I think teaching English abroad can become a little too glamorized in some online forums, including my own blog. While I had a blast spending the last year teaching English in Buenos Aires, it wasn’t always pleasant, and was sometimes very difficult. I’m about to unload some honesty…
Let me describe for you my schedule for an average work day:
- 8:00 – 8:40 – TRAVEL TIME to first class
- 8:45 – 10:15 – First class on the day
- 10:15 – 12:45 – Free time. What am I supposed to do? I would either go home only to turn around and come back downtown, walk around downtown window shopping, or go to a cafe and work on lesson planning.
- 1:00 – 2:30 – Second class of the day.
- 2:30 – 3:15 – TRAVEL TIME to third class.
- 3:15 – 3:30 – Lunch.
- 3:30 – 6:00 – Third and Fourth Classes, if you’re lucky enough to get a block schedule.
- 5:00 – 5:45 – TRAVEL TIME to go back home.
So now that you have an idea of an average schedule, let me tell you my complaints.
5. Travel Time and Free Time.
So in an average 9 hour day I spent over two hours in transit. I had almost three hours of free time and I only taught 4 classes. This isn’t what I would consider a very productive use of time, and leads me to my next point:
4. Not Enough Money.
4 classes a day equals a total of 5 and 1/2 hours at 30 pesos an hour. That is 165 pesos a day, 825 a week, 3,300 a month. Or roughly $825USD a month. That certainly isn’t a living wage in the USA, and it is barely enough to get by in Buenos Aires. Here is why:
Let’s account for travel expenses. At 1.25 pesos per trip, travel expenses equal approximately 75 pesos a month. Now you’re making $3,225. If you’re lucky enough to have inexpensive rent, say around $1500 pesos a month you have $1725 to live off of for the whole entire month. That’s 430 pesos a week, or 61 pesos a day. When I first arrived in Buenos Aires, that went quite a bit farther than it does today because of ….
Now inflation changes rapidly, so by the time I post this, prices will probably be different, but a coffee at a cafe could cost between 6 to 10 pesos. A sandwich between 15 – 30 pesos. A glass of beer at a bar will cost no less than 15 pesos. A few kilos of meat for an asado will cost you hundreds of pesos.
I get a lot of emails from potential English teachers asking the same question: ‘can you make a living wage teaching English in Buenos Aires?’ My honest answer is: No. You cant. Not to say that there are people who don’t, and not to say that this should stop you, if it is something you really want to do. Just bring savings.
1. Am I Your Teacher Or Your Geisha?
I really need to vent about something. While I try not to use my blog as an outlet for my tirades, when I do, I usually get a wide array of offensive responses, which has only encouraged me.
I recently decided to retire my post as English teacher and start a new career path. When I gave notice to my institute of employment, they politely asked that I recommend a replacement teacher. I knew my friend (and blog contributor) Brennan was looking for some new teaching positions, so I recommended him. Being a charismatic, educated, delightful person and good teacher, I was sure my boss would hire him on the spot. I was shocked when in response they told me: “thank you, but we’re really looking for a pretty girl to take the position.”
I was (am) SO offended. Is that why I was hired? Did my qualifications count for nothing? I suddenly second guessed my students’ intentions. Did they actually care about learning English or did they just want to spend an hour a week with a woman who wasn’t their wife nor secretary? Suddenly small gifts I’d received from my students seemed very suspicious. I felt so degraded, like I had been hired not for my skill or intelligence, but for my straight teeth and semi-blonde hair *. I ignored the email, and did not send them another candidate, nor did I respond in full angry feminist fashion saying that despite typical gender roles depicted on Argentine television, I refuse to let my status as a woman equate to being treated as sex object to be pimped out under the guise of ‘English Teacher’.
I will note, that all of my students, while mostly men, have always treated me with respect and professionalism. ___________________________________________________________
Now, I know, I can’t complain about any of this, because I willingly chose this career with my own free will. So I’m not complaining. Teaching English gave me the opportunity to move to Argentina and experience the full glory of its locura.
That being said, had I found a legitimate job out of college, and not spent a year unemployed, I probably never would have left the country to accept such a low paying, almost ridiculous job, but c’est la vie. Personally, I’m living with no regrets, but would like to provide other potential English teachers with enough information that they too, can live regret free. You’re welcome.
Tell me, other English teachers – what is your opinion?
* Please note: I don’t personally identify as a blonde, but my honey hued locks are considered by most Argentines as ‘rubia’.