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Teaching English in CR: Managing Expectations

Costa Rica News – The decision to move abroad for an indeterminate amount of time is not an innovative or new idea. For years people have flooded the unknown terrain of foreign lands in search of adventure and lifestyle change. What has been lessened, though, in recent years due to advances in technology and access to information online is the fear factor.

teaching-english-in-costa-rica jobsGone are the days where one would move to a country knowing little, if anything, about it. It’s quite rare nowadays to come across someone who didn’t spend a lot of time researching their country of destination. The unknown factor of course still exists, but what travelers and aspiring expats now know before taking the leap is abundant.

This is even more important if your goal of moving abroad is to work. For obvious reasons a work environment is much different from that of traveling and finding out as much as you can prior to departing is imperative. When talking about Costa Rica, one of the largest markets for finding employment is the ESL market.

Every year thousands of English speakers flock to Costa Rica with hopes of teaching English. Some come due to lack of opportunities at home, while others simply are looking for an adventure. Whatever the reason, the demand for native English teachers locally never wanes. Costa Rica is home to several large fortune 500 companies and proficiency in English is considered requisite for career advancement. As a result, the demand for qualified, professional English teachers is only increasing.

As far as the life of an ESL teacher here is concerned, that in a lot of ways is up to the individual. The company line about teaching here is: nobody comes to Costa Rica to get rich. While perhaps simultaneously humorous and humbling, it rings true. If your goal is to move here, teach English, and eventually move back home or somewhere else with a loaded bank account, this is not the place for you. However, if you’re looking for a new experience, or to expand your current know-how, while learning a new language and doing something you didn’t think you could before, this is definitely for you.

The ESL picture in Costa Rica is not a bleak one to be sure. You won’t be homeless and begging people for money and food. It’s simply important to have managed expectations before taking the plunge. What you can expect is a steady job, usually working mornings and evenings (especially so if you’re working for one of the many language institutes that service those fortune 500 companies) and making enough money to be comfortable.

A fair description is that you will be able to rent a reasonable apartment, eat out when you like, go out on weekends and hit the beach once or twice a month. It’s a very reasonable and manageable life for those that are into it. But having those reasonable expectations is the key. Those who get crushed are those who didn’t do their research and thought they could simply pick-up their life at home and set it down in Costa Rica. That is not what will happen.

Neither is that the point. Those who don’t do as well at the life abroad are those who expected that things would simply be a replica of home. But if living abroad is something you want to do, embracing a foreign culture, and all that comes with it, is part of the game.

Costa Rica is an amazing country. Its vast beauty and variety of natural offerings from beaches to rainforests to mountain tops are something that is hard to find anywhere else. Teaching English here is a great way to live abroad and see what the world has to offer. Doing it well involves taking the time to research and packing realistic expectations with you. If you do that, it will be the time of your life.

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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