Teaching English in Madrid – Interview with Brandy Bell

Where did you teach?

I am currently teaching in Madrid, Spain. This is the start of my third teaching year; obviously, I love it. I teach young children, ages 3-8, and private tutor students up to 14 years of age.

Would you recommend teaching in this specific location?

I highly recommend living and teaching English in Madrid. There is a very large group of native English speakers teaching in the city. We get together and work on our curriculum, share classroom experiences, and lament about who has the longest commute! There’s always support, and the students are eager to learn English. All jobs have their ups and downs, but in this city, the ups are always winning.

student-creative-english-project

What are some local expressions one should consider learning?

The single most important word in Spain: “Vale”. It means “okay” and can be used as a response to almost anything. I’m going to the store- vale. Would you like a cup of coffee? – Vale.

I lost my metro ticket- vale.

It’s always nice to know your polite words: Por favor, (please), gracias (thank you) – pronounced gra-thee-ass.

Be prepared for the Spanish lisp! Coming from California, I had a pretty decent knowledge of Spanish but once I landed in Spain, I realized it sounded completely different. It’s thick tongued and sounds like a slight speech impediment… ahh, the romance language. There’s other phrases I could teach you that are important, but they’re not exactly family friendly 😉

What were the biggest cultural adjustments?

It was an adjustment for me getting used to the laid back pace of Spanish life. The siesta is alive and well! Shops close from 2-5 every day, they don’t open Sunday, so shopping needs to be planned out, or you will have to subsist on convenient store food and drink.

Customer service is not a large part of the Spanish culture. More often than not, the attitude is that, as a customer, you’re lucky to be getting service at all. That took some getting used to, but now it just makes me laugh.

Staring is perfectly acceptable and occupies a large portion of the metro time. Be prepared to be stared at- but the nice thing? You can stare right back!

What are some budget saving tips you can offer a newbie teacher coming to your area?

Madrid is incredibly inexpensive considering that it is a capital European city.

Drinking your dinner will save you money, thanks to the tradition of tapas. Tapas are small plates of food (think appetizers) that are served with your drinks. El Tigre is famous for their heaping plates of tapas, where a beer (2 euro) comes with enough food to be called dinner.

Culture is free in Madrid! The museums offer free visiting hours each week, so there’s no need to shell out money to see some of the world’s most prized art.

Park El Retiro is our version of Central Park- there’s always live musicians performing across from a lake with rowboats, there’s fields for sports, botanical gardens, and of course, entrance costs nothing.

There is also a very cool co-op called La Tabacalera where people put on art exhibits, language workshops— there’s even a free store. Yes, a free second-hand store. Madrid can be dirt cheap, or champagne and oysters- it’s a wonderful city.

Roughly how much money is it possible to save teaching for one year?

If you take full advantage of the ways of living I mentioned above, you’re able to save a few thousand euro each year if you’re working full time and spending part time. 🙂 Last year I saved during the school year, and took a 3 month vacation in the summer. To be able to work for 9 months and travel for 3 is a privilege not many have, but the cost of living in Madrid is very reasonable, so I keep coming back.

What did your average weekend in this country look like?

Whew. This is a city that truly never sleeps. Dinner’s are late and long: never starting before 10pm and ending around 1am. From dinner you take the last metro (before closing) to the choice neighborhood for the evening. Usually someone will approach you selling “street beers”, and for 1 euro you can grab a beer and stand around while deciding which order to hit the bars in. Then a full night of drinking and dancing ensues. The metro opens at 6am, and this is usually when everyone piles out of the clubs and onto the metro. The whole underground is one giant “morning after” advertisement. You arrive home, pass out until 1 or 2 pm, then rinse and repeat. This is a true Madrid weekend.

teachers-on-the-loose

Can you tell us a bit about your travel blog and what readers can expect to find?

It’s One World, Travel is for anyone who has big dreams of travel and a small budget. There is information on free volunteering abroad, how to score free transportation, accommodation, how to keep a budget and of course, the ultimate backpacking checklist. Also, there is a special section for the ladies, because it’s different to travel (and live) around the world as a female- so there are tips on personal safety, sexual health, and peeing standing up. Yes, you heard right, peeing whilst standing.

Can you briefly tell us about your upcoming travel plans?

I just arrived home yesterday from a three month journey in Jordan, Thailand and Cambodia, but I am already thinking ahead to next summer’s vacation… India and Nepal are calling, and I think I will answer. Luckily, living in the European Union means I don’t have to wait long to take a trip to a neighboring country. With the cheap flights from RyanAir and the long weekends of Spain, I am able to take several short trips through the school year to keep my travel addiction in check. Next European trips? Prague. Lisbon, Budapest.

Bio: Brandy Bell is an avid traveler, teacher, and life long learner. Currently based in Madrid, Spain where she spends her free time, reading, walking the parks, and writing travel articles for her budget and free travel website, It’s One World Travel.

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