Expat Files – 03.27.16


Long time listeners know it’s my firm belief that there’s a huge real estate bubble in most all of Latin America. Anyone who’s had substantial boots on the ground will confirm that. So don’t be a clueless gringo and buy at the top!! However, if you can find a nice piece of land at the right price, you can build the house of your dreams for $25 to $50 a square foot, complete. Today we have a strategy and some tips to help you find the perfect neighborhood…

IT’S DEFINITELY A RENTER’S MARKET: WITH THE REAL ESTATE BUBBLE CRACKING AS WE SPEAK: That said, when “off the tourist trail” you’ll simply be amazed at what you can rent for a mere $300 to $700 a month. Today we have some real life examples…

DON’T GET SUCKED IN BY FRIENDLY GRINGOS AND THEIR SO-CALLED “GROUND FLOOR” REAL ESTATE DEALS: So when “on the gringo tourist trail” beware of slick gringo real estate agents/salesmen trying to get you into the bubble. Yes, they’re experts at sizing up clueless gringos and spotting suckers. They’ll take advantage of your crappy Spanish, short time down, and obvious lack of boots on the ground… as well as the brain-fogging Zoloft effect the soothing tropical climate has on fresh, green gringos (especially true if a gringo’s 1st world life consists of 6 months of snow and cold).

Note: when “off the tourist trail” there will be no such Gringo real estate guys pressing you, but there’s still a huge bubble, so don’t get sucked in by clueless local Latin agents either…

NOPE, THERE ARE NO CHEAP “GROUND FLOOR” REAL ESTATE DEALS LEFT IN LATIN AMERICA: certainly not “on the tourist trail” in places like Panama, CR, Mexico, Belize, and now Nicaragua, Ecuador, Colombia and Uruguay. And here’s why…

MIGHT YOUR SECRET DREAM BE A BEACH HOUSE RIGHT ON THE OCEAN? Well guess what? When the bubble cracks, beach houses are often the first properties desperate sellers put on the market. How does a 3 bedroom beach house, with pool, right on the ocean for $100k or less sound to you? Right now, desperate sellers are starting to come out of the woodwork and today we have examples of some fabulous deals that have hit the market. For this you’ll need boots on the ground. You won’t find this stuff on the internet… not in English anyway.


Expat Files – 03.25.16

-Business Banking in Latin America-and how to protect your assets once you get started:
However bad your Spanish is, once in Latin America you will soon start seeing all kinds of business opportunities. Once you’ve found your business “niche” (to me that means no GRINGO competition) you’ll need to have an internet presence and a bank account. That said, how do you select a solid offshore bank for your business accounts(s) that won’t be sucking up to the US govt. and the 1st world legal system?

-Chinese food lovers? You’ve got a big problem if you live in Latin America:

-What will happen to small businesses in Latin America after the US and the rest of the 1st world outlaw the use of CASH?

-The trouble with Pay Pal In Latin America:
Yes they have PP in Latin American, but it’s not such a great deal for businesses and retail providers. Sure, consumers like it but sellers hate it and here’s why…

-Text message overload (in Spanish): If you’ve got a cheap cellphone, get ready for some constant text message aggravation- in Spanish. What’s that all about?

– Naked Sim Cards: Millions of Latins use them… and so do smart Expat Gringos

-The proliferating Latin American cell phone extortion racket: Though this stuff rarely happens to gringos(except in Mexico) here’s a dirty little secret you’ve just got to hear…

– Latin TV, in a word, simply SUCKS!!!:
Yes, Latins love everything gringo and 1st world, even if it’s useless over-hyped Ron Popeil junk like Ginzu Knives, Ab Crunchers, Chia-pets and Buns of Steel. That said, slick Latin TV ad people have discovered the “Gringo Advantage”. As long as anything is promoted on TV as a genuine US product, it undoubtedly becomes a hit. So what’s the latest “As Seen on TV” mega-fad gimmick? …..well, it’s a thick Velcro corset that promises to suck in tummy flab and promote an instant hourglass shape. They’re so popular they can’t keep those stupid things in stock! What’s that say about the overweight and obesity problem in Latin America? (sound familiar?)


Expat Files – 03.20.16

-“Botox Monday”: A trip to a Latin American Dermatology specialist:
Here in Latin America they have all the medical specialties you can possibly imagine and today I’ll relate my own story of a recent trip to a highly regarded, upscale, 1st-world trained Dermatologist whose office is way “off the gringo tourist trail” in a wealthy high-end suburban mall. Coincidentally, I just happened to have walked in on a waiting room full of wrinkly, upscale Latin ladies on “Botox Monday”!! You’ll never guess what happened next…

-A Gringo Guinea Pig:
Why did a noted Latin MD ask me to tell my story (and exhibit my symptoms) to a group of Latin American Nutritionists and anti –aging experts?

-It’s the blind leading the blind in the Latin Real Estate Bubble:
The buy/build/buy mantra led by Latin real estate agents and promoters is so pervasive that many clueless gringos are getting sucked into the idiot fantasy that real estate never goes down… duh????


Expat Files – 03.18.16

-What if you get into a car accident or hit a pedestrian in Latin America? What to do? You call the car insurance company and lawyer and wait for help, right? Sure, that’s the right thing to do, however almost all lawyers, professionals, upscale Latins and even “Driver’s Ed” instructors are advising their friends, clients and students to do something much different all depending depending on the circumstances. Of course that special advice will always be “off the record”.

-When Gringo “good Samaritan” efforts backfire:

-Another reason Latins think Gringos are a bit crazy:

Did you know Latins have definite opinions about “OUR” choices in the Latin mating, dating and marriage game? Down here in Latin America they locals are especially surprised, even perplexed when they occasionally see some tall, strapping gringo or attractive gringa dating a person “THEY” feel culturally or economically superior to. For example: I’ve heard the occasional negative comments from slightly irritated Latins who see Gringos/Gingas dating short, dark indigenous people (instead of the traditional sexy Latin/Latina stereotypes). Yes, average Latins are often very classist and racist- no, not against us Gringos and Gringas but against their own countrymen and women.

Gringos, Latins and lotteries:

Yes there are dozens of types of lotteries in Latin America. Some are announced in the papers, some on TV and there’s also the traditional paper ticket types bought on the street. Still other lotteries come as annoying text messages on cell phones. Now, there’s one special lottery all Latins would love to win, but as for gringos hitting that jackpot… most of us would reject the prize in a heartbeat. You’ll never guess what lottery I’m referring to…


Expat Files – 03.13.16

-Today we discuss cases where Gringos have been tapped for extortion and kidnapping.

It’s not a matter of bad luck but more a matter of location, location, location.

-“HOOTERS” closes its doors in El Salvador… you’ll never guess why

-What places in Mexico, South America and Central America are most safe for gringos and expats wishing to start up a “brick and mortar” business?

-Tips on how to scout out the best locations for your “brick and mortar” business.

-Going “off the grid” in Latin America. More and more gringos and expats are doing it!

-It can be difficult for gringos and expats to blend in and be accepted by the locals. But when it does happen, sometimes it can be downright unsettling… maybe even frightening.

-The amazing “pizza test” and the extent of Latin classism at every level


Expat Files – 03.11.16

-Gringos can have business problems and difficulties in Latin America:

Today we have Captain Mango describing the amazingly complex, idiotic hoops and hurdles he has had to maneuver through in order to start and maintain his small fleet of taxis.

-It’s true that while a small percentage of Latin businesses (like the taxi business and govt contractors) are plagued with mindless over-regulation and bureaucratic BS. Surprisingly enough, Latin governments do leave the vast majority of other small businesses almost completely alone.

It seems once one has done the routine chicken-without-a-head runaround in order to obtain the proper permits (which can take about a month), the government pinheads lay off and never bother your business again.

-Today we have yet more examples of poor maintenance and lack of detail inherent in the Latin workforce. However, if you want to start a business and need to hire help don’t despair. Latins are dedicated, smart and hard-working. You only need to train and instruct them correctly and the job performance will be up to anyone’s standards


Expat Files – 03.06.16

-Driving the famous Pan America Highway:

For all listeners who may be contemplating driving a vehicle from the States or Canada to Latin America, today we have a very informative and illustrative description of such a recent trip. This report comes from a stateside listener who made the entire 3000 mile journey just a few months ago: from California to Panama City by way of the Pan American Highway. You might have to hold on to your seat for this one…

-The skinny on pirated gasoline in Latin America:

Yes, it’s all over the place, at up to a 50 cent a gallon less than at the legit “gasolineras”. Is it diluted, altered, or the real McCoy? Where does it come from? The cops buy it all the time… does that mean you should give it a try?

-Breaking news:

There’s a big political and social scandal unfolding in Bolivia involving sex, government back door contracts and Evo Morales. Could politicians in the US get away with that stuff? No problem… just ask Bill and Hillary.


Expat Files – 03.04.16

-Today we have more emails from Canadian listeners. First, the subject is a professional couple hoping to transfer some of their first-world counseling and therapeutic skills down to Latin America. Their goal/wish is to continue working in a similar capacity once they arrive and get settled. So we’ll discuss the pros, cons, the options, availability and realities of coming down with high-level first-world skill sets. However it will be a difficult sell in a macho culture unaccustomed to modern healthcare therapies and a society that doesn’t much value one-on-one personal counseling- unless it comes from the neighborhood priest or pastor!

Again, it’s all about the lag-time effect…

– We also have a different kind of email from a well-traveled gringo an his wife who are looking to become permanent expats soon. I this case he and his wife’s concerns revolve around their handicapped daughter and the constant daily care, special training and therapy she will probably need for life. However, after some quality “boots on the ground” off the gringo tourists trail they have found some good solutions so far as they continue to make their exit plans and put the pieces together.