Havana, Cuba is famed for its music, vintage cars, and oceanfront malecon. Recently, Cuba has been on the front edge of travel trends as it slowly opens to new visitors. Be one of the first to explore the amazing country as an English teacher in Havana! Fill your days with the Western Hemisphere’s best education system, and fill your nights with adventures in the dynamic culture of Havana. You’ll never regret the experience of living as an English teacher in one of the most elusive countries in the world—Cuba!
What you need to know to teach in Havana
For all of its other perceived shortcomings, Cuba is exceptionally good one thing—education. Their government invests nearly 13% of GDP in education, making it the highest funded school system in the world. There are excellent schools throughout the country and high school graduation is essentially mandatory for Cuban citizens. As such, there are high standards for teaching jobs in Cuba which are enforced by the Cuban government.
Popular ESL jobs in Cuba. Perhaps due to the strained relationship the Cuban government has with other English-speaking countries, such as the United States, English teaching jobs in Cuba are not yet widely available. But English jobs are on the rise, especially in Havana, as the island sees a spike in tourism. The increased demand for English-speakers is driving the change in government policy. A majority of current ESL job placements will be in the private sector, such as private tutoring or small group teaching in language schools. However, there may be increased opportunities in public schools and universities in the coming years.
Short term vs. long term teaching jobs—plus other tidbits on job structure. An ever challenging decision, one of the biggest choices you’ll need to make when teaching abroad is deciding on the length of your teaching contract. Short-term programs are the most pervasive in Havana, but you may find a long-term contract with a university or high-school program. Short-term programs typically range from one to three months, while longer contracts could be up to an academic year. A shorter program is are great way to see if you like life in Cuba, while longer programs work well if you want to be fluent in su espanol and really get to know this misunderstood nation.
Teaching English vs teaching other subjects. Because of the high-quality of its education system, teaching jobs (of any subject) in Cuba are at a premium. Don’t expect an easy job search here! International teachers looking to teach in Cuba might have an easier time finding employment if they go through a program provider instead of applying directly to schools. Having experience with Spanish will improve the search process, as you may be contracted to teach a subject other than English.
Life in Havana for ESL Teachers
The reality of life in Cuba has long been shrouded in secrecy for most Americans (other nationalities may have better access to unbiased information about Cuba), so you will find a lot of misconceptions about what Havana and life as an English teacher is really like. In fact, one of the most challenging parts of living in Cuba is untangling all the misinformation and cognitive dissonance you’ll feel living as a foreigner there.
Visitors to Havana are often surprised by the high-quality of life as poverty is significantly less problematic in Cuba than other Latin American countries. With that said, life in Havana for a foreigner is probably not going to be easy. You’ll experiences a lot of challenges and disruptions in your normal routines.
Sometimes the most basic parts of life, like shopping for toilet paper or expecting to find electricity when you flip on your lightswitch, are not a given when living in Cuba. Wifi, for example, is only accessible using a prepaid internet card in public areas like parks or plazas. You will not be watching Netflix in bed while living in Cuba. One of the best ways to adjust to life in Havana is to expect the unexpected, practice your patience and prepare yourself for a transformational learning experience.
GoAbroad’s Inside Scoop for foreign teachers in Havana
Unlike other Latin American capital cities, Havana is home to far fewer expats. Cuban immigration laws are quite strict and it is nearly impossible for foreigners to get business licenses, which results in a very small expat community. You will probably be one of few foreigners living in Cuba as a foreign teacher. As such, you should be prepared to befriend mostly local residents during your time as an English teacher in Havana and Spanish language is a helpful asset.
For all the challenges of life as a foreign teacher in Havana, there are some amazing benefits. With all the time you’ll save not scrolling through Instagram, you’ll have plenty of chances to enjoy life in Havana, the buzzling hub of modern life in Cuba. Cubans are well-accomplished artists, musicians, and dancers with a strong commitment to the arts, making the stages of Havana’s club teeming with incredible talent. Don’t miss your chance to see a cappella singers, salsa performers, or live supper club bands while living in Cuba’s capital city.
Although it is not well-known as a culinary destination, there is good food to be found in Havana. In a country whose citizens live on government food rations, Cubans have learned how to make the simple taste delicious. The most well known Cuban dishes are ropa vieja, fried plantains, fresh lobster and arroz con pollo. In Havana, there are lots of street vendors and paladares which are privately-run, guaranteeing your profit goes straight to the locals. Keep your eyes out for habaneros lining up at a hole in the wall or window to find some of the best local favorites for cheap!
Living in Havana Cuba as an English teacher is a complicated, beautiful, and eye-opening experience. You shouldn’t expect for things to always work logically, but you can expect a vibrant and colorful lifestyle as you navigate life with some of the friendliest people in the world. Cuba’s highly rated education system will reward you with a challenging career prospect, and quirky metropolitan vibe of Havana will keep you coming back for more. Teaching abroad in Havana, Cuba is your opportunity to live in one of the fastest changing countries in the world, and expand your understanding of this often misunderstood country!
Are you already dreaming of riding in a vintage convertible down the colorful streets of Havana? Get more inspiration with our comprehensive guide on teaching abroad in Cuba!