What’s It Really Like to Live in The Americas?

americas6842230What’s It Really Like to Live in the AMERICAS? expands  the conversation to the continents of the Americas. Do you live in North, Central or South AMERICA?

Do YOU have comments & insights to share with colleagues regarding the pleasures & challenges of life in the Americas? Please do! International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is ALL about!

• What is the BEST & the WORST of living in the AMERICAS?
• Do you recommend living in the AMERICAS or are you counting the days?

What’s It Really Like to Live in the AMERICAS? JOIN the Conversation HERE!

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See all the continents included in the
What’s it Really like to Live Here Series
Asia / Africa / The Americas /Europe / Middle East

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22 Responses to What’s It Really Like to Live in The Americas?

  1. Globetrotter says:

    ECUADOR
    Ecuador is a fantastic country to live if you like adventurous travel. It has beaches (although they can be quite cool for a number of months during the year although the water is warm), the mountains (if a mountain is under 4,000 meters it is not considered a mountain!) although the high altitude can really make hiking much more difficult and the amazon – not to be missed as it has Yasuni – a national park with the world’s highest concentration of biodiversity in the world. Yes, it is on the equator but in the sierra (high altitude areas) it is not stinking hot at all, in fact you need warm clothing. In Quito the weather is more or less predictable – no need for weather forecasts as you know it will be fine (or possible misty for the first hour in the rainy season, where it will also rain between 2-5 pm in the afternoons) otherwise it is dry. It snows in the mountains but never in Quito.

    Ecuador is changing fast, thanks to the direction the government is taking. It now has a good road network, the number of people in poverty has been reduced and more support is being given to disabled people, women, indigenous communities etc. However the freedom of the press has really taken a beating and new laws have really muzzled the press a lot, to the point where some journalists have asked for asylum abroad. Inflation is rising but is nothing like Venezuela or Argentina however the prices do increase frequently and they aren’t small price hikes but can be up to 50 cents each time. The government adjusts the minimum wage annually to keep in line with inflation but salaries here for international teachers, like in most of South America, are pretty low but well above what the average Ecuadorian gets monthly. Despite what you might think travel here is not always dirt cheap, buses are pretty cheap for example a 8 hour bus ride costs about $8, the cheapest accommodation with shared bathroom is about $15 a night but varies where you are. Rooms are charged per person not per room so for a couple you can be paying $30-80 per night, even more for better accommodation. You can get cheap lunches with 3 courses for US$2.50 but evening meals are more expensive $7 upwards. Youth hostels with cooking facilities are very rare so you are forced to eat out. Some teachers find that with travel and day to day living costs they really can’t save. Rents can be dirt cheap to very expensive $700 + /month and it all depends on where you live.
    The country uses the US dollar as currency but you can’t use the Ecuadorian coins in the US, although the reverse works. Sending money through any financial institution is very expensive as the government charges a tax so you are better of sending cheques back home to get banked or sending photos of the cheque to your bank and get them to do it. Postal services aren’t so common and most houses don’t have a box for the mail at the front so it is best to get your mail sent to your place of work. There are taxes on many items so you will find that anything imported will be more expensive than you are used to if you are coming from the US. People often go to the US specifically to shop for clothing, electronics however there are restrictions on the quantities of electronics that you bring back for example you are only allowed to bring in one cell phone and it is illegal to send cell phones into Ecuador. Sending things by post/courier into Ecuador can be difficult and you can be left with paying import duties more than the cost of the product.

    Despite what you may think about Latinos being outgoing, there are vast differences within Ecuador and many expats find that the people in the Andes, like Quito, can be cool. Culturally the family is very important here and often people will spend all their free time with the extended family which means it can be very very difficult to make friends here even if you speak good Spanish. Not surprisingly a number of expats who have lived here for many years have no/very few Ecuadorian friends.Many Ecuadorians aren’t open to being friendly with foreigners, beyond the “where are you from?” type questions and often they just assume you can’t speak Spanish even when you are speaking it directly to them! However there are Ecuadorians who are interested in meeting foreigners so they are the people to make friends with. Not many people speak good English so you should try to learn the basics to get by. Crime can be an issue in Ecuador. For more information on this see my posting under When Safety Comes First.

    In summary if you are not worried about the low salaries do consider Ecuador as a place to live as it is very rich both culturally and environmentally.

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  2. Freebird says:

    Does anyone have more experiences about Chile? Can you save money there? Is it economically reasonable to live there? Do you need a car, if so, are they expensive?

    Thanks!

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  3. Anonymous says:

    I was in Cochabamba, Bolivia. It was a wonderful experience, but also our pay was low. But since costs are so low in Bolivia, it all worked out. Where you in Costa Rica? If so, where? I would LOVE to live there!

    ~~Like us at our Bilingual Learner Page on Facebook to check out our education experiences as we backpack through Europe! ~~

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  4. stephanie says:

    I lived and worked in Bolivia for 4 years and had a wonderful time. I also traveled all over the continent and had many close friends who taught in other South/Central American schools. My review here is very similar to what my other friends said about their experiences in other Latin American countries. The school I worked at was probably at the bottom level of international schools and isn’t rated highly here on ISR for good reasons, but my experience living and teaching there was mostly great. One of the amazing things about Bolivia is that bc of its remote location in the Andes, it retains much of its own uniqueness and is one of the few countries in the Western Hemi where even the big cities don’t have that American flavor of malls-Pizza Hut-MickeyDs-etc. My students were so well-behaved and parents really valued education. The school had very little consistent curriculum, organization, or technology, but I was still able to teach my students better than in any US public school I’ve worked in. I eventually decided to leave Bolivia and return to the US bc of the increasing instability of the country and mismanagement of the school- these were not big issues when I was only temporarily living there, but they did make me VERY hesitant to put down roots, hence my decision to return to the US and try to set down roots in my own country. I don’t regret leaving (it was the right thing to do for me at that time in my life), but… now I am back in the US, teaching in TX and I miss the life and laid-back work culture away from the US rat-race everyday.

    Cheers,
    Stephanie

    **Check out the latest post on a fellow Gen X’er surviving the Mozambican Civil War and an unexpected visit with her @ bilinguallearner.com!

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  5. Anon says:

    Argentina is currently facing a very difficult time economically. Government controls and restrictions are making it nearly impossible to convert pesos to dollars – even if you have proof that you will be travelling and need those dollars to do so! International flights are also very expensive as are all imported goods. Saying that though, Argentina is full of beautiful landscapes, friendly people and has a fantastic capital city with gorgeous old buildings and much culture. Whether your salary will stretch to seeing the beautiful landscapes depends on the contract you can negotiate!

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  6. John says:

    Does anyone have information about living in Venezuela or Argentina? I’m looking seriously (and hoping for a job) in this part of South America.

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  7. pshaffer abroad says:

    Someone asked about Chile or Brasil above. I had the great pleasure of living in Chile. It is a relatively safe country with some incredible places to visit. We found it easy to rent a car and travel anywhere, with similar conveniences you would find travelling on any U.S. highway. Taking a bus or a flight is easy and convenient. Given how long it is, you can find the same diversity of climate zones that you can on the west coast of North America – going from the southern tip of baja California(similar to the Atacama desert in the north of Chile), to the southern tip of Alaska (like the Fjord’s in the South of Chile). I took many incredible photos, of all the unique climate zones. Chileans are friendly, and are genuinely interested in meeting people from other places. This is probably not the easiest country to learn Spanish in, because the accent is very strong, compared to other places like Peru – where they enunciate very clearly. That said though, you will get plenty of encouragement -and with time you learn the Chilenismos. I lived in Concepcion, Chile’s second largest city, on the south central coast. The climate is very similar to what you would find in the Bay Area of northern California. If you are of European ancestry it it not immediately obvious that you are a foreigner, unless you open your mouth of course:-). Santiago is a victim of its topography. Though the city is very proactive with respect to air cleanliness, the winter smog is still intense. My favorite city was Valparaiso, where you can wander the hills dotted with old victorian homes built out of redwood, and see one of the homes of Chile’s most famous poet – Pablo Neruda. Chile es lindo!

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    • boomerexpat says:

      Were you able to get to now locals. A while back I researched Chile when I was thinking of moving overseas because there are some things that intrigued me. However, when I spoke with expats (male and female) they said it was very hard to make friends because of a combination of few expats (which surprised me) and Chileans only socializing with a very small group of family and long-time friends; they found that Chileans were very nice but just not open to expanding their social networks.

      Did you find that to be true or were you able to develop a strong social network?

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      • Anonymous says:

        I did not find this to be true. Actually, I found people really wanted to get to know me. Now, I was working at a Berlitz and teaching English to young adults, so it might have been the demographic I was working with that made it easier. Concepcion is a university town as well, so there were lots of places to hang out and get to know people, apart from work. The family unit is very important as you indicate. It seems that family is more important than friends, unlike what it might be sometimes like in the US. Now, my wife is Chilean, so as we were getting to know each other, I became a ‘part of the family.’ Maybe Santiago is different in that it is a big metropolis like any other and your friends were there?

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        • boomerexpat says:

          Thanks for the feedback.

          Do you think your experience would have been much different if you had been middle aged, had no Chilean wife and were just learning Spanish? or would people have been open anyway?

          I find that people who marry into a culture usually immediately get a social network as an added bonus (or curse).

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  8. Mike S. says:

    I taught in Guatemala and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, I am very interested in Art, so that part of the world is filled with art to appreciate. And, oh! the coffee! Yeah!
    The pay was decent and afforded my family to travel around the country frequently.
    We had no end to people coming for a visit, and because of its proximity to the US, it was an easy trip for all, even our elderly parents.
    We also went to El Salvador (which I didn’t like), but truly there is plenty to see, learn, enjoy about northern Central America.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I think you forgot to mention the level of crime here in Guate. It is not safe to walk the streets of the city at any time of the day. Outside the city, wow! What a wonderful country!

      Like

  9. Kelly says:

    Does anyone have experience teaching in South America? Brazil/Chile, specifically?

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    • C.C. says:

      I taught in Ecuador for nearly 4 years and thought it was a great post — lived in Guayaquil (port city), but traveled lots to Quito (mountainous city), very different places.
      Can’t help you out w/ Chile or Brazil, but people I worked w/ went to Easter Island (Chile) and were amazed. If you like the altitude of Chile, for example, I think you’d enjoy Quito or the volcanic regions of Ecuador, or also a trip to the Galapagos Islands — wow!

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    • Anon says:

      This is my first int’l teaching job and I’m in Brazil, got here last July. I can tell you this–I would not have come here if I knew how dangerous Brazil is. There are a significant number of people here who do NOT like having gringoes around. They are, admittedly, a minority of Brazilians; most are incredibly nice people. But I heard something that seems spot-on; Brazilians are about like the people you see on Jersey Shore, very shallow and self-centered overall, and zero interest in things intellectual. The food is just so-so, it is incredibly salty, and otherwise very bland and starchy. There are great travel opportunities, but things are incredibly expensive in Brazil (think NYC prices). One big plus is that I’m saving money at a very good rate, since I don’t have a car and don’t plan on getting one.

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  10. I lived in Costa Rica for two years. The travel opps were fab but the salary low so go for the experience and not the money! The local food is pretty boring -rice and beans three times a day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    World Traveller

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  11. Mexicoooo says:

    I concur with Anonymous. We have been in Mexico for 6 years and never had an issue. We even live in Monterrey were supposedly we live in a war zone. We have never seen any violence and live our lives life we would if we were back home in Canada. The pay is responsible and the saving potential is there, even living in a big house, 1 – 2 maids for the kids, going out to eat 2 – 3 times a week and taking 1 – 2 major holidays a year. We love being close to home and being able to drive home if we wish. I would recommend it as a starting location for first year teachers or if its your first international job.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Living in Mexico is wonderful… The people, culture, food, landscapes, and proximity to “home” are wonderful. Many people have their concerns about security in Mexico.  After more than ten years living here, I believe that crime is mostly quite targeted at specific people.  If you are not involved with drugs or crime; if you are not a member of the government, the military, or the police; if you are not a journalist writing about the cartels; if you are not extraordinarily wealthy… then you are really not likely to be the target of crime during your time here.  If anything were to happen to you, it would probably be an unlikely and random “wrong place at the wrong time” situation… and that can happen in any city in the world.  Choose your school wisely, though… Some are much better than others (true everywhere, I’m sure).

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  13. hannah says:

    My partner and I just got our first International teaching jobs in Mexico… any thoughts, advice, warnings would be greatly appreciated!🙂

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    • Anonymous says:

      I appears that replies to comments don’t show up on the blog, perhaps like a private message? I’m at ASFM – if that’s where you’ve been hired (or even if not) and you’d like to ask more specific questions, feel free to send me your email address and I can help you out. 🙂

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  14. Anonymous says:

    I’m currently in the Caribbean, and living and working here is great. It seems that salaries in some other parts of the world are more competitive, but the quality of life is priceless – depending on where you are exactly. The weather is great everywhere, but there is a lot of diversity in terms of political and economic stability, so it’s wise to do some good research before deciding on a particular country.

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