Teaching abroad is a popular career choice for young graduates regardless of whether they plan on having a career in teaching long-term, as well as for more experienced professionals who fancy a career change. Mexico is a great choice for teach abroad as the country has lots of schools, colleges, and universities to take your pick from. There are also many programs across English-speaking countries that can enlist potential teachers, making the move a lot easier for all those involved. As a country that represents the connecting point between North America and its Latin American contingent, Mexico welcomes hundreds of thousands of teachers each year, helping its population improve their language skills.
Mexico is often seen as the link between Northern and Southern America due to its neighbouring countries, with the United States of America to the north and Guatemala and Belize to the south, it’s easy to see why. With over 115 million inhabitants and over 20 million living in and around the capital city, it is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Most of the population lives in cities and urban areas, with a very small fraction residing in rural areas (estimated at about 20 percent). The top largest cities after Mexico City are, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, and Tijuana, spread out across the country.
Central Mexico is home to one of the biggest capital cities in the world - Mexico City, or Distrito Federal to the natives. Amongst the hustle and bustle of cars, people, and taco trucks, you can enjoy some of the best street food in the world, forage through markets that have taken place since Aztec times, visit historical buildings and homes (Frida Khalo’s is a must), and take in the alluring culture, a mixture of European, American and Latin flavours. As you travel southwards, you can be greeted by the humbling beauty of Puebla’s porcelain and mosaics, Oaxaca’s supreme cuisine and entrenched indigenous customs, a clear opening to the state of Chiapas - possibly Mexico’s most endearing state - replete with Mayan ruins, ancient song and dance, and spectacular food. Quintana Roo and the Yucatan are home to some of Mexico’s most famous towns and cities - Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Merida, all bringing in millions of tourists each year.
Mexico is a land of extremes, with a particularly varied landscape. Arid deserts to the north are followed by picturesque colonial towns resting on the remains of silver mines. On both western and eastern coasts visitors are greeted with dense forests and jungles, displaying a richness in colour schemes, fauna, and flora. Along these coasts lie a combination of exploited beach resorts, such as Veracruz, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, and Puerto Escondido, as well as lesser known enclaves, boasting a range of natural reserves where you can spend your free time while away.
The climate in Mexico changes from region to region, ranging from dry and arid to tropical. The north with its desert stretches holds warm days and cool nights, feeling particularly acute in the autumn and winter, with temperatures plummeting in the evening despite warm days. Central Mexico tends to be a bit milder, with temperatures ranging between 15 and 30 degrees across the year. Night time can be pretty cool in the winter months, especially around mountainous regions. In the south, thanks to the tropical climate, you will generally tend to experience humidity and cool nights in the highest points.
Due to its geographical location, rainy season is felt throughout the country, with central and southern parts particularly affected. This change in climate occurs at the end of summer and carries through to the beginning of October. The rain shouldn’t prove too difficult to steer through; however, if you are residing in coastal areas, it is worth taking extra precautions as there can be a risk of flooding, as was experienced recently in Acapulco in early 2013.
Spanish colonization in the 16th century, as well as subsequent immigration bouts in the following centuries, have meant that Mexico holds many ethnic groups within its borders. Argentinean, Guatemalans, and Chileans have moved north to the land of the Aztecs, mainly to escape political issues and rebuild their lives elsewhere. However, many Europeans have also settled there - the Cornish have left their mark on Hidalgo’s architecture and the Venetos, of Italian origin, can still be found in their original settlements in the state of Puebla. Arabs also moved in by thousands, making their way into commerce, hospitality, and restaurants. In fact, one of Mexico’s famous dishes, tacos arabes, is actually a variation of a doner kebab.
The north of the country, due to its dry lands, is relatively free of urbanization and populated by a few towns. However, it is central Mexico that holds most of the country’s inhabitants. The same occurs further south, with many tribes and indigenous settlements populating a few areas of forested departments. Towns, such as San Cristobal de las Casas, Cancun, Tuxtla, and Tapachula, attract a large amount of tourists each year, meaning the population soars at peak times of the holiday calendar.
A country that appears to have taken different aspects of each culture it has played home to over the years, Mexico is a melting pot of people, apparent in its arts and customs, making it the ideal spot to hone your language skills and your understanding of Latin culture at its best.
Although Spanish is the most widely-spoken language, there are numerous other languages that are commonplace due to the country’s multicultural history. To date there are over 65 languages spoken in Mexico, with many pockets of the country, both on the northwestern and southern areas, playing home to indigenous communities. Having said that, you will be able to get yourself heard and understood in most parts of the country by using Spanish language skills alone. It is a good idea to bring a guidebook, or phrasebook, with you if you are planning on heading out to remote areas, just to help you on your way should you stray from the obvious tourist trail.
Due to its relationship with Anglo-Saxon culture, most Mexicans do speak some English. Mexico City, Puebla, Monterrey, Guadalajara, and to a lesser extent, Oaxaca, are all places where you can get by pretty easily with English as your main tool. However, in order to get the most out of your experience, it is advisable to brush up on your Spanish skills before you go. The lexicon in Mexican Spanish is anything but dull; many everyday expressions and idioms are specific to the country so don’t be too alarmed if you come across common words used in a variety of contexts. This is just part of the culture and it’s advisable you chip in! Locals will find it endearing that you are adopting their play on words, their fashions, and their diction.
The culture is hard to define, as it varies so vastly across the territory. Up north, you’ll experience a true hybrid of American-Mexican culture, with cholos and cowboys listening to rancheras, sipping on Dos Equis, and punctuating their phrases with English words. In the heartland, you are guaranteed to spot Aztec culture and customs rubbing shoulders with fads and fashions of the western world, with restaurant and clothing pop-ups reminiscent of European trends populating the streets of affluent Mexico City. The south, with its indigenous population and strong tourist industry, offers a glimpse into a life once led across the country - old clay pots put on a makeshift stove to produce some splendid dishes, colourful and intricate embroidered textiles displayed in each town for tourists to spend their pesos on, or a mixture of tongues chanting and chiming through the cobbled streets.
The currency in Mexico is the Mexican peso, although more touristy spots accept U.S. dollars, and sometimes, even Euros (e.g. along the Riviera Maya). However, in order to get the best deal possible it is worth changing your money before you arrive, or bringing a credit or debit card with you to take out pesos from ATMs which are common in towns and cities. Although rates can fluctuate, the basic (and easy!) conversion rate is $1.50 USD to $20 MEX, or £1 GBP to $20 MEX.
The way of life can be pretty cheap or pretty costly, depending on what sort of experience you are looking for. You can just as easily fork out a mere $500 MEX on living arrangements or go for a modern penthouse in the upmarket areas of Mexico City for $5,000 MEX. The choice is up to you, however, it is wise to go for mid-range, just to give you enough money to go travelling (it would be a shame to spend all your money on rent and not experience the amazing sites and land Mexico has to its name).
Mexico can't be spoken of without mentioning the food. The trusted tortilla, the refried beans, and the chilies - three essential items appearing in nearly every single dish and with good reason - they are the perfect combination! Many have tasted Mexican food, however, don’t be fooled - chili con carne, burritos, and nachos are not common in Mexico. Instead, you will have to try the enchiladas caseras (tortillas drenched in green tomato sauce, packed with shredded chicken, and finished with tart, creamy requesón), birria tacos (slow cooked goat on moreish corn tortillas), tostadas de ceviche (a mixture of fish and shellfish cooked in lime and doused in Valentina sauce) or Puebla old favourite, and mole (chicken cooked in a rich chocolate and chili sauce).
There is too much to list to do their food justice, but rest assured, whatever your craving, whatever your fancy, whatever your tastes, Mexico’s culinary platters will greet even the most difficult of palates with incredible combinations of sazón.
Wherever you end up going, be it exploring the beaches and whale-watching across Baja California, trekking through the desert of San Luis Potosí, witnessing ancient celebrations in the zócalo of Mexico City, climbing part of the Malinche in Puebla’s suburbs, discovering Mitla in Oaxaca’s plains, making your way through the jungle of Chiapas, picking coffee beans, or lounging on the white beaches of the Riviera Maya, Mexico has it all, and then some!
Teaching abroad in Mexico is a relatively easy affair. Many schools, universities and colleges are in strong competition with each other, all trying to offer a level of English that comes second to none, so your chances of finding employment or part-time work are high. Making initial contact with schools before you board your flight is recommended, just to make sure they have produced documentation for you to show airport officials upon landing in the country.
There are a few schemes and programs around, including many governmental initiatives, such as the British Council, offering students and recent graduates the possibility of finding teaching positions without too much trouble. Competition for these places can be fierce, so it’s a good idea to prepare your interview answers by including research you have done on your own about the country, what you could bring to the role, and how you would make a great ambassador for your country upon placement.
Teaching hours vary, but overall if you are placed with a home body, you will be required to work 12 to 18 hours per week. If, however, you find work on site, you will be given anything from 14 to 40 hours per week and generally be paid less than you would with a proper program. Rates vary across the country but expect to be paid anything between $80 to $250 MEX per hour.
Regardless of whether you find employment pre or post-arrival, you will be required to register at the immigration offices (most towns have an office - if not, the ayuntamiento will be able to tell you where the closest are) and be given a special visa for your services. If you do not comply with this, you could be fined heavily, and in extreme cases deported. It’s a good idea to come prepared with proof of address, proof of work (a formal letter from your employer will do), and a few photos.
With so many opportunities for work, travel, and play, Mexico is an ideal spot for those looking to experience a hedonistic experience of Latin culture. You can just as easily find yourself sipping expensive cocktails in a plush bar in Guadalajara, as you could biting into freshly caught fish on the coast of Oaxaca. If you’re after some time away and don’t know quite well whether you would like to go to the beach, live in a remote part of the world, or enjoy all a cosmopolitan city has to offer, you couldn’t pick a better place. Mexico offers more than its fair share of experiences, customs, and colours to suit even the most well-travelled of foreigners.