Americans avoid Colombia for good reasons. A virtual civil war has been raging for almost 40 years. Crime and violence rates are among the highest in the world. And then there is the “drug problem.” Why would anyone consider coming here to teach English?

“I came because a friend who was working in Cali liked it here and recommended it,” says Glenn Yates, a teacher now in his second year at a bilingual school. Tired of Canada’s cold winters, he fled to a land of year-round warm weather and an even warmer welcome.

Colin Jacobs, tired of gloomy days and drizzle, found his way to teach English in Cali from his native England more than 20 years ago and hasn’t left since. “I don’t think I can ever live in London again,” he says. “After adjusting to the near-perfect weather, food, and laid-back lifestyle here, I’m not looking forward to going back. I’m broke for life.”

I also. Hundreds of varieties of flowers perfume the air, even in winter. Pantries abound with exotic fruits like Guava and Carambolo. The one-year growing season allows papayas to reach almost the size of watermelons; mangoes can weigh up to two pounds each. Strong black coffee from Colombia, considered the richest in the world, is served everywhere.

But it’s sure?

There are problems, yes, but not of “run-shout-to-the-hills” intensity. Most conflicts occur in the field. While this can make travel between cities risky at times, residents within major cities such as Bogotá, Cali and Medellín feel little impact and live fairly normally. Adapting to power outages, phone or water outages, and flooding in the rainy season is more of a nuisance than a threat to life. Larger cities are reasonably well policed ​​and generally safe, if you are careful.

Drugs? Most of the illicit production is destined for export, so, with the exception of the drug trafficking factions at war in the coca growing areas, there is not much daily impact. During major holidays, the government intensifies military patrols of major highways and resort areas to ensure protection and safer travel for vacationers.

Quality of life

Cali, with two million inhabitants, is known as the “salsa capital of the world,” rivaling Cuba. The two largest malls are home to multiplex complexes with US-released movies in English with Spanish subtitles. Publications in English are available in bookstores and newsstands. Material in English can be borrowed for free from the Santiago de Cali University and for an annual fee of $ 3 at the Centro Cultural Colombo Americano. The Municipal Theater, the Tertulia Arts Complex and the Jorge Isaacs Theater offer regular productions in Spanish. Ethnic restaurants specializing in Latin American and Mediterranean cuisine continually tempt Cali palates. Christmas celebrations take place throughout the year. Check them out online at [] Colombia.html. You will never be bored in Cali.


Native English teachers are scarce here. The wages reflect the high demand. Most teaching positions require the applicant to be a native English speaker and have a college degree. A teaching certificate and some experience are a definite plus. The job is available at bilingual colleges, language institutes, and universities. Submitting a dozen resumes in English should take you half that many interviews, culminating in multiple job openings on the spot.

You do not speak Spanish? Interviews are usually in English, but as a working resident you will probably want to learn more than tourist Spanish. The Santiago de Cali University and the Pontifica Universitaria Javeriana have Spanish programs for foreigners. Berlitz ( has offices in Cali with Spanish classes. A private tutor is fairly easy to come by.

“It has not been a problem finding someone to help me when I need to do something in Spanish,” said Glen Yates, who, with his limited Spanish, has found Colombians to be very friendly and sociable.

So don’t worry about news reports unnecessarily. Call, write or email schools and colleges to find out their needs and requirements. Check the websites. Gather your diplomas, certificates, and letters of reference. Don’t forget to collect materials like maps, postcards, brochures, magazines, and souvenirs from your hometown. These will be invaluable for your conversations with students.

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