You may not know this about me, but I’m a chronic worrier. And, as a chronic worrier, you can imagine how I spent 99% of my time last summer.
You got it. Worrying.
Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. I did other things. But I was concerned about basically everything, from what kind of cell phone I should purchase to what neighborhood I should live in to getting my visa to how do I get a metro pass to oh my god why isn’t my school emailing me back they hate me.
After successfully existing here for almost 5 months now, I can safely say that most of my worrying was a complete waste of time. (You’d think I’d learn a lesson from that statement. I worry less with each passing year, I swear.)
Since I know there are hopeful applicants out there fighting the good fight against Profex, I’d like to share a few things you do not need to worry about.
1. Surviving On Your Salary
Ah, the auxiliares de conversación salary — one of the things I worried about most. I obsessed for weeks over how I would survive on €1,000 per month — a sum that, translated into USD, would barely get me through a month in Des Moines, Iowa, my relatively inexpensive college town. I pored over cost-of-living breakdowns on other blogs, but that still wasn’t enough. I had to know for myself.
Here’s what I’ve discovered: You’re not going to be rich, but you’re going to be far from broke. You’ll have to budget, but you’ll have enough money to go out to eat, visit museums, see shows, and travel to your heart’s content.
€1,000 per month is definitely enough to live on in Madrid — the cost-of-living here is surprisingly low, especially for a capital city in Europe. Add the €400 or so you can make from private lessons (and you can make more than that if you have ganas), and you’re good to go. You will have roommates, and you probably won’t be buying your clothes at El Corte Inglés, but you’ll be able to live a good life.
Auxiliares in the other regions receive €700/month. While I can’t speak to their experience specifically, I’ve heard the quality of life is similar because the cost-of-living is even lower in those cities.
Here’s a quick breakdown of my monthly expenses:
- Rent (utilities included): €430
- Zone A Transport Pass (Youth): €35
- Cell Phone (100 MB/week and calls for 1 cent/minute): €10
- Groceries & Beauty Products: €110
- Shopping: €50
- Gym/Pool Membership (You read that right. I just started going to the gym. Amazed?): €37
- Entertainment (Eating out, going out, concerts): €150*
Total Expenses: – €822
Monthly Salary: + €1,000
Private Lessons: + €360 (€100/week for 4 weeks = €400/month, but I almost always miss a couple lessons when I travel.)
Total Income: + €1,360
Minus Total Expenses (- €822)
= €538 Remaining Income
Note I didn’t include travel in this budget, but that’s because I prefer to budget the necessary expenses first. So, in theory, I could spend the entire €538 on travel, and I often do.
You can certainly live for even less than this in Madrid if you want to. My rent is on the higher end of the spectrum because my utilities (heat, water, electric, and internet) are included and fixed every month. I also have a big room with a door onto our terrace.
But, if you prefer, you can find a comfortable, small, and relatively central room around €350 sin problemas if that’s what you’re looking for. You also don’t need to eat out as much as I do. (Does anyone?) I do recommend finding a place with central heat if you can, because it’s usually free.
In conclusion: Don’t fret! No matter what you choose, you should be able to live happily on your salary and private lessons.
*For those who are curious, you can easily go out for €20 or less in Madrid if you play your cards right. This is including a taxi home if you’re out in the center/live in the center. Have a couple drinks before you leave your apartment, then head to bars/clubs that offer free drinks with cover. (Cover is rarely more than €10 in most, unless you’re headed to mega clubs like Kapital.)
2. Packing all your favorite beauty/makeup products.
This one’s easy. They have makeup here. They have shampoo here. Unless you’re really particular about one product, save luggage space and buy your shampoo when you arrive. I brought over a small stockpile of Bare Minerals foundation, but that’s only because I know it’s more expensive here. I also brought about 6 sticks of deodorant because I prefer solid deodorant to spray or roll-on, which is primarily what they use in Europe.
If it’s a basic product, leave it at home. You need all the extra suitcase space you can get!
3. Organizing Private Lessons
I cannot emphasize this enough. Do not worry about finding private lessons.
I was there. I was just like you. I had a tusclasesparticulares.es account by June. I was trying to find students before I’d even finished my TEFL Certification.
So, once I arrived in Spain, I started setting up interviews left and right. I went to two of them. By the first week of October, I’d scheduled my first private classes. I work with the same family five days a week, for a total of 7.5 hours per week.
I still have people call me asking for lessons. I’ve had to reject so many people.
The teachers and parents at your school will want lessons for their kids, the couple who works in the print shop around the corner will want lessons for their kids (true story), and you’ll be turning down potential customers before you know it.
Just remember the Golden Rule of Private Lessons: It’s a lot easier to add a private class than it is to drop one. Don’t make the mistake of overcommitting yourself. I let down a lovely family because I realized (four lessons later) that they simply lived too far away. And telling them was hard.
As a rule of thumb, I wouldn’t recommend accepting any classes that require more than a 30-minute commute. Time is money, and I guarantee there are lessons to be had much closer to your home or school.
En fin, save yourself an ulcer or two and do not worry about private lessons.
4. Getting in touch with your school before you arrive.
My school told me nothing until I arrived on the first day. And this is normal.
I’d emailed them in July, and by the time September rolled around I was panicked. I emailed them a second time asking for information (when I should show up the first day, etc.) and, in true Spanish fashion, they finally said “Just come at 9! We’ll tell you everything then.”
It was fine. They told me everything, and there was nothing to worry about that. The no pasa nada Spanish attitude can be a relief sometimes. (Sometimes.)
Figuring out the phone situation can seem difficult at first, but I promise, it’s cheap and easy to get a pay-as-you-go data plan in Spain. It’s actually more work on your home country’s end, especially if you have a contract. But don’t worry! It can still be done.
Phone Plans in Spain:
I pay about €10/month for Orange’s pay-as-you-go Delfín plan. I get 400 MB of data per month and calls at 1 cent/minute. 400 MB is more than enough for emails, Whatsapp, Google Maps, basic app use/browsing, and I’ve never gone over that limit.
However, I recommend Yoigo’s La del Uno tarifa. They recently came out with it, and it’s a great deal. For about €7/month, you get 600 MB of data per month and calls for 1 cent/minute. If my phone wasn’t locked to Orange, I’d definitely make the switch.
Using Your Smartphone in Spain:
- If you have an iPhone 4 or higher and you’re not with Verizon, your company should unlock your phone for free. Just call them and request an unlock. After you do that, you can just pop a new SIM card in when you get to Spain and be on your merry way.
- If you’re with Verizon, you can use an unlocked iPhone 4S or higher in Spain. Call and ask them to unlock it for you before you come, then buy a SIM card here. However, you cannot use the Verizon iPhone 4: It doesn’t have a SIM card slot, and it’s not globally enabled. Guess who had a Verizon iPhone 4? Me. So I decided to just purchase a €60 smartphone here. It’s the Samsung Galaxy Young and I’ve been happy with it so far. It’s functional, has survived multiple dropping incidents, and no one wants to steal it. (See below.)
- The process for Android phones, and basically all other phones, is pretty simple. Just make sure your phone is unlocked and GSM-capable.
Beware: Both iPhones and upper-end Android phones are big pickpocketing targets, especially the iPhone 5. I know a ton of people who have had their phones stolen on the Metro, in clubs and bars, or just out in public. If you have an iPhone, I’d recommend buying a cheap flip phone once you arrive in Spain. You can take it out with you without worrying about anyone stealing it.
So, new auxiliares, I hope I’ve quelled some of your fears about living in Madrid. It’s a really wonderful (and inexpensive) place to live. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions or concerns.