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

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.

Not just English teaching: The jobs you can do in Spain without speaking Spanish
Getting a job in Spain. Image: SnapwireSnaps/Pixabay

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 were few and far between during the Covid-19 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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MOVING TO SPAIN

CHECKLIST: Everything digital nomads moving to Spain need to consider

Spain’s Startups Law is 100 percent going ahead after its very last ratification by the Senate and Parliament. If you’re a remote worker who’s now planning to come to Spain, there’s a lot more apart from the enticing law to consider beforehand, from costs to location.

CHECKLIST: Everything digital nomads moving to Spain need to consider

Spain’s Startups Law has now been completely ratified by the Spanish Senate and on Thursday December 1st was voted in definitively by Spain’s Parliament in one final vote, meaning that there are no more obstacles for the legislation to jump through.

In other words, it is a reality and there is no looking back or toing and froing for a law which has continued to receive support from all sides of the political spectrum in these very final stages.

In these last stages, the Spanish Senate added several amendments relating to better perks for serial entrepreneurs (people who start multiple businesses), incentives for startups in rural communities of Spain and denying the condition of “startup” to companies that have partners that “present risks”.

In a nutshell, Spain’s Startups Law is considered a first in Europe, with lots of incentives and tax benefits for foreign startups, less bureaucratic obstacles overall and favourable conditions for non-EU remote workers and digital nomads, including a residency visa.

The following two articles cover everything that you should know if you’re looking to benefit from the new law as a startup in Spain, but in this article our focus will be on non-EU remote workers and digital nomads and what to consider with a move to Spain.

Here is a list of what digital nomads should consider if they’re thinking of taking advantage of Spain’s new legislation.

Spanish residency and taxes   

The new digital nomad visa is particularly promising for non-EU digital nomads from countries such as the UK, US or Australia for example, as until now getting a residency permit for remote work hasn’t been at all easy, with the best option being to apply for the self-employment visa which requires a business plan, proof of guaranteed earnings and more. It will also be available for remote workers with a contract for an overseas company.

Digital nomads will be able to benefit from Spain’s Non-Residents Tax (IRNR) at a reduced tax rate of 15 percent for the first four years, even though they can spend more than 183 days a year in Spain and are therefore technically fiscal residents.

You can read in more detail about what digital nomads stand to gain in terms of taxes and a residency visa in the article directly below.

READ MORE: Spain’s new digital nomad visa – Everything we know so far

Where to move to in Spain as a digital nomad

This will be one of the most important decisions that you have to make, but again we have you covered.

From the best places for co-working and digital nomad culture to the best place for cost of living and for integrating into Spanish culture, the article below gives you an overview of some of the most popular destinations for nómadas digitales.

FIND OUT: Ten of the best cities for digital nomads to move to in Spain

Then again, you may be interested in enjoying a quieter life in rural Spain. You’ll sometimes see news stories about the offer of free accommodation in quaint Spanish villages that want remote workers, but these quickly get filled.

One of the best ways of finding the right place is by searching yourself, the article below explains how to do it.

FIND OUT: How to find Spanish villages that are helping people to move there

And do you really know what life in rural Spain will be like? Here are some points to consider.

READ MORE: Nine things you should know before moving to rural Spain

Rental costs

Spain is generally seen as having a very affordable cost of living, but it greatly depends on where you move to in the country. 

According to Spain’s leading property search portal Idealista, who released a report earlier this year, the most expensive cities to rent in Spain are San Sebastián and Bilbao at around €901 a month, followed by Barcelona and Madrid with €875 and €848 a month respectively.

The Balearics, the rest of the Basque Country and the area around Marbella also have above-average rental prices.

The cheapest places to rent are in the interior of the country around Teruel, Cuenca, Ciudad Real, Zamora and Palencia, while Almería and Huelva were the cheapest coastal cities averaging €504 and €477 a month.

As inflation rises, rents are increasing, so you may find that they are higher come January 2023.

You’ll also have to consider temporary accommodation for when you first arrive in Spain, the article below should help you with that.

READ MORE: How to find temporary accommodation in Spain when you first arrive 

General costs of living

As with rent, the general cost of living varies greatly, depending on where you want to base yourself within Spain. Barcelona, Madrid and places in the Basque Country generally have the highest cost of living, while places in central Spain and inland Andalusia have some of the lowest prices.

It’s worth keeping in mind that if you choose Barcelona, the cost of living has risen by 31 percent in the last five years. According to the annual report by the Metropolitan Area of ​​Barcelona (AMB), the minimum wage needed to be able to live comfortably in Barcelona is €1,435 gross per month.

You will need similar amounts for Madrid and the major Basque cities but will be able to get away with earning less in some of the smaller towns and cities.

Keep in mind as well that Spain is yet to disclose what the minimum income will be for digital nomads to be able to access the visa.

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Costs of co-working spaces

You’ll find co-working spaces all over Spain, mostly in the main cities but, even in small villages that are trying to attract more people because of depopulation. 

According to the latest report on the Status of Coworking in Spain in 2020-2021, Barcelona has the most coworking spaces, followed by Madrid.

Málaga, Seville and Granada, however, have the greatest offer of coworking spaces at the most affordable prices.

Co-working spaces are available to rent in Spain by the hour, day or month and also have the option for private offices for meetings and calls. 

According to the report, in 2021 the average price of a desk in a co-working space was €188 per month.

If you want to find out more about renting in Spain, check out The Local’s page on renting here

Internet speeds

Internet speeds are generally good in Spain, across much of the country, even in small villages. 

According to the Speedtest Global Index, Spain has an average broadband download speed of 154Mbps and an upload speed of 107Mbps.

For mobile speeds, the average download speed was 35Mbps and the upload speed was 10Mbps. Phone internet speeds were slightly faster in the bigger cities such as Barcelona and Madrid.

Healthcare in Spain

Even though the Startups Law will not be tweaked anymore and all that needs to happen is that it comes into force, one of the matters that still hasn’t been mentioned by Spanish authorities is what healthcare options will be available to holders of digital nomad visas. 

Will they need to get a private healthcare scheme as is required for non-lucrative visa applicants which can be expensive especially if you have pre-existing conditions? Will they be able to pay social security fees or the convenio especial pay-in scheme to access public healthcare? 

Whatever the outcome, Spanish healthcare has a good reputation although in recent times there have been protests about the lack of doctors and health workers in the country and consequently longer waiting times. 

Private healthcare options are affordable for people with no pre-existing health conditions.

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