Work Abroad but earn in USD

Monday, July 28, 2008

Living in Argentina vs. China

It's interesting that I found so many similarities between China and Argentina. I'm sure many nationals from both countries would be appalled by my saying that. But it's true. Both Argentina and China have very homogeneous populations. I'm not sure the percentages in China vs. Argentina but walking down the street in China you see--guess what--Chinese people!! And in Argentina, pretty much everyone looks Southern European (unless we are talking about the Northwest near Bolivia). Cost of living is very similar. In the big cities in China you can get great dinners with multiple dishes for less that 5 US per person--same in Argentina. Wages are about 5000 RMB per month for a middle income person which is about 850 dollars. That will pay your 300-400 dollar rent per month plus food and transportation. Now transportation is interesting. I have been to MANY cities all over the world and never found one cheaper than Buenos Aires for public transportation. Rio, Santiago, Lima, La Paz, Beijing, Shanghai are all at least double the cost for subways and buses. One of the drawbacks to China, though, and one of the dissimilarities is the westernization/Americanization of the big cities in China. Many districts exist in both Shanghai and Beijing where all you can find is brand name American clothing, accessories and luxury goods. This exists in Argentina too, but in my estimate, the majority of the country's retail is mom and pop shops. Of course, in China you have the infamous fake markets where you can get a "Gucci" bag for 10% of what it retails for in the US. Everyone kept saying "you want LV? LV? LV?", and me being rather label ignorant, I kept thinking: "What is El V?" Yikes.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

More on Currencies

After a recent trip to China, the topic of currencies and exchange remains present in my mind. I thought I was living in the country where you get the best bang for your buck (Argentina). But it turns out that your dollars and euros will go MUCH farther in China than in Argentina. There are of course lifestyle tradeoffs (like no good Argentine wine) but that is another topic... The peso to dollar rate has dropped to 3.02 to 1 today according to yahoo finance. Accordingly, the Yuan (or Riminbi) to the dollar is at about 6.8 to 1. So what can you buy in each place? In China: Chinese food for 4 people at a neighborhood restaurant for 10 dollars TOTAL, knock-off brand name clothing and accessories for 10% of what they cost in the US, subway rides for 60 US cents. In Argentina: Great steak dinner with wine at a neighborhood restaurant for 12-15 dollars per person, leather goods for 50% of what they cost in the US, subway rides for 30 US cents. There are other tradeoffs of course like ridiculous pollution, information censorship and the hardest language in the world to learn. But things in China have changed immensely from when I was there the last time in 1994. Back then it was a 3rd world country with very few stop lights, animals in streets and extreme disorganization. Now it rivals the US in its modernity. And compared to Argentina, its like night and day. Suffice it to say, I would have a very hard time living in China even if I spoke the language. A wonderful place to shop and see history, though.

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