In my little series of practical info or helpful hints for foreigners, I thought I’d write a little bit about what to think about before coming here. (You can also read about housing and health insurance which I wrote about earlier.) Buenos Aires is different from many other Latin American cities in that it is a city people move to just because they want to. I don’t know a lot of people who just dreamed about making a new life in Bogotá (which is a great city), or San Salvador, but I know lots of people who moved to Buenos Aires just because they like the city or because they want to dance tango seven nights a week. This means that many foreigners arrive without a job and only with a lose idea of what they will do once here. Here is my very non-comprehensive list of tips for those who you want to move here! I came here with a job already in place, but know enough people who didn’t to know how things work, more or less.
- Yes, you can teach English. No, it does not pay well. As I have mentioned before, porteños love learning and classes and many take language classes, such as English, and many prefer native teachers. However, this does not mean that teaching English or other language is in any way an easy way to make money. If you are certified and have a degree in teaching or language, you might be able to score a good job at a private school or good academy. If not, you will probably be stringing together work from language institutes, often in the black, and private classes. This means you might be traveling a lot around town, unless you can receive the students at home. If there is travel involved, that can take up a lot of time. You need to have a cancellation policy and ask for payment beforehand, usually once a month, to avoid no-shows. You will also need to think about how to deal with course materials. Many simply use photocopies of text books to save money.
- Other types of jobs: Immigration wise, Argentina is more open than most countries. If a company wants to hire you, they usually can: they have to be part of a registry of companies allowed to hire foreigners (apparently it is not too hard to get registered) and then you go through a series of steps to be hired legally. This way you get a work visa (usually for one year at a time). This usually works for more professional type jobs. (If you are from a Mercosur country it is even easier than this.)
- Restaurant/bars/service sector jobs: Most of these are in the black, at least to begin with, but I do see quite a few foreigners in these jobs, and not only from Spanish speaking countries. Of course, your Spanish needs to be good even if the clientele is mainly tourists. Also, the pay is low and the hours long.
- Your best bet: Lining up something before you leave your home country. If you see this more as an extended vacation or a sabbatical, you can save up money before you arrive and change your foreign currency to pesos once you are here. Or, if you consider staying longer, try to get freelance work or any kind of work that allows you to work remotely. You will be much more comfortable and your money will go a long way here. Also, freelancing can be fun and liberating if you are used to an office job. However, it also means no or very little security. For instance, no Norwegian welfare state to catch me! This means you need to be careful with your saving, be responsible and buy health insurance, and have a back-up plan in case something happens.
- Good luck and have fun!