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.
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.