Monday, April 27, 2009

Working in Spain Part 1 - Earning a Living

As I mentioned in a previous post, anyone looking to move to Barcelona without an already established job will probably be looking for employment in one of the following areas: teaching English, restaurant work, on the boats, or in a call-center until they can get their Spanish up to snuff and network enough to meet the right people who can further their career ambitions; whatever they might be.

Of the four, teaching English is probably the most common.  Don't worry if you've never taught before, I can think of few people who had prior to coming to Barcelona and, while a TEFL certificate is useful, it is not a must.  That said - I found enrolling in a class when I first moved here helpful as far as getting your feet wet and meeting other people in similar situations. In regards to the work itself, as with any job, it has it's pluses and minuses.  On the positive side: you generally have a lot of free time to explore the city or pursue your hobby/passion; the pay is higher than most professions and you don't need Spanish; you're out and about and not confined to an office; and you get to meet a lot of interesting people with your work sometimes consisting of simply having a chat.   Negatively: it's feast of famine with periods of a lot of work (Feb- June, Oct  and Nov) months of little work (Jan and Dec) and times of no work (Christmas, summer and Easter), so you have to be financially prudent during the good times and save for the lean ones; only to have to repeat and start again from zero the next year when your savings are gone.  Also, there is little interaction with other teachers, so you will spend most of your time alone with either children or older adults, making it not the best way to meet people in the mid-twenties to forty range. Finally, you don't learn much Spanish speaking English all the time.

Working in a restaurant or bar is in many ways the opposite of teaching. The hours are long and nocturnal, and the pay is just decent, but it's steady, dynamic and you get to practice Spanish, while meeting people from many different places through your colleagues and the interesting characters who come in to drink.  I don't know the exact number, but there must be at least a hundred theme bars in the city, so there are plenty of spots to apply to.  Generally, some experience is a help, but like most places in the world - charm, looks and luck can get you in the door.

For those who have seafaring blood, there's work on the many yachts and sailboats that populate the Barcelona marina.  Your best bet upon arriving is to head to the Fastnet in Barceloneta, where you'll find everyone from the grunts who clean and prepare the boats to the ships' captains in charge of gathering a crew to sail the aqua-blue waters of the Mediterranean.  Buy them a pint, and I'm sure they'll be happy to explain the intricacies of landing a job far better than I can.

And, if neither of these appeal to you, there are also a few European call-centers run by such multinationals as Citibank and SAP, which I imagine are a lot like the call-centers where you live, but located in Barcelona with a wage less than your home country, but think of it as the price to live here.  Plus the salary's enough to get by and enjoy the city, so it might be just the thing if you don't mind that kind of work.

Those are the main areas people work in upon arriving in Barcelona.  Of course, there are other options, depending on your qualifications, languages and aspirations, so if anyone has any questions or something to add, feel free to drop me an e-mail or write a comment.

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