Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Moving to Argentina

Hi Fernando,

I've only come across your blog lately, but have been furiously reading through the content on your site; it's fantastic. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

I'll try to keep this as short as I can. I am 34, live in Canada, married, with 3 small children. We are very adventurous. We grew up on farms, and know the ins and outs of organic gardening well, and I can build and fix things with reasonably good skill. I am fluent in English and German, and am quickly upgrading my French and Spanish. I have a well paying sales job in an industry (aerospace/automotive related), and we're both freelance musicians and educators. I know that when the SHTF, my job won't be very safe.

In the last 2 years, in light of the wisdom that people like you have opened my eyes to, we have put "our house in order". We have sold our house, are renting, and have paid off all debts, and accumulated about $50K in liquid savings.

Now, we are starting to look for some property/house in South America, both as a place to escape to when the inevitable collapse comes, and as a place to expand our family's horizons, and begin our world travels. Our goal is to have a base somewhere in South America - we're favouring Argentina, but have looked at Uruguay as well.

I have found many answers to my questions on sites like yours, but there are a few that I could really use some advice on.

1. Given our financial situation (no debt, but not huge savings), what kind of property could be obtain, and would you recommend buying? We like living rurally, but close enough to a fairly good sized city.

2. I have a good skill-set and language situation, and my wife and I have a lot of music educating experience, as well as performing. Where would you direct me to either find a job, or work freelance to sustain a living?

3. I would like to travel to South America myself in the near future to "scope things out". Any tips on how to best spend my time (1-2 weeks) there, in order to prepare to move my family there within 8-14 months? Would you be at all open to meeting with me when I come down to your country?

I really appreciate any insight you might be able to provide. I'm sure you get many, many inquiries.

Warm regards,

Hi Terry, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think you’ll be making enough money here as a musician or music teacher. You might have better luck teaching English to people that can afford it, but that also means you’ll have to sacrifice some the idea of rural living given that you’ll need enough population that requires your services. I can’t emphasize how important it will be to have people’s skills, clients wont be knocking your door, you’ll have to meet people, make friends, talk a lot, be nice, etc. You should actually start right away with the online expat communities of the location you wish to go to. Expats are usually friendly/helpful with one another and that’s your best shot at finding a job.
There’s also some people that moved to Patagonia from USA, but the problem there is that most of them are the retired type (no kids) with good incomes. You’d be mostly dealing with wealthy or middle class Argentines that want their kids to learn English. Education is still important for educated, middle class or rich folks around here and its common for families with middle class income to make the extra effort so as to send their kids to bilingual schools so that they fluently speak English. With the new Chavez-like politics leaking into our culture, there’s more “gringo=bad person, greedy capitalist” but there’s enough people still that know better. 10 years from now and another K presidency? That might change a bit.
50K isn’t that much around here any more. Even for moving to Panama, they ask for a 100K investment. Real estate prices may not be as bad a in Canada, but its not Dominican Republic either. I’ve checked Canada’s real estate before, and in general you’re looking at prices that are 40% cheaper than in Canada, so while there are places for that kind of money (50K), they may not be what you had in mind and your options are more limited. Forget about anything fancy, or some of those American gated communities in Patagonia or up north. With that kind of budget, you’re better off looking in Uruguay in my opinon.
Its not easy to move to a strange country, I wouldn’t move from Canada and all the options it represents for my kids to Patagonia where his view of the world and his options would be much more limited, but that’s just me.
I’ll give you an example of how this could work ok or go very wrong. We have some friends from back when we lived in Boston that got divorced a few years ago. They are both Argentine but had their kids and lived most of their lives in USA. Kids already grown up and both having good jobs, each of them was left with 800K  after the house was sold.
He decided to retire to the Argentine South (Patagonia) close to Bariloche. He bought 3 houses, about 250K each, rents two and lives in one. The rent he gets from those two properties is enough for him to live. On the other hand, she stayed in USA, bought a 400K home and a very fancy car, the real estate bubble exploded and lost half of that, then lost some more money due to the expensive lifestyle she had. Finally she moved back to her hometown in Argentina. She had 400K left and was told that was enough by her relatives here. She bought a nice 300K home, soon burned through the 100K she had left. Now she wants to move back to USA, but doesn’t have the money she used to and the chances of her finding a job in USA again at her age aren’t very good. Small town Argentine life isn’t what she expected of course. Her husband had a much more realistic idea of what life in Patagonia would be like (Alaska type nature, but little chance of earning a living).
If you’re the adventurous type, then you’d deal with these kinds of inconveniences better.
I suggest you read Tom Frost and his website. I’ve met him before, he’s lived in Argentina, then bought a farm in Uruguay and is now living in Japan for a year. Here’s an article he wrote with a couple good points and this is his website. If you email him, tell him Fernando“FerFAL” says hi! :-) http://www.expatarrivals.com/article/confessions-of-an-expat
Regarding your questions.
1-     I wouldn’t waste much time in Argentina, specially not with the budget you have in mind. Uruguay is more affordable and its still close to Buenos Aires in case you need to travel, or other things a big city has to offer. Close to Montevideo would be your best bet, check some of the smaller, more affordable towns near by. Colonia is also nice, but the population may be too low.
2-     As I was saying,  your best bet is teaching English rather than music. There’s lots of musicians around here, but not that many people that speak English fluently. Landing a teaching job in Montevideo is more realistic. You could try finding teaching jobs in Buenos Aires, Cordoba, San Luis (cheap land and OK province for what you have in mind) or try finding that sort of job in Bariloche or Calafate. Don’t be that adventurous, try finding the jobs on line before making the jump. Contact expats in these locations and see what help they can give you. Captain Rick is a good friend and lives in Mar del Plata, he could give you some guidance as well.
3-     Of course, I have no problem in meeting with readers visiting Buenos Aires. I do that often when I can. I’ve been offered jobs by real estate brokers here targeting Americans, but I don’t like the angle they are going for and don’t feel comfortable lying to people about what they are to expect in Argentina. Real Estate brokers tend to do that you know. :-)
I would do everything I can on line, contact expats in Argentina and Uruguay so as to take advantage of the trip. Other than Buenos Aires, unless you have solid contacts in Patagonia or other provinces, your time would be best spent in Uruguay. Contact Tom Frost regarding Uruguay, he will give you good advice.

Take care and good luck!



Anonymous said...

I mean this sincerely and repectfully:

Why does Canada Family want to move from first world, safe and secure Canada to any South American third world country where they are the outsider?

I so dont get it. They are way safer staying put, remaining liquid financially.

If you want out of Canada, move to Texas.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what's so wrong with Canada that this man wants to leave it. Canada's economy seems to be better than the US at this time...if you look at the currency it's at parity with the US right now or even little higher. They also have abundant in energy in Canada. If he's thinking it's cheaper to live in South America than Canada he could surprised if he wants to maintain his lifestyle.

I really don't know what's wrong with Canadians or Americans wanting to move to less affluent countries (no offense to Argentina), Is it to show they are above the people in those places? Is it their thinking that the people will look up to them? People in South America would rather move to Canada or the US if they have a chance, yet these people would rather leave the good things they have for less.

J said...

Maybe they don't like living in America's fifty-first state.

I left America for a first world nation. I left because I got sick of the Amerika uber Alles mentality common among Americans.

As for a third world country that has a nice standard of living, I have read good things about Vanuatu.

CapnRick said...

Hi, Terry... CapnRick here. Well, it's unanimous... WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING!? I get the feeling you just want an adventure. If that's the case, no problem. It is a decision you certainly are empowered to make. But, you are putting your family at risk, so let's examine the issues.

You cannot seriously be running away from a potential meltdown, because it does not make sense to leave the area where you have friends, jobs, contacts, family and first world infrastructure to aid you in surviving any kind of meltdown to go to the tail end of the world where you cannot even be reasonably certain that they will be pumping gas today or if they will be out of gasoline. And, I am not talking about in a meltdown... I am talking about today in my neighborhood in a third world country, I was only allowed to buy 40 liters of nafta/gasoline that cost over usd1 per liter and runs rough in my imported Ford Focus.

1. YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO IMMIGRATE TO ARGENTINA. Why not? This is now officially ArgenZuela. They do not want people moving here from first world democratic countries. Other nations expats are treated like crap... the bureoucrats will just ignore your application for permanent residency. I suggest that INSTEAD of coming to Argentina for two weeks, you go to the local Argentine consulate or embassy and start processing the paperwork for a temporary residency visa. ONLY AFTER determining in your own mind that you are not embarking on a hopeless quest for permanent residency ultimately, should you consider moving forward to plan a visit.

The social networks for expats are full of stories lately how people who have lived in BsAs 5+ years have been going to Uruguay on a day trip to re-enter Argentina every 90 days so they can renew their visas. They are alarmed that they are getting turned back and not allowed to reenter Argentina using procedures the officials are deeming to be abusive. So ask yourself..."Why would people of normal intelligence who have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in an apartment NOT have permanent residency?" Answer: because it is extremely difficult to get permanent residency in the legally prescribed way. Do a keyword search of http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BANewcomers/ ...for VISA and you will see I am not making this up.

2. YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO EARN A LIVING HERE. Bluntly put, I would not be here if I did not have an Argentine spouse, US denominated income I can access through an ATM card and zero dependency on the local economy for income. People who work via internet can live anywhere they want. Most of us cannot. If you try to work black/unofficial jobs, you will be undepaid and thoroughly abused, as also happens to people who do that in the USA and Canada.

My wife... and\ Argentine native with an architecture degree, a wonderful local work history with references, and a native Spanish speaker... had to lie and say she was 28 when she was 34 in order to get work back BEFRE the meltdown here. If you have learned anything at all from reading FerFAL, you know that things have gotten muchmuchmuch worse since 2001.

Want to make a living teaching English to private clients? Tell that to my English friend Michelle who has been trying to do that for a few years. After she gets up off the floor from laughing, she will set you straight. You can contact her on her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Mar-del-Plata/29370562498 ...WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?

Feel free to cuss me out for being a jerk on my Skype connection as CapnRick. If I can't talk you out of this move, I will do everything in my power to help you survive it and prosper... and so will the raggedy expat community here.

Suerte -CapnRick

P.P. Mazzini said...

If you are expecting a collapse, I can't think of a better place to be than in Canada: lots of fresh water, abundant energy (oil and gas), plenty of timber and minerals, and a net agricultural exporter. Any kind of societal devolution is going to leave Canada very well positioned to take care of itself. There might not be a need for musicians, but there will be lots of other work in the new economy. And finally, so few people are armed, that the prospect of very serious violence is much lower than the US or South America.

PP Mazzini

Lukiftian said...

If I were you, I wouldn't leave Canada.
But I'd get out of Southern Ontario if you're there.

There are lots of places to disappear in Canada.

russell1200 said...

Make that unanomous +1.

Wise to sell house in what looks like a property bubble up their. But beyond that, Canada is one of the safest countries to live in.

It even does well in most scenerios of global warming.

hsu said...

Like others here, I think you are crazy for wanting to leave Canada.

A first world country with a low population and large natural resources means that Canada will be able to pull through a future crisis much better than most other nations.

But yet you want to move to a second (or third) world country that is already in crisis? That's highly illogical.

Maldek said...

Hi Terry,

I would like to comment on your email to FerFal.

We too are fluent in English and native german speakers with some skills in spanish and french. We have 2 small children - similar in age as FerFals kids.
For a while we have been living in south america now (Paraguay) about 1 day drive from B.A.

Most important advice first!
Stay where you are. "Milk" as much money out of your job(s) as possible. Try to cut costs and bring up savings. Beeing in Canada you should be able to purchase maple leafs for as little as U$35 above spot - yes I am talking about gold coins - buy them, hoard them and do so physicaly.

Ok now to south america.
There is a reason, why so many poor guys want into first world countries. In first world countries you can make money and earn a decent living from your work.
3rd world countries are *by design* made to keep the rich on top and the rest poor.

So if you have a fixed income (retirement, investment) of say U$ 2000 - 3000 per month THEN you can give serious thought to the idea of spending your days in a more suitable country with less than 6 months snow.

If the plan is going to south america without any income and with minimal savings - DO NOT DO THAT.

Even worse with 3 kids...south america is not germany - if you fail here, there wont be a HARTZ4 to cushion you. If you fail here, you starve or eat from the trash!

Ad 1)
Here in Paraguay you can get a decent property for ~100K$ that would fit your standards. You can have it cheaper but then it will suck in one place or the other.
In Uruguay you would have to make that U$ 150K for the same quality.

Chile is a great country for english speakers who are looking for a job - they have a fast growing middle class over there and the country is "1st world style". The same quality house would be around U$200K in chile.

2. No offense but this question alone is showing little knowledge about living conditions in 3rd world countries. You may want to try this in B.A. or santiago de chile *BUT* this is not realy an option.
Personal english/german teacher for the spanish upper class might work IF you have the right connections. It is not easy getting into these circles as a gringo. A "german" gringo has it much easier than an US-gringo I might add.

3. "I would like to travel to South America myself " YES please do that before you make any moves you might regret later.

"how to best spend my time (1-2 weeks)"
Rent a car and hit the road.

Do not use english/german speaking motels, dont give too much about the talks of expats you meet (most of them just want to lure you to their place so they can fleece you), make yourself aquainted with the massive amount of realy poor people and their conditions of living outside the big cities etc.

The countries in order of importance:
1) Chile
2) Uruguay
3) B.A. (forget the rest of argentina for work, and even in B.A. it's hard)

If you have further questions you can contact me via email: aomaldek@gmail.com

FerFAL said...

Terry, people here have given excellent adivce.
Of course I would not recommned leaving Cananda, my recommendations were only for someone that has already made up his mind. If you are willing to reconsider, then by all means, do stay in Cananda.
Know that for every Canadian wanting to move to SA there's 100 SOuth Americans willing to do anything fo the opporutinty to live in Canada, yes, even with tohse cold winters. :-)


Anonymous said...

If I HAD to leave the U.S. permanently, Canada would be at the VERY top of my VERY short list.
1) I already speak Canadian, eh?
2) I work for a Canadian company.
3) It's only 160 miles away.
4) Economy fairly strong.
5) Good Infrastructure.
6) Culture of Kindness.
7) Similar Culture.
8) Low Pollution, generally speaking.

I think I would try to make staying in Canada work, some how.
Eric In Michigan

Anonymous said...

I am a Canadian. I have been retired for some years now. I retired with a not too bad pension. However, my pension is no longer adequate. My income hasn't changed for over 10 years. I live in northern British Columbia. We may have many natural resources, but, we pay more for our natural resources in our own country, than the countries we export the natural resources to. We have vast forests, yet buying a home, is out of range for thousands of BC people. Young couples with children, with an average income, can not afford to buy a house. Gasoline in British Columbia is $1.16 per liter. Our hydro is going up to 55% more, even though there is an abundance of hydro dams. We have an abundance of natural gas. Yet, heat bills can range up to $450.00 per month, or more the farther up north you are. We Canadians are taxed to death. We now work 7 months of our wages, per year that go to, direct and indirect taxes. We pay both, Provincial taxes as well as Federal taxes. The only items that are not taxed in British Columbia, are a few basic groceries, and children's clothing. We pay 12% tax, on pretty much everything we buy. So, you can understand why people want to leave this country. Retired people, especially don't get raises, we can't afford to live in our own country. I had to give up my car, because of high insurance and gas prices. When you are retired, we don't have any tax reductions, so, income tax takes another chunk of your money. As far as safety. There are drug gang wars and shootings every other day, in the larger cities. House break ins, are very common all over this country. Every town or city I have lived in, I have been broken into. And, I live in decent neighborhoods. There is no use breaking into a poor home, there wouldn't be much to steal. Drug grow-ops, are also very common. The more, poor people this country causes, the drug violence, thefts, and other crimes mushroom. Our country may not seem poor to you. Big business is very well off, because this country takes from the poor and give to the wealthy. The Canadian citizens are becoming poor, because of government corruption. Corruption and greed, is what governs in this country too.

CapnRick said...

Dear Anonymous Retired in Canada... thanks for your very informative post. I worked part time after retirement in Miami Beach. The area is so expensive to live in, it made sense to keep working. As a prominent US politician reportedly said... "I feel your pain".

I don't work in Argentina except as a consultant paid to my US account. I sold or shut down 5 web sites recently, so I have been taking it fairly easy. There is literally NO WAY to earn money here in the "white" economy unless you are recruited by a large, politically connected firm to do certain types of work. That is why I try to encourage people without an outside income stream to try some place more friendly toward biz. Friends who have started businesses here report the clients cannot even get in the door for all the government functionaries hitting them up for bribes. This is NOT a safe environment for ANY type of investment, where the courts don't work and La Presidenta rules by decree. That's how she stole the retirement fund... decree.

Brazil and Chile are higher cost of living than any place else in LatAm, and the security problems in Brazil preclude a recommendation. So, we are left with Chile, Costa Rica and Panama for a biz environment that is not pure piracy.

If I lived in Canada, it would be with a year's supply of beans/bacon/coffee and flour in a cabin way up north where my woods skills might be able to keep me alive. It is NOT a favorite plan... plus I'm getting pretty old to be doing stuff like that.

Frustrating, ain't it?

Suerte -CapnRick

Anonymous said...

La verdad que mudarse a Argentina o a cualquier paĆ­s del mundo es super complicado. Yo creo que vayas donde vayas si no tienes un buen trabajo y algo donde agarrarte la pasas mal en cualquier sitio


I totally agree to what Anonymous said.Also the voting system is corrupt, the parties get in all the time with much less than 50% of the vote, the myth of good health care is just that a myth, you can wait years for a simple operation and it's not free the cost comes out of the massive amount of taxes one pays. On one job I was on the government took up to 70% of my income in one way or another, taxes, CPP, EI, GST/pst, environmental tax, and now a new carbon tax is on the books. The police are corrupt and literally get away with murder, and you wonder why people who worked their whole lives and paid for a pension and now live well below the poverty line want to get out. I love my country but the corporations running it care not for working people especially after they make pension status, we live in a fascist regime and most people fail yo realize it.