Living in Colombia
Deciding to move to a foreign land takes a certain mixture of courage and adventure, whatever your motivation is to leave your native land. Most of us don’t take this step lightly and it is a personal move that should require you to do a great deal of due diligence. We at Escape Artist Colombia, encourage you to consider living in Colombia and making it your new home but you must also read, research and experience in person the wonders and natural beauty of this country.
We will not present Colombia to you through rose coloured glasses. We will bring to you details and information that we believe to be true and realistic. We implore you to widen your search avenues beyond the normal channels and to seek what you find to be the truth, not what someone else tells you that you will find. We can’t emphasize this enough. The old adage applies. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Coming from European focused culture, my studies of South America were somewhat limited. I recall studying the pampas of Argentina and Tierra del Fuego but not much else. This really was somewhat of a lost continent – hopelessly corrupt governments, immense poverty, and one coup after another.
Today I believe the future lies in the emerging nations. Great nations rise and fall and the great nations to the north seem to be floundering. Colombia has found itself in the group of CIVETS – up and coming nations. These are countries to watch, to visit and to invest in.
Colombia is a completely different country from my first visit in November 2000 – day and night different! When I first choose to spend longer periods here in 2004, I hung my hat in Cali. I recall reading an article that said Cali had an average of 2000 murders per year! Certainly, that is a very frightening statistic considering in all of Canada, in the same time period, there had been under 700. If I had only read the headline, I might not have ventured further. Digging deeper I soon discovered that approximately 1/3 of the murders happened in a few of the poorest neighbourhoods, 1/3 were gang and drug-related and about the other 1/3 happened on payday weekends. When you weeded out all of those factors, the numbers equated more to a large American city.
Does the country still have a certain amount of insecurity? Yes. Is it completely safe? No! However, there are not too many places that are. If you look for trouble you will find it. Recently I had some Americans tell me about East St Louis. I gather that it has one of the highest crime rates in the US. Will I be visiting there? No. Instead, I would highly recommend that you escape to Colombia.
Are you going to be able to live cheaply in Colombia? That all depends on where you choose and what lifestyle you would like to have. In Medellin, if you want to live inexpensively then don’t choose El Poblado. Take the most expensive area in your city (preferably a large one) and compare it to where you live. El Poblado is one of the most exclusive areas in Colombia. It seems far more North American than most other parts of Colombia. This area is still far underpriced in the international marketplace. For a cosmopolitan city of this size, with some of the best health care in South America, the best-educated workforce in Latin America and a climate that is rivalled by very few other places then Medellin is cheap! However, if you say for $100,000 US or $200,000 US I can buy better in Florida – then go for it !!!!
Sitting here looking at a publication full of new projects in other parts of Medellin, you can buy a 60 m2 or about 700 sq. ft apartment new for around $50,000 US but you have to ask yourself, will you feel comfortable living in the neighbourhood. ? Will you feel like you are living in a ”project”? It is possible to live here inexpensively. It absolutely can be done but you have to decide what you need for your style of life.
You may have read that you can get double-digit ROI’s on rental properties here and you can – if you buy a property that is not expensive, that has low administration fees. low taxes and you plan to administer it yourself. I have done ROI’s on dozens of properties and very rarely do I get double-digit returns. Be honest, do you have the ability to generate 70 %, 80% or 90 % occupancy on your own? If you want this done properly then you need to hire professionals. Can you do it on your own? Absolutely, if you are here.
We can help you find excellent value properties but we will give you honest opinions and assessments of the market. In Medellin, we have had a growth of about 6% per year for the last three years. A few years ago when the bottom fell out of the markets everywhere, Medellin remained stable. If you are looking for further information about investing in Real Estate in Colombia please contact us at email@example.com
I hear people say that you can get a maid for 20.000 COP per day. Others have said $30.00 US per day. Is this true? Yes? Is it legal? No – at least not 20.000 COP! Is there a risk involved? Yes! In most Latin American countries we hear stories of ”Gringo” prices or how the locals take advantage of ”us foreigners”. However a Gringo price is also how foreigners view the labour here – it is cheap and so many people are quick to take more than an advantage of the locals.
Why would anyone work for 20.000 COP per day? Simply because they don’t have an alternative. When I lived in Cartagena I had a friend who had two maids. She paid about $100.00 US per month. Her reasoning was that for them it was better than sitting at home. In her house, they got to eat at least two meals a day and they had some spending money every month. Without her they probably had nothing.
There is a legal minimum wage in this country. In 2103 it is just under 600.000 COP per month. Not only that if you have someone work for you must pay most of their health care, pension, but 15 days also paid holidays, a monthly transportation stipend, a clothing allowance and depending on their position with you, a biannual bonus called ”prima”. If you do not do this and they are injured on the job, you will be responsible for their medical bills, salary and health costs. Even if they are not injured at some point they can basically take you to arbitration for failure to pay their benefits. It is important to note that the fines can be steep and the interest accrues daily. Often a worker can gain a much larger settlement than if you had paid them properly.
Once you have explored the country and know that you want to settle here, you need to remember you will have to adapt to a different way of life here. Banking can be frustrating. Obtaining a cellphone, even more so. It is unimaginable to a North American that you can not easily get a phone, at least with a plan. A number of years ago, I offered to pay the full year because I had no credit rating in Colombia and I was refused. Service in parts of Colombia is also abysmal so you need patience. Patience for everything that you do because the culture is not going to change and what seems like an eternity to a North American, is normal to a Colombian. A word of advice, leave your North American or European mindset ”at the door”. Go with the flow!
It is highly advisable that if you feel that you wish to live here, you spend at least a month in the location where your needs, desires and research has led you. Renting locally can be difficult. If you do not have a co-signer, then at times almost impossible. Once again I had a situation where I offered to pay a full year and was declined. There are solutions, such as house swapping, and bed and breakfast (although these first two options are limited). There are a number of good rental agencies that rent to foreigners and operate on terms more comfortable to North American. Depending on the city you choose we may be able to assist you with this as well.
As Bob Barker would say, ”Come on down!” Be excited about being here. Take the time to look around, enjoy the weather, practice your Spanish but be prepared for life to move at a very different pace. Patience in Colombia is more than a virtue. It is a valuable ally.
The immigration law is in flux as of July 2103 and as soon as we have a good comprehension of the new laws we will present them on the Colombian portal.
In a small country like Colombia, you can find 65 different ecosystems so the odds are you can find a climate that suits your personal living requirements unless you are seeking copious quantities of snow. If you like to walk, bike, garden, golf, sit on the deck and enjoy your coffee every morning, you can find a place that will meet your needs.
Colombia is an amazing country with beautiful friendly people. In our introduction email, everything we extol about this fabulous place is true. You can find virtually everything that you would want and need in Colombia.
Come and explore Colombia! Colombia is Passion! Colombia is the Answer!
”The only risk is not wanting to leave”‘ – From personal experience I know!
Bienvenidos a Colombia!
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