make up my resume like I would in the US, I put my full name and address, I don’t put my age even though it is expected here. I don’t put anything like my marital status and NIE like others do. I don’t put any of those things even though later they might ask me. Photos are important though, they will ask for one if you don’t include one. There was one time when I didn’t include a picture and they asked for it even though they had already met me. ‘By the way can you add your photo?’ Later on they told me ‘You have such a pretty face you should always include your picture!’ ][laughs]

So in short, I don’t follow the rules, I don’t include everything that might be expected, but I always put my picture. My advice would be to make your picture look as good as possible, photoshop it, I would! [laughs] My photo is professional, but I’ve also used a non-professional photo, just my face and no more, as opposed to my professional photo where I am wearing a jacket and you can see more of me. And when I interview I will wear a jacket, no cleavage, and so on. I don’t ever have a problem, though I could see where there might be a huge hindrance, like if you show up and then you are competing with all these people who present better than you do. You need any edge you can get.”

Thanks Lisette!

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