Five ways the crisis may affect foreigners working in Spain

1. That guilty feeling of being employed…

10 months ago in Melbourne we had an induction session for the 2012-2013 Australian Language Assistants in Spain program. One girl asked if, as employed foreigners in Spain, Spaniards may view us with some hostility given that Spain has hit a 26% unemployment rate (55% amongst 16-24 year olds). The (Spanish) program coordinator told us that:

  • we shouldn’t see it that way; that our job to teach English (with the fluency of a native speaker) isn’t applicable to Spaniards;
  • teaching English to native Spanish speakers would help to improve their employability, presumably to work abroad or for some opportunities here in Spain (such as becoming a bilingual teacher).

While there is some truth to this, it hasn’t stopped me feeling guilty when I hear people (understandably) complain about not finding work or that their pay checks are steadily shrinking. I have also been asked by a nosey curious teacher at my high school how much I am earning each month, and a couple of my students have asked (despite my schlocky clothing) if I am rich. This made me really uncomfortable, but I think as an employed foreigner in Spain this is something that you have to deal with. Having said that, most Andalusians have only welcomed me with open arms, excited to introduce me to their pueblo.

2. Endless opportunities to teach English (at least within the pueblos)…

I can only speak as someone who has lived in a smaller town, but there is a lot of work to tutor both adults and kids. But of course people are a little short at the moment, so the going rate here is roughly 10 euro/hour (or more if you can get more people in the class). The language assistant group Facebook pages language assistants try to pawn off classes because they find there is more demand than they can supply. Many Spaniards are hoping to pass their B1 or B2 exams, or introduce their child to some native English from a young age.

My advice is if you’re learning Spanish do a few intercambios as well, particularly with people roughly your age or breed; these people may end up being your buenos amigos, and we all need some of those.

3. Accept that you may need to say goodbye to some of those buenos amigos

Given that employment is becoming a rarity here in Spain, many people are looking for work abroad in places like the UK or Germany. Since I’ve been living here, I’ve had to say goodbye to two or three of my closest friends. This can be una shit.

4. You’ll need to engage in the conversation at some point….

Just like you can’t travel to Israel without becoming entangled in a heated debate about the Middle Eastern conflict, you can’t live in Spain without engaging in a conversation on ‘la crisis.’

lolcat fighting

It helps to keep up with the news and listen to some locals’ opinions. Whether you want to or not. At my school I hear teachers talking about it on a daily basis, and when I can keep up with the Spanish/current events it gets interesting. Get your Spanish friends a beer and bring up the crisis and listen to what they have to say.

But not everyone wants to talk about it. Some don’t want anything to do with the protests or strikes, while others at your job may ask if you’re joining in (but from my experience you’ll never be expected to or judged if you don’t.

5. Life is cheaper

When euros are short the gastos (expenses) go down. Enjoy it. But don’t forget to shop local to support those who need your euros most! Avoid chains like Mercadona, and you’ll be rewarded with not being forced to listen to that song over and over as you shop.



  1. Great post, but you should be more careful when generalizing, specially about a 47 million population as diverse as the Spaniards. Reading your post, one might think that people there are indigents, when, as in all places, there are extremely rich people and others really poor, and many middle class.
    Also, I don’t know about Australia, but in Spain is really common that someone will ask you how much are you earning as soon as they start getting to know you. Logically, there are people who like this and others who don’t.

  2. I think that’s a good point to make. I live in a smaller town, where of course to some degree there is rich and poor and in between, but I guess being a town (plus my work is outside if the centre) I see a lot of the low-class areas and people who are really suffering. But I understand that not everywhere has been affected like that (particularly parts in northern Spain).
    I was actually asked about my wage really early on, and I figured it may be a cultural thing. I guess coming from AUs it made me a bit uncomfortable because it’s not really acceptable there. But I know people here tend to be more open and honest (why hide?)

    • You’re right, that’s how it is in the pueblos :).
      But as said, at the end it depends on the person. I don’t mind saying what I earn if I am asked by somebody I have know for a while. If I am asked before, I might think that that person is rude and disrespectful.
      Great blog, is really interesting!

  3. Good post! Many of my students often tell me how lucky I am to have such a wonderful job and I’m inclined to agree with them, given the shambolic state of affairs at the moment. Granada is one of the worst hit of all the Spanish cities. I think only Cadiz is worse off actually. I once touched on the crisis in class when we were discussing stereotypes and how perhaps Spanish people always seem to be complaining about it. I meant it in a lighthearted way, but it came out wrong, and then trying to backpedal in English didn’t go so well either! I got there in the end though.

    And the Mercadona jingle does make me smile I have to say. Have you heard the minimal house remix? Hilarious.

    • how old are your students? I can perfectly imagine that situation, and trying to explain yourself in simple english is difficult with such a complicated issue!
      haha i have heard the remix 🙂 it’s just as annoying as the original 😀

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