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

August 31, 2011  

Using snail mail in Latin America, it’s both your best and worst option, depending on what you send.

How to send packages locally within a Latin country, or from Latin country to Latin country, or from the 1st World to a Latin country or vice versa. And why it’s not a good idea to send packages around Christmas time.

The truth about paying that double tariff for ‘registered mail’ in LA. Is 'registered' really better, safer and faster? In three words, NO, NO and NO!

What about ordering something via the internet? What about taxes, duties and customs? Is ordering stuff online all that safe and secure? Well, what’s your definition of safe and secure?

Here’s a great cheap, fast, and 100% secure way (that's practically unknown by 1st World folks) to ship packages within any LA country

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August 30, 2011  

Why poor personal hygiene and other bad habits infect all classes of Latin men, though really quite rare among Latin females. And Expats are always wondering why in the world Latin women don’t crack the whip on their stinky, uncouth guys? (like women do up in the 1st World always do)

The unspoken epidemic of battered women and of sexual abuse within families, why so little gets reported, and the lip service by governments and human rights officials.

Married Latin men, their affairs, their mistresses and why Latin women continue to tolerate it. Latin sons grow up to perpetuate the process, so why is it strange that so many 1st world women who marry Latins find out the hard way.

Gender discrimination is alive and well down here (that is, unless you are a 1st World woman).

What happens when the teenage kids find out daddy has a mistress (and they often do)? You’ll be surprised!

A good percentage of Latin dads take their sons to a strip club for their 16th birthday (and dad pays for more than a lap dance)

How and why LA’s saturated religiosity doesn’t seem to conflict with the average Latin male’s infidelities

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August 24, 2011  

- The widely misleading terms “poor” and “middle class” and why journalists are to blame for the general confusion. They should be fired or forced to take a basic economics class.

-How to get a handle on important dollar figures that are constantly quoted but misconstrued, usually whizzing over our heads without effect. Some easy tips on relating dollar amounts quoted in past history to today’s dollars (i.e. how to make very quick adjustments for inflation right in your head). And what does this have to do with Expats and Latin America? For one thing, if you get it, you won’t get fooled by government price figures again.

-When LA countries have their routine currency collapses and hyper-inflation cycles ("damn the printing presses, full speed ahead"), they get bailed out by the IMF, World Bank or the BID. They reissue new funny money and jump on the debt roller coaster all over again. Latins are so numb to major financial blowouts regionally that even the most educated ones cannot see what’s looming ahead worldwide. They think the USA is just having another hiccup and will bounce back as usual. They firmly believe the USA is too big to fail. After all, it is the 1st World man . ("damn the printing presses, full speed ahead!").

-Some very good reasons why you want to be in LA when the next leg of the worldwide financial blowout comes

-Job opportunities for motivated Expats and Expat wanabees that pay 1st World money

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August 23, 2011  

-One less LA worry; no high fructose corn syrup (ie; the diabetes and obesity connection). Down here they use 100% cane sugar because it’s cheaper, not because its in any way healthier (we know its bad but less so). In the 1st World, high fructose corn syrup is in practically everything packaged and processed but down here is only available in imported 1st World stuff.

-The extreme LA sugar addiction, bad dental hygiene and thus the epidemic of very badly decayed teeth in very young children

-Certified dental hygienists (who forever scold us about flossing up in the 1st World), are virtually nonexistent in LA except in a very few high-end tourist destinations and near 1st World style retirement communities. So be forewarned.

-Sugar is good for you! And guess what? Its vitamin fortified just like Wonder Bread! At least that’s what the big sugar producers say in their media blitzes down here. Well, so much for truth in advertising.

-Notes on the schizophrenic nature of Latin society. For example; though the number #1 family problem happens to be alcoholism, ubiquitous liquor and beer media ads actually tout the excellent health benefits of booze, wine and beer.

-How 1st World self-proclaimed “financial and marketing experts” make easy big money doing weekend seminars down here. Latins love everything 1st World, including seminars by has-been blowhards

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August 17, 2011  

-Still more reasons why cities in Brazil are not good picks for Expats, and an Expat Files movie recommendation (shot on location in Brazil) that perfectly reinforces the point.

- The truth about high crime rates in Central America, along with some valuable tips including some very good picks for Expats, despite what you've heard about the scary crime rates in those countries.

-A true eye witness story (yours truly) of a fascinating serial robbery in broad daylight on a very busy highway in the second most dangerous city in LA

-Household Security Part 2. More on the subject of crooks and thieves and the persistent rumors that they'll poison your dog (and then rob your house)

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August 16, 2011  

-Why are LA bus drivers by far the worst drivers in LA measured by per kilometers driven? Why is it that when there’s a serious bus accident, up to 50% of drivers abandon the scene and run for the hills?

-When and why it’s sometimes recommended (unofficially, that is) for Expats to actually pay off the other guy with cash money on the scene of a traffic accident, even if it’s the other guy’s fault (and it usually is).

-The reasons why you have an 800% greater chance of nailing a pedestrian in LA than you have mowing someone down in the 1st World

-Why do ten out of ten Latin lawyers unofficially urge drivers (including Expats) to LEAVE the accident scene in a hurry (a sanctioned hit and run) if you hit a pedestrian. And even though it’s against everything we’ve been taught up in the 1st world, LA lawyers say (unofficially) that you’re screwed if you stick around even if it’s completely the pedestrian’s fault (and it usually is).

-Ten out of ten Latin lawyers (unofficially) admit that lying in LA court is pervasive, and that producing false witnesses is common and actually normal, especially in cases when its your word against theirs.

-The two most dangerous weeks of the year for LA drivers, and why every Expat eventually develops a deep hatred for LA bus drivers and motorcyclists.

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August 10, 2011  

Mormons Mormons everywhere! What do they actually do down here? And how come they don’t get robbed?

Good intentions gone wrong. The real dope on big and small nonprofits and charities that come to LA do their good deeds (at least they think they’re doing good). Tips on how to make sure your charitable dollars and contributions actually do some good

A true story of what happened when a good-hearted Canadian (and I) went to visit the young Honduran girl he’d been supporting for years by donating to one of those “Help the Children” mega-charities. What an eye-opener!

Latins, litter, garbage and other bad habits they take wherever they go (including up to the 1st World) and why LA cities are absolutely infested with paper and plastic junk.

Security tips when leaving your home or business unattended for a day or more. What Latin thieves and bad guys are most afraid of- PART ONE.

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August 9, 2011  

Though real I-pods and Nanos are down here in a small way, Apple laptops are almost nonexistent in LA; some solid reasons why it’s a good idea for Expats to switch to a PC clone when that Apple laptop finally dies.

Digital animators and other highly-trained folks in impossibly hi-tech jobs are alive and well and doing their magic down in LA (for $500 a month). They’re all part of the outsourcing phenomena that’s draining the life out of the 1st world economy, and those jobs will never come back.

Ever wonder why are there are so many Latino soldiers in the US military, and why in such disproportionate numbers? It’s that special program that guarantees young disenfranchised male illegals eventual citizenship, as long as they do their killing in Afghanistan (instead of Chicago, NYC or Los Angeles).

How astute Expats can get taken to the cleaners by LA car dealers- a true story how they can trick the average Latin (and scam know-it-all Expats too!)

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August 3, 2011  

How playing a musical instrument like guitar or piano really breaks the ice in LA, (even if you only know the first five bars of “Louie Louie”)

I answer the many email queries about my own tortured path along the way to becoming a permanent Expat (and winning big in the game of life).

Low and high profiles, and how to stay out of trouble in bad neighborhoods

Why the biggest Latin music stars, though hugely successful in their own countries and regions, almost never break out into international fame (the only exception being the hot Colombian diva, Shakira). And its not about the language barrier, since nearly all of them speak English. You’ll be surprised!

The real Mariachi band phenomena (not those corner Mexican restaurant versions), and a little bit about Ranchero music, Latin rock, and other popular Latin music styles that most Expats can’t stomach for more than three minutes.

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August 1, 2011  

Q: What is Reggaeton music anyway? A: The Latin youth culture’s answer to Hip-Hop and Rap music (that Expats just love to hate). And unfortunately, like Hip-Hop and Rap (which Expats also love to hate), Reggaeton is everywhere in LA, so get used to it.

Can Expat Spanish speakers decipher the lyrics in those hit Spanish songs? Well, fuggeddaboudit. We Expats can’t even understand the lyrics in our own 1st World songs, so how can we translate Spanish hits? It’s mission impossible for anything but the slowest ballad,

The truth about Chicharrones; they’re that all time favorite heart-clogging Latin junk food made out of 100% pig fat! Yuk!

Why is LA so chock full of outstanding musicians that can never make a living at it?

T.E.F. finally answers the age-old burning question as to why Gringos just can’t dance. (and some smooth tips for all of you bad dancers from a hot Latina expert).

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