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December is Pivotal for CR ESL Teachers

Costa Rica Teaching News – “Winter’s coming.” Any fan of the series Game of Thrones will know these famous words of Eddard Stark. While often a tumultuous season for those in the fantasy and real world, winter doesn’t have to be. A move to Costa Rica can ease the pain of winter. The trick is to do it at the right time.

costa-rica-christmasIn North America December is usually a great month. The holiday season is approaching, cities are glowing, and people’s moods are generally a lot higher than usual. If you live in the north, a white Christmas might even be icing on the cake. There’s no secret as to why December is high on most lists of favorite month.

This is also true for Costa Rica. Though obvious climatic circumstances differ, the idea remains similar. While December is also enjoyable at home, if you’re planning a move to Costa Rica at any point during the winter, you should do so in the last month of the year.

This is for multiple reasons. The first is because it is by far the most fun. Whether you believe the religion card is genuinely in play – or is simply being used as validation – Costa Rica essentially shuts down for the final month of the year. People stop going to work. The beaches are as busy as ever. The parties are daily and the weather no longer rainy. With Aguinaldo (the thirteenth month salary) paid, December in Costa Rica is a party that doesn’t stop until after New Year’s Eve.

Why does this matter? It’s the ideal time to become acclimatized.

Moving to a foreign country can be stressful at the best of times. Simultaneously juggling job trainings, employment prospects, apartment searches, and culture shock certainly can be overwhelming. With a more relaxed atmosphere the normal stresses of starting a new life abroad are reduced.

The second, and most important, point is that ESL jobs are extremely hard to come by in December. While this may seem counterintuitive, allow me to elaborate.

I’ve seen many teachers struggle with the rigors of starting a new job – which they’ve never done before – in a new country – which they’ve never been to – while living in a language they don’t speak. As a result, their performance at work is often understandably poor. While there is a grace period at any new teaching job in Costa Rica, schools don’t wait forever for a new teacher to learn the ropes.

This is why December is such a pivotal month for English teachers in Costa Rica. In a fun and inviting environment, those new to the country can get rid of the culture shock aspect and start to tackle the language barrier before their first day on the job. In addition, with a few weeks at the beach or other tourist destinations under their belt, new teachers won’t be so inclined to skip to those places again soon after they start working, an often annoyance on the part of institutes.

Culture shock isn’t the only item checked on the to do list, however; there is employment benefit to arriving in December. While new positions aren’t often available, schools do a lot of hiring for the next year in the final month of the year. January – with companies and individuals alike coming back from vacation with New Year’s resolutions – is a very busy month for ESL in Costa Rica. If schools waited until the new year to do hiring of new staff, they would often times miss out on some key contracts.

Consistent with the theme of schools not hiring from outside of Costa Rica, being in the country to apply for jobs in December – which usually follows with same month job training – is extremely advantageous. Schools like to have things in line before the Christmas break. Teachers already in the country have the best chance of securing those positions.

Most choose to do their TESOL or TEFL certification in Costa Rica for many of the same reasons. Doing the training on site gives prospective teachers the opportunity to experience the intricacies of the Tico culture without it affecting their performance at work. If you can balance this with an end of the year arrival, you’re likely to strike the perfect personal and professional balance.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email [email protected]

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.

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