Making money - one currency or another
March 27, 2010 11:17 PM   Subscribe

Making pesos (or dollars or reales) in Central / South America - how can it be done, and what will you be doing?

Let's say you're a young twentysomething with a couple years of international experience under your belt. You're comfortable living in a foreign country, and are considering your options on where to move next. Your fiancee and future wife is along for the ride wherever you go, and you have enough savings to get there and situated. Not enough to live on indefinitely, of course, and there is still debt to be paid back (one credit card, student loans).

While your Business major and Music minor haven't exactly been used, the last two years have been spent teaching English to a wide variety of people (from 5 year olds to 65 year olds) and writing extensively on traveling and life in a foreign country. You've been published a number of times in local magazines and newspapers, and you write what's considered one of the most popular blogs written by an expat. You've picked up enough of the local language to get around, ask basic questions - you could learn more, but doubt it'll be useful elsewhere in the world.

The fiancee (a soul mate with international experience, currently working as an English teacher) has proposed a Spanish-speaking country as our next move. After buying the newest Lonely Planets for South America and Central America on a Shoestring, you've concluded that there are plenty of options on the traveling side - but the work side is a little sketchier.

Teaching English would be quite possible, but after 2 years you're dying to try something else. Working for 'the man' or in an office would seem to lose the point of moving to another country, but it would be possible. The fantasy of traveling and writing has always been on your mind - usually while trying to encourage 10 first-graders to finish their coloring.

So what's out there? Expats in South or Central America, draw me to your country - or tell me to stay away. While we enjoy our creature comforts, we're generally willing to live life as the locals do.
posted by chrisinseoul to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How ethical are you? How much risk are you willing to accept?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:32 PM on March 27, 2010

Are you looking for a TEFL rec?
posted by k8t at 11:49 PM on March 27, 2010

Response by poster: I suspect there will be lots of questions - hopefully with lots of recommendations to follow. The OP will be following closely :)

@Chocolate Pickle: Ethical...enough? I'd rather admit to illegal activity in a public forum, so I'll defer. While working 'under the table' may be a possibility, I'd prefer staying above-board where that is easier / preferable.

@k8t: If you have one feel free to recommend :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 12:39 AM on March 28, 2010

Well, I'm a native, and in Argentina, and still haven't quite grasped what you want to do. But.

Getting an above-board job in an office or business here, with the benefits that would give you, requires you to get a residence permit (its kind varies according to your stated intentions) and a work visa. I understand going through the process would test the patience of a Holy Man, then again, going through most of our local bureaucracy would. I should also point that you DON'T want to be here without medical benefits. While probably not as insane as what might happen to you in other places, private medicine can easy kill your savings, and public hospitals are a lottery (some are good, most are ridiculously poor and crowded, the rest are horror shows). You might want to read this and the links therein (in Spanish, as is to be expected) for some of the gritty details on paperwork and such. As a fair warning, the job market here is very bad, so if you just plan to drop by and "see what happens", it might get very frustrating for you (unless your writing is enough by itself to make you go by?).
posted by Iosephus at 2:08 AM on March 28, 2010

Response by poster: @Iosephus: Thanks for the heads-up. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for myself - but as with my fiancee, one often finds the things they're looking for in the most unpredictable way. Is there much of an expat community in Argentina? There's about 25,000 mostly Western expats in the Seoul area, and a few places more or less cater to them.

MeFi's, perhaps there's an unusual / interesting opportunity for foreigners in your city / country, or you're a fellow expat with a story to share (wink wink nod nod).

rather NOT admit to illegal activity on a public forum.... No fun to leave out words sometimes...
posted by chrisinseoul at 4:29 AM on March 28, 2010

When I lived/traveled through Central America, I met ex-pats who wanted or need to go home or take extended vacations but felt uncomfortable leaving their property. Squatting is a big problem and I can't remember what the law is exactly, but there is a weird law (in Costa Rica at least) that gives land and property to squatters if they manage to stay there for a certain amount of time. You could advertise in the English speaking papers for house-sitting gigs. I also met some folks who had lived in the area for a long time, spoke great English/German/French and Spanish and would drive rich tourists around and provide private tour guide services. You really have to know the area and language well though and there are local folks who are willing to do the same thing for $10US a day.

Otherwise, be prepared to be shocked at how very little people earn in Central America. A medical doctor in Costa Rica makes about as much as a secretary in the USA!
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:15 AM on March 28, 2010

I lived in Costa Rica for a while and wrote articles on a freelance basis for the Tico Times. I made only $8 an article - definitely not enough to live on. This was about 10 years ago, though, so hopefully prices have gone up slightly since then. I'd imagine you'd be much better paid if you got onto their staff. So you could go to CR, teach English while freelancing for the newspaper, and try to do well enough to get hired next time a position opened up.

They also have a jobs page on their Web site with 200 jobs listed at the moment.

A lot of casinos operate out of Costa Rica and hire English speakers. Up to you whether you want to get mixed up with that or not, though.
posted by hazyjane at 9:14 AM on March 28, 2010

Oops, sorry, change "200 jobs" to "a few" jobs!
posted by hazyjane at 9:16 AM on March 28, 2010

Re: expats. My understanding is that most stick to Buenos Aires and surroundings, with the rest prefering the tourist hot spots (many working in that industry, nothing surprisingly) around Sierras de Cordoba, Andes, and the beaches on the Atlantic coast. I haven't had any real contacts with expat groups so I can't help you there. Googling for "argentina expats" seems to give a few blogs/boards that might help you. Also, there's the classifieds of the Buenos Aires Herald, an English language newspaper. For the rest, I imagine it's best if you contact Argentina's embassy/consulate over there, and perhaps also your own embassy here for more help.
posted by Iosephus at 10:02 AM on March 28, 2010

It's a hard place to find a job. However, I shouldn't let this post pass without mentioning one of Expats Network, which has loads of high paid development jobs -- albeit mostly in crisis areas. Do you want to go to Haiti?

I lived in Brazil for a time, and I had plenty of friends with one or two degrees out of work. It's an overeducated underemployed place, and I imagine much of Argentina is the same. You can do quite a bit with local connections, and it might serve you well to spend some time hitting the streets, i.e. a short stint in the area you're interested in, to make the right contacts, schmooze and network...
posted by iamck at 7:55 AM on April 23, 2010

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