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

November 29, 2010  
December 1, 2010  
December 6, 2010  
December 8, 2010  
December 13, 2010  

1 - Shamans Shamans everywhere, where 5 years ago there were none! Whats up with the 2012 Mayan prophecies? Well, Its big business down here in L.A. and the tourists are eating it up, even the fake stuff (and most of it is).

2 - Doing Business in L.A....the labor market, hiring employees for $6 a day (and occasionally getting robbed by them).

3 - Good cops bad cops... but mostly bad.

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December 15, 2010  

1 - Doing Business in L.A....Mom and Pop shops are alive and well, even with the massive influx of 1st world franchises. Economics 101 says they should die, but they just won't. What's up with that?

2 - Shopping Malls and Food Courts and how other 1st world transplants are doing in L.A.

3 - The mega building and construction boom- courtesy of your friendly local Narcos and crooked politicians.

4 - How to embarass an Expat in one easy lesson.

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December 20, 2010  

Q: When is toilet paper not toilet paper? A: When you’re down in Latin America, of course.

- Find out why government building inspectors don’t inspect, and why real Latin men don’t use bathrooms.

- The real skinny on cleaning ladies and domestics – Fine out how $150 a month might get you a good full time live-in maid or an even a better full time live-in thief.

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December 22, 2010  

Cuba - Though Yankee imperialists can’t really go there, you can if you want, and you won’t even get in trouble. I promise!

- The real Cuban experience, and why they still love US Expats despite 60 years of, well, you know.

- Oh no! There's an epidemic! (of fake Cuban cigars, that is).

- Crime and punishment is just for locals (tourists and investors get a free pass).

- How to get a hundred year land lease ( rich expats need only apply).

- The curious case of Cuban style business partnerships.

It Only Happens In Latin America-

- Beware of L.A. Parking lots, delinquent parking tickets and car stereo thieves.

- Driver’s licenses without points (have a hundred DUI’s? No matter, you can still drive and its perfectly legal).

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December 27, 2010  

- Traffic Laws: Well, they’re not exacty laws at all, but more like soft suggestions.

- Express Robberies: A new kind of stickup technique.

- Car Sales: Way down, but there’s a new incentive, they’ll throw in bulletproof glass.

- Latin school kids are rarely sick: Could constant diet of unwashed food and filthy eggs be supercharging their immune systems? Go figure!

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December 29, 2010  

- For Sale: Killer fireworks that Al Nobel would be proud of. So go ahead and blow your fingers off- since its perfectly legal and there’s no one to sue.

- Costa Rica: Where you’ll find exotic, neurotic, animals living in shower stalls and worse. (I'm not kidding!)

- Pet Abuse: How Latins torture their pets and are in denial about it (well, they’re in denial about a million other things too, but aren’t we all).

- Latin Zoos: Not a fit place for man nor beast. In other words, chalk it off your to do list.

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January 3, 2011  

- Latin govts love rubber checks... and 101 other reasons why Expats should avoid bidding on govt contracts or taking on govt jobs in Latin America (no matter how good they sound).

- BRAZIL economic and crime overview - don’t believe for a second the exaggerated positive govt propaganda (nor the Hollywood "Girl from Ipanima" version either). So what if Brazil has inflation down to 5%?... Big deal. Back in 1994 it was at 1000% and the locals lost everything! But is it safe to put your money there now? Well, a local joke goes...

Q: How can you make one million in Brazil? A: Easy, bring TWO million down.

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January 5, 2011  

- Why chronic racism is alive and well (and actually on steroids) in L.A, and why nobody cares except maybe the Expats.

- A clever new twist on broad daylight parking lot robberies. A very slick operation, and how I fell for it! (Darn, I wish I would have thought of it).

- Getting away with murder- why only 5% of Latin homicides are ever solved (and how not to let a little thing like that ruin your day).

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January 10, 2011  

Is Latin America wired? Yes, and dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century(when a few bribes are thrown in).

I-Phones, X-boxes, Blackberries and hi speed internet- yes they have them, and they work like a charm...(but do leave home without them).

And at least for now, L.A. is not yet saturated with mad, idiot, adolescent pix-snappers and text-messagers on every corner, (except for the children of the idle rich).

- Brazil flex fuel experiment: the real story on ethanol, biodiesil and the massive phantom subsidies down there. How their govt flex fuel publicity program is a triumph, but the program itself? Maybe not.

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January 12, 2011  

- Bolivia - The natives are restless and its Evo’s fault, but still, its a great place for Expats.

- Venezuela: And their love/hate relationship with Yankees (not the ball club). They hate Gringos and love Detroit heavy metal (not the music). How subsidized gas at 12 cents a gallon permanently distorts an economy. Venezuela for Expats? 2 thumbs down.

- Lynchings: Alive and well in rural Latin America. A grisly spectator sport that you can’t buy tickets to like a cockfight. The good news is that indigenous locals lynch their own and not Expats (not yet anyway).

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January 17, 2011  

- Remisas: How illegal aliens send billions home each year to latin America and how companies like Western Union get filthy rich from it. Just who gets these billions in remisas, and how are they spent? You’ll be surprised.

- Poor Latins and the American Dream (a little land and a paid-up mortgage?): And how their version of it is not quite the one you’ve always had.

- South American illegals prefer Europe to the USA, and why Spain is the gateway, and how the EEC has an even worse illegal immigration problem than the states. Tourist Visa games and why its so much safer and easier (but much more expensive) for South Americans Latins to slip into Europe than to sneak into the USA.

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January 19, 2011  

- Cuban Economics 101: How to lay off a million civil servants and paper pushers in 2011 and not have riot (that’s a tall order since its one third of the entre island’s workforce). What’ll happen to them and their families? Will they roam the streets? Will they burn and loot? (what's there to loot?) Not likely, and you’ll see why.

- The Latin Sense of Humor (aka; the punch line that never came): Its not exactly like our. What about their jokes, TV, theater and entertainment? Does 1st world humor translate and vice versa? In L.A. sexist and racial humor prevail and the bar is set so low that even a donkey can get gig, and they often do! If you want sophisticated, trendy comedy, forget L.A. and stick to Comedy Central.

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January 24, 2011  

- Politicians: A licence to steal and why they get away with it thanks the endless govt money pit, courtesy of the 1st world of course. Thus every Latin American’s goal?... to get a govt. job of course.

- Getting Around In Latin America: Mass transit, a massive failure- bus bombs, extorsion rackets and 101 other reasons not to ride a public bus. Two ways to get a drivers licence-the hard way (take the test), or the easy way(pay off your friendly bureaucrat).

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January 26, 2011  

- Love, romance, and cheating - Latin Style: Double digit affairs and single digit divorce rates. Why real Latin men cry and cheat, and why wives look the other way (its about about economics, not forgiveness). Chronic wife abuse, deadbead dads, and other macho pasttimes.

- Bodyguards as 3rd World status symbols: You’re a nobody without one, and why every dirty politician and rich businessman has a gaggle of them (and a few for the wife, kids, and mistress).

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January 31, 2011  

- Part 2 of Love and Romance Latin Style - The EXPAT Advantage: When Expats and Latins find love- culture clash or perfect match? Universal Expat appeal explained and a dozen reasons why Expats both male and female automatically (and somewhat mysteriously) get 3 points added to the standard 10 point scale the second they step off the plane- (and its not about the money, well, not as much as you think!)

- Chronic Water Shortages, Dental and Hygiene Issues: Latin women make due quite well. But the men? Not quite up to snuff (er, sniff).

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February 2, 2011  

- Part 3, the conclusion of Love and Romance Latin Style - The EXPAT Advantage: Unlucky in love in the 1st world? In the Latin love lottery you’ll almost always win. Down there the odds are heavily stacked in your favor due to over-the-top and sometimes downright irrational stereotypes Latins have about 1st Worlders (I know its crazy but why complain?) But watch out! South of the boarder jealousy and posessiveness rule, in fact they’re practically on steroids and always on a slow boil ready to go ballistic at any time.

- Why if you start a business you’ll need TWO lawyers: An honest one and a crooked one, and why if you’re really unlucky, you’ll get them both in one package.

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February 7, 2011  

Building and/or Buying a House: PART 1

- Has the housing crisis hit down there yet. YES, but how bad is it?

- Building -vs- buying. The two best buy right now; new homes in guarded communities and residential towers (ahem, ... but what about those pesky earthquakes Chile style, when you’re happy as a clam and living in stylon the 29th floor?)

- How to make sure you get 1st World standards and quality in the 3rd World, and at half the price (or less

- Location, location, location: in Latin America its definitely true, but its also about the water supply, or lack of it... and why you Don’t want to be hooked to any local municipality cuz you'll be sorry.

- Property taxes Latin style: though they’re almost laughable, you still get what you pay for.

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February 9, 2011  

Building and/or Buying a House: PART 2

- Home Financing? Is that even a possiblity for an Expat with no real job? You’d be surprised.

- Title insurance? Fuggedabout it! But there are age-old Latin style unconventional ways to to check on property titles... though a few bribes might be in order ( in fact they're always in order).

- Workers liability coverage, performance bonds and/or bonded contractor/builder coverage? Fuggedabout that too! They’re not on the menu, not for small projects like single housing units, not yet anyway.

- Why everyone’s naked in Latin America (insurance naked that is), and why practically no one ever bothers to purchase even a simple homeowner’s policy.

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February 14, 2011  

Building and/or Buying a House: PART 3

- Because of phantom building inspectors, you’re on the honor system when it comes to building your house to blueprint specs and to the local codes.

- How the cost of a building permit is arbitrary (and subject to bribes) and how to avoid getting charged ‘gringo’ prices.

- Hiring an architect. Why good architects are a dime a dozen, unbelievably affordable, and will do practically anything to land an expat’s building contract (a 1st world style project is a huge portfolio booster).

- How to disperse funds and how to avoid (er.. minimize) pilferage and ripoffs.

- Getting big cash discounts on materials and how Latins skirt the taxman.

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February 16, 2011  

Building and/or Buying a House: PART 4

- Hiring a general contractor, and why you don’t want him to speak English, dress nice or drive a decent car.

- Latin skilled labor, and why you should never judge a man by his sorry looking tool kit.

- The lost art of plastering walls is alive and well and everyone and his brother’s an expert (and its infinitely better than drywall). And why if you do use drywall, you’ll be sorry.

- Why checking written references or letters of recommendation are complete wastes of time.

- Contractors do guarantee their work, but you should never fully believe them, even if its signed in blood.

- Petty theft; when things walk off your construction site, and they will, and what to do about it.

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February 21, 2011  

Building and/or Buying a House: PART 5

- Costa Rica; the ‘Switzerland’ of Latin America, and other blatant lies.

- Where the 'real' real estate deals are, and why newly abandoned single family construction projects are unbelievable bargans now that there's a huge housing surplus at the medium and high ends, and how to buy in for 25 cents on the dollar... peso, colon, lempira, quetzal, bolivar or whatever.

- How to find good, honest, household help. The do’s and dont’s of hiring and firing workers and domestics.

- Why Latins nearly always prefer Expat bosses over Latin ones.

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February 23, 2011  

Furnishing Your House and the Black Art of Shipping Your Goods Down

- The do’s and dont’s of shipping household goods and materials down to L.A. Why dealing with airport customs is so much easier than dealing with seaport customs and shipping containers.

- Well known 1st World appliance names (are they even available?) –vs- the cheaper Latin brands that look just as nice... a word of warning.

- The tricks of dealing with your shipping container at the Latin customs office and how to get a lowball tax break (just bring a sexy lady along- its a macho society after all).

- Why you should never ship your antiques down, but why paridoxically, local antique hunting is a treasure hunter’s dream.

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February 28, 2011  

The Insider’s Tricks To Building a House In Latin America:

- Building standards... if you don’t set them quite high right off the bat your contractor will set them the usual 3rd World way, and you’ll be sorry.

- Chronic moisture problems... how after 500 years of building in the tropics, the Latin contractors still can’t stop a simple leak. And that means you’ll either have to train them yourself or grab a bucket and join in with the bailing.

- Latin irony #2345... how water damage can be good for tourism (say what?).

- A few more little things that drive expats nuts (especially women expats)... like closet mold that eats leather shoes...., and how to stay relatively sane and avoid such minor disasters.

- Why you should keep clear of local paint brands and waterproofing agents, and why written guarantees are a joke.

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March 2, 2011  

Listener Emails on Building or Buying a House

- Tales from a Costa Rican construction project, or... why its so damn hard to fire your general contractor, even if he’s stealing from you...

- Another lesson that proves Latin women are solid gold.

- Latin scams, schemes and temptations.... and why most Latin men aren’t intentionally dishonest, they do exploit the trusting naivety of stupid Expats (like me).

- Those ubiquitous Latin style 3rd World electric water heaters, a boring subject yes? But not so boring if you’re the one who gets the 220 volt jolt in the shower.

- Here's yet another expat mystery no one can solve... half the electrical wiring jobs down here are so seriously substandard (and even downright dangerous), so why do so few people actually get fried? Is it the tequila, the tortillas, Jesus or just dumb luck? Take a guess.

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March 7, 2011  

Listener email questions about real estate and water:

- Crazy wording and unknown terms and conditions in those funky Latin real estate ads.

- Why when buying or building a house you also need to purchase the phantom rights to a monthly volume of wter, at a price which doesn’t actually include the water itself, just the right to use it... then you get charged for it again! Confused yet?

- Why your condo or house should always be connected to a private water well in your subdivision, in other words, avoid a municipal water hookup at all costs.

- Don’t drink the tap water or the bottled water either, since its often tampered with, unregulated (and the locals don’t care).... but there are some excellent very inexpensive alternatives I highly recommend(even more than cheap beer and tequila).

- Solar hot water, just what the doctor ordered, and the systems here are simple and dirt cheap. And even better(since it never freezes in most of LA) these units are zero maintenance, and that’s great news because down here the word maintenance doesn’t really exist.

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March 9, 2011  

The Business of Garbage- some awfully dirty subjects like sewage and waste disposal:

- When in LA, the world is your trash can. The dirty little secrets of sewage disposal in Latin America, and why every lake, river and ravine is a sewer so 19th century diseases like cholera still persist.

- The idiocy of 1st World “feel good” donations to Latin governments, and why bad oversight lets corrupt local bureaucrats take the money and run (but not before nice “feel good” embassy photo-op sessions and pretentious check presentation ceremonies).

- The care and feeding of your septic tank (and why Latins just feed theirs until they burst).

- What to do when your home builder starts cutting corners and improvising. Don’t let him or you’ll be sorry.

- Garbage dumps everywhere (both legal and illegal, mostly illegal), and the subculture of families that live in them (oh yes they do, and it ain’t pretty).

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March 14, 2011  

More Listener Emails:

- More about crazy Spanish wording and unknown terms and conditions found in those funky Latin real estate ads.

- Why when buying or renting a house from an old timer, they make a big deal about the the fixed phone line. Who cares!... especially when every shoe shine boy and cleaning lady has a cell phone? They care, and reason will surprise you.

- (Almost) everything you need to know about cell phone service in Latin America,... including how to call the USA for as low as 3 cents a minute.

- Why internet cafes are more common than shoeless street kids. And why they’re a cheap option (not the kids, the cafe's) but do bring a box of handiwipes.

- How to get the latest Blackberry for 50 bucks (though it might be the very one stolen from you the day before).

- How pompous rich Latins have such self-esteem issues that they must continuously impress their friends (and put on a ridiculous show for Expats).

- Why your house will probably have a “servant’s quarters” whether you like it or not.

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March 16, 2011  

Renting an Apartment and More:

- Why you should not rent a furnished apartment, unless the furniture is brand new. Always rent unfurnished if you can.

- Oriental Expat success stories in LA, and why Latinas won’t date them (unless of course they have money, and they usually do).

- Great inside advice on selecting the city and neighborhood you want to rent/live in.

- How to get a full-time, college educated, English speaking translator for 50 bucks a week (and why you’ll need one if you apartment hunt and don’t speak a lick of Spanglish).

- How to avoid paying a deposit, get a free month’s rent, and still have your landlord love you.

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March 21, 2011  

Banks and Bank Accounts - Part 1:

- Why opening a simple passbook account can be as simple as brain surgery.

- Traveling to LA any time soon? Leave your kids at home...PLEASE!

- Changing money without getting gouged.

- Counterfeits, counterfeits everywhere. How can you tell the real thing?

- Those ‘know your customer’ banking laws have just landed down here, courtesy of a tsunami of narco money and thieving politicians. The result?... a blizzard of paperwork (just like in the 1st world).

- Having a lawyer open a bank account for you... good idea or not?

- Transferring money using your lawyer’s escrow account a good idea or not?

- Why you absolutely need a debit card from a local bank, and how to get one in a hurry.

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March 23, 2011  

Water Wars - Part 2:

- Pulling a fast one with bottled water labeling down here - lies and more lies.

- Sun-baked bottled water,... that’s exactly what you’re drinking (but they won’t put that on the label).

- Two very excellent (and dirt cheap) alternatives to bad bottled water (though one’s ugly and one’s pretty).

- Why many dirt poor rural dwellers have cheap (or even free) access to ultra-pure water when better-off city dwellers continue to drink the swill (and don’t even know it).

- Email questions on detailing a house in exotic hardwoods (and other high grade materials unavailable to the common guy in the 1st world), and all for the price of cheap pine.

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March 28, 2011  

On Backpackers and Cheapskates, a Reality Check (especially you ladies) - Part 1:

- Why backpacking through LA is not just a slightly more rustic version of last year’s hike through the south of France (and will never be).

- Watch out! Those obliging locals are NOT what they seem.

- The backpacker’s code of honor, and the universal ethics of skinflint 1st world travellers.

- How to test the honesty of your hotel staff (you should do this BEFORE you get robbed, not after).

- A near surefire way to prevent your valuables (money, passport, plastic) from theft, and even if you do get robbed, you actually won't! (you let em’ have the decoy).

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March 30, 2011  

On Backpackers and Skinflints (especially you ladies) – Part 2:

- Why blonde backpacking ladies (especially Euro-ladies) have more fun.

- When 1st World ladies on vacation meet those Latin six-pack surfer boys...Then look out!

- Confessions of a Latin six-pack surfer-boy Gigolo... Or, how to milk those starry-eyed 1st world ladies in one easy lesson.

- When 1st world girls meet those Costa Rican surfer boys... a variation on a theme.

- When 1st World guys on vacation meet hot Latin ladies...Fuggedaboudit! (no fast action cuz they've got your number, you're on vacation Bud, and they're not that stupid!).

- Hot water and Hotels (its complicated).

- Scorpions and Hotels (and I’m not taking about the rock band here).

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April 4, 2011  

On Banking, Credit Cards and more:

- How not to get clipped when changing dollars or euros into (or out of) the local toilet paper (but quite pretty) currencies.

- Credit cards -vs- cash, watch out!

- Visa/MC plastic issued on 1st world banks -vs- Visa/MC issued on banks down here, they look the same but there are major differences.

- What to do if your bank statement seems wrong, you're spoiling for fight, and your 2nd grade Spanish is failing.

- How to spot an ATM scam.

- Getting robbed on the beach, and how to avoid it.

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April 6, 2011  

When Expats go into Business Part 1:

- Reasons why Expats succeed in business without really trying (or lying).

- Why nearly every 1st World franchise that lands has the midas touch,.. even ones that, by rights, shouldn’t have a chance. Example: Starbucks

- King of the sandbox,... A psychologic breakdown of the medium and upscale Latin consumer, and why their misguided perceptions work in your favor.

- Why Expats (outside of the tourist areas) tend to get the royal treatment, whether they deserve it or not.

- Analyzing that oh so common “hey, I can do that!” pipe dream that so many tourists and Expat wannabes down here have when they spot a nice Expat owned hotel , bar, or restaurant (and why it really is a pipe dream).

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April 11, 2011  

Understanding Electric Utilities, Part 1:

- 3rd World utility bills,… And you thought nothing was more confusing than your 1st World utility bill!

- The secret cult of Kilowatt hours explained (almost) in 30 seconds… Hey! Watt the hecks’s a watt anyway?

- How big power subsidies for the poor distort an already terrifically screwed up energy market… And why energy’s practically the only thing that ain’t cheap down here.

- Why its no use fighting it out with a 3rd World utility company. If you think your bill’s wrong, its best to take a few deep breaths and just pay it(and then have a couple of margaritas).

- You know those little yellow “Energy Consumption” appliance stickers? They have them down here all right, but they’re all in English (duh!).

- The age old Latin custom of tapping into a power pole and stealing juice.. not recommended (but done all the time).

- Clandestine cable TV hookups, and other lessons learned while living in the land of the pirates.

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April 13, 2011  

Electric Utilities, Power Outages, Part 2,

- Your undecipherable utility bills part 2… just like in the 1st World, only worse (since they’re in Spanish).

- How Expats handle power outages.

- Where and why power outages do and don’t occur… And it’s not just a roll of the dice.

- The truth about portable generators, and what you’ll really need in a pinch down here.

- Total 3rd World energy self sufficiency? Can Expats really get off the grid and stick it to the oil companies (well, almost, but not yet).

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April 18, 2011  

The Right Car To Drive, Car Theft, and How To Deal With Traffic Cops - Part 1:

- Why it’s smart for Expats to “temporarily” go native (when it comes to cars).

- Why Police roadblocks are everywhere, and they love stopping Expats.

- What to do when you get pulled over and they search your vehicle (illegally).

- The fine art of bribing the police, and why you won’t have to ask (they will).

- When cops bond with Expats, just play along (and try not to laugh).

- A simple $5 way for Expats to totally foil a car thief.

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April 20, 2011  

The Right Car To Drive, Car Theft, and How To Deal With Traffic Cops - Part 2:

- When thieves steal your car and negotiate over the phone.

- Why there are so many hit and run accidents (er,… I mean the other guy actually running away on foot!).

- How and why a collision can be 100% your fault, and NOT your fault at all!

- Expats, breathalyzers, drinking and driving and the state of the DUI laws.

- Expats, radar, and speed traps.

- Why 1st World safety violations don’t mean a thing down here.

- Why the Macho society kicks into high gear when women Expats face the cops, and/or the legal system.

- Why Expats bearing small gifts make for big favors when dealing with cops.

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April 25, 2011  


- Kicking your addiction to 1st World specialty items and why buying locally produced stuff is both smart, and cheap.

- Cooking with gas, electricity, or wood. Yes, half the people down here still use wood! (and you’re wondering where the rainforest went?).

- High fructose corn syrup, and why it hasn’t caught on down here (thank Buddha).

- The many ways a simple 2x4 framing stud down here beats its 1st World equivalent hands down. - When crime pays; Bank robberies in Latin America, and why just YOU might get robbed right outside of your bank.

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April 27, 2011  

Road Hazards, Car Problems and 3rd World Driving Survival tips:

- Pickups, 4x4’s, and other macho vehicles we recommend that you drive.

- Why lightly used luxury sports cars are so very cheap down here (and why only entitled kids of rich idiots drive them).

- Tumolos (i.e., speed bumps on steroids), and other car pulverizing Latin road hazards, and how to deal with them.

- Driving Latin style; where tailgating is a way of life, and rear-end collisions trump all other smashups.

- Two different ways to get a Latin driver’s license; the cheap, normal way (by way of a driving test), and the slightly more expensive grey market away(by way of cash money).

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May 2, 2011  

General Safety Tips;

- What’s wrong with my theme song, ‘Down Mexico Way? Well, for one thing, I don’t. recommend living, working, playing, and/or retiring in Mexico! But I guess I just like the song.

- In S. America, they have refrigerator/freezers that run on a propane gas flames and use no electricity whatsoever (Hey, are you pulling my leg?), and they’re great.

- What's the most dangerous place in Latin America? Would you believe the kitchen?

- Buying and using household appliances down here.

- The four kinds of vehicles on the road that you never, ever, want to drive behind, and why.

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May 4, 2011  

Some 3rd World Survival Tips, The Cost of Living, Emails and more:

- More cost-of-living examples that will surely make you want to move here.

- Expat cinema, video store and DVD experiences (both legit and pirate).

- Slick tricks to try when there’s no water in the restroom (no, and I don’t suggest using your shirttail, yuk!).

- An Expat Traveler’s arsenal- some cheap, common things you should always carry or have on hand, (no, I’m not talking firearms here) that make life a lot easier down here.

- The present state of recycling garbage in LA, (ha! ha!).

- A tiny secret weapon for survival, that you hope you never have to use.

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May 9, 2011  

Think that 1st World Republicrats are Corrupt? You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet:

- Why in lovely Costa Rica, the “Switzerland of Latin America”, are three of the last five Presidents in jail or fugitives in exile?

- Why is it so common that deposed, indicted and disgraced Latin presidents live the life of Donald Trump (but with normal hair) while exiled in some neighboring Banana Republic?

- The reasons that cowardly and corrupt Latin judges just roll over like pet Chihuahuas whenever politicians face charges in their courts.

- Legal tricks lawyers use and how they strive to make trials drag on forever (or at least until the next election cycle).

- Why white collar crime pays (and why in fact crime just pays in general).

- More tips on guarding and waterproofing your valuables at the beach.

- Yet another annoying car theft scam that you just won’t believe.

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May 11, 2011  

Dishonest Road Contractors, The Cost of Living, Farming, Fertilizer and More:

- Market madness, the art of buying fresh food and produce.

- Why shifting to granulated nitrogen fertilizer (petroleum based) is having a lasting negative effects on farming and the farmers themselves.

- How the ruling party buys elections with your 1st world donations.

- Why LA governments love 1st World infrastructure donations, but hate the specialists sometimes sent to oversee the projects.

- Why new LA roads go so bad so fast and why everyone in the know clams up when you talk about it.

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May 16, 2011  

A Visit To A Latin American Pharmacy:

- Get every medicine you can get up north, plus, a thousand teas, brews, roots, animal parts and herbal concoctions you’ve never heard of. Need some powdered rattlesnake rattle? … ask and you shall receive.

- Why generic drugs down here are always 50% cheaper (or even more) than generics in the 1st world (but can you trust them?).

- Need a powerful drug or refill? No prescription necessary (no kidding). If so, then why isn’t everyone and his brother walking around like a lifeless zombie?

- Where pharmacists aren’t really pharmacists and doctors don’t play golf.

- Spanish vs English drug names. What are druggists selling and how do you know what to ask for?

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May 18, 2011  

The Lost Art Of Politeness, Manners, And Good Samaritanism (and is samaritanism a real word?):

- A genuine politeness gene is alive and well and living in Latin America.

- Where kids in public places are actually under control (just like the good old days in your country). How and why Latin kid’s respect for elders differs so much from their 1st World counterparts.

- Ritalin and other kiddie behavioral management drugs? Kid management drugs haven’t landed down here… yet! (thank Buddha).

- Why Latins on the street, so eager to please, will often give you very bad directions.

- Good Samaritans, car trouble, dialing 911, and the value of basic liability auto insurance.

- 10 reasons why Latin America is NOT at all a good place to raise your kids (even though they have some excellent private grade schools, K-12).

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May 30, 2011  
June 1, 2011  
May 23, 2011  

- A warning against using carpets and rugs.

- The grossness of hotel rooms (i.e., be wary of hotel beds).

- Expats working, it’s mostly illegal, but most everyone does it! Work permits, and what to do if you get caught working without one.

- Typical, easy to get jobs that are always available to Expats.

- Bar and restaurant tricks, and why, as the night goes on, clients don't get what they pay for.

- The national sport - tax evasion.

- Why Latin governments prefer Expat business owners over local ones.

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May 25, 2011  

- The underground (informal) economy, and how Latin governments lie about their employment figures (just like the USA does).

- More miserable Latin Public school system facts, and why you NEVER want to teach English there (or send your kids there for that matter).

- Comparing Latin universities with 1st World universities.

- A wide open market; A million English teaching jobs for Expats, some formal, some not. How every day want ads read something like this…

“English Teachers Wanted for Exclusive Private School”, No experience necessary, Spanish language skills a plus, but not necessary. Bachelor’s degree required (but don’t worry, even a throw-away one will do; like political science, drama, or sociology).

- Whats a TOEFL exam?... And why every upwardly mobile Latin person dreams of passing it (but few do).

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June 6, 2011  

- How cell phone companies slyly rip you off on practically every call you make, and nobody cares (or notices).

- Trickle down class action 3rd World lawsuits via 1st World lawyers and how they happen.

- Phone wars; the proliferation of mind-numbing phone ringback songs Expats have to put up with (another bad 1st World habit that took wings down here).

- Who would actually withdraw only $5 (or pesos) from an ATM machine? Why, Latins of course, they do it all the time!

- Flex fuel, flex fuel vehicles, and explosive rear-end collisions.

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June 8, 2011  

- How high gas prices and the financial crisis are affecting wealthy Latins- the shame of it all! They’re actually being reduced to laying off bodyguards (how demeaning)

- The early warning signs of a great shopping mall and retail crash.

- Who owns a disproportionate number of retail businesses and sweatshops? You’ll never guess (hint, if you speak a Chinese dialect or Korean, you can write your own ticket down here).

- How to make an honest to goodness 1st World salary working for someone else (but it ain’t easy). A word about those high-paying executive and hi-tech 3rd World jobs listed in the back of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, etc.

- Poor but fat; a sad Latin American irony. Probably the two worst 1st World exports to LA - obesity and diabetes.

- Why mayonnaise is the national Latin salsa, and margarine the national spread. Very unhealthy, yet they slather them on practically everything (like Americans and their ketchup).

- How and why the Latins switched from healthy natural coconut oil to cheap (and unhealthy) refined palm and corn oil (and now down here everything is infused with it).

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June 13, 2011  

- The low low cost of (nearly 1st World) medical care and some typical medical procedure costs.

- Latin HMO private medical insurance plans- vs - going raw. And why for some Expats, going raw is NOT such a bad gamble.

- National health care 3rd World style. It’s everywhere down here, nothing to brag about, downright dangerous and positively medieval.

- Why your pre-existing medical conditions aren’t automatic health insurance disqualifiers.

- What you don’t know about street food and the venders who sell it (or, how to ruin a nice vacation in one delicious bite).

- Expat tip for the day; Try to read a Spanish language newspaper (at least slog through the headlines).

- Question: what’s the fastest way for an Expat to get to know the locals?

- Answer: Quit hanging around with other Expats!

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June 15, 2011  

- A widespread growing problem; changing and using US paper money.

- Shopping tips on how to beat the dollar vs local currency exchange rate.

- The truth about counterfeit bills (both US dollars and the local currencies).

- Expats and vacationers; you can leave all your $50’s and $100’s back in Cleveland since most banks and retail shops that do take dollars are now accepting only 20 dollar bills (and only when in excellent condition by the way).

- Tips on how Expats can beat the next big leg down in the continuing saga of the worldwide financial crisis, and why you shouldn’t believe all that “economic miracle” hype about Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

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June 20, 2011  

- The safest, as well as the most dangerous, countries in Latin America.

- The truth about crime in Central America versus South America, and why most parts of South America are so much safer than C.A. and safer, in fact than the USA.

- When bullets fly in nice residential areas; a personal story.

- Latin America; where road rage is the rule.

- Robbed at gunpoint at Burger King; another personal Latin American Wild West story.

- Expat tips on keeping a low profile.

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June 22, 2011  

- More on hospital, medical costs and health insurance.

- How extreme levels of Christianity (and Christian hypocrisy) fuel the Latin population bomb.

- The unrelenting pressure to have kids (and other facts of life) if you ever end up marrying a Latin.

- If atheists and agnostics are alive and well down here, they're awful deep in the closet.

- Where area all the ambulance chasers? The state of malpractice and malpractice insurance and why doctors almost never get sued.

- Anonymous S.A. corporations in Latin America and the wonders they can do for low profile Expats.

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June 27, 2011  

- What you should do when in the process of getting robbed, and the truth about trafficking in stolen ID documents (yours!).

- How to secret away a second(and very secure)set of ID documents, in case yours get lost or stolen.

- Why I don’t recommend living in Brazil (though everyone else who’s NEVER been there does).

- Personal car and rental car tips; how to keep your vehicle from getting stolen (which is guaranteed to ruin your vacation and cost you dearly, even though you’re insured, or you think you are).

- Secret places in your car where you can hide your valuables (and when, where and why it’s sometimes recommended you do just that).

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June 29, 2011  

- When First World “do gooder” donations go bad,… And why that “feel good” effect doesn’t feel so good after a while.

- Autism in Latin America. What’s autism? 99% of Latinos have never heard of it, there’s no statistics on it, Latin governments don’t want to hear about it, and why its way off the radar.

- For our disabled Expat wannabes; could living down here be a good, inexpensive option for you and your hi-tech wheelchair? Could be, and you’ll be surprised at the how and why.

- Coping with serious medical conditions and disabilities like diabetes and kidney dialysis. What about physical therapy and long term care? Are Latin health care providers up to it?

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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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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 ....

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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).

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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.

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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)?

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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.

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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)

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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).

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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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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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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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September 6, 2011  

Why coupons and coupon clipping have never really caught on in LA since there’s nothing easier to counterfeit than coupons (especially when locals have very good pirated software to copy them with)

They don’t have “factory rebates”, yet there are ways for Latins (and Expats) to get huge discounts on products and services, if you know how...

How certain going businesses appear sound but Expats should NEVER invest in

Why 1st World shopping bags are the coolest cachet for Latin 1st World wanabees. And why all Latins have a Disneyland/Disneyworld fetish, which for them is the vacation of a lifetime (go figure).

Latins just love T-shirts (new or used) with English lettering (any English lettering). Bring some down, give them as gifts, and be an instant hero with your domestic help, the neighborhood kids and any of your workers

Another insider’s story on how hopelessly dysfunctional LA government offices are and how those useless functionaries really operate

Q: Where can a boss get away with interviewing a young lady with his hand continuously on her leg? A: In LA of course!

Feminists beware; sexual harassment is alive and well and no one does a thing about it.

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September 7, 2011  

Water rationing everywhere; and what it means for EXPATS.

How to have unlimited H2O at your place, even if every neighbor's house is bone dry and stuck on rationing

Everything you never wanted to know about water cisterns and were afraid to ask (but listen up Expats and wanabees, its important you pay attention to this because it will save you a world of grief)

The Latins and their building shortcuts, and why almost all LA plumbing jobs eventually spring a leak- that is, unless you know these simple tips

Stealing public natural resources and other crimes that no one cares about (and that always go unpunished)

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September 13, 2011  

Sushi joints; a 1st World business we never thought could make a go of it down here in LA, but still they’re alive and well. And as expected, the standards are not at all up to snuff and eating there should be avoided by Expats, even if the workers use gloves.

Inside information and business tips for Expats. It’s a closed society at the top, and if you have any luck at all, you’ll get a constant stream of inside info and have a big edge in business yourself (and insider trading and such is not even illegal-yet).

What happens when Expats marry and have kids. The often unsolvable problems that occur when your kids are inevitably propelled into higher class Latin society.

Bank runs, why so many LA banks go bust, and how their own executive board members are often the very people that loot them.

The lowdown on those all you can eat ‘food buffets’ popping up all over LA. They’ve landed down here in a big way- but look out!

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September 14, 2011  

Dentistry in LA at 1/3 to 1/4 of 1st World prices. Sounds like a terrific deal and you get a great vacation to boot. But is it really true? Does 3rd World dentistry look, feel and perform as well as the work done by your hi-tech hometown dentist? Will it last as long? And what if you have trouble with it back in the states? These and many more questions answered. You will be truly surprised!

Why so much of LA dentistry fails after a few years, and since almost no one ever flosses (less than 10% of LA adults), when things go bad and extractions are necessary, the blame is naturally shifted to the patient, NOT on the crappy dentistry (which has long meant a free pass for thousands of less-than-mediocre LA dentists)! That's why even the worst dentists in LA almost NEVER get sued.

Why bad, substandard, and generally filthy LA dental laboratories make for bad dentistry BUT is just another great Expat business opportunity if you have a bit of vision and iniciative.

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September 20, 2011  

For about a hundred dollars, most Expats can forever solve any water shortage problems in LA (the 1st World too), and easily cope with the increased rationing and H2O shutoffs imposed by those corrupt and terribly managed municipalities

Expats doing conferences and seminars; Part #2, 101 tips and tricks for Expats thinking of doing seminars down here. How to be a success even if you have a stale, rehashed topic and don’t speak a lick of Spanish

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September 21, 2011  

Dentistry in LA Part #2. Comparing the 3 types of dentists you’ll encounter in LA, and their shortcomings.

What Expat dentists and physicians really need to know if their dream is to jump off the 1st World treadmill (before that 2nd heart attack), and get a license to practice in LA.

Crisis dentistry; why even the wealthiest of LA movers and shakers have bad or missing teeth, poor hygiene and often hideous dentistry

Double and triple appointment bookings? Well that’s the norm in LA dentist office, since 6 month checkup and cleaning appointments (and the hygienist guilt routine) have not caught on yet down here in any meaningful way (even with the moneyed classes)

Want to know about the fluoride and mercury/amalgam filling debate in LA? That’s easy…, they’re absolutely clueless so there ain’t no debate at all!

Decorative dental customs of the poor; including DIY Dentistry (where all you need is a pair of pliers, and some really big balls).

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September 27, 2011  

Dentistry in LA Part #3. Horror stories at the dentist (bad things that can happen before you even sit down in the chair)

Obvious flaws you observe as your dentist and his co-workers try unsuccessfully to convince you that they are somewhat modern and almost 1st World. And why it’s so difficult for them to keep up to snuff and adapt to 1st World advances in the field

How to quickly spot 2nd tier dentists, the ones the service 80% of rank and file Latins, and why you must avoid them.

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September 28, 2011  
Does your Spanish suck like mine did? The easy and the hard ways to learn Spanish the way the natives speak it; how to fumble along and still not get taken for a sucker.Latin slang and regional Spanish accents and how to handle them

The strange disconnected world of US embassy employees and their military adjutants- Part #1.

Spanish immersion programs; and what it’s really like to live a month or so with a family that makes only 3 to 400 dollars a month. And a heads-up on some strange things that often go on in your host’s home.

How to save 50% or more off the normal cost of a Spanish immersion program and other tips for 1st World would-be Spanish learners.

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October 4, 2011  
Real estate buying tips; how to slice ¼ off the already cut-rate LA property prices.
How 1st Worlder’s get suckered into paying too much for LA properties (and are more than happy to do it!)
How to spot desperate Latin sellers when perusing the property ads.
Tips on buying farmland and rural properties
Why every big fish in LA (including the so-called educated “best minds”) think the economic slowdown that’s just now beginning to take shape down here is just a tiny blip in the normal business cycle. Which by the way, means us PRN listeners have a huge advantage over the average numbskull.
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October 5, 2011  

Real estate tricks your lawyer can work out with the seller that can save you (the buyer) thousands

The anomalous “Tramitador”. He’s your LA lawyer’s motorcycle ridin’ right-hand-man and the guy that‘s forever greasing the broken wheels of the legal system 

The best unknown money saving real estate trick of all (and this one’s 100% legal!)

How to buy property and/or own a business completely under the radar, and it’s perfectly legal too (er… it’s legal if you’re Latin).

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October 11, 2011  
Those scary LA murder and crime stats, how crime statistics mislead, and how to really compare them to crime in the US and the rest of the 1st World. LA crime statistics reported in the 1st World media don’t even begin to tell the real story and are just downright confusing. Here’s the real dirt crime and some specific LA examples.
What cleaning ladies and gardeners are saying about Expats behind their backs.
Expat Eddie takes a thieving employee to court - and loses! Why? Because he didn’t bother to bring his lawyer. In LA its not enough to have proof and be in the right. You need your lawyer too- since you’re a rich 1st World guy and the thief is a poor downtrodden local (who just happens to need your Plasma TV and DVD player more than you do)
What are these things called passport embargos and arraigos? They are court orders that block you from leaving the country! How and why the LA courts can keep you from travelling, and why LAlocals can get around that kind of order a lot easier than Expats can (but you can do it too if you know the tricks)
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October 12, 2011  
What about Belize? They speak English there, so it must be a good pick for Expats, right? Well, it’s not my cup of tea but …

The obvious racism in Costa Rica that tourists never see (and its deep, deep, roots).

Racism and prejudice on steroids, that’s a fact of life in LA and practically no one does a thing about it. But what about 1st World Black Expats or persons of color (other than tourists) who decide to come down long term or permanently? Do they still have that all important “Gringo Advantage” we talk so much about… or not?

Beauty pageants in LA; one of the four national pastimes (the others being soccer, tax evasion, and software/DVD/clothing pirating) and how racism rears its ugly head even among beauty queens

The further misadventures of Expat Eddie and his runway model girlfriend (i.e., how did a crazy guy like him ever end up with a down-to-earth beauty like her?)

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October 18, 2011  

More on the cost of living– how to judge the cost of living in an LA city or country by examining its major daily newspapers

Newspapers are not dying in LA like they are up in the 1st World. They’re alive and well but they pay their workers peanuts. Even full time reporters with advanced college degrees often live with their moms and dads for years since the average reporter makes about $3-400 a month

Finding a Spanish translator Part 2. What about those amazing pocket translators and hi-tech voice recognition devices? Do those things really work? If so, then why hire a flesh-and-blood translator for a hundred a week (unless she’s Miss Venezuela) when you can get it all translated by Android app? We’ll tell you why.

A word about Google translate, a free service that’s free, very simple to use, and really handy.

Be a junk gold and silver broker in LA; another great Expat business opportunity explained in detail and that involves almost no startup costs but has 1st World monetary rewards written all over it

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October 19, 2011  
The lowdown on the three LA countries that are trying like mad to tax and spend their way into 1st world status; Argentina Costa Rica and Chile

How the Costa Rican traffic authority has instituted an extremely lucrative means of gouging drivers, especially directed at tourist drivers.

The ins and outs of LA property taxes, and the specific heavy handed case of Chile. How Chile soaks its property owners, 1st world style; and many more reasons why Chile is not a good bet for those frugal Expats who want to get away from big brother and live the simple life.

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October 25, 2011  

- How to prepare for the Spanish speaking world before you dive in

-Dealing with how the locals speak. Unraveling some very common slang terms. You can be certain the locals won’t speak the kind of Spanish you were taught at night school (or high school)

-Having that “taah da!” moment: when your brain finally begins to translate things in your head automatically. Suddenly listening to people talk is no longer hard work and there’s no more mental fatigue…taah da!
-When local and national disasters strike, Latins don’t panic or whine to the government. When a road washes out or a bridge collapses local civilians just call a few neighbors, get a few shovels and picks and get to work on it themselves. Because they know the government won’t get on it for days (unless it’s impeding some blowhard bureaucrat’s daily drive home)

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October 26, 2011  

-The continuing misadventures of Expat Eddie. More on how a completely unexceptional guy like him turned $2000 into a million plus by just applying some basic 1st World standards to 3rd world businesses (and by not reinventing the wheel)

-Expat Eddie’s first “embassy party” and the powerful Banana Republic Air Force general that took a shine to him (and the ensuing fallout of that affair)

-A new twist on LA hooker business and big city LA nightclubs; how certain officials mix business with pleasure


Q: What should you do when you find out your nice, rich, new neighbor next door happens to be a big time criminal?

A: Invite him to a Sunday barbecue of course! (this is Latin America after all)

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November 1, 2011  

-The real truth on product pirating; it’s a lot like the drug trade, it’ll never stop and 9 out of 10 Latins don’t care either way or believe there’s anything wrong with it. And though legit LA retailers say they abhor it, nearly all of them continue to buy and download pirated DVD’s and other stuff for their own personal use!

-The truth about the war on drugs from this side of the battle south of the boarder, and how billions in tax dollars (your tax dollars) sent every year to equip and train forces down here actually do more harm than good (no matter how the US State department or DEA spin it).

-At a popular expat bar, Expat Eddie befriends a tipsy DEA helicopter pilot (with loose lips) who’s working in LA on contract to spray coca and marijuana fields. This is one story you’ll never hear on FOX or CNN!

-The laws of supply and demand in the real world - Expat Eddie (and the helicopter pilot) go head to head on the cost and availability of street drugs down here versus getting them in the 1st World,

-How local Latins gouge tourists looking for party drugs (but tourists don’t complain since they’re still 80% cheaper, and at least powerful, as the best street stuff back home).

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November 2, 2011  

-The dirt on LA beggars, bums, vagrants and street performers. They’re on street corners in all the big cites (but almost nonexistent in small LA towns). So how do you handle the throng when they rush your car? After all, you’re a real live 1st Worlder with deep pockets and an obvious soft touch.

-Some valuable tips on how, when and where to hand out your spare change to the needy (if you’re so inclined).

-Describing the LA retirement safety net for locals. Believe it or not, most LA countries they do have rudimentary Social Security systems. They actually exist, but in name only, and the payouts run from $25 to $100 a month. But they’re horribly managed and chronically looted every time a new administration comes into power (and those pathetic little checks occasionally bounce).

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November 8, 2011  

- A word on Googling the major daily newspapers in your Latin country of choice (they’re in Spanish of course) and how to easily translate them. But they also have English language ones. And here’s the scoop on those rags!

-In tourist areas like Costa Rica and Panama, certain very telling news articles (in Spanish) never hit the English papers because they unmask local governments for what they really are, malignant. The advertisers figure prospective tourists mustn’t have too big a reality dose, it would hurt business.

-DYK that during election time Latin American candidates not only get the usual crank phone calls and death threats (like they do in the 1st world)? They actually get kidnapped in large numbers and a few get murdered (by the opposition party)! Candidates take elections very seriously down here not because have any desire to help their country; rather, everyone knows the guy who wins has a license to steal and seriously enrich his friends and family.

-The bureaucratic saga of one nice lady who tried her damndest to donate blood to a public hospital in Lima Peru, to no avail.

-Another surefire Expat business opportunity explained. One with a very low capital outlay and with guaranteed 1st World profits

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November 9, 2011  
-More driving tips and road safety advice

-Tips and rules for driving cars through Latin country boarders

-Air bags and seat belts; your car may appear to have them but...

-When anal retentive Expats decide (or are forced) to “go native”

-What happens when Expat artists try to make a living in Latin America

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November 15, 2011  

-When Gringos “go native”. What happens to that certain small percentage of Expats in Latin America who decide to abandon the most of their 1st World baggage (and standards)?

-The weird truth about the those 60’s style hippies and retro-hippie clusters you may encounter in some way out parts in Latin America

-The somewhat annoying downside to the “Gringo advantage”, (i.e., that positive stereotype Latins hold that nearly all 1st Worlder’s are smart, savvy, wealthy and can do no wrong)

-“Neither a Lender nor a Borrower Be” - Bennie Franklin or, how I got stung for $25000 by my own Costa Rican lawyer; the many, many reasons why you should never lend money to a Latin, no matter how good the interest rate seems or much collateral he offers!

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November 16, 2011  

-More proof that the cost of living in Latin America is half or less of what you’d spend for the same lifestyle in Jersey City

-Expat Eddie’s amazing moving company experience; or how to save 75% or more on moving expenses when moving or transporting household goods in Latin America

-An Expat wannabe’s top ten excuses for not taking the Latin American plunge (just yet)

-Why 1st World people DO become Expats; the most common triggers that finally push waffling wanabees into making the crucial move

-Overcoming peer pressure on the home front; when your family in Cincinnati think you’re nuts for even contemplating leaving the good ole US of A. But once they actually come down for a visit, and see how you live, most have a sudden change of heart and can be quite jealous

-DYK that your Social Security or US Govt. disability checks can be directly deposited monthly into your Latin American bank account? There’s no need for actual check handling or mailing at all anymore! (Bet you never thought the US Govt. had the brains to do something smart like that- must have been a mistake)

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November 21, 2011  
MY kinds of Latin American tourist destinations. They’re not on your travel agent’s top 10 list (nor on their lists at all), but they should definitely be on yours. And how do you spot them? Well for starters, there are scant few gringos to be seen and often not a single US franchise like McDonalds, Subway or Pizza Hut in sight (hmm… can you say golden opportunity?)

-A few words about that special $15 leather belt with the hidden zipper compartment that every traveler should have (but no one buys, until they get robbed!)

-Notes on the new supersized tourist phenomena and how the ever expanding American waistline has affected the souvenir business
-The Expat lush; when drinking becomes a hobby and certain Expats develop a case-a-day beer habit. It’s the destiny of those who arrive in LA with laid-back retirement dreams, no desire to work and NO real hobbies. When suddenly faced with so much time on their hands, and with the beer and wine so cheap, drinking actually becomes their main hobby
-Latin American beer and wine, a quick primer
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November 25, 2011  
-By popular demand, more in depth stories and tips for Expats looking for love in LA. What you really should know about dating, mating, love and romance down here. It’s a whole different ballgame with different rules, and since you’re a 1st World guy or gal the scales are always tipped in your favor, but there are some caveats……..

-When beautiful ‘off the radar’ beach paradises get contaminated by the Gringo dollar, a true Costa Rican story

-The truth about September/Spring romances. They’re as common as dirt in LA; both with the local Latin couples and certain older 1st world foreigners who hook up with young Latins. In fact there’s no Spanish term for “robbing the cradle”, and no one even bats an eye even with a 25 year age spread! (unlike in the USA, where you’d not only garner evil looks, you’d be labeled a lecherous pervert)
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November 28, 2011  

-Those pesky emblem thieves and the thriving underground market for stolen chrome auto emblems. And if you have a nice car, your chrome auto emblems!

-A trip to the big city “terminal”. It’s a very chaotic (but special) place where you can buy everything and anything. Where buyers ask no questions and get no receipts, where things are so cheap that it’s like garage-sale heaven 1960’s style though on a super grand scale. And though it’s wild, crazy, a lot of fun and highly recommended, there are some definite do’s and don’ts. For instance, you should never, ever, go alone! And buy the way, the “terminal” is also a huge bus terminal too. That’s why they call it the “terminal”; its where all the lower classes and the sweaty masses gather to catch the buses (and shop on the cheap).

-Tips on parking your car. The do’s and don’ts

-Encryption hints regarding your travel and personal documents

-The continuing saga of Expat Eddie. Chapter #17; Eddie goes to the “terminal” to buy back his own stolen car parts. And when he proves they are stolen, the thief offers him  a discount!

-Another Expat business opportunity; the parking lot business

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December 5, 2011  

-Answers to some burning email questions;

- Why it’s NOT a good time to buy Latin American real estate, not just yet anyhow; even though (when outside of the tourist haunts) properties may seem an unbelievable deal to 1st Worlder’s like you and me. Just wait!

-Some advice on buying investment property(ies) in LA as a 2nd flag escape plan (when the excrement hits the fan up in the 1st World, and don’t worry it will!)

-What’s the best way for expat wannabes to educate themselves about an LA country/city they might wish move to? (besides listening to the Expat Files and Richard Martin’s ‘Wake Up Call’)

-Some very good news about Latin American property taxes; and some bad news about how governments raid them (sound familiar)

- What if you must fire a bad employee in Latin America? It’s simply not like sacking a guy in the 1st World

-Tips on the best ways for Expat wanabees to really get a handle on real estate, neighborhoods, lifestyle and the cost of living in the Latin American country/city you have your sights on; without leaving home!

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December 9, 2011  

-Answers to even more burning email questions;

-Advice and tips for African Americans and other 1st World Black Expat wanabees with an eye to relocating in Latin America

-How the “Gringo Advantage” works its magic in business, as well as the love and romance department, for African Americans and how it can be a double-edged sword too. And DYK that there’s a sort of “Jamaican Advantage” in certain parts of Latin America too (say what?)

-Some thoughts about having or needing an outside 1st World income like a pension or SS check

-How much money do you really need to stay and thoroughly check a place out? And how long will your 5, 10, or 20 grand stake last once you get down here?

-What businesses are good bets in LA and how to decide?

-If you’re use to working for “the man” you can certainly do it in Latin America too- but its NOT recommended. Having your own small business is the way to go!

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December 12, 2011  

- Christmas in LA compared to the USA: Latins are 10x as nuts about it and are 10x as broke by the New Year (comparatively speaking)

-The sad innumeracy of Latins in regards to credit, loans and credit cards (sound familiar?)

-Some very good party advice; its unwise to admit you are an agnostic or an atheist (god forbid), and never in mixed company. If you do so you’re bound to get the leper treatment from your (soon to be former) Latin friends no matter how so-called educated and liberal they think they are. So when at a party, and are asked your religion, make big brownie points and lie if say “Catholic” (then nod and wink at your Expat friends- they’ll get it). But never say ex-Catholic, or dagger eyes will fly (to most Latins, that’s like kicking the pope in the cojones).

-Loan sharking in LA; it’s legal, huge business, and the Latin public has absolutely no idea how they are getting screwed since they rarely read or even understand the loan terms (sound familiar?)

- How a LA loan shark hoodwinked Expat Eddie’s girlfriend, and of course she didn’t see it coming (none of them do)

-How Expat Eddie tried to single handedly change the rules of the new car selling racket in LA

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December 16, 2011  

-Hints on what gifts to get Latin friends or Latin family members for Christmas (or anytime) .

-If you’re an interior decorator, forget about having a decent career in LA. Bad taste is the rule; and often the more money a Latin has, the more Elvis-like his or her taste becomes (er.., sound familiar again?)

-“It’s much better to give than receive” or is it? Well it is, especially in regards to those occasionally hideous religious-themed gifts you’re bound to get from your Latin friends and acquaintances. So, what do you do when you get one?

-Of toilets and toilet seats; the delicate subject of the restroom

-The bottom line costs of setting up a small business in various countries in Latin America

-Some words regarding the least and most expensive countries to live, work, play and/or retire (or set up a business) in Latin America

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December 19, 2011  

Exploring that strange dichotomy; namely, why Latin American small towns are very safe even when situated in countries not recommended by the US state department. (the famous US State department “feces” list).

The “regular” police-vs- the “tourist” police

Another expensive 1st World donation gone wrong; more of how 1st World charities and governments donate valuable stuff that ends up in the 3rd World crapper.

The real dirt on opening your very own 1st World franchise business down in LA, and what about the local Latin franchise competition?  Successful 3rd world companies often do sell franchises in LA, and even though they’re usually decidedly less than mediocre by our standards, they somehow get away with it and often make a ton of money (down here in LA of course) But when they try to penetrate the 1st World franchise market they almost never succeed except under very special circumstances.

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December 23, 2011  
-How to orient your own mind geographically when discussing various Latin countries. Remembering where they respectively on the isthmus or the South American continent can be quite confusing. Well, now there’s a neat way to get them straight!
-A bit about those three oddball non-Latin countries smack dab in the middle of South America; Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana
-More on business franchises down in LA (or should we say general scarcity of franchises)
- What about US born Latins who come down as Expats? Does the legendary “Gringo Advantage” work for them too? Well, not quite……
-Fallen heroes; the unspoken re-socialization problems of illegals who get caught in the USA and deported back to their home Latin countries. What happens to them after having had a taste of North American living and those 1st World (relatively speaking) paychecks?
-When Latin men cry;
Yup, they can sure turn on the crocodile tears. And when all else fails, that’s what happens when a Latin guy gets caught in the act of cheating on his girlfriend/wife. And she often falls for it- does she have a choice? And yes folks, as you’ve probably already figured out, if a 1st World guy is anywhere in the vicinity, the “Gringo Advantage” strikes again!
-A very unusual, but definitive sign, that signals a Latin girl in love.
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December 26, 2011  
A word about “Gringo prices” and “local prices” and how to get around what can often be a huge markup for 1st Worlder’s as opposed to what the locals pay (especially at tourist sites, national parks and in tourist towns). Even so, tourists rarely complain since Gringo prices seem cheap by 1st World standards.

-Some cutting observations regarding how Latins stereotype European tourists and other non-US 1st World travelers

- The Latin American love-hate relationship with Spain and with pure-blooded Spanish tourists they might encounter (most of whom put on airs, have exaggerated self-importance, and look down their noses at their 3rd World tan-skinned kissin’ cousins); even though Spain has 25% unemployment and right behind Greece and in line to be dumped by the EEU

-The telltale signs of steady progress. Or, how to know when your own kitchen Spanish shifts from being embarrassingly bad, to merely occasionally lousy, to you actually being able to somehow converse with mumbling children and drunks?

-Why you should take extraneous compliments or praise from Latin guys with a grain of salt. However, compliments made by Latin women are different. They’re much more reserved then Latin men and more likely to be sincere when dishing out the flattery ( so guys- take note when that happens)

How Latin American government tourist boards pump millions into 1st World ad campaigns, half the money gets stolen, and the other half that goes into real paid ads has practically has no effect on tourism at all
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December 30, 2011  
-Answers to some politically incorrect emails

-The real politically incorrect dirt on illegal immigrants in the USA, and why they continue to commit irritating cultural gaffs once they slip into the states

-The tragic hidden social problems that infect a huge percentage of not only the poor lower classes, but middle class Latin families too; namely endemic physical abuse, alcoholism, infidelity and incest

-Why it’s better for a man to shop at the local Latin produce market than a woman, and why a woman always gets more for her money when she brings a man along

-1st World trans-nationals and landed franchises DO NOT practice equal opportunity hiring or standard workplace policies in Latin America. Because this is the 3rd World and they don’t have to and can absolutely get away with it!

-Get em’ while they’re hot; Jesus, Mary and Joseph and mixed Nativity scene shopping bags! They’re all the rage down here during the holiday season. Even the gun shops down here hand happy customers their brand new Xmas Glocks and shotguns in religious-themed shopping bags (not to mention shopping bags from all the "Victoria's Secret" clones). Talk about mixed signals- ya gotta love it
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January 2, 2012  

- An update on how a few astute Expats, 1st World has-beens , and Latin locals are giving very successful business and self-help seminars down in LA. Though most seminars are dated and quite useless, they're still very popular with the LA business crowd due to the gullibility of Latin attendees who'll buy just about anything if it’s perceived to be fashionable in the USA (or presented by some self-proclamed 1st World business guru).

-The lowdown on the “lag time” it takes for all 1st World trends and innovations to filter down to LA and why that predictable phenomena is such good news for Expats and wanabees with an eye to start a business.

-Due to a severe lack of disposable income, middle and lower class Latins rarely throw anything away. Instead, they find new uses for their broken down old stuff, and it sure piles up!

-There’s a dearth of wild animals in (and near) LA cities over 50k population. Mostly because there’s a sad tradition of young middle and lower class boys and teenagers killing everything that moves with their Huck Finn precision slingshots. It’s a sad rite of passage handed a down from father to son and one big reason why toucans, parrots, monkeys, snakes and sloths etc., are very hard to find in the cities and burbs (except in the outback).

-Restaurant stories; Examples of how even high-end very successful LA restaurants are lacking in basic details and customer service. Less than mediocre competition and obvious low standards are yet another solid reason why Expats in the restaurant and hospitality business do so well in LA (despite the well known poor odds for those enterprises in general)

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January 6, 2012  

-Language essentials; how much Spanish do you really need to know to have the confidence (and understanding) to open up a small business in LA? Here’s my own story of my early days stumbling around in Costa Rica and Columbia; and how I managed to start more than a few successful businesses with only about two dozen simple Spanish words and phrases under my belt.

-Even the most retarded Latin government bureaucrats realize that advanced 1st World countries manage all business, technology and the sciences in ENGLISH. Based on that fact, most LA school curriculums now make sure every Latin kid in both public and private school is taught English in both grade school and high school. Sounds good, right? So why do 95% the kids who graduate have practically no functional English at all? (except in high volume tourist areas where knowing English means tips in US dollars!) Here are the facts on why that system fails so miserably (and will continue to do so), and why that failure includes students all the way through the PUBLIC university level (And I’m not trying to be a 1st World snob here).

-Your (and my) bad Spanish and how Latins deal gently with us

-Ten more reasons why you’ll be infinitely better off down here in LA when the next big worldwide economic and social disaster(s) hit- and the clock is ticking

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January 9, 2012  
-Some notes on LA attorneys; did you know that they are actually admired and not in the least bit distained or hated down here? They’re much more laid back, like small town US lawyers were in the 1950’s and 60’s- NOT the high pressure shysters we’re so used to. But watch out for lawyers in highly promoted tourist areas like Costa Rica and Panama, they’re the slimey 1st World style exceptions to the rule.
-Why 90% of the time, an LA lawyers will advise you NOT to sue! (what a breath of fresh air!)
-Notes on my 1st trip to Coast Rica in the early 1980’s, before the boom, and why it reminds me so much of my other favorite “off the radar” LA countries today. How when down in CR, I had a ridiculously simple and obvious business idea that would have been an instant success- but instead of pursuing it I did what 99% of Gringo tourists do about their fleeting ideas, NOTHING! And when I came back 5 yrs later, a few local guys began doing it (badly) and making money!
-My Mayan calendar predictions for 2012 (they differ a bit from the local shaman’s)
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January 13, 2012  
-Why do so many Latin American politicians get shot or killed in the days leading up to an election, and who is responsible?

-The do’s and don’ts of bidding on, and winning, Latin American government contracts

-More of what you don’t know about what really happens inside Latin American


-“CAR WARS” (starring Expat Eddie): Eddie illustrates some new reasons why its never a good idea to own a nice new car down here

-Putting your money in a Latin American bank (or not), and if so how much?

-The Citibank saga in Latin America and how they stumbled into a “Gringo Advantage” (on steroids)
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January 16, 2012  

-Johnny announces his upcoming very special Latin American Insider’s seminar

-Catching up on emails

-For many reasons, its not generally recommended that 1st Worlders settle in LA tourist towns, but there are certain types of tourist towns that are very good bets for Gringos hoping to start businesses.

-Another novice Gringo error; when starry-eyed Expat newcomers open businesses that butt heads with other established 1st Worlder’s in similar businesses

-DIY solar hot water heater units; another slam-dunk business idea for expats

-The Latin turtle laws and the ongoing turtle fiasco

-How about a LA college education at a high-end private university? You can get one at about 25% of the cost of a mediocre US community college or state university, but….

-The “Gringo Advantage” as it applies to Europeans

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January 20, 2012  
-More emails and questions about how I ended up in LA
-How Costa Rica got on the radar as a hot destination, and why it deserves to be shoved off the list

-There’s a steady flow illegal Nicaraguans sneaking into Costa Rica- do to the menial jobs that Costa Ricans feel they are too proud to do (sound familiar?)
-How immigration laws work (and don’t work) for both Latins and 1st Worlders. Crossing boarders within the 20 Latin American countries - and the strange case of Mexico
-The LA version of big brother, excessive bureaucracy, and out of control tax policies
-More on the special altiplano regions- those particular cities and towns in LA over 3000 feet in elevation where you get ideal eternal spring-like weather all year round
-More on the LA countries I would personally never want to live in (and some I wouldn’t even want to visit if you paid me!)
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January 23, 2012  

-What are the calculated odds that an Expat starting a business in Latin America will succeed or fail?

-The advantages of doing business in the altiplano region- those hundred of towns and cities that have “eternal spring-like weather”

-The odd story of why middle and upper class Latins use propane fuel when they really don’t have to deal with it at all. It’s more than a tradition, in fact it could be a very good thing for First World folks to take note of.

-Hot running water, or not? Even some of the wealthy folks don’t have it and they have their reasons

-A bit about the Latin American power grid infrastructure; how in 10 short years it went from being a Third World joke to a pretty decent copy of the distribution system we have in the states

-“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is the prevailing Latin business attitude- precisely why most Expat businesses can’t help but succeed. And by the way, Latin businesses are plenty broken, but not by their standards

-Don’t forget you can email me anytime

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January 27, 2012  

- When Latin America businesses accept US dollars and how tourists routinely get stung during dollar exchanges in places like Costa Rica

-Calculations and statistics on the probability that you’ll be assaulted or robbed -while living down here or while visiting as a clueless tourist (we all are clueless at first)

- Getting around in Latin America; tips on how to get a handle on the safe-vs-the dangerous parts of Latin American cities and towns.

-Things you should know about medium and high-end real estate projects; more reasons why the typical Latin lack of detail spells good news for Expats

-Don’t forget you can email me anytime

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February 3, 2012  

-The Politically incorrect truth about how the “Gringo Advantage” affects mating, dating and romance between First World men and Latin Women.

-The scoop on internet dating and mating services that promise love and romance with beautiful Latin women, and why they generally don’t pan out.

-The US divorce rate is well over 50% and the divorce rate in Latin America is below 20%. And it remains below 20% even when Expats marry Latinas- as long as the couple DOESN’T move back to the USA!

-Romantic advice to lonleyheart Expats: don’t set your sights on wealthy Latin women or the daughters of wealthy or upper class Latin women. If you fall into that trap you’ll be sorry.

-Ten reasons why you should NEVER bring the Latin love of your life back to live with you in the USA

-Email me on questions about Latin America at

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February 6, 2012  
-Ordering items by mail/internet from the USA. The shipping costs, methods, duties, customs, tariffs and security issues.

-Tips for hand carrying newly purchased items through 3rd World customs

-The low down on Latin brand name plumbing supplies as well as Latin made kitchen, laundry, bathroom appliances, tools, air conditioning units and Jacuzzis (yes, they do nice clones of Jacuzzis too!). And so much cheaper than First World name brands- they seem to look and work just fine. But do they really last?

-There is a certain bored upscale Latin female market for trashy self-help NYT bestsellers. That’s why books like “The Secret”, some of Oprah’s favorite picks and other mind-numbing new-age junk gets quickly translated into Spanish and shows up in the bookstores right along with the original English versions of the same faddish stuff.

-One of the few excellent things about popular LA tourist sites- the 1st World style used bookstores.

-How the sun deceives in the altiplano. Why (in 70 degree weather) many a freshman tourist has been fried like an egg after just a half hour

-Some tips on Third World insects and pests.

-Why Gringos use shorts and bug spray, and Latins don’t

- Your run of the mill snake encounters, and the truth (and the rumors) about poisonous snakes

-Send your emails to
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February 10, 2012  
- Cuba’s most effective export; it’s not Communism, Cohibas, nor baseball players or even sexy salsa dancers, but medical doctors. Why you shouldn’t believe all the great stories you hear about the people’s party medical system.

-Expat Eddie ends up in a Cuban hospital

-The two tiered medical care in Cuba, and why patient’s rights don’t exist

-Notes on Latin American militaries. While no military is a good military, Latin armies are very small per capita and extremely underfunded. You rarely see any solders on the street- not like in the old Reagan Cold War times. Expats really have nothing to worry about.

-The few minor exceptions to the above statement

-Send your emails to

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February 13, 2012  
-Johnny describes more of his upcoming very special Latin American Insider’s seminar
-Some pertinent email questions from a non-Spanish speaker who’s about to make his/her first trip down to Latin America

-How to find an honest cab driver and a safe, cheap hotel when you first step off a plane in an unknown Latin country

-Some very short and easy phrases for non-Spanish speakers that will get you through the first few bumpy days

-How to accurately determine the good, bad and the ugly parts of any Latin town when you first arrive (even a night!)
-Taxi tricksters and what you need to watch out for

-More tips for finding and hooking up with a Latin lawyer on your first time down

-Due to the First World “lag time” effect, paper telephone books are NOT dead in the water like they are in Cleveland, not by a long shot

-Email me on questions about Latin America at

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February 17, 2012  
-Some disturbing facts for anyone thinking about moving to Brazil
-Why Brazil is NOT on the US state department’s traveler’s warning list but definitely should be

-DYK three out of four Latin countries make their police officers buy their own bullets? (which is probably a good thing)

- DYK that Brazil is the only major country that does not allow derivatives trading or the holding of derivatives in their bank portfolios? (an undoubtedly great thing!)

-The truth about trying to live off your savings in Latin America

-How to land a good job (in your chosen career) with a first world trans-national company even before you land in Latin America

-A bit about the IRS foreign earned income tax exemption

-Email me on questions about Latin America at
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February 20, 2012  
-Some surprising things you never knew about Latin American sweatshops, and why most Latin countries have a two-tier minimum wage structure.

-You’ll never guess the #1 complaint with sweatshop workers. And it’s not the pay or the heat (why do you think they call them sweatshops?) or the bathrooms!

-Discussing the standard Latin American 44 hour work week

-Every Latin country levies a personal income tax. Even so, nearly everyone pays zero in taxes... and its absolutely legal

-How Latin governments fund their toxic buerocracies

-The truth about Latin American social security (and you thought ours sucked!)

-Latin workers get guaranteed job benefits by law from their employers. Sounds great for workers but its more a gift to employers

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February 24, 2012  

-The truth about those famous “pensionado” programs for first worlder’s in places like Costa Rica, Panama and Chile. And why you should think twice about applying for that dubious status yourself

-10 reasons why its not a great idea to move to Panama these days no matter what you’ve read on the internet.  In fact, it can be dangerous to your (financial) health

-To bank in Panama or not- an IRS trap meant for you to fall into

-The many, many untold advantages of sending your kids to a very high-end Latin American Private University (besides the fact that tuition is only $5000 a year compared $30k in the states)

-Email me on questions about Latin America at

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February 27, 2012  

-The sad, hard truth about the oligarchs that subtly milk each Latin country (called Criollos). Here’s the scoop on the ten to twenty ultra-rich families that have historically owned and operated traditional industries like coffee, tobacco, sugar as well as owning monopolies on basic products like beer, liquor, steel cement, etc. They, not the politicians, have held the real power since Spanish colonial times and remain a somewhat hidden force behind all high elected officials. And despite lip service to the contrary, they pull the strings that keep the majority indigenous poor population barely educated and as unorganized as possible. Criollos have become rich on dirt cheap indigenous labor and intend to keep it that way.

-Here's one easy way that rich Latin families keep score on who they grant (and withhold) their favors

-You thought bowling was a lower-middle class, somewhat borderline white-trash pastime? Not in Latin America! Just check out all those bodyguards and late model SUV’s in the parking lot and you’ll see what I mean.

-Here’s a good question: if most Latin countries have an indigenous underclass of up to 50% of the total population, and they hate being treated as second and third-class citizens by the rich upper classes in power- then how come they just don’t just organize and vote out the old corrupt regimes and put in their own indigenous leaders? These are democratic countries after all and the Indians certainly have the numbers to pull it off.

Answer: it’s complicated!

-More reasons why I don’t recommend living or doing business in Mexico (except if you want a nice, cheap vacation)

-Some thoughts about driving a car from the states down through Mexico and then on through Central America

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March 2, 2012  

- The real dirt on the recent prison fire in Honduras that set a new hundred-year prisoner death-toll world record

-How people can and do buy their way out of jail

-Because in a macho society crimes of passion are endemic, often times the perpetrator gets the court’s sympathy and simply walks

-How and why high level Latin politicians almost never go to jail no matter how crooked they are ( or much they steal). They just disappear for a few years, come back, and get re-elected.

-Why third world countries sign extradition treaties with the USA, but often don’t make similar treaties with other countries

-Why common Latins clamor for the death penalty while their politicians keep hammering against it

-A few examples of what can happen when Expats get busted for drugs

-Email me on questions about Latin America at

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