In true “British educational system” style, it’s time to analyse the alternative view: problems with teaching in Buenos Aires. Aimed only at making you savvy to a few pitfalls, it is by no means an attempt to persuade you away from living in this wonderful city, just a couple of snippets of useful information from one TEFLer to another.
It’s no secret that South America isn’t a great place to line your pockets with shed loads of cash; and the grim reality is that there isn’t too much money to be made from teaching in Argentina. Whilst there is plenty of work available, the pay hasn’t correlated alongside the sharp rise in Argentine inflation. Pay does vary from institution to institution (generally A$35-50 p/hour) but it is never smashingly good. I am yet to meet a teacher living off a teaching wage alone; everybody seems to have a little tucked away to see them through. Personally I have enough to cover my rent and I am living fairly comfortably, but TEFLing in Argentina is fairly unsustainable in the long-term.
Travelling from student-to-student is a common gripe amongst the TEFL community in Buenos Aires. Institutions send you from office-to-office or from home-to-home and whilst buses run fantastically regularly they can seem like a second home to you sometimes. If a student cancels last minute, you may still get paid, but you may find yourself sitting in a Starbucks for a couple of hours waiting for your next student. It has a tendency to drag your day out and if it happens a couple of times, it can also upset your week (which it often does)! Some (and my no means all) institutions can be fairly disorganised. You may go for an interview today but you may not hear back from them for 2 months. Finding a reliable institution is not incredibly difficult, but don’t rely too much on the first company who offer you work as you may find a better alternative further down the line.
Politically and economically unstable:
Yes, yes what has politics got to do with your TEFL experience? Well, rumour has it that there is an economic hurricane heading towards the shores of Argentina; actually it’s pretty darn obvious really. Last year inflation was 35%, and there doesn’t seem too much hope of an improvement this year. There isn’t too much optimism amongst locals over here. The gap between the rich and poor is becoming even more prominent as the Argentine government, not shy of a few corruption scandals, pass what are often seen as controversial policies. The Peso is already a fragile currency and it looks increasingly likely that the Peso’s you earn in Argentina may be worth less and less in the coming months, not good news if you harbour travelling plans, though neighbouring countries such as Bolivia are particularly cheap. The only differing opinion amongst many of my students is just how soon it will hit. Alongside, the economic problems also comes the political. It’s particularly common for protests to happen, well, most days. Often clogging up roads and disrupting your journey, don’t be surprised to turn up to the subway station only for it not to be working.
There is quite a noticeable gap between the rich and poor in Buenos Aires. Some of Buenos Aires’ poorest turn to a life of crime often through thefts and muggings to get by. Of course, you shouldn’t be overly worried because the vast majority of people in Buenos Aires are incredibly hospitable and lovely, but there are certainly some areas worth avoiding at night. You’re never too far away from knowing of a victim of pick-pocketers or robbers. Unfortunately, the police are not too much help in these situations either. There seems to be a sense of inevitability about being a victim of theft, a shrug of the shoulders and a look of “it happens” can be your likely response.
So – Buenos Aires is a great place to live and experience the South American culture but you should certainly be aware of the pointers stated in this article. Things in Buenos Aires sometimes have a tendency not to work; so if you’re an individual easily frustrated and irritated it’s probably not the place for you. A “whatever will be, will be” attitude will serve you well here.
But overall? By-jove, it’s a good city!