Work Abroad but earn in USD

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Teaching English is NOT a Viable Way For Expats to Earn a Living

I just read a post on another expat blog that I wanted to point out to all the readers here. It talks about the author's experience trying to earn an income by teaching English here. I was shocked at the low salaries they are paying. The fact is, the best English schools were paying $15 pesos per hour (less than U.S. minimum wage!). It would be very difficult to live on that here.

This just goes to highlight the advice given by ApartmentsBA from about a week ago... have a plan before moving here or expect trouble. The author of this blog is now looking to start a business here (a much better idea).

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Blogger mattyboy said...

Hi, thanks for posting a link to my blog.

There seems to be a few of us bloggers around BA, and maybe more around argentina. I've started a page that links to those bloggers who are in Argentina. The page is Blogger in Argentina.

Maybe you could put a link to it on your page?


3/09/2006 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous vivaBarca said...

Totally agreed - the idea of making a sustainable living as an English teacher is farce.

In total ignorance I signed up for one of those TEFL courses before I arrived (I guess I just couldn't resist the slick marketing and all those cheery "testimonials") but now I'm kicking myself, wishing I had saved the $1,200. It'd buy me a few more months living here, that's for sure.

At any rate even if you want to dabble in English teaching as a way to raise some bar money, you don't even need a teaching degree.

Keep up the good work on the site.

3/30/2006 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous El Americano said...

I taught Coversational English for many years in B.A..

I had students at Unilever, IBM, Anderson, Edenor and a bunch of other places all around el centro.

In the months leading up to the corralito it started drying up. High-level execs no longer got one-on-one classes but were pooled together instead into one large class.
Up to around that time I was making about $15 to 25 DOLLARS an hour and was pretty much booked full-time. Well, actually, full-time turned out to be just 25-30 hours a week because in Argentina you can't help but see you "work ethics" falter. Too many asados, partidos, minitas and what-have-you constantly going on to really focus on work. Or even want to.

Of course, I was making a shitload of money compared to my argie friends and could afford to goof-off. I also owned the apt. I lived in in Floresta (expensas= $25 a month!)

When they started consolidating the English classes (and this was happening to ALL of us ex-pats) I found my hours had gone done drastically and new students were getting harder to find.
The pesificacion put the final bullet into this (once) very lucrative gig by keeping the hourly rate at 15 PESOS.

Things were getting tough for me financially because even though I qualified for some excellent jobs there (& I speak fluent castellano) my age was a barrier.


Gimme a freakin' break. I even went to one job interview and the guy said "you're exactly what we were looking for for this position". Until he found out I was 35. It was almost like being black in Alabama while applying for a job at City Hall.

I was starting to hurt for cash and I didn't want to wind up eating-up my assets (as I had seen a few other expats do) so I packed it up and shuffled off to Buffalo.
Or Orange County, CA to be more precise.

The crime rates were also getting puuuuuurdy worrisome and I knew many friends who had bad experiences in that regard. In fact, I myself was riding a motorcycle with a friend in the bosques de ezeiza and was shot at by would-be thieves about two weeks before leaving Argentina back in 1998. Fortunately no-one was hurt but I considered the event an omen and it kinda reassured me that I was doing the right thing by leaving. Mind you, I remember a time in Argentina 15-20 years ago when you could walk without a care in the world almost ANYWHERE in B.A.. People put their chairs out on the sidewalks to drink mate and chat everywhere. The amount of cars was a tenth of what it is today. There was a military government but if you had an American passport you were always safe. I happen to have proved that myself several times :-).

Sorry I'm ramblin' here. So many good memories of Argentina. But I myself wouldn't consider moving back there. I think it's changed too much and for the worse.

5/14/2006 12:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You could not be more right. And I wish I had figured that out long ago. Teaching English in Buenos Aires for an expat is a waste of time unless you get hooked up with a bilingual school for the long term. It can be done but takes some work before had. And not always what you might want.

Only way to make a living and teach English in Buenos Aires is through private students. They can be hard to get and harder to keep. But you may get a few.

Teaching for the institues is a joke. Due the math. You will not be teaching moore than 4 -6 hours a day. And actually, one hour of teaching is more like 3 hours. 1 hour to prep, 1 hour to teach and 1 hour of travel time and getting into buildings and finding your way around.

If you have a room mate, and don't mind being dirt poor with no social life, then teaching is fine. But you won't save money, you might get screwed a few times with pay checks, you will be over worked, and with little to no time to learn Spanish. Or desire.

Out of the 8 people in my TEFL class, no one is still teaching after 1 year. Only 1 person made it one year.

After I tried my hand at teaching, I went on to other things that didn't work out either. It has been very difficult. Mostly odd jobs here and there. Rough.

6/26/2006 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Mad_Maxx said...

"Teaching English is NOT a Viable Way For Expats to Earn a Living."

This is a nice way of putting it. Like many others here I also did the English conversation thing for a year and a half upon arrival. Not only is it a waste of time but it keeps you from learning Spanish. So you shouldn't even consider it an option before you come here. Listen to us who know. To survive here you need to open your own business. That in itself is a nightmare but that's what you have to do.

7/26/2006 02:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I are planning on moving to BA for 1 year, beginning in about 9 months... we were going to try and teach english in order to pay for food and some travel... we have quite a bit of USD saved ($35,000) and will be making 1/2 of my salary ($30,000) for the year...

With this savings is taking the TEFL courses and teaching english worthwhile? Necessary? or a waste of time and money? Please help...

I realize that argentines are modest about discussing $ issues, but I just want to know what we should expect...

Can US citizens on tourist visas work? Waitresses/Waiters? We are artists, can we set up shop and sell artwork?

Sorry about the rambling questions, any help would be appreciated

9/14/2006 01:50:00 AM  
Anonymous El Americano said...

A waiter or waitress in Argentina makes about 400 pesos A MONTH. That's roughly $120 bucks.

And lemme tell you something more: argentinios are NOT great tippers. In fact they rarely tip at all, even in the finer establishments.
There is NO equivalent concept of leaving %15 of the bill or whatever as a tip in a restaraunt for example. The best you can hope for is to be left 'las moneditas del vuelto". Don't go spending that all in one place now!.

As for setting up an art shop: you'd be up against hundreds and even thousands of very gifted artisans, street vendors and handicraft-makers that are STARVING and who sell their products DIRT CHEAP.

I'm sorry to say this BUT, the mere THOUGHT of your considering to move to Argentina and perform these menial jobs certainly exhibits a total lack of understanding about the country and it's economic problems.

10/05/2006 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It sounds like teaching English is not a good route. Do you have any suggestions as to what is a better choice? Starting my own business is probably not an option. A friend and I are moving to BA next fall and are hoping to just live and experience Argentina. We have no goals of making lots of money, but it would be nice to make something while there so that I do not lose tons of money. Is it possible to even find random jobs without a work visa? How does that work? Any help or advice you can offer would be greatly apprecicated!!

3/30/2007 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Joey said...

It is not unusual that we just want to believe whatever fits our plans. Please understand that Argentina is not the USA that finding a job is very difficult and if you do find one, what you will make will be insignificant. If you have income in US dollars (retirement, savings)then it is a great place to live and/or visit. If you want to work the USA is a better place even in the midst of the worse crisis.

10/11/2010 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I studied in the U.S. got my degree there and some experience in ESL as well. I'm Argentinean and had to come back here for personal reasons which prevented me from staying over there...Not long after I arrived about 6 years ago I was hired to teach in company as well as some private students right away...Despite the low salaries, it gave me a career here because I had to start all over again. Even though most of these comments about poor salaries are demoralizing, really this gave me a career path to start with something in my own country since the U.S. could not offer me any jobs...despite my degrees and my Spanish well, this is what I have and I aim for more: my own language school. I'm not here just to try something to do, I really need to build something up out of all my experience abroad, something that most language coordinators lack: an education and experience abroad. And, if most foreigners are struggling with poorly paid salaries is because they might not be valuing their native language skills. In my case: I'm trying to make my eduation abroad be valuable because people here just hire any teacher: a student, someone with a First Certificate degree or the like, and they think they are learning English! so learn to value what you have

12/16/2010 02:45:00 AM  

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