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Angry Expat: Auxiliares de Conversación

Teach English in Spain

Ok, I hardly ever write angry posts. Because let’s be honest, who wants to read an angry blog? Nobody. I always try to focus on the positive in my writing, the good experiences, lo bueno as we say in Spain. I may throw in some disgruntled statements here and there topped with a boatload of sarcasm, but I always try to revert back to the positive in the end. I always try to be a positive person. However, this is an angry post. No two ways about it. I am pissed, no wait, livid. That’s right, LIVID: ALL-CAPS AND MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! (If you want a typical happy Liz travel post, stop reading now and scroll down farther. You’ve been warned.)

As most of you already know, I teach English in Spain on a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Education called Auxiliares de Conversación or English Language and Culture Assistants. I wrote this long blog post last March with my thoughts on the program. So much has changed since then, and now I am going to tell you what I really think. I would say about 95% of people who do this program do it because they want to live in Spain. Not because they want to be teachers, not because they want teaching experience, not to help little children learn about English language and culture. Sure, that may be part of it, but I bet you the main reason is because they want to live in Spain, and it’s one of the only ways to live legally in Spain as an American. And you know what? The Spanish government takes FULL advantage of that.

Our contract says that we are to work 12 hours a week and be paid 700 euros a month as a stipend from October 1 to May 31. Really awesome, right? The program also tells us that we should come with about $1000 saved up to live off of for the first month until we get paid at the end of the first month, around November 1. However, it is almost Christmas and many of the auxilaires around Spain have still not been paid, that’s right, 3 months late. The program has been around for years, and yet, this issue comes up every year. Not with every region, but for many. Last year in Andalucía, my school just paid me every month and then kept the checks when they finally arrived from the government, but after all the budget cuts going on, few schools are willing to do this. After so many years, how can the Ministry of Education still be so disorganized?

Thousands of foreigners come every year with this scholarship to teach English in Spain, it is not a small group of people who is affected. And thousands more apply and don’t even get a spot. This program has become extremely popular, especially in the States as an ideal post-college pre-real world second study-abroad opportunity. The Ministry of Education knows this and knows how much we want to be here, and I think they take advantage of that by making us put up with a lot of bureaucratic bull****, knowing that we can’t and won’t do anything about. Not getting paid for 3 months? It’s not like we’ll stop working and go home. We can’t even afford a flight since we’ve used all our savings to live off of. Want to complain to someone about it? The majority of government don’t answer their phones or emails. Ever.

Besides, the people who run this program in Madrid and in the various Autonomous Communities around Spain are champions at not taking the blame for anything. If you can miraculously get a hold of someone to talk to about this program, they most likely cannot resolve your issues or even put you in contact with someone else who could. Nor will they fight for you. They just say, yeah we understand, it sucks. Sorry. Bye. I wish I was kidding! I have had this conversation with various government workers over the years, and it always ends the same. Oh no, it’s not our fault, it’s so-and-so’s fault but it will be fixed soon. When? Not sure. Soon. Don’t worry. If I had a euro for every time I had this conversation with a government employee I would be rich; I would certainly get more money from the government that way than from my actual work contract.

So what triggered this angry blog post? About this time every month I call up the Ministry of Education coordinator in La Rioja to ask when will I be paid for this month’s work. And yes, you got it, today was that happy day. Can we just start with the fact that I have to call them in the first place? That should give you some idea of what this program is like. 3 months later I still haven’t been officially paid yet, along with hundreds of other Americans in Spain. Luckily, one of my schools has been lending me the money, but I found out today that that’s going to stop for December. When will I get paid for December was my next question. Especially since the schools go on holiday from the 23 to January 9th. No matter how many ways I asked this question, the only answer I got was that they don’t know but hopefully soon, it’s out of their hands, it’s not their problem, ect. Word for word they said it was not their responsibility to make sure we get paid. Finally when I asked to speak to the director, he came on and said there was nothing more he could say and hung up on me. Yeah, he flat out hung up.

Again, it would be one thing if this was the first time this has happened, but this is the 3rd month in a row. I am also very angry at the way the Ministry of Education workers have been treating us. Every time I get off the phone with them or leave a meeting, somehow I feel like this is all my fault for not being OK with not getting paid. I mean, I am pretty sure I have the right to be paid for the work I do or at least know WHEN I’ll be paid, and I certainly don’t respect being spoken to in such a rude manner and being hung up on just for trying to figure out when I will be paid. I only have my rent to pay, along with bills, all my living expenses, student loans, ect. Not to mention they are violating our visa contracts by not paying us monthly. So for now, I have absolutely no idea when I will be paid, and according to my boss and my boss’s boss, it is not their responsibility or their problem, rather, it’s mine.

If this were my only issue with the program, things might be different, but it’s not. After the huge nightmare I went through last year renewing my residency papers to problems with my school to problems with the heath insurance, I am sick of it. I know many people don’t have the problems I am going through, but I also know many people are going through much worse than me, as in not being paid and not being able to borrow the money either and not even be able to talk to someone about it. The Ministry of Education has put us in the most uncomfortable, uncompromising and downright horrible situation: really what are we supposed to do? What options do we have? Go home? Complain some more to people who don’t care and won’t do anything about it? We have no options, no choice but to put up with this bureaucratic mess! And what makes this situation so effed up and horrible is that the government KNOWS this and uses it to their advantage. It’s times like this when living in Spain feels like living in a 3rd world country. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have to be going through any of this. We keep up our end of the bargain and do our job, why can’t they?

So dear all future auxiliars, what sacrifices are you willing to make to live in Spain? How much are you willing to put up with? If you are already an auxiliar, have you gone through anything like this? What are your thoughts?

Teach English in Spain

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76 Responses to Angry Expat: Auxiliares de Conversación

  1. elizabeth_pitt December 19, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    Hit the nail on the head, chica. The question is, what can we do about it? We can’t go on strike, there’s no one to talk to, and some people can’t even afford to go home, like you said.

    A country that is this deep in trouble has no business bringing us here and not having the money. I have loved this program and it’s been a great opportunity (and have never had problems getting paid), but if even one person is getting shafted, that’s NOT ok.

    Did you go to the newspapers yet? That seems to work in Catalunya and Galicia.

    • Kate Antila December 3, 2014 at 4:28 am #

      Hello, I was very happy to come across a your post. As you said, who wants to read an angry post… But this helped make a decision for next year and make me feel much better about my current program. I’m teaching through a progrt called CAPS through a company called home to home. I have been a bit discouraged lately because I am at school from 9-5 every day with some poorly placed breaks or free hours during the day. My total classroom time is 25 hours and I get €200 plus housing, food and transportation. So far, I have been paid on time every month and everyone that I have ever reached out to has been helpful about any small issues ive had. I cannot believe that the ministry is allowed to get away with this- it’s completely unprofessional and flat out ridiculous. I wonder if they forget to pay themselves?? Doubt it.
      Anyway, If you’re looking for another option, CAPS is great. 🙂 best of luck!

  2. shanasolarte December 19, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    I can’t believe they still haven’t paid you. Seriously. This is absolutely absurd.

    I’ve been lucky to be paid, but my director did tell me last month that they’d been advancing us our money so far this year, which they also had to do last January-April.

    But it’s so true, what CAN we do? When the wait list is so long, the program probably wouldn’t care if someone left because they could easily fill a spot… it’s so frustrating.

  3. Crystal December 19, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    I don’t think all the auxiliars have been paid in Catalunya yet either!!
    What about making noise in the States and getting people back home to pressure the Spanish Govt?? Do you think that would make any difference?

  4. shannon xo December 19, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    I e-mailed my alma mater and told them not to recommend this program to students anymore. I feel like that’s about as much as one can do…The government does not seem to care about the bad press (see: Catalunya).

  5. Mario December 19, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    Well, I don’t know if it’s possible for foreigns, but at least for Spaniards it is possible to report your problem at As well I have the same doubt about the European Union, but at least as european citizen it is possible to report againts a country.

  6. Brianne December 19, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    Amen, sister. I, like you, have been fortunate enough to be spotted the money by one of my schools as well, but I would be completely and utterly SOL (as well as probably starving and evicted) had they not. Good for you for standing up for us and making “a big noise.” We all stand behind you and will voice our opinions as well. Maybe on a blog like this with the readership you have, you might be able to make some waves.

    • Anonymous February 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

      Hi everyone, I’m an Italo-Spanish journalist who works for a British newspaper in London, I would like to report about these Ministerio de Educacion’s delays in the payments for auxiliary teachers in Spain. Please if you want us to report on this it’d be fantastic to have your contact details in order to get in touch to you and get more information about this story. WE WANT TO RUN THIS STORY. (For example, is this happening in all the Spanish communities or just in Catalonia, La Rioja and Pais Vasco?…). Any language assistant who is affected by this problem can email me at “”. (We want also to raise awareness in EEUU about this, we’ve got contacts there) Manuela Lanza.

  7. Cassandra December 19, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    This dark side of the auxiliar program deserves a lot more limelight than it is currently receiving; kudos to you for taking the time to draw up and share your experience.

    Last year, a friend of mine who had trouble getting paid finally emailed everyone in our program in Madrid. This person sent out form letters and step-by-step instructions for what to do in case we are not getting paid. It involves a TON of time and paperwork to file a formal complaint with the Comunidad, and I assume it is about the same headache-inducing process in every autonomia.

    Like Liz and Shana, I have been very lucky in that my school sees the auxiliar position as a priority. I learned after the fact that they were advancing my checks and moving money around last year in order to pay me and the other auxiliar each month.

  8. shannon xo December 19, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    Liz, do you mind if I link this post from my blog? let’s spread the word!

  9. Gareth December 19, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    Sorry to hear about your situation. You have a contract and should be paid according to the terms thereof. That is a basic tenet of the employer-employee relationship. You are definitely being exploited. However…

    I am having a hard time 100% empathizing with you. It seems that you are well-versed in the cultural customs of Spain, having lived there for over a year. One of the things Spanish culture is known for is an propensity for putting things off. It even has its own saying, “mañana, mañana”. You must have come across this in your travels. Did you not expect this to affect business matters as well?

    You even acknowledge in your post that you and many others like you (on whose behalf you are apparently speaking) are not here to teach English because it is a passion of yours, but rather as a way to live in Spain. Are you not taking advantage of the system also? Would students in the schools not benefit from a licensed teacher with degrees in English or teaching rather than someone with the attitude that they are babysitting for 12 hours a week for “an ideal post-college pre-real world second study-abroad opportunity”?

    Third, you state in your post and other commenters have related their own stories of not being paid in the program in previous years. You cite this as proof that something needs to be done. Could these anecdotes instead have served as possible red flags for signing up for such a program in the first place? Would you eat in a restaurant that had multiple reviews over the years of unhygienic conditions? You’d at least think twice about eating there, right?

    The stories of not being paid coupled with the financial crisis that has been brewing for a while now should mean that not being paid by the government shouldn’t really be surprised that you are not getting paid. Concerned? Absolutely. But not surprised. The Spanish government has so many other things on its list before it gets to foreign nationals. The fact that you cannot vote means you are of little use to the politicians in power and are therefore very low on the totem pole when it comes to divvying up the government money (which the present interest rates are so high for Spain to borrow that it may not even be feasible to do so).

    Have you been wronged? Yes. Would you win any kind of labor suit? I’d assume so (unless it was a Spanish court…). But it’s not as if the writing wasn’t on the wall. I wish you the best of luck in your Monetary Adventure.

  10. Kaley [Y Mucho Más] December 20, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    That Gareth dude…wtf?

    Anyway, above Mario was not my Mario, FYI.

    I’m sorry. That really sucks. I hate the blame game, especially since you’re hanging by a thread pretty much. I say stop working if they aren’t paying you and just give more private lessons, which actually PAY you.

  11. elizabeth_pitt December 20, 2011 at 12:53 am #

    Kaley, I actually wondered that.

  12. laura December 20, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Gosh it sounds really similar, but to be honest worst, than the program in France. In France I was at least paid every month (starting from the second month as they wait to pay you fully until the end of November, but at least they warn you about this beforehand). Good luck fighting the bureaucracy, I know how big of a pain that can be. Courage!

  13. Liz December 20, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    Thanks so much for your comments guys! I’m glad to know that I am not alone in this, especially since the government is doing everything it can to make me feel like this is MY fault. WTF? Yes please post this on your blog Shannon/linking it! I want a lot of people to hear about. I am stuck on what to do next. Contacting people who run this program doesn’t seem to be working since they’re the ones who’ve effed up all the paperwork, so now I think I am going to be contacting newspapers here and back home, along with the embassy and the US Dept. of Education ect. Because this is completely unacceptable. Especially since we have a reciprocal program back home that doesnt have these problems. If I don’t paid by the time schools starts again in January, I am not working til I do. It is such a pain, we’re fighting the whole system who are champions at getting away with crap like this. and trying to pass you off onto other people or drown you in impossible paperwork! haha Kaley, I love that you had to clarify that!!

  14. Liz December 20, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    Like Kaley said, Gareth, WTF? You’re get your own whole response. Clearly you missed the entire point of my post in that I’ve finally reached a breaking point in putting up with this bureaucratic bullshit. This has been a problem in the past but this year it has worsened, not gotten better, which we were lead to believe, so how exactly could I have anticipated that?

    Of course I’m familiar with the different concepts of time in Spain, however, when it comes to something as important as getting paid, this is usually not a problem; you make it sounds like I should have expected this. This is the first year of such widespread lack of being paid among auxiliars. before it was only in a few isolated regions. So in your argument, I basically should have known better, right? And not participated? Again the whole point of my post, is that I have put up with so much but now anymore. It’s gone too far.

    Again you make it sound like I should put up with this because my main desire in coming to Spain was not to be a teacher. This program is geared to people EXACTLY like me; if they wanted teachers or people with teaching degrees or people who are passionate about education, they would have made that part of the damn application. Instead the only requirement is that you know some Spanish and went to college. They even market this program as an opportunity to live in Spain in experience the culture here! And babysitting for 12 hours a week? Where did that come from? Most of us have to do the teachers job for them in the classroom because they are too lazy to prepare useful classes that include us.

    Again you try to make it seem like its my fault for not anticipating that the economic crisis in Spain could potentially effect us getting paid. Well guess what? The Spanish economy has been in a crisis for almost a decade! Why should I have expected things to change so drastically now from last year?

    Do you have any idea how a labor suit would work in Spain? I don’t but from what I heard it takes years. YEARS! Anyway, I guess my whole point is that if you are looking for a job, I could put you in contact with everyone in the Spanish Department of Education. You guys would get along fabulously with all these excuses.

  15. Jessica Stratton December 20, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Shannon Xo,

    I also emailed my university and told them not to recommend this program. I think everyone should do the same.

  16. Jo December 20, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    This SUCKS, Liz, and I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such shitty issues regarding money. 🙁 (If you need to get out, there’s always space in Brighton for you <3)

    I definitely think you should contact MHC and the other 5 colleges in the USA and tell them you don’t think they should recommend this program any more, and send copies of the letters to the relevant Spanish departments. If as many of you can do this as possible, it might make a difference. Certainly, things aren’t gonna get any better in this financial crisis, but if there really isn’t the money for you to get paid, the government needs to be HONEST about that because it’s not fair to expect you to be able to survive without this money! Grrr.

    I agree with the whole not working until you get paid thing come 2012, incidentally. One month is just about bearable but any more than that and you’re basically working for free. Have you spoken any more about it to your school? I know they might not be able to help get you the money but it might be worth checking out their thoughts on the program. Either way, the fact that a lot of schools are taking auxiliars’ wages out of their own finances due to the government’s ineptitude is really messed up.

    Gareth – I think you’ve got some fair points there (particularly about the Spanish government’s attitude towards foreign nationals as they can’t vote). HOWEVER, you’re being massively unfair towards Liz in regards her teaching skills! I’ve known Liz for three years now, and she has an INCREDIBLE work ethic. To say that her attitude towards work is that [she is] babysitting for 12 hours a week” just because she doesn’t have a qualification in teaching is completely inaccurate and really unnecessarily judgemental. Liz works SO hard, and – as been mentioned here – a lot of auxiliars, including Liz, give private tutorials to children outside of their workplaces. If she really just regarded this role as “babysitting”, surely she wouldn’t be working outside of her initial role? Surely she wouldn’t be able to KEEP working as a private language tutor, or KEEP finding more work? A teaching qualification doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re good with children, and as this is the second year Liz has worked in this role in Spain she has a lot of experience – not to mention how good her Spanish is! 🙂 Honestly, I think the program gives people the chance to gain some really good teaching experience without having to fork out a lot of money for a CELTA or TEFL qualification – and that counts for an awful lot.

    Much love, Liz! Keep raising hell on this issue, and I hope it gets sorted soon <3

  17. Mario December 20, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    I have checked, and you can use the “Defensor Del Pueblo” institution as well, it don’t depend on the nationality. There is an english version of the webpage to be informed “”, but the complain should be done in the spanish version. If there is a lot of people sending complains about the same case, probably the answer will be faster. I hope this can help all of you, because as an Spaniard, I’m ashamed about the Spanish bureaucracy, but as you already know, it sucks.

  18. Alisa December 20, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    As other people have said, I can’t believe you haven’t been paid yet. In Galicia we were paid 10 days late in November and everyone was really mad about it, but I can’t imagine not having been paid yet at all! Kudos to you for surviving without a paycheck.

    It’s really terrible that this is such a problem, especially since it’s just one on top of many other problems that this program has. Every time I get asked to do something that’s specifically prohibited in my contract, I get a tiny bit more angry, and if I wasn’t even getting paid to do any of it, I would be just as mad as you are.

    I think the best idea is to kick up a fuss back home and see if that could get anything done–because clearly contacting people here in Spain isn’t working. And the idea to not work anymore until you’re paid is good too, although I think it would be a lot more effective if you could get all the other auxiliares in your communidad to go on strike with you.

  19. An Expat in Spain December 20, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    I’m going to weigh in on the Gareth comment, that is also slam it, but from a different angle. It is an incredibly gross stereotype, particularly ugly coming from a foreigner/outsider, to say (okay, to imply), “Oh, you knew what you were getting into, because Spaniards are lazy (and/or incompetent).” First, let me agree with everyone else by adding that his post is just salt in the wound. Liz, I feel for you, and as a foreign worker probably feeling the occasional helplessness of being far from home, I can imagine this is doubly difficult. So f-off, Gareth, for being so snotty and callous in your comment.

    However, you are not alone, and not only in the sense of other foreign workers like you. Spaniards are also suffering this failure-to-be-paid. In fact, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, pharmacies in Valencia are closed in protest to the failure of the regional government to pay them what they are owed for the last 6 months – @ Gareth, no, the pharmacists aren’t sitting back and thinking, “Well, this is just how it is here in Spain.” They are pissed and furious and angry. And so they are doing exactly what Spaniards do in this situation, and what Liz ought to be doing, they are protesting publicly about it in the hopes that it will shame the government into doing the right thing and paying them.

    Liz, some of your challenges–powerlessness to leave the country, lack of economic mobility–are unique to your position as a foreign worker with a restricted visa. But some aren’t… the government, who clearly just simply lacks the money at present to make good on what it owes, appears perfectly comfortable ignoring its debt to (certain) Spaniards, too (small businesses like pharmacies, contract workers, freelancers, etc.). What’s more, some of those Spaniards face additional challenges you probably don’t, such as payment on storefront mortgage (a declaration of bankruptcy here won’t liberate them from that), which is why the pharmacies say they are going to go bankrupt if they aren’t paid soon. (Many of them are also currently surviving off loans, from banks, whom recently have said, no more… Again, you are not alone on many of your problems. In fact, that may be part of your problem – your school may be running out of surfeit money with which to loan you.)

    The backdrop to all this is not some Spanish fast-and-looseness in following protocol. It is the crisis. (Similar delays in payment are happening in the U.S., too, because of the crisis and freeze in bank loans, with similar impacts on small businesses.) So let’s all dispatch with that annoying impulse as outsiders to write off Spanish government incompetence as some kind of intransigent cultural thing, and recognize it for what it is, a historically unprecedented shift in the economy.

    Moreover, I’d encourage you to feel more empowered about complaining. Spaniards are much more accustomed to a protest culture than Americans, and you have more rights to protest than you probably realize. (You can strike, you can “manifestar”, and you can lodge complaints on the website mentioned above… you can do all of these, with some fair degree of legal protection, even if you were an undocumented worker. If you’re not, then more so.)

    Man, I guess I needed to rant about all of this. (You can intuit from my blog title that I’ve got a bug about outsider stereotypes about Spain.) Sorry for the earful. Maybe the summary is: Gareth, shut up and butt out. Liz, you are not alone. And “solidaridad”!

  20. Richelle December 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Hmm, I’m an auxiliar in Murcia and none of us have been paid yet either. When I decided to do this program I did a lot of researching and my most useful information came from blogs like elizabeth pitt, kaley and yours. I fully expected to not be paid for up to 3 months. I came with a huge chunk of change that I worked hard to come by. I also came with a bucket full of patience. But patience doesn’t pay the bills and even that supply is getting low.

    But, I find myself on the fence. On one hand, I think it’s ridiculous that we STILL haven’t been paid. Christmas is 5 days away. There’s a teacher lunch on Friday that I can’t go to because I can’t afford to. I wanted to travel twice this month already, but with what money? I desperately need a haircut and can’t even risk that for fear that I won’t be able to eat next week if I do. I was prepared, but it’s been longer than anyone said.

    But I have a few reservations about doing much about it. First, is that I’m expecting money any day. I heard that the auxiliars in Murcia might be paid tomorrow. But last week I was told last Friday. And before that I was told early December. And before that it was mid-November. So, part of me is just patiently waiting even though there have been so many delays that I have no reason to believe anything I hear.
    I also have heard from the locals that even they’re not being paid. A spanish friend of mine told me the other day that he wouldn’t be paid until January. I asked him if it was legal, I asked him how he was going to survive. It seems relatively common here. I don’t know how they’re surviving. But if he isn’t getting paid, a citizen, how can I expect anything different?
    The other concern I have is that you keep saying that they’re taking advantage of us. What’s the thinking? Eventually they have to pay us or deal with over 3000 extremely angry people. I can’t help but think that it’s unintentional. I just can’t see how it benefits them to not pay us on time.
    I have never called to ask why I haven’t been paid. I listen to news that I hear from other auxiliars but I won’t call myself. How can it help? If I call, I’m just slowing down the process further, right? I have to complain to someone who can actually do something about it. But who is that? It’s not the lady that all of the auxiliars are calling and complaining to. She looks so stressed that she probably doesn’t sleep at night because she’s too busy trying to get us paid. So who do I call? I know that’s your question too.

    I think we should spread the word and utilize this website:

    The more the merrier. At least I can complain here and know that it’s not taking time away from someone who is trying to get me my money. Do I think it will help? Not really but I know that’s my american apathy speaking. It’s worth a few minutes of my time isn’t it? I obviously think so if I’m writing all this…

    I also think it’s reasonable to not work in January if we’re not paid. I think that if we don’t work and we’re very tranquil about it, and very PUBLIC about it, than we can build some support. We call our schools everyday and say, “I can’t come to work today because I haven’t been paid for my previous work yet.” Cordial, polite. It’s certainly not their fault.

    The real problem though isn’t going to change. The real problem is that we’re foreigners, we can’t vote, and in reality, 3000 people is such a small number of people that we’re truly the least of their numerous problems.

  21. Anonymous December 20, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    hola ,me llamo Pere y leyendo vuestros blogs me sabe mal esta situacion tan desagradable acentuada en este caso por vivir en un país extranjero.Las cosas aquí en España van mal por la crisi ,últimamente pasan cosas que antes no pasaban ,sin ir mas lejos la semana pasada la oficina de desempleo estaba saturada de gente porque aún no habían cobrado el paro el dia estipulado, algo impensable hace poco.Sólo deciros ánimo y paciencia porque estoy seguro que cobrareis pronto

  22. Paige December 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Honestly, I think it would be very unwise to just believe the idea that we should have patience because Spanish people believe they are sure that they will pay everyone in our program soon. I understand that the last thing this country has to worry about is its foreign workers, but WHY HAVE THEY CONTINUED TO OPEN THIS PROGRAM YEAR AFTER YEAR??? I don´t understand. It´s ridiculous to me because I feel they keep the application open each year in order to ¨stay on the safe side.¨ I think the best thing we can do is to make sure this program is NOT being advertised in such a positive light anymore. Yes, being in Spain has been a wonderful experience, but unfortunately, I have also been left with many negative experiences that I know will continue to bother me when I return back home. If I were a person who is continuously not receiving payments, I would give up the school auxiliar program until payment is actually received. There are plenty of independent English academies that will be more than happy to hire a native speaker, as well as more than enough Spaniards who would be willing to pay more for private classes. Since I have been through a similar experience, I can say that without a doubt that I am better off when I work private classes and at private institutes than at my public school.

  23. Anonymous December 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    I did the program last year and it wasn’t quite this bad. I’m in the same situation as you all but I’m pretty sure it just comes down to us being at the bottom of the list of people they have to pay and they don’t even know where to get the money to pay us at this point… problem is they can’t just tell us to go home because hell would break lose in the U.S.A about this and something as small as this could really destory the countries image. Everyone is going through a rough time… try to borrow money from a friend and hang tight…we will eventually get the money and when we do it will be oh so sweet!

  24. Carolyn December 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Gareth, blaming Liz for not receiving a timely paycheck is not only unhelpful and unkind, but absurd. I find your second “point” to be the most offensive…to accuse Liz and the other assistants of being undeserving of pay for somehow “taking advantage of the system” is out of line. Whether or not you think using untrained native speakers to assist in classrooms is a valid use of Spanish money has absolutely no bearing on this conversation. I happen to disagree with you, and think that it is pretty great deal for both Spanish schools and for the assistants, but this is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, the program exists and contracts were signed. The discussion at hand is about how unfortunate it is that despite signing a legal contract, the Spanish government has not upheld its end, and furthermore has been uncooperative and unhelpful as the assistants try to sort out this mess.

    I’m sending good vibes/karma to Liz and all the other assistants who have yet to be paid what they are owed! No good vibes for Gareth, however.

  25. Anonymous December 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    Thank you for putting this out there with facts and examples! I am in Madrid and LUCKILY I have been paid on time/a little early each month. Therefore I don’t have this problem. However we(the madrid people) are going through the same bullsh*t with our NIE process.

    When we first got here in Sept. people were making appointments with the NIE office but because the office was overwhelmed assistants here weren’t getting appiontments until as late as December of 2012!!! WTF!?????? *LUCKILY*, complaints from the assistants/US embassy ‘encouraged’ the program here to scramble to get MOST of us our NIE’s by this december.

    This is where my thoughts echo yours on the situation. Why the HELL couldn’t they just PLAN AHEAD. If they know they are accepting 1,500 people into the program then make sure the resources are there. If they are not then you CUT BACK! I sure as hell would rather be rejected and be forced to make other life plans then get stuck in a foreign country with no money! At least at home I can crash on my parent’s couch! :-p

  26. Anonymous December 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    ohhh…and Gareth….WTF?

  27. Lauren of Spanish Sabores December 23, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    Insane. I’m (luckily) not working as an auxiliar this year. It is unforgivable that people haven’t been paid yet. Embarrassing…

  28. Anonymous December 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    if you don’t like it, leave

    • Elizabeth Carlson May 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

      I’m ashamed to have you as a reader

    • anonymous May 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

      oh yeah? are you paying for her flight home?

  29. Rebecca Mahan January 2, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    Hey, came across your blog on the “Spanish adventure” blog that linked to you. I have actually been working as an au pair in Murcia for the past 5 months, and while I am not in the auxilliares program myself, I have met and befriended many who are. I have heard all the stories about not getting paid from the beginning, and I’ve been there as my new friends were given hope time after time and let down again. In fact when I found out today that my friends in the program in Murcia had FINALLY been paid I literally jumped with joy for them. I encourage you to stick it out and hope for the best… A difficult task I’m sure, but if the murcian govertment finally got it together than perhaps yours will follow suit. Keep up the great blogging! Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

  30. Unknown January 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    Liz I hope that you are able to sort everything out, that your struggles don’t make you too disheartened, and that your problems don’t taint your experiences in Spain.

    I wanted to publish for a selfish reason too as my name is Gareth and I am an expat in Madrid but I am NOT the same Gareth who posted previously. My name is quite uncommon and a friend has already asked me if it was me and I can see that two people I have worked with, Elizabeth and Cassandra, have also posted here. I didn’t want to be mistaken for the person who has obviously provoked a lot of anger.

    Good luck to everyone in the coming year.

  31. Anonymous February 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Hi everyone, I’m an Italo-Spanish journalist who works for a British newspaper in London, I would like to report about these Ministerio de Educacion’s delays in the payments for auxiliary teachers in Spain. Please if you want us to report on this it’d be fantastic to have your contact details in order to get in touch to you and get more information about this story. WE WANT TO RUN THIS STORY. (For example, is this happening in all the Spanish communities or just in Catalonia, La Rioja and Pais Vasco?…). Any language assistant who is affected by this problem can email me at “”. (We want also to raise awareness in EEUU about this, we’ve got contacts there) Manuela Lanza.

  32. El Gazette February 14, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    I also would like to say that the name of our newspaper is ‘El Gazette’, and it is a International Education Industry newspaper. This is the webpage: If you subscribe you can read all our features.

  33. Susanna March 17, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Hey Liz,

    So, not that I really think I have much chance of getting a spot since I’m applying so close to the deadline, but I’m applying to this program today. Literally. But now that I’ve read your blog I’m kinda thinking that maybe I should say no even if they give me a spot?? I really, really want to go though (I really want to achieve fluency in my Spanish, among other reasons)…I know this financial situation really really sucks..would you tell someone that the experience isn’t worth all this worry and hassle? Or would you say that the good manages to outweigh the bad?

    Besos y Gracias,

    • Elizabeth Carlson June 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      good definitely outweighs the bad for me, but I am so in love with living in spain. its a once in a lifetime experience 🙂

  34. Liz March 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    I am a glass half full kinda girl, so I will almost always say the good outweighs the bad. living in spain for year is a wonderful unforgetable cultural experience, and if you are aware of all these issues in advance and plan accordingly, you shouldnt have too much of a problem. if you can save a lot before coming and then acquire a lot of private classes, you should be ok. hopefully youll get a spot and you shouldnt let these problems keep you from coming here if you really want to. the experience is always worth it 🙂

    • Susanna March 25, 2012 at 1:38 am #

      ok thanks so much 🙂

  35. Anonymous June 2, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    So, whatever happened? Did you ever get paid? If so, when?

    • Elizabeth Carlson June 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

      We finally got paid in January, and then it was regular after that too. But La Rioja was lucky, many other regions had much worse problems

  36. Anonymous June 3, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    Hey Liz,

    I applied for this program in November and am hoping for a placement any day now. I’m one of the many who only applied as a way to live in Spain and nothing else! I’m not interested in the teaching… just the culture and travel. I’m starting to have second thoughts now, considering Spain’s economy. How much money/savings would you recommend I bring with me, in case this happens to me, to avoid freaking out when I’m there?? Thanks!

    • Elizabeth Carlson June 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Depending on the city you are living in, I would recommend coming with about 2,000-3,000 USD saved up. you have to factor in transport to your city, back to madrid for orientation, staying somewhere until you find an apt, the apt plus a deposit, start-up costs and then living for 1 to 3 months. we also have some big holidays in the fall, especially in the beg. of december where most people want to travel.

    • Liz January 13, 2013 at 3:49 am #

      I’ve got a lot of posts about this now, check out my teach English in Spain page for more info!

  37. Dazzle August 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    WTF, my daughter signed up for this program and she is supposed to go there at the end of September. She has e-mailed the program about some questions about this program and they have not responded. We are traveling to NYC to get the VISA! Should she just give up on it?

    • Elizabeth Carlson August 8, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

      no, she shouldn’t give up! what region will she be in? has she gotten in contact with previous auxiliares there or her school coordinator? it’s normal for people in spain not to answer their phones or emails, its awful really, what questions does she have? has she joined the facebook groups? just make sure she arrives in spain with a good amount of money saved

    • Dazzle August 12, 2012 at 1:31 am #

      Extremadura, I have suggested the FB groups she has requested to join the Extremadura group, I’m not sure if she has been accepted yet. The biggest question is the apartment search, she has never had to look for one before and so far from home. Does it make sense for me to come along the first week to help or no…? I don’t speak Spanish but I’ve been to Spain twice in the last two years and I’m not as intimidated as she is by the prospects of setting up an apartment.

    • Elizabeth Carlson August 12, 2012 at 10:17 am #

      hey, hopefully once she has joined the extremadura groups, she can ask lots of the detailed questions. Honestly, I wouldn’t go with her. In two years of the program, i have never heard of anyone’s parents tagging along. In a place like extremadura, I doubt you will be able to help all that much with the apartment hunt without speaking spanish. What city is she placed in? most of us are straight out of college and its our first time looking for apartments on our own and in spain too. I have recently written a series of posts on here on tips for auxiliars, the apartment search, phones, banks, everything. if you want, feel free to email me more, its good luck 🙂

    • senoritapage August 17, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      @ Dazzle..I too am placed in Extremadura (my first time going to Europe) and I will be finding an apartment on my own. If your daughter needs help feel free to e-mail me at and I’ll see what I can do! The facebook group is a great resource- you can find me on there as well.

      • Liz October 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

        the facebook groups are definitely a great resource as the ministry does a bad job of keeping us informed or helping us at all, really. Though I did have a ministry director tell me on the phone the other day that we shouldn’t pay attention to these groups since they are word of mouth and not accurate. When I asked what we are supposed to do when we have questions and the ministry itself doesn’t offer any real advice, he yelled at me lol. this is the kind of shit we have to deal with

  38. ejoycebrady August 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    This is such a great blog! It’s great to know all of these problems before I get over there. I accepted my placement in Galicia for the 2012-2013 school year and I have to be there by October 1st. Does anyone know the Facebook groups for Galicia? I would love to try and connect with other auxiliares in my area!

  39. Sarita October 23, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Just one comment, that 700 euros a month for 12 hours a week is actually quite a lot of money here! I know people working 40 hour weeks who take home 900 euros a month or less! Any idea why they pay “so much”? OK, I know it’s not a vast salary but that’s 15 euros an hour, a pretty good hourly rate. For unqualified teaching assistants, that’s a lot of cash. Is it taxable?

    • Liz November 3, 2012 at 12:42 am #

      No it’s not taxable because it’s a stipend, but I wouldn’t go as far to say “unqualified” we are native English speakers in a country with a HUGE demand for native english speakers. Throughout most of Spain, 15 euros an hour for an English class with a native speaker is pretty standard wage, and it’s actually very low for the rest of Europe. Most of us make 15 euros an hour for private classes in people’s houses and academies, and I don’t know of anyone who has demanded to be actually certified to teach. If we were “qualified” teachers, we should be making even more money. And from several years experience, I’d say most of the English teachers I’ve worked with in Spain have absolutely no idea what they are doing, which is a good reason the level of english is so low there.

      But this is all besides the point, the Spanish government offers us a contract, they are required to pay us on time, end of story, not be complete asshats

  40. Lee November 9, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    We had the same problem before they shut down the program last year in Barcelona.

    • Liz November 10, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      Yeah I have heard a lot about that in barcelona!

  41. Christina November 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Interested in applying, while I contemplate which grad school to attend. Did you go through CIEE? Did you complete your TEFL before leaving?

  42. stfulady July 30, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    you sounds like a cunt. quit bitching and do something

    • Hilary January 13, 2015 at 5:03 am #

      Wow stfulady, way to go with the misogynistic comment. I wonder if you’re so aggressive and bigoted in person. I’m guessing not.

  43. Jorge March 18, 2016 at 7:16 am #

    You summed up this country pretty well, broke, broke and even more broke.
    Please get the word out, lot’s of people come to Spain with hope and discover they’ve been lied to. Spain is one big con, don’t let yourself be conned!!

    I’m glad I left.

  44. Carmen D August 30, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

    Hola, Liz. I’m Italian. Do you know if the situation you’ve been describing for auxiliares de inglés is the same for the Italian ones? Thanks a lot.


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