Work Abroad but earn in USD

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Working in Buenos Aires

A reader wrote in asking about seeking employment in Argentina. I'd like to address the question as best I can and then provide some other alternative recommendations. As always, comments first, response second.

Reader's Comments

I just returned from Buenos Aires yesterday morning and I'm already DYING to go back. I noticed your posts on blogspot are about a year old. How are things going for you these days? I'm extremely interested in relocating... the only problem is that I LOVE my current job. My friends have tried to convince me to apply for a Fulbright, but I don't speak Spanish.

Any advice you have on making a living down there for people who don't speak the language would be great.

Making a Living in Argentina

So, you don't speak Spanish, but want to try and find a job in Buenos Aires. I've received a lot of questions about this lately -- people who want to go to Argentina and then find work. Without Spanish language skills it will be hard to do. Since this is such a common request, I went ahead and contacted a few HR people I know to see if they'd look into this for me. Maybe it will be feasible to have a sort-of "reverse HR search", where recruiters try and match up employees to jobs rather than jobs to employees.

Mainstay Expat Jobs

The standard jobs for expats who don't have the language skills include teaching English, working in the tourism industry, or buying a tourism-oriented business like a hotel or tour operator. These are all common jobs that you could look for that don't require any Spanish knowledge. However, you'd probably be competing with a lot of other expats (as well as locals) for these positions. Remember, there are a lot of locals here that speak English and might be willing to work for less than you are.

Running Your Own Business

As someone who is self-employed, I've always found it more reliable to create your own position. If you don't feel comfortable starting your own business, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of businesses that are for sale in Buenos Aires. I've seen corner stores for sale for as low as $6,000 USD and restaurants for sale for as low as $20,000 USD. As an American, your US Dollar has a lot of buying power here. You could probably very easily buy yourself a job here.

Now, you may not find owning a corner shop or restaurant all that glamorous, but that kind of business is something that immigrants without language skills have done successfully all over the world. A lot of these corner shops are run by (let's be honest) fairly uneducated people who are in the country illegally. As a successful, educated, and motivated American expatriate with business experience, you could probably do very well for yourself and out-compete these people.

Using basic EOQ ordering, forecasting, and inventory planning models, you could probably squeeze out more profit from these little stores than the current owners are getting, buy/open more stores, and repeat. Soon you've got a little chain on your hands. Business in Argentina is not as professional or computerized as the United States. People still go to a main office and wait in line to pay their utility bills! Give me a break, this is the 21st Century... modernize already!

Let's look at something besides corner shops. My line of work, project management, has had a professional organization in the US since 1969, the Project Management Institute. The Argentina chapter of the PMI only just recently opened in 1996. While I'm sure that there were plenty of companies using modern project management techniques before 1996, I'm sure the drive to open a local PMI chapter was from American and European companies operating here.

A US or European businessperson coming here and bringing modern business techniques with them will probably have one leg-up on the competition. Let me clarify that this post is not meant as an insult to Argentine business people or other immigrant owners of corner shops. Its just that I've noticed that most of the major brands here are American or European brands.

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Blogger ABA said...

I went through the EXACT situation as the author of this site. What a small world as it turns out that I know one of this author's friends here in Buenos Aires. Small world!!

Please give up any ideas about coming to Buenos Aires and becoming an employee and making decent money. Good jobs here are impossible. Why? Simple. The companies here simply don't need to pay inflated salaries to anyone. There is a large pool of highly skilled, highly educated people here in the city. Many of them are bilingual and many of them have lived abroad before. Why would they pay YOU more than they are paying someone local that is totally biligual? Exactly. They wouldn't.

I came down to Buenos Aires about 17 times before moving here permanently. It was clear to me that if I moved here and wanted to survive I had to make dollars and spend pesos. The two areas I saw were (1) tourism and (2) real estate.

I moved here in August 2004. I have been very very very busy since moving here. I developed a solid business plan before moving down here and it has paid off.

Do NOT move down here thinking you will make money being an employee. One of my friends is a CFO for an international company here. She is totally fluent in English/Spanish, studied in the USA and has worked for that company over 10 years. You wanna know what her salary is? 90,000 pesos per YEAR. About u$s 31,000. If they aren't going to pay HER more....why would they pay you more?

Most of the expats I met here have already moved back to the USA, UK, Spain, Italy or other areas. They thought it was easy to find a job here. Who moves to a country with 20% unemployment to try to find a job? There are highly skilled web programmers, accountants, doctors, etc. (My personal physician speaks perfect English and did his Medical school training at UCLA)!! I pay about the same for an office visit as my co-pay in the USA. That should give you an example of salaries here.

Unless you have a job where you can work over the PC or phone, don't even think about working here unless you are willing to start your own business.

Starting your own business isn't for the faint of heart either. I find it extremely difficult to do business here. It's unfortunate but most people I come across are just unethical. They will lie/cheat/steal all they can. The people in business here try to extract the most out of you in the first transaction and don't care about future business.

It's widespread too. I've experienced it in the banking, financial, real estate and legal community. Luckily I did my homework and never got scammed but I know many that have. Things are very slow here. Anyone that is coming from a Fortune 1000 background or that has lived in the USA/UK will find it tough to do business here.

Definitely know what you are getting into when trying to start a company here or have good contacts or consultants.

Good luck.

5/12/2005 11:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

El Expatriado-
So how would I go about buying a restaurant. How do I know if it is for sale. I will be graduating from college in one year, and I will be in buenos aires my last semester. I want to live in BA for ahwile after i graduate, but i have no idea how to keep a steady income. The restarant/corner shop idea sounds good. the only problem is that i want to have this purchased before i go there to stay for school in jan. can you give me any help on how to go about this? my email is if anyone has any suggestions

6/06/2005 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger TRON said...

hello i planing on moving to buenos aires in 2-3 years. I want buy several taxis, but do not know where to start. Also looking for a business partner. Where do i start finding info on this subject

5/16/2006 08:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anothe reason is that education in Buenos Aires is one of the bests in América (much better than in the US) so they prefer to hire someone graduated at the University of Buenos Aires than any other place.

3/29/2010 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger deeajohn said...

Hi, me and my husbant want to buy a restaurant in BA.Can someone tell us where can we find the best deals to buy a business like agency..or somewhere else. thank's

5/28/2010 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger FRIENDS FOREVER said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/30/2010 01:09:00 AM  

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