Work Abroad but earn in USD

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Watch Out For The Malaria

Yesterday I was at the post office, mailing some books and other items to Argentina in anticipation of my arrival in mid-May. Anyone who has been to a post office in the US (actually this is probably universal) knows that they are famous for their world-class customer service *wink*. Since I had about 30 things to mail out that day, the clerk started talking to me about the fact that I'm moving to Argentina. On the way out, she advised me to, "Watch out for the malaria."

This is the second time someone has advised me to watch out for the malaria in Argentina. The other time was from my own mother on one of my previous trips down there. I hate to pick on my own mother here, but this once again reminded me of the fabulous ignorance of the average person (my own family included) with regards to places outside the USA. I was always somewhat skeptical about those surveys that say 50% of Americans can't locate Canada on a map, but these days I'm not so sure.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I just finished reading your complete Blog (as of today of course) and I have several things I want to say. I hope you don't mind that I am going to say them all in one comment. Since I am going to refer to many of your posts, commenting in each one of them will consume too much time. You are business man and probably know better than me that time = money... ;-) So I hope you and your readers understand. For the frequent reader, it shouldn't be a big issue. And besides, I will put links to your original posts, so that people can check them if they missed them out.

First of all I must say that being an Argentinean citizenship living abroad, I can assure your readers that your site is very informative, highly accurate and a bit of fun as well, when reading of how a US citizen can see us through his eyes.

Well let me start with my comments. The first one must inevitable be related with your "Porteños and their Soccer Madness" post. I would ask you nicely but firmly, that you put the proper name of my football (there is only one real use of the word football) team, "Boca Juniors", at least when you refer to it for the first time in your writings. You can continue to refer to it as "Boca" as long as you have previously referred to it as "Boca Juniors" at least once, whenever you are writing about "us". It is important to mention that this rule only applies to the greatest and ever best team of Argentina: again "Boca Juniors". I would also encourage you to presence a Boca - River match in the Boca Juniors Stadium. I am sure that you will be able to see and "feel" the difference quite notably, having been in the Gallinero (namely the River stadium, sorry no link!). It has been labeled as the number 1 world sport event from the 50 sporting things you must do before you die by The Observer/The Guardian, one of the most important newspapers of the UK. Funny things are crossing my mind now when I try to imagine what a US newspaper would put in a "50 sporting things you must do before you die" survey. As you mentioned earlier in your "The World Does Not End At The US Border" post, the British media tends to cover the entire World. I must say that you are very brave in stating such statements in your Web Site. I couldn't agree more with you. However, it won't be too difficult to see that soon you too could be labeled as a terrorist by Mr. Bush and its "Eagles" for being "anti-patriotic". Since I brought the British to the table (as we would say in Spanish), I must correct your post "Learning Spanish In Argentina" when you say "If you've traveled outside the United States, even a little, you already know that Americans are probably the only people from a developed nation who do not generally speak a second language." You must not forget to add the Brits who lack the same language skills despite being more "world-travelers" and "world-aware" than their so called "American Friends". And since we are talking about the English it is funny to discover that the word "piqueteros" from your "Argentina's National Boycott of Royal Dutch/Shell" post derives from the English word "picket". According to the Oxford English Dictionary one of the several meanings of the word is: "Picket (usually pl.) Applied to people acting in a body or singly who are stationed by a trades-union or the like, to watch people going to work during a strike or in non-union workshops, and to endeavor to dissuade or deter them. Similarly applied to a person or group conducting a demonstration at particular premises, a particular installation, etc. Also collective sing. Also, the conduct or activity of pickets; an instance of picketing.". But let's leave politics aside, they suck everywhere you go!

Let's move to the "techie" stuff. With regards to your "English Language Movies in Argentina" post, I must say that is very nice thing to have. Many Latin American countries dub English films. In Europe, Spain is most notably known for this. I consider a movie a piece of art and us such any major alteration of its contents makes it a different piece of art. Most of the times, a worst piece of art, if not junk at all. Could you imagine seeing Terminator without his now famous phrase "I'll be back"? For countries where the film was screened dubbed, that phrase means nothing. Funny thing that the verb dub also means "To trim or crop" or "To cut off". Never more appropriate. Moving on to your "Video Systems Overseas (NTSC vs PAL)" post I have two things to say. Be careful with NTSC/PAL/PAL N converters. Since these video formats use different quality standards (check the Web for more info) you are risking losing picture quality. PAL is higher quality than NTSC, but, as with many things, the US decided to stick with its "own" and "better" format. Also, the conversion is not straight forward at all (especially when converting PAL to NTSC) so the quality of the converting device is critical. It is also worth to note that most good TVs and VCRs sold in Argentina are labeled as "tri-norma" (three formats), which means they can play all three NTSC/PAL/PAL N formats thus in Argentina most people don't care any more about video formats. Check the product specs before you buy. I don’t think you have such a thing as "tri-norma" devices in US. I would advise any video enthusiasts to stay away from conversions. Continuing with the techie stuff I was a big surprised to see that your site is hosted in Blogger. Being a business man in the I.T. world, as you said you are in your "Getting an Argentina Website / Registering a Domain" post, I was expecting to see your own site hosted in one of your servers with a better than "average John Doe" publishing tool, such as WordPress. "Better this than nothing!" , we would say in Spanish, so I will leave you alone on this one there. Commenting on the same post I must warn you and your readers that although the domains are still free, the rules are likely to change in the near future. Argentina remains as one of the few countries in the world that still do not charge for local domain registration. The Argentinean Government is always keen to introduce new taxes where there isn't one, especially if they can back the idea comparing us the rest of the world. Of course they only compare Argentina with the rest of the World when they can benefit from it! (Which is the least of the times!)

A bit of economics discussion now. Commenting of your "Argentina's New Bonds Trade Up" post I must disagree with this statement: "These new bonds are denominated in dollars, not pesos -- meaning Argentina can't print money to pay them off. They're also immune from inflation in Argentina's economy". They can indeed print pesos and then buy dollars to pay them off. This will have the same effect as with the peso bonds: high inflation and devaluation of the peso, since there will more pesos in the market and they will not be backed with gold or Central Bank dollars. The main advantage of the bonds being in dollars is that they are not subject to the peso devaluation, something very likely to happen if Argentina can’t pay them (people will not trust in the peso and will start buying dollars again, sending the peso straight to the bottom). Since we are talking about economics, I can't avoid to comment on your "Argentina Investment Ideas" post. I don't know who your "associate" is, but I can honestly say that this is one of the worst investment deals you can do in Argentina. Be aware that he might be trying "to sell you a buzón (post office box)" (an Argentinean expression meaning that he is trying to sell you something that it's worth nothing or can’t be brought at all!). I have a lot of friends who got caught on the "taxis money-making-machine deal" and I can refer to them if you like. Things look very good from outside, but it is when you get into the business that you start to see the reality. Just check other "trustable" sources and you will find the other "truth". I would recommend that expats stay away from the Taxi business. Properties are better and a much safer choice. And since we are talking about Taxis, let me remind you that it is highly unsafe to take a taxi in the Buenos Aires streets. Always call a Taxi Company (Radio Taxis) and wait for them to arrive. Never ever take a taxi by just stopping them in the street. You are risking being robbed or going all around the city to overcharge you. You have been warned!

Commenting on your "Living in Argentina: European Quality Lifestyle, Bombay Prices" post I must say that there is a bit of the European Lifestyle (especially in food) but there is also a lot of influence from the US. Music, movies, television to name a few. In Argentina the CNN is probably more watched than the BBC. As an example we got all the famous TV shows from the 80's and 90's and I could name dozens of them, but I think you should get the idea. In Europe only a few of those shows are known or watched.

Going back to your "English Language Schooling in Buenos Aires" post I will say that you forgot to mention the idea of a "language exchange" deal. For people with more time (spouses?) this might prove a good way to meet new people and enjoy learning a new language. The basic idea is that you pair with a person that wants to learn English. You will teach English to him/her and he/she will teach you Spanish. There are loads of people wanting to do that, and you can find people across all ages (from 15 to 65). It would be better to pair with someone that has some basic English knowledge (and you should as well have Spanish knowledge). You can then enjoy some nice bilingual chats while your learn a language. Check the newspaper ads, they usually advertise there. On the same post you mention the "northern suburbs of Buenos Aires", near the Lincoln International School. Not sure if it is a coincidence, but I lived most of my childhood 5 minutes walking distance from the Lincoln School. The area is usually called "Zona Norte" (North Zone) and the neighborhood is called "La Lucila" (not to be confused with "La Lucila del Mar", a beach town). This is, according to me, one of the best areas for an expat to live. Easy access to Capital Federal by freeways, easy access to "country side" by freeways again, next to the river so usually great views are expected with the fresh air in the hot Argentinean summer during the "wet nights". Pretty nice and secure. For those worried about security, the best option is to go for a "Country". "Country" is an enclosed and private neighborhood in the country side. They usually have private security, a club house, golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, local shops, etc, etc. They are like a small town. Since they usually own all the inside roads, driving slowly in usually enforced very strictly allowing children to play in the streets like the old times. Most of them are located in the "Zona Norte" as well, with good access to highways. Quality of life comes at a price and this can be very expensive to rent .I can give more info if you want since I know the area pretty well.

Going back to the "Porteños and their Soccer Madness" post, I would like to correct this phrase: "She was worried, and rightly so, that if she stood up and started cheering for Boca, the people around us would literally kill her". The right phrase would have been: "She was worried, and rightly so, that if she stood up and started cheering for Boca, the people around us would literally kill herand anyone with her!".

I would also like to mention some "goodies" that you will find in Buenos Aires and in Argentina and I don't them on your site. The first thing and very important for an expat, is a decent internet connection. Being labeled as a "Third World Country" Argentina has one of the better internet connection options of the area. Broadband was introduced 6 years ago when the Telco's enjoyed the 1 to 1 peso to dollar exchange rate, hence they could recover their infrastructure investments (mostly in dollars) very quickly. Thanks to that, there is now a lot of competition in the ADSL/Cable Modem arena. A 1Mb connection is about $ 30/month, with maximum speeds currently at about 4 Mb. Try to stay with the large ISPs (Fibertel, Arnet, Speedy, etc) and you will stay out of trouble. Satellite/Cable Television also is very well spread. You will find that you can get many US Channels, many of them in their original language. Again if you stay with the big companies, you will usually get better and a more reliable service. With a good internet connection you can use services like Skype, that will let you talk using the internet for free (if your other party has the Skype software installed as well). You could also use SkypeOut, that lets you talk to any worldwide land line for just a few cents/minute. Cell phone calls are also available at much cheaper prices than local phone companies. Quality is usually very good. They also just released a new service called SkypeIn that will let any person with a broadband Internet connection buy a US number (other countries as well, soon most of them) for a flat annual rate (I think it's € 30). The number would then ring in your PC, wherever in the world it is connected to the net; at no cost to you or your US caller (obviously local or national charges apply to your caller depending on the area number you choose to buy from Skype). And if you are offline for any reasons, they will be able to leave you a voicemail that you can later hear. This is fantastic news for people that want to stay in touch with family and friends, without having them to expend hundreds in international calls. So I suggest you give the service a try, I have used it myself and I am very happy with it. Buenos Aires also has several Shopping Malls, the biggest one being Unicenter. At the time it was built it was the biggest in South America, but the Brazilians built a bigger one in San Pablo (bummer!). It's the safest and best way to shop around. After the peso devaluation many shops implemented a dual price, one for locals and one for foreigners. So it won't be the cheapest unless you tell a local to buy the item for you. One of the good things about shopping in Argentina is the storing opening times. Most "high street" retail shops will be open Mon-Sat 9am to 8pm. Shopping Malls are even better, they usually open Mon-Mon 10am-10pm. I hate the European and American stores when they close at 6pm! How's anyone supposed to go shopping after work if all stores close at 6pm and you leave work at 5:30pm??? The cinemas also enjoy very long screening times, and on Fridays and Saturdays there is a late night screening at around 1:30am. Nice eh?

Last but not least, I think you should reply to your reader's comments personally when appropriate, since not all comments will derive in a new post. If readers take the time to write to you, I think it makes sense to respond personally to them, again when appropriate.

Hope you enjoyed my comments and c u around in your Blog!

4/01/2005 03:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just posted a very long comment that doesn't seem to appear probably because it's full of links and Blogger might suspect it is spam. Make sure it is poste, it's a good post! ;-)

4/01/2005 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Editors Review said...

Good day! by "balloon pricker".

I am an argentine-expat in the US for 15 years, now a US citizen. I have read your blog with interest and congratulate you for your initiative.

Running a travel site focused on Argentina I get questions almost every day regarding argentine life, so I take this journal will fill the voids...

For the most part, your blog reflects the basic nature of our society. There are a few things here and there that argentines may frown upon while reading, like your investments ideas. For most of us, argentines, these ideas are somewhat naive and a reflection that you have NOT yet spent enough time among us. Or that perhaps, you still need to be brushed against a broader selection of portenios. Simply put, if in the US the motto is "buyer beware", in Argentina it is just "beware". I will not delve into the details of why the taxi business (did anyone mention mafia?) or the real estate business may fail to meet expectations, but just think how the heck one of the richest countries in the Planet -resources wise- had not one, but 2 hyperinflations in the last 15 years and declared bankruptcy in 2001. That will give you a jump start on what means to be an argentine. Don't get me wrong. Your perspective as an expat in Argentina is invaluable for the thousands that are thinking on moving down there. But it must be grounded in some kind of reality first.

As for the post above mine, please delete all those links to "Boca". I will hate to see your nice endevour turned into an argentine spam house. In addition, the poster above seems to have lost some touch with his own argentine reality. The mentioning of real estate as being a better business investment is plain hilarious. For the sake of being brief, just let me say we have had terrible experiences with our tenants bordering the most ridiculous situations.

Many decades ago, while under Peron's protectionist laws, we were paid coins ANNUALLY by one of our tenants. Yes, that is correct. Our annual proceeds from our investments were less than a dollar a year. It took us 27 years to get rid of that and other tenants. More recently, we still have to face headaches in this dpt., with our 2003/4/5 tenants. In addition, we lost properties by the handful in litigations with mortgage owners. Not to mention the suits we had to face in the business world and lasted not 10, not 20, not 30 but 40 years and that outlived both my grandfather and my father. As I say, Argentina is WAY WAY more difficult than the US when it comes to business. Can someone make money down there? Hell Yeah! But, you must first understand in-depth our culture. I still have to hear that someone got rich -as it may happen in the US (and I am on my way here in Miami)- by just opening a business and succeeding as an enterprise. There are at least two main obstacles to this: the lack of a stable domestic market and an export policy and b) the complete, once more, complete unreliablity of the judiciary system. Unless laws can be enforced, there are no laws. And this is what makes Argentina a nice counrty to live in but not to make your money from. That same lack of enforcement -enforcement which is prevalent in the US- provides an ilussionary freedom a-la-wild-west that is hard to find anywhere else. If you stay out of trouble and your money comes from abroad, Argentina is paradise. But in Argentina you can't stay out of trouble for too long...

Finally, the poster above's advise about the outskirts being the best place to live in while in Buenos Aires is just a deservice to all who are reading this informative weblog.

Traditionally, and for years and years, the outskirts -including north of the City- have lacked the police force necessary to make those streets safe. For foreigners, the best advice will be to find a place in Palermo or Barrio Norte or perhaps Retiro. There are hundreds of deals out there and the idea of living out of the City limits is plain dangerous and will be for a while.

The thing in Argentina is that things can turn upside down before you have the time to say 'hell'. This is how my grandpa lost 3 million (USD) in the early 60's. Overnight, after the Minister of Economy at the time had raised import taxes 300%. These stories and similar repeat themselves every 10 years, almost like a script. Yes, you can have a great life down there and even feel like you are in a piece of Europe with greater perks, like not paying taxes and doing "huevo" all day long bordering an everything-goes attitude. Until you hit the customer service wall. Then, you may have second thoughts about decisions of a lifetime in Argetina. Unless you know the argentine nature in detail and have understood our mind-set thoroughly, you, my foreign friend, are for a big surprise.

4/02/2005 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger said...

I would also recommend Zona Norte as good place for living. The area is very similar to many places in US: nice houses, with big gardens, nice and fresh air. Palermo and Recoleta are OK but these will probably mean a nice appartment as opose to a house. I wouldn't recommend Retiro. At the end of the day, every person has a different place to recommend, since we come from different places. I think the only way to give a good advise would be to know some of the things the expat is looking for. Zona Norte has most of them, but not all. So it would depend on who's searching.

With regards to the football comments, I don't think this has turned into an "argentine spam house". May be the 15 years you lived abroad made you forget about your roots, or may be you don't football at, which makes you a very rare species in Argentina (gladly almost extint).

4/04/2005 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger said...

Editors review makes an EXCELLENT comment telling you about customer service is spot on. I'm frustrated on a daily basis by the lack of customer service. There is NOT customer service. Everything takes forever and service is generally bad. I've already posted my experiences on the business environment here.

Both posters make good points about the taxi business. You must be VERY careful what you are doing. It's not impossible like I said. I know people here in Argentina and in Brazil that are making a lot of money in that line of work. The thing is to be well connected and do your homework. Doing your homework involves more than making a few calls. I'm talking possibly 2 years of research before you make a capital investment.

As far as real estate. I believe it to be a stable investment. I would NEVER rent to a local though. You are just asking for problems. I only rent to corporations, businessmen, tourists and now cosmetic surgery patients.

I have already proven since 2002 that real estate (if you set it up properly) is a very good investment here. What I'm doing with my real estate is totally different than most people. Be careful buying if/when you do buy. I researched the laws for a good two years before I bought. I posted a blog to help people. I wish someone posted it before I bought

Hopefully it helps some of you.

5/15/2005 03:09:00 AM  
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