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

July 27, 2011  

-The many ways of motivating those lazy customs officials to push your stuff thrugh the system, Part 2

-What happens when the customs guys first crack open your shipping container? You and your lawyer should be there to make sure there’s no hanky panky.

-The final step; transporting your shipped goods from the customs port to your residence. The state of the trucking and hauling business, and the truth about all those GPS stickers (98% are fake). And by the way, since truckers occasionally haul around an Expat’s entire life’s worth of goods, these guys must be bonded in case of damage or accident, right? Bonded you say? Err, what’s that, Gringo!

-The government’s idiotic classifications of imported vehicles, and the thoroughly confusing way in which they are taxed, and how politicians sneakily exempt their own vehicles (and those of their families and friends) and how the public gets fooled again.

-How low income people buy and sell cheap cars (er,.. junks) and avoid taxes. Their methods are not exactly above board, but no one really cares, since the poor folks don't count for much (except at voting time).

July 25, 2011  

-Breaking news from the “Switzerland of Latin America” Costa Rica; 48000 healthcare workers and govt. employees take to the streets as the president announces that the national health care, social security and pension systems are hopelessly insolvent (sound familiar?)

-Should you drive or ship your own car down to Latin America? The surprises in store when you attempt to do so.

-True tales of bribery and extortion while driving from the USA all the way down to Panama. The do’s, don’ts., and warnings.

-Dealing with customs and customs officials. How to cut your import taxes when mporting vehicle, container, or household goods. Everything's negociable, if you know the tricks!

-Did you know that 98% of all the cars and trucks in LA are stick-shift manual transmission? So to all you Expat wanabees, especially the ladies, you better learn what a clutch is (or pay an extra 20% for an automatic down here)

July 20, 2011  

-Some prepublication news about my new book “The Expat Files Guide to Love and Romance in Latin America

- “Clear Eye Syndrome”; why blue or green eyed adults, adolescents and babies have a real leg up in LA life. And why blond, fair skinned, blue or green eyed Expats have that very same advantage in love, romance and business down here (and you don’t even need all three, or even two of those traits… blue eyes alone will win you the LA lottery).

- More of what long-term Expats DON’T miss about the 1st World.

-Food safety and food inspections are almost nonexistent. A recommendation; don’t eat meat unless you know the farmer. On the other hand, the seafood is terrific, but as usual, there are some caveats.

July 18, 2011  

-In response to the many emails, Johnny Mueller expounds on what the vast majority of long-term Expats DON’T miss about the 1st World. And it’s quite a list!

-Some truths about the weather down here that will really take you by surprise, and some facts about the climate only local Latins and Expats truly understand.

-Having that beach house getaway (everyone’s desire) and how Locals and Expats can, and do, pull it off.

-If you want all of the 4 seasons, you can have them, but only in ‘southern’ South America.

-What happens if you’re delinquent on your property taxes (or a non-payer)?

July 13, 2011  

- When home grown Latin Businesses try to copy 1st World methods, there’s always an obvious fatal flaw (to us not them).

- In response to the many emails that continue to ask me the question; what do I miss about the 1st World, if anything? Here’s a list of things that Expats living down here miss about the 1st World.

- Books, literary folks, reading in general, libraries, and observations on the fatally flawed Latin (so-called) intellectual class.

July 11, 2011  

- Driver’s license issues. What happens when you get pulled over and your 1st World license is expired? (sometimes it depends how much cash you have on you).

- Two ways of getting a driver’s license in Latin America; the cheap (but very long and tortured way), or the very fast(and more expensive way).

- Tips on how to drive legally down here even if you only have an expired US or other 1st World driver’s license.

- The unsettling facts and hurdles Expats encounter when trying to obtain permanent legal residence status in a Latin country (and all about the fancy ID cards that go with it).

- In L.A., they don’t issue temporary learner’s permits for beginning drivers, but if you have one (lets say from Australia, which is good for 5 yrs) the cops will honor it like a full driver’s license (since they don’t know any better).

- The Latin American driver’s test (it’s sure not like the one you took in the 1st World).

July 6, 2011  

- New product guarantees and warranties are tricky. You do get them all right but they almost always cover half or less the time period you get when purchasing the very same product item up in the 1st World.

- What about products (or a car) you’ve brought to LA and still under US or European warranty? Are you covered? Probably not, but there is a special Expat maneuver you can try….

- Tips on finding which retailers and stores give the best/worst warranties and/or general repair service on appliances, cars, etc.

- The somewhat delicate and special case of having your computer maintenanced and repaired, and how to stop those ‘format’ crazy Latin computer geeks from wiping your hard disc every time you have a glitch.

- Extended warranties, they’re never worth it… except ....

July 4, 2011  

- Income and business taxes. What Expats can expect to pay to a corrupt, horribly inefficient, and generally useless tax system that gives you less than nothing back in return (no I’m not taking about the IRS).

- Why extreme underreporting and tax evasion in general, is the Latin national sport (along with soccer… and they call that football?).

- How average locals and astute Expats go about reducing income and business taxes using legal, quasi-legal, and outright illegal methods.

- Why smart Expat small business owners don’t put themselves on their own payrolls, or pay themselves by check (say what?).

- Here’s another excellent reason not to ride the local chicken buses; In the last 5 years, 630 bus drivers were shot to death en route during extortion and robbery attempts. And that’s in Guatemala alone (a country with only 14 million people!).


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