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Not just English teaching: The jobs you can do in Spain without speaking Spanish

Not just English teaching: The jobs you can do in Spain without speaking Spanish
Getting a job in Spain. Image: SnapwireSnaps/Pixabay
If you want to find work in Spain but don’t speak the language yet, it can be difficult to secure employment, but it's not impossible. The Local spoke to some of the foreigners in Spain who have succeded in landing a job without speaking Spanish.

Finding work in Spain can be an intimidating process, especially if you don’t speak any Spanish. While English teaching jobs are widely available, it can be a little trickier if you want to find something else.

According to the latest data by the country’s National Statistics Institute, Spain has an unemployment rate of 16 percent in 2021, one of the highest in the EU and a factor that leads to even more competition for jobs.

This is especially true for regular jobs that the locals can do too such as bar work, jobs in hotels, other jobs in tourism or those jobs that English speakers used to be able to pick up quickly like club promotion or handing out leaflets and flyers. You stand a better chance if the job requires you to speak a native level of English and you won’t much need Spanish at all.

Luckily there are some jobs like that.

Teaching at international schools

Ok, so we all know that teaching English is the easiest option for those who don’t speak Spanish, but if you have a proper teaching qualification from the UK, the US or even Australia (not necessarily an English-teaching qualification) you also have the option to work in international schools, teaching everything from maths to science.

These jobs tend to pay a lot better than the English teaching jobs in academies, have better conditions and are full-time positions, unlike many of the English teaching jobs you might find.

Niall is a reader from the UK who didn’t speak any Spanish before getting a job as a maths teacher in an English-speaking international school. He already had his teaching qualification and experience back in the UK, so getting a job in Spain was easier for him.

Customer service operator/representative

In big cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, there are several opportunities working for large international companies, typically as customer service operators or advisors.

Many of these companies need employees to be able to communicate with their customers all over the world. However, these jobs usually require that you also speak another European language as well as English, such as Dutch, French or German.  

Olga Kloss moved to Barcelona from Canada during the pandemic and didn’t speak any Spanish when she arrived, despite having fallen in love with the country on several holidays.

Within several weeks of arriving she had secured a job as a customer service agent looking after the company’s French clients. “Even though I didn’t speak Spanish, because I am fluent in French, I found it a lot easier to get a job.

“I was actually very surprised that I got one so quickly because everyone was telling me it would take months,” she said.

Sales and finance

There are also many opportunities for jobs in sales and finance in large international companies in Spain’s biggest cities, particularly in Madrid and Barcelona, but also in cities like Malaga.

Jack Rowan from the UK works in Amex’s European hub in Madrid and only speaks English for his role, which was first in sales and now in finance.

“I always wanted to move to Madrid so would look for English-speaking jobs, then one from Amex came up. I did my interview remotely in 2019 from the UK then moved after I got the job offer,” he told The Local Spain.

“It’s an international company, so Spanish is by no means a requirement, or even asked about during the interview. You can get by without,” he added.

After more than a year in Spain however, Rowan has picked up some Spanish and now tends to speak Spanish to his local colleagues in the office.

When asked about other job opportunities for non-Spanish speaks in Madrid he said: “I think there are increasingly more English-speaking jobs in the larger companies here like Amazon, LinkedIn and Netflix.

“All their recruitment is in English, however some may require basic Spanish.”

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Tech jobs

Tech jobs such as those for web developers, user experience or user interface designers have also become more widely available in Spain, especially with the number of start-up companies basing themselves in Barcelona and the number of international companies in Madrid.

As most of these companies have an international background, most of them are English-speaking roles. It’s possible that for some of them, you may need to have some basic to intermediate Spanish, but for many, it’s not necessary.

Tour guide in Valencia. Image: Guruwalk/Pixabay

Tour guide

In Spain’s larger more popular tourist cities such as Valencia, Seville, Barcelona or Málaga, you may be able to find work as a tour guide for English-speaking tourists. While these jobs are few and far between during the pandemic, in normal times you’ll sometimes see them being advertised. Besides just speaking English though, you will probably need expert knowledge on history, architecture or cuisine so that you can demonstrate you’re able to lead tours on these subjects. 

Kat Afflek runs street art and gallery tours in Barcelona, and although she does speak Spanish, she doesn’t need it for her job, as all the tours are conducted in English.

Au pair work

Spain offers plenty of positions for nannies or au pairs, canguros as they are called here. Many Spanish families want native English speakers to help look after their kids and speak to them in English. These jobs could include picking kids up from school and watching them for a few hours until the parents come home or looking after kids full time who are too young to be in school.

No official qualifications are needed for these jobs, but you’ll most likely need experience and good references.

Although these nanny positions are not necessarily secure jobs with proper contracts, you could combine a couple of nanny jobs to get full-time hours. They could be good starter jobs when you first move to Spain, before you get better at the language and can find something else.

Laura from the US worked for a family in Barcelona for two years, taking the kids to school every morning and picking them up again in the afternoons. “It was rewarding and fun,” she said. “It also helped me out when no other jobs were available at the time,” she added.

Getting jobs in English-speaking communities

If none of the jobs above appeal to you or you don’t have the qualifications or skill sets to be able to do them, then you’ll find many more job opportunities for English speakers in areas with high numbers of English-speaking residents such as Alicante or the Costa del Sol.

In fact, there are several towns and villages in these regions where the number of Brits vastly outnumber the locals. Place such as Poble Nou de Benitachell, where 60 percent of the population is foreign, Benahavís where 40 percent of the population are British, and Partaloa, where eight out of every 10 residents is British.

In these areas, you’ll find many more different types of jobs where you won’t need to speak Spanish, from hairdressers and waiters to office workers.

READ ALSO: The towns in Spain where Brits outnumber locals

Go freelance or find remote work

Many people moving to Spain who don’t speak Spanish find that simply going freelance or finding remote work is their best option, especially as unemployment here is so high. Getting work or finding clients from abroad means you don’t have to rely on the Spanish job market, with its fierce competition. It also means that you might get paid better jobs too. Most people take a wage cut when they come to work in Spain, so those who are able to work remotely might be able to keep jobs in their home countries while living in Spain.

If doing this last option, please be aware of the tax implications. Just because you work remotely for foreign employers, doesn’t mean you aren’t liable to pay tax in Spain. You’ll need to consult a gestor or lawyer on this issue.

READ ALSO: What does a ‘gestor’ do in Spain and why you’ll need one

Those who decide to become freelancers and work for several clients will need to sign up for the autónomo system. This comes with its own challenges though and can be very expensive, so you’ll need to know that you can make enough money each month to pay Spain’s high social security fee. 

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