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

July 11, 2014  
From the “be careful what you wish for department”:
-Many long term expats have dreamed of buying and restoring one of those very cool and often fantastic old Spanish Colonial ruins. There are literally tens of thousands of partially destroyed, abandoned, otherworldly monasteries, churches and chapels. Yes, some are available and when located out in the boonies can go dirt cheap. Now if that sounds like a great weekend restoration job for a gringo tinkerer or do-it-yourselfer you’d better think twice. It’s never, ever that easy. Projects like that have been known to swallow a gringo whole and then spit out his empty wallet.            
-Of earthquakes and expats: earthquakes happen all of the time in Latin America. In fact you may have heard there was a 6.2 to 7.2 point earthquake this week on the Mexico/Guatemala border. Being close to the epicenter myself, I felt it rock and roll for about 30 seconds. Yes, dishes rattled, dogs barked and driveway chickens worried they wouldn’t be able to cross the road, but there was no real damage done to any 1st world construction sites or projects. That's the key you know... first-world construction.


-As usual, after the quake, lots and lots of TV coverage: collapsed buildings and rubble, etc., almost exclusively in the small towns and boonies. But 95% of the damage affected old adobe walls, sheet-metal shacks and cobbled-together rickety dwellings perched on cliffs. The truth is, fully half the structures in Latin America would never meet even 1960's first-world building codes and thus they take a big hit in any earthquake. Yes, the poorest areas suffer as usual and since there are no effective building inspections poor folks and builders cut countless corners that often don't reveal themselves until a nice rocking 5 pointer or so rolls on in.
But you knew that already, right? So, what’s the lesson here?


-Beware of slow and steady home invasions by insects. Expats themselves must be ever vigilant or lose the war. One problem is that maintenance guys, maids and cleaning ladies often don't notice what we gringos might deem a totally unacceptable insect proximity to our living spaces. Latins are so used to living side by side with various insects in and around their own homes that what they deem as normal (like a basketball sized hornet's nest perched above the back door) might just freak a gringo out.

 -Do follow the link on the main page at 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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