The Expat Files: Living in Latin America A guide to moving to Latin America, finding work, and settling in.

August 22, 2014  
From the “be careful what you wish for department”:
One of the top complaints I hear from expats with a new brick and mortar businesses (successful or not) is from day one they become “married” to it. Note that expats always say they come down to relax, slow down and have more free time, but many without real hobbies get bored and then start businesses only to find they have less freedom than ever. Bottom line: if you fancy a brick and mortar business in Latin America you’d better love it, or at least like it a lot. Select carefully whatever it is that you’re doing or selling because you’ll probably be chained to it for quite a while.

ECUADOR, Part 2:
Why gringos almost always pay more than they have to for real estate in Ecuador as well as in nearly all places considered to be “on the gringo tourist trail”. That said then why, after walking away from the closing, do so many gringos think it was the deal of a lifetime?  
 
-A short primer on how to dicker and haggle with Latin vendors:
Should you (a supposed “rich” gringo) try to play hardball when haggling with local vendors as local customers do? Why not? Why pay more if you don’t have to? Vendors never sell stuff at a loss.

-Though Gringos often overpay a street vendor intentionally- when the seller appears to be quite poor, be charitable of course, but make sure you select your own charity… don’t let the charity select you!       
 
-Do follow the link on the main page at www.ExpatWisdom.com to schedule a private phone, Skype or Mumble consult with me. If you want to discuss the details of living, working, playing, doing business and/or retiring in Latin America, you and I can talk about your situation one on one.
 
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August 17, 2014  

-Expat Eddie fires cleaning lady #3 … once again for petty theft. This time you’ll never guess in million years what she palmed. And Eddie, after thinking about the misdemeanor for a day or so, threw out the book on his normally rock-solid employee rules and principles and decided to hire her back. It had to do precisely because of what item she pilfered.       


From the “be careful what you wish for department”: ECUADOR, the next Costa Rica? Yup, it’s beginning to look that way tourist-wise anyway, but what you didn’t know is that its government is beyond broke and Ecuador has one of the very worst international credit and bond ratings (in the bottom 10 of all 200 plus countries in the world). Not to mention the president is a very confirmed socialist. I know, I know: all Latin scumbag presidents and politicos conveniently blab the socialism line to snag the votes of the poor and uneducated, but Correa is really a dedicated marxist.   

-Though parts of Ecuador are still very, very nice, gringos are invading and having their usual negative effects on the place and the people. Here are a few disturbing things that tourists, wannabees, gonnabees (and the soon to be retired) need to know.   

-You read pronouncements all over the internet, in retirement rags as well as International Living, etc., that one can retire comfortably in Ecuador for 600 bucks a month. Some say $1000 a month will do it and still others say $1500, or $1800. So what’s going on here? Who’s right, who’s blowing smoke and how do the people living on the $600/month low-end actually do it?              

-Do follow the link on the main page at www.ExpatWisdom.com to schedule a private phone, Skype or Mumble consult with me. If you want to discuss the details of living, working, playing, doing business and/or retiring in Latin America. Now you and I can talk about your situation one on one.
Listen Now:


August 15, 2014  
-Did you know that in this very macho Latin society there are many, many tens of thousands of educated but unmarried Latin career women, i.e., doctors, accountants, teachers, psychologists, managers, etc., still living with mommy and daddy? In fact, except for old spinsters without immediate family, it’s rare to find an unmarried Latin career woman who lives alone. Stranger yet, young Latin women living alone almost always arouse some suspicion and disdain from family and neighbors.  
 
-It’s truly amazing, in spite of stark realities, how Latins have completely bought into the fantasy of the so called “American Dream”. Look at the unremitting waves of illegals sneaking in the states by the millions. So then, what are gringo expats supposed to say to Latins who think that we’re crazy for coming down against the flow, abandoning that totally absurd “Dream” ourselves? Crazier yet, what do gringos say to clueless Latins (without actually calling them morons) who might ask for advice or help from you with the US visa process?    
 
From the “be careful what you wish for department”:
How about this email….
Q: Gee Johnny, the folks back home can’t believe it. I really won the lottery. Look at me, a middle class guy from Milwaukee, engaged to a beautiful, rich Colombian girl whose father owns a giant teak plantation, a beer company and a few cement factories. How lucky can a gringo get.  
A: Well, just wait till after the honeymoon. Then tell me about it how great it is- after your identity gets absorbed into that wealthy Latin family- like the Borg.  
 
-We all know by now that Argentina is in default. But what most don’t know is that there are nine other countries in the world with identical international, (read crap) credit ratings. And yes most are the usual suspects, but there are specifically two Latin countries on the feces list that will certainly surprise you.        
 
-Do follow the link on the main page at www.ExpatWisdom.com to schedule a private phone, Skype or Mumble consult with me. If you want to discuss the details of living, working, playing, doing business and/or retiring in Latin America. Now you and I can talk about your situation one on one.
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August 10, 2014  

-Part II of gringos, gringas and motorcycles in Latin America: Motorcycles are cheap, dependable transportation all right… but when in Latin America should you dare drive one or even hop on as a passenger?     


-If you drive any vehicle and you’re down in Latin America long enough, you will eventually get into an accident or collide with a motorcycle. Or more likely, a motorcyclist will collide with you. It’s nothing but controlled chaos on the roads down here and no matter how safely you drive or how perfect your driving record may be up in Cleveland, there’s a collision waiting to happen to you, bub! That said, what should you do when you get into that crash? What are the proper steps to take…. or not to take?   

-What would you say to living the expat life in a very small town of maybe only 4000 to 5000 people? There are thousands of Latin towns like that, way out in the boonies. Yes, life there can be very rewarding in so many ways. But being quite probably the only gringo in town, you’ll always be in a fishbowl. That said, you’ll either end up king of the mountain (if you’re a nice guy/gal) or king of the jerks (if you’re a dirt bag). Either way, though you’ll probably get cabin fever and have to get to the big city occasionally. In the end chances are you’ll end up really loving small town life in more ways than one.   

-And now for some very un-PC tips for gringa expat wannabees and gonnabees who could be looking for love in all the wrong places.        

-Do follow the link on the main page at www.ExpatWisdom.com to schedule a private phone, Skype or Mumble consult with me. If you want to discuss the details of living, working, playing, doing business and/or retiring in Latin America. Now you and I can talk about your situation one on one.
Listen Now:


August 8, 2014  
-After discussing the good, bad and the ugly concerning owning and driving motorcycles on last week’s show, certain wannabee and gonnabee listeners chimed in with relevant email comments and questions. One such email is from an expat who has been driving a motorcycle in Central America for some months now. He enlightens us with his own take and experiences with cops and police roadblocks.   
 
-Gringos often notice that Latin kids will walk around with fragile plastic sandwich bags full of soda, juice or some kind of liquid refreshment. They suck the contents out with a straw. You might think that it’s their mothers who whip those things up for their kids at home, but that’s not so. Kids buy them very cheap from little hole in the wall stores and street vendors who make up those little bags from 2 liter soda and juice bottles. Why? Because they’re very cheap and the average kid can’t afford to buy soda in standard bottles and cans.       
 
-And now for few little tidbits about gringos and expats who are “on the run” or kind of just “hiding out” in Latin America. If you keep your eyes open it’s not too hard to spot them yourself. It’s a fact that many long-term expats have gone native or partially native as a way to continually remain well under the radar. If you happen to meet an old timer like that, and he opens up, the stories can be amazing. My first question to anyone like that is always, “How’d you pull it off for so long?”    
 
-Do follow the link on the main page at www.ExpatWisdom.com to schedule a private phone, Skype or Mumble consult with me. If you want to discuss the details of living, working, playing, doing business and/or retiring in Latin America. Now you and I can talk about your situation one on one.
Listen Now:


August 3, 2014  

One of truly great things about living and hanging well off the gringo tourist trail(besides occasionally being treated like a B-grade rock star) is that there are literally thousands of spectacular ancient Aztec, Mayan, Toltec, and Inca ruins open to the public that are almost NEVER crowded. In fact there can be so few people visiting these sites and parks that you can't even locate a park ranger or employee once you've paid the initial entry fee. That said, gringos sometimes wonder how Latin governments manage to keep so many of these places open to the public at all.     


-Latin Park Rangers will do anything to keep their jobs. Why? Not only do have some of the slackest job descriptions on the planet, but they are perhaps the best paying low-end, entry level jobs available too. In fact the guys policing the smaller sites “off the gringo tourist trail”... places that don’t have a computerized ticketing systems yet (and most don’t)... can make up to 3 times their normal salary because they often work a clever scam. And here’s how it goes, from the “be careful what you wish for department”: Ever wonder what would happen if you were in Latin America and somehow overstayed your 90 day visa by a few months? How much trouble would you be in? What if you overstayed by a year, or even ten years? Should you be concerned, worried or even terrified? Find out exactly what happened to a gringo who recently got caught overstayed his 90 day visa in Mexico by more than 10 years!              

-Do follow the link on the main page at www.ExpatWisdom.com to schedule a private phone, Skype or Mumble consult with me. If you want to discuss the details of living, working, playing, doing business and/or retiring in Latin America. Now you and I can talk about your situation one on one.
Listen Now:


August 3, 2014  

One of truly great things about living and hanging well off the gringo tourist trail(besides occasionally being treated like a B-grade rock star) is that there are literally thousands of spectacular ancient Aztec, Mayan, Toltec, and Inca ruins open to the public that are almost NEVER crowded. In fact there can be so few people visiting these sites and parks that you can't even locate a park ranger or employee once you've paid the initial entry fee. That said, gringos sometimes wonder how Latin governments manage to keep so many of these places open to the public at all.     


-Latin Park Rangers will do anything to keep their jobs. Why? Not only do have some of the slackest job descriptions on the planet, but they are perhaps the best paying low-end, entry level jobs available too. In fact the guys policing the smaller sites “off the gringo tourist trail”... places that don’t have a computerized ticketing systems yet (and most don’t)... can make up to 3 times their normal salary because they often work a clever scam. And here’s how it goes, from the “be careful what you wish for department”: Ever wonder what would happen if you were in Latin America and somehow overstayed your 90 day visa by a few months? How much trouble would you be in? What if you overstayed by a year, or even ten years? Should you be concerned, worried or even terrified? Find out exactly what happened to a gringo who recently got caught overstayed his 90 day visa in Mexico by more than 10 years!              

-Do follow the link on the main page at www.ExpatWisdom.com to schedule a private phone, Skype or Mumble consult with me. If you want to discuss the details of living, working, playing, doing business and/or retiring in Latin America. Now you and I can talk about your situation one on one.
Listen Now:


August 1, 2014  
From the “be careful what you wish for department”:
In Latin America, the #1 reported crime is cell phone theft. Knowing that scumbag politicians don’t give rip if the poor and middle-classes continuously get their phones snatched, the jerks in congress never did much about it.... till now. It was when high-priced I-phones and smartphone start getting snatched and the wives, families and mistresses of the ass-wipe rotten politicians and the wealthy 2% were suddenly targeted- that’s when a volley of stupid-ass laws were passed in droves to try to curb such crimes. Luckily because this is Latin America, enforcement of laws (crappy and otherwise) has always been hit and miss. And here are a few great examples of that..         
 
-Notice that when you’re in Latin America the motorcycles on the road outnumber the cars by two to one or more. If you drive a car in larger Latin cities, you’ll quickly notice motorcyclists (motos) break so many laws that it’s not surprising to see many machines, passengers and drivers splattered along the roads. Not long ago I personally witnessed THREE motorcycle wipe-outs in one day. Note that expats who drive in larger cities can expect to see, on average, a crackup like that about every week or so. According to Latin auto insurance companies, with moto accidents, the motorcyclist is almost always at fault. Unfortunately for the other guy, less than one moto in a thousand has any kind of insurance at all.
 
-Note that when you’re down here and start making Latin friends, sooner or later you'll be hit with certain predictable questions like, “Why would you ever want to leave the USA?” And then, after you unsatisfactorily try to explain that one, next they’ll ask why you (an assumed rich gringo) would carry a cheap “dumb” phone, drive a nondescript slightly-dented auto, and have no obvious designer clothes or bling to speak of. No use in explaining the benefits of a low-profile lifestyle or your personal motives. Even the most educated Latins won’t get it. No matter what you say the local Latins will think you are either a cheapskate or nearly broke. Funny thing, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Latin who wouldn’t gladly sacrifice security for a bit of status (I know there are a plenty of gringos who would do so too).              
 
-Do follow the link on the main page at www.ExpatWisdom.com to schedule a private phone, Skype or Mumble consult with me. If you want to discuss the details of living, working, playing, doing business and/or retiring in Latin America. Now you and I can talk about your situation one on one.
Listen Now:


July 27, 2014  

From the “be careful what you wish for department”: The Nicaragua Canal- PART II. Ask yourself, where are they going to put 200 million cubic yards of sludge and rock left over after dredging the proposed channel in Lake Nicaragua? And that’s just the excess stuff that must be removed to make the 90 foot deep proposed channel in the 60 mile lake route. Note that doesn’t include what's to be dug out of the 120 mile channel (twice as long) cut along the land route. And by the way, that 200 million cubic yards from just the lake dredging measures out to about 4 times the rock, soot and lava that blewing off as Mt. St. Helens erupted. Once again, where’s all that crud going to get dumped? That said, there’s no end to the engineering and logistics problems posed by this new canal…    

-Time to find out when a “gringo” is not a gringo?  

-How do Latins address “sensitive” hyphenated North American ethnic tourist types? Well, except for one particularly odd ethnic case, Latins just don’t make those distinctions or even get the concept when you try to explain it to them. Thus they follow none of the unwritten stateside PC name rules that pervade Cleveland, Danville and Cucamonga (yup, that’s a real place, and it’s in California).      

-Besides being a cheap and dirty way to lodge, backpacker hotels and hostels offer young, free and easy adults certain things they can’t find in a traditional hotel setting- like shared bathrooms, bacteria and bedbugs as well as the extremely friendly company of other free and easy adults!                  

-Do follow the link on the main page at www.ExpatWisdom.com to schedule a private phone, Skype or Mumble consult with me. If you want to discuss the details of living, working, playing, doing business and/or retiring in Latin America. Now you and I can talk about your situation one on one.   

Listen Now:


July 25, 2014  
From the “be careful what you wish for department”: The Nicaragua Canal- PART I.
Lots of emails and questions are coming in about the new proposed canal to be built through Nicaragua. Some gringos, expat wannabees and gonnabees think it might be a golden once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set up a gringo business of some sort and shovel in the riches. Many are thinking of moving down near one of the canal’s mega-construction areas. After all, experts estimate that the construction of the thing will employ anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 workers (but then again, how can experts quote such huge spreads, duh?). So today the discussion hits on some little known reasons why people in the know have grave doubts as to whether the project will ever getting finished. True, most feel with Chinese backing, it will likely get rolling, but many feel it will never get finished… and for many good reasons.  
 
- Did you know that many of the large Latin based sugar cane plantations are completely self-sufficient, petroleum free and off the grid? Here's what they're doing... 
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-All over Latin America, classes and seminars on alcohol and biodiesel production are being offered regularly by Brazilian experts in the field (Brazil sets the world's best bio-fuel example since it imports no petroleum for fuel). Here’s an update on Latin American biodiesel and alcohol production, as well as another great low-budget gringo business idea whose time has come.
 
-Do follow the link on the main page at www.ExpatWisdom.com to schedule a private phone, Skype or Mumble consult with me. If you want to discuss the details of living, working, playing, doing business and/or retiring in Latin America, now you and I can talk about your situation one on one.
 
 
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