Musings of an American Working in Spain
I recently reflected on my experience quitting my job here in Madrid. You can check out the prequel here. Although it was a difficult time in my life, it wasn’t in vain: there were several lessons that I learned from the process. I’d like to share a few here with you all, dear readers, because you may find yourself jumping into the Spanish workforce and with no context whatsoever.
"Choose your sanity and your health and your happiness. Value yourself and know your worth. And don’t stay in a place where you don’t feel like your best self... Don’t run at the drop of a dime, or scoff at hard work, but know your limits and stick to them." — Excerpt from 'I'm the Girl Who Never Quits and I Quit My Job in Spain'
What I know
The problem with teaching English in Spain is that sometimes, our employers can forget that we are people. They see walking Oxford English Dictionaries that sing and dance and wear backpacks. We are numerous and for some, that’s synonymous to disposable. When one guiri doesn’t fit, request a new one. There’s a literal waitlist of people thirsting, waiting to take your job.
The exported image of Americans is limited and exaggerated at the same time. It’s limited because not all Americans are white, upper-middle class women named Becky or guys named Jeff.
Oh you’re from Texas? You don’t talk like it. Do you like Bush? Oh you’re from California? Do you smoke weed, and where are the flowers in your hair? Oh you’re from New York, do you like pizza? (Fact: everyone likes pizza).
Well, I’m from Chicago, I’m brown, I’m smart, I’ve got a big city attitude and yes, I’m tuned into a different channel than most Spaniards and some Americans. That channel is called: Yeah, about that post-racial society, you can take that and feed it to the birds... and no, you can’t touch my hair.
In summation, most Spanish people a) ask if English is my first language or b) assume I have owned a firearm at least at one point in my life. I’m not your Becky. Hell, Becky is not your Becky. Take your eyes away from whatever ridiculous re-run of The Hills that you’ve been watching to “practice your English” and let me be great, will ya?
To all of you preparing to take the leap and move to Spain, I’m not trying to scare you. I just want you to have an idea of the climate here versus what you may be used to in America.
Work is a luxury in a place with an unemployment rate of 25% so bosses sit that much higher on their stools.
Nepotism. There’s a reason last names have so much power here.
Most young people are still in college, yes, even those approaching 30 and 35. It’s a thing.
You're one of the bunch: they can find someone else to do your job because at the end of the day, what most academies need is a college degree, a passport from an English speaking nation and well, for you to be literate. Everything else is a bonus! It’s the cream cheese frosting on the red velvet cake, but not necessarily essential.
Currently, Spain is on the struggle bus in some areas; however, the older generations are still under the illusion of the grand, royal, colonizing, empire of the past. Working in Spain has been such a wonderful adventure and a challenge at the same time. I believe this is a topic worth exploring, talking about and even laughing about too because part of being cultural ambassadors is getting a little messy, and diving head first into these rare, but awesome, learning experiences.
Danni, Community Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful life partner. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.