It’s not unusual for the following to happen…
Someone back home asks me how is life in Mexico.
I say it’s going well.
Some will be more curious about how I afford to live down here.
And I’ll say it’s pretty cheap actually.
To which then, if that person has no experience down here, they might try contemplating how cheap it really is.
“Like how much is rent? 1,000 bucks a month or something?”
And I’ll say something like 200 or whatever.
To which that person will respond “WHAT NO WAY! THAT’S WHAT I PAY IN PARKING!”
Afterwards, you might mention that you only spend 150 on food per month or maybe 40 a month on a cleaning lady to visit once a week…
Or how a meal at some mom and pop place is like 3 bucks a meal.
And whatever else.
So on and so on.
Now, keep in mind, that not every gringo who actually visits or lives in Latin America is comfortable with those prices.
Because, as I wrote here, gringos come into Latin America from a place where pricing is in much higher numbers usually.
Like rent being a 1,000 bucks or more per month.
That cleaning lady would be charging perhaps a bit more than 40 bucks for 4 visits a month.
Or, if you happen to run a business or need a service, the cost of hiring someone to do a job is noticeably cheaper than what it would be back home.
In my experience, there are three type of gringos who respond to this price difference.
First, you have those who call it a “life hack” and generally quite like the lower prices on various goods and services.
Which, as a side point, it should be said that not everything is cheaper down here as things like laptops can generally be more expensive in my experience.
Regardless, you have that type of gringos.
Second, you have the type of gringo who recognizes how cheap things are but almost seems to act like a local from a poor neighborhood in terms of bargaining.
Where said gringo has a natural tendency to bargain down the price from 19 pesos to 18 pesos for example.
Of course, it should be said that a little bit of bargaining is perfectly OK as it is part of the culture depending on the circumstance and also because some of the locals do try to give us the “gringo price” relative to what they’d charge another local.
So you should not let anyone try to take advantage of you for sure.
Still, this type of gringo is different in that they can never accept a price – no matter how good it is – and feel the need to bargain down literally everything to the last penny in value no matter how good the deal is.
Third, you have gringos who are the exact opposite than the two groups above. They slam their soymilk cups down and write a comment to you on Facebook or Twitter saying whatever comes to mind with a mindset that foreigners should always pay more than what the locals would.
Perhaps they are passive-aggressive in what they have to say to you.
Others take a more philosophical approach to it!
Where they claim you are “exploiting the poor” of a country that has “historically faced colonial oppression” and how “you should pay more, gringo!!”
I’ve seen that and you’ll see it all here also in the rest of the article.
At any rate, this type of gringo can’t possibly accept how cheap services can be down here and find wages unbelievably bad even though they would be considered “OK” or “decent” by the locals looking for the specific type of job you are offering.
Because, in their home country where minimum wage is perhaps 10 dollars an hour, it is inconceivable to pay a local only 300 to 400 bucks for a service.
Even though that is an alright wage given the cost of living and also how the gringo in question might actually be a little more generous than what other locals would be paying.
Still, let’s get into some examples before breaking down my thoughts on the matter.
Non-Profit Work in Mexico
The first example that comes to mind is the one that actually inspired this article.
So, before we begin, here’s bits of the conversation that I saw on Facebook where some guy is looking to hire a local for non-profit work in Mexico.
As you can see, they would pay a dollar an hour in the Philippines and 2 dollars an hour in Cuba.
Now this person wants to know how much should they pay for someone in Mexico.
At any rate, as you can see, the group of gringos (and 1 local guy) took offense to what this guy has been paying people basically.
Where some of the folks were basically saying that he should pay 15 dollars an hour.
Of course, as you can see, some people noticed how that is “just quoting the USA’s 15 dollar/hr campaign.”
And that’s probably true for the person who said that he should pay 15 dollars an hour.
As we can see, this might be a case where political beliefs from back home are influencing how much someone should pay here.
Not just the different mindset where people are paid by the hour back home but by the day here.
And how wages are lower here (but also the cost of living as those criticizing seem to forget).
Anyway, seeing posts like this also makes me ask myself “how many of these people actually employ locals?”
And, if they do employ locals, how profitable are they?
Finally, the person in question is looking for non-profit work.
Having done work for non-profits and NGOs before, I can tell you it’s not something you should expect to make lots of money from unless you are the person running it taking a big salary from a big NGO.
Otherwise, what you’ll be paid is lower most likely than what a for-profit company would offer.
Which also might explain why call centers pay more than NGO work obviously.
I agree also with the person who said that “what you would pay someone in another country” (like their home country) should not dictate what they pay someone down here.
Though, to be fair, I agree with the person who warned about the risk of paying someone “based on the minimum you can offer.”
That is true – to a degree, you get what you pay for.
But I think one of the comments puts it best: “I balance my hiring between not being an asshole, and not paying more than I would make locally as a teacher. No one wins when expats overpay for unskilled work.”
True – that’s something you see in Latin America by the way. In areas where more gringos are, you’ll find more locals who can be more demanding for what we should give them for goods and services.
Like one guy I remember by Zocalo area of Mexico City who harassed me trying to sell me a balloon for 20 dollars when I didn’t even ask for or show interest in what he had.
To also higher expectations regarding tipping from us when these same folks are happy to accept a 10% tip from a local.
So on and so on.
Nobody likes to be treated like an ATM machine and it gets annoying after a while.
Of course, I do get that sentiment a little bit from this conversation.
For example, we have one person who particularly doesn’t seem to like “extranjeros” paying the locals wages that she seems unacceptable (and she seems to be a gringa and not a local despite talking in Spanish).
Even bringing up the idea that is like slavery (pozo de esclavitud).
Then we have the actual local who writes in relatively weak English his thoughts about how “this post is full of racism.”
So I guess paying what might be market wages (at least he asked what the normal wages are) is racist?
Or is it only racist because the local has dollars in his eyes when he sees a gringo autistically foaming at the mouth “GRINGO!!! GRINGO!!! ERES MI CAJERO AUTOMATICO!! GRINGO VEN AQUI PENDEJO!! DAME TU DINERO!!!”
Of course, the guy talks about how “you shouldn’t pay the minimum wage.”
Which, for this type of work, seems like the market rate wouldn’t be minimum wage anyway as the guy was talking about paying as much as 2 dollars an hour!
With minimum wage being 7 dollars a day, then a 2 dollar an hour wage (though that was in Cuba) would equate to more than double the minimum wage in Mexico if the employee worked 8 hours a day.
And assuming Mexico is richer than Cuba all around, I can see wages being at least 2 dollars an hour.
In the conversation, one person even mentioned that the wage would be 3 to 5 dollars an hour.
Of course, as we can see, the gringa who later responds in Spanish (pretending to be Latina for some reason?) goes on about how “it should be at least 10 dollars a MINIMUM!!!”
OK, lady, calm down – this isn’t the US where cost of living is higher.
At any rate, the reply to the angry local guy I think sums it up well: “Pay what you can afford to pay and make money from your business, If someone in Mexico tells you they won’t work for the wage you offer, say thank you. I will hire someone who will be happy to work for me. An unhappy worker is not good for business.”
Yeah – pay what people are willing to work for but, as someone quoted previously put it, don’t be an asshole either and be cheap either unless you aren’t worried about getting poor quality work for what you pay for.
Anyway, let’s move on.
The Cleaning Lady
Next, we have this example that you can see here above.
There isn’t as much to say because the conversation is more limited.
Anyway, as you can see, this is an example of someone seeing what you would pay as a “life hack.”
I agree – earn USD online and enjoy the lower cost of services and goods down in Latin America.
Anyway, the guy pays 360 USD a month for 85 hours of work each month.
My math is terrible but I believe that is 4.2 USD an hour.
Or roughly over 80 pesos an hour.
So definitely not minimum wage which is a little over 141 pesos a day.
Also, keep in mind that this lady is only working 21 hours a week at most.
If she needs extra income, she definitely seems to have the time for it.
Or, if she has children, then she makes a decent wage and can afford more time with her kids while they are growing up.
All around, it looks like a good deal to me.
Granted, I’ve never hired a cleaning lady myself but have had to pay about 10 bucks a visit for them at apartments that used their services.
Still, not everyone thinks it’s a good wage.
As we can quote here from someone in the conversation: “damn hopefully she’s got more houses that pay her better.”
Again, this is probably one of those cases where the offended gringo in question doesn’t live in Mexico and doesn’t know how well the local wage is for the cost of living.
Anyway, I decided to do some minor research to see what others suggest paying a cleaning lady.
Here’s a conversation for finding a cleaning lady in Mexico City.
So basically 5,000 to 7,000 pesos a month with some benefits apparently.
I can’t say from personal experience if that is a normal wage but other posts I saw threw out similar prices.
And keep in mind that is for Mexico City.
The guy employing this chick lives in, if I remember right, in some city in Sinaloa.
If it is anything like Pachuca when it comes to pricing, I’d say that the 350 for 20 hours a week of work is actually pretty solid.
In my experience, most places outside of Mexico City seem relatively cheap where a 350 dollar a month wage isn’t terrible.
And, given those extra 20 hours of work, this chick could obviously pick up another 20 hours somewhere else and do quite well for a local.
Not to mention any benefits or meals she might be getting from anyone employing her.
Anyway, let’s find an example of gringos bargaining.
Market in Guadalajara
As I said, we have some gringos who live down here trying to bargain every deal no matter how good the price is.
I’ve seen some people criticize this on Twitter saying things like “well, the guy selling bags of chips on the street makes so little money. It’s senseless to bargain him down the extra penny or two.”
To a degree, I agree with that but not entirely in every situation.
We’ll get to more of my thoughts on that later.
Anyway, here’s a video of some gringo bargaining with folks in a market in Guadalajara, Mexico.
I can’t say that this guy is being outrageous with the prices he is quoting back at people because I never tried buying any of the things he is asking prices about.
Which is maybe ironic to admit because, despite living 4 years in Mexico, I’ve never bought clothing down here outside of shoes and pants.
Normally, I just buy clothing back in the US.
Still, I found the price for the shoes to be a tiny bit exaggerated but whatever really.
Is this guy being outrageous anyway with how low he wants to bargain?
Eh, he’s obviously doing it for show.
Youtube likes and all.
I find aspects of the video a bit cringe but it’s an example anyway of a gringo trying to bargain everything he can.
So, regardless of how out of line his prices are that he throws at the vendors, I think it’s a good example to work with of the second type of gringo.
The German Translator is Needed
Next, as you can see here above, someone who can be a German translator is needed where the job requires 40 hours a week at 90 pesos (4.5 USD) per hour.
Now, if we do the math, that is 14,400 MXN or 721.01 USD each month.
That’s a great salary!
For a Mexican.
For a gringo, you could live decently on that income also.
I live in Mexico City on roughly 600 to 700 USD a month and feel pretty comfortable with plenty of savings on the rest of my income.
In Mexico City, you could live comfortably enough on that.
The cheapest I have ever lived in Mexico City was about 300 bucks a month.
It’s difficult to live that cheaply but possible.
And I really do emphasize that 14,400 MXN a month isn’t bad income.
It’s definitely not the minimum wage of 7 dollars a day.
Shit, if you worked minimum wage for 7 dollars a day for all 30 days of a month, you’d get about 4,230 MXN roughly.
This wage offered above is literally more than 3 times what the minimum wage offers.
As someone in the comments put it: “I see many people expect to be paid as they were in their countries.”
At any rate, if you speak Spanish, I recommend you check out this part of the conversation that I found interesting.
And outside of the conversation about privilege, race and what it takes to have the qualifications for the job…
That lands us pretty well in the end of the conversation where folks are talking about the wages that an ESL teacher can make.
So, if these folks are might, it might be the case that the wage offered is a bit lower than the market rate.
Still, we can see the different standards applied here again when someone says “I don’t support this wage she is offering, especially since it’s a German company.”
Yes, because it’s a foreigner involved, they must pay more than what the locals would!
Still, I’ll concede that the wage offered here might be a bit lower than what is usual given the commentary.
Travel Company in Roma Norte
Finally, we have a tour company here above that needs someone with bilingual proofreading experience and who can work for 12,000 MXN a month or roughly 600 bucks.
Again, I’d say that, on the service, this looks like a decent wage in Mexico City.
You aren’t going to be a millionaire off of this wage though but you can do fine and it pays better than a lot of jobs.
Still, as you can see in this conversation below, not every foreigner is happy that the foreigner offering this job isn’t paying what he’d pay a local in their own respective countries.
Obviously, this is a wage well above minimum wage.
Almost 3 times the minimum wage actually more or less.
What I find funny also is how one of the individuals in the conversation implied that you can’t “live with that amount of money. Not even the 3.50 dollars either.”
To a degree, you can argue that this is an example of gringos who have never left the gringo bubble.
When your entire life in Mexico City is in a nice apartment in Roma Norte that costs 700 bucks a month, then living on 600 bucks a month is OUTRAGEOUS!
Still, we have someone in the comment section that you could see saying that “6000 pesos is even considered a good wage” and “yes, we all live on that amount and no we aren’t living in squalor.”
Now, to be fair, you can live on 6,000 pesos a month in Mexico City.
I did it at on one point.
Granted, by my standards, I would say the quality of living wasn’t the nicest.
But I got by.
To get by on 6,000 pesos a month, I feel something has to give.
You either live on the edge of the city like near Cuatro Caminos, Metro CU area, Pantitlan, etc…
Or you cut back a little bit on how much food you eat per meal.
Or maybe you have parents you live with or have a shared room with someone that costs 2,000 pesos or less a month in rent.
Something like that.
You can get by though on 6,000 pesos a month but it’s going to be tough.
Granted, if this was outside of Mexico City like in Pachuca, then 6,000 pesos isn’t going to be as tough as it would be in Mexico City.
Either way, she is right that you can get by on 6,000 pesos.
A good salary though?
To be fair, I have never seen a job advertisement outside in the streets of Mexico City posted somewhere that offered more than 6,000 pesos a month in my 4 years here.
I know locals who make much more than that though!
But it does seem, from my experience, that a lot of jobs don’t even cover that.
So I see where she is coming from by saying that 6,000 pesos a month is a “good wage.”
And, as she puts it nicely, “for those of us who live in barrios populares (the neighborhoods of the people, nothing fancy or trendy) and shop locally, our daily spending is a fraction of those who lives in places like Condesa and shop locally there.”
Nicely put – as I said, the gringo bubble at work here.
Still, you have other folks who disagree.
Here’s one person who calls this “a slave wage.”
Thankfully, we have our Historian below her that reminds us that “slaves were never paid.”
Or so I heard.
I’ve never been a slave but I heard that “their salary situation was unfavorable.”
Anyway, we finally have this one last person who demands a salary of 25,000 to 30,000 pesos a month.
And, to be fair, that person qualifies that salary number by talking about what you get paid for freelance work.
Still, I imagine her freelance people are based in the US or somewhere and are not paying people with what the local cost of living where she lives is.
Plus, to do freelance work, you have to be self-employed and find work yourself without a boss providing you that steady paycheck.
And you don’t necessarily get benefits either like a formal job would give from what I have heard.
Anyway, those are all of the examples that I found interesting.
Let’s wrap this up with some final thoughts.
So a lot of what I will say has been said before but let’s summarize the main thoughts I’ve had here.
First, it’s easy for someone to judge an employer without ever having ran a business themselves.
Second, it is true that there are employers who are cheap and try not to pay what the local market demands. Obviously, for them, you get what you pay for or few people want to work for you in general. As that one chick said, don’t overpay but don’t be an asshole either.
Third, it’s funny to see other gringos demand that we get gringo priced on employing someone basically. There is a degree to which I feel some of them have different standards for local versus foreign employers.
“Oh, you’re a foreigner? FUCK YOU AND PAY 10 TIMES AS MUCH.”
“Oh, you’re a poor local? Oh, you can pay 1 dollar an hour. It’s OK my Latinx brother.”
Fourth, it is evident that plenty of gringos do live in gringo bubbles and have no idea how cheaply the locals get by and how comfortable or not comfortable they truly are.
Fifth, there is a bit of a “white savior” or “foreign savior” complex going on with these types as this one local complained about against a gringa on Facebook complaining about the 6,000 a month wages. See that here.
Sixth, I can’t help but imagine how fucked over and taken advantage of those type of gringos are who have this mindset of “oh because of colonial legacy and how poor everyone is here…I must pay always 5 times as much!” These are definitely the types who get left to pay the bill on everything.
“Gracias mariconcito gringoooooo por las cervezas! Adiooooos pendejo!!”
“No problemo my Latinx friends! No problemoooo!”
Seventh, as I said, gringos take with them their perception of pricing to Latin America and that also warps their mentality as to how much one should pay for a good or service. This has been evident to me in this article I wrote here where I noticed that gringos often (but not always) want to charge a lot more than what a local would because “otherwise, the work isn’t work it.”
Sure, it’s not worth it when you can make 10 dollars an hour back home for whatever work you do there. But we’re not back home and this is a different economy with a different scale of pricing.
Eighth, I agree with the original idea that much of this is a “life hack” obviously. You earn USD, spend in pesos. I don’t discourage it. I live it! And, as I wrote here, I enjoy it very much.
Ninth, having said that, let’s talk about the second group of gringos who bargain on everything.
As I said, I don’t think it’s bad to bargain on stuff. Happens all the time.
Obviously, you need Spanish and a sense of what the local things cost to do so and not just throw out random ass prices that make no sense.
“How about 1 peso for these shoes!!!”
At that point, you look like a dumbass.
Still, I don’t like to bargain so much. It’s not in me unless it’s with taxi drivers but even then I prefer UBER.
Generally speaking, I prefer only doing business with people who have the prices already written down somewhere so I know I’m not being taken advantage of.
No prices listed? It’s not as likely I’ll do business with you.
Also, if the price seems outrageous (gringo pricing), I prefer to just walk away and find someone else on the spot.
There’s plenty of vendors out there. Fuck the ones who want to take advantage of you from the start. Don’t even entertain them. Let them starve.
And find someone else!
No stress involved.
Granted, a rare few of the lcoals take that up the ass and yell at you “gringoooooo….gringo….gringo….!!!! Ven!!! K precio kieres?!?!”
But I walk away still.
It leaves a bad taste to support someone who just tried to charge you more because of the color of your skin, how you speak and where you came from.
As I said, let them starve.
You don’t support people who treat you that way.
So, in short, I don’t get behind the whole “trying to bargain” everything unless I happen to be in a country like Colombia where UBER is complicated and taxis are more necessary.
Or unless I’m trying to bribe a police officer.
Still, I get why the gringo in question would try to bargain everything.
It’s the same mentality I have about “not getting fucked over.”
Where he sees every purchase as this major business negotiation involving millions of dollars when, in reality, it’s a negotiation over a difference of 50 cents for a bag of chips.
But I get why the gringo is paranoid about “the gringo price.”
Because, as an outsider, you do experience that and maybe you take it to turn everything into a battle when buying something.
Still, it causes a lot of stress to think that way.
And, in many cases, the local might not even be trying to gringo price you but you badly misinterpret an extra 2 pesos that the other vendor doesn’t charge as being a “gringo price” when it really isn’t.
The gringo price is usually when the price is like double what you would normally pay.
Like 30 pesos (a dollar and a half) instead of 15 pesos (75 cents).
Even though we are talking a difference of 75 cents, I can get behind the gringo not paying that because that is disrespectful.
But, as I said, there’s no point in negotiating if you don’t have to.
Walk away and find someone else.
Not that difficult.
Otherwise, you run the risk of having that mentality in your head of trying to bargain literally everything down even when the deal is good and it isn’t the local gringo pricing you.
And when it’s not a local trying to gringo price you and they are treating you fairly…
You look like an ass. There’s no real justification to what you are doing by trying to knock the price down by an extra 5 cents.
Let him have his 5 cents – it’s not a gringo price at that point. It’s someone who is running on very thin margins trying to put food on his table for his kids.
That’s an honest worker instead of a scumbag one trying to rip you off. Know the difference.
Tenth, I get where people are coming from when they think that the German company (because it's foreign) could afford to pay a little more like Starbucks can or whoever else.
However, there's a few things.
Just because someone or some company is foreign doesn't mean they have all the extra money you think they do.
I've been poor as shit living down here on just 300 bucks a month at times some years ago with a hundred bucks in the bank.
Nowadays, I make about 2,000 a month. More than most of the locals? Yes but not insanely rich either. I have a Mexican friend named Angie who probably makes more than me right now.
But having said that...
You know, I do sympathize a little bit with the idea that those who make a ton more could be a little bit generous if they feel like it.
And I emphasize "feel like it."
If you are a local or a foreigner who happens to make maybe 100,000 a year or more living in Mexico...
Honestly, it's not the worst idea in the world to pay person working you an extra hundred bucks a month or something.
Or maybe being a little more generous with the tips at restaurants, bars, etc.
Again though, if said person doesn't want to be more generous than what the market demands, then fair enough. No judgement on my part but that's where I would go when it comes to the idea of LOCALS and foreigners paying a little more if they can and want to.
Eleventh, we finally have the third group of gringos who are the exact opposite and insist foreigners willingly get gringo priced on everything.
As I said, there’s no helping these folks. They’re the type to get played by the locals all the time.
And, as established, they tend to have this condescending manner towards how they see the locals also as “always being poor” and what not.
That’s all been said.
The only other thing to mention is how their efforts come across as blatant pandering to come across as socially conscious or whatever.
Same thing as when a politician does that like Clinton saying she has hot sauce in her purse to Trump posing with a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo.
There’s a word for when a politician or individual does that to pander to a group of people they are not from but I forgot the word.
But you get the idea.
Twelfth, it should be said also that not every complaint you saw in the screenshots was unfair.
As I said, you do got folks who don’t want to pay proper wages all the time!
I can’t make any statement as to how fair the wages offered in the screenshots above were outside of the cleaning lady one because I have used cleaning ladies before.
Anyway, that’s all I got to say.
Enjoy this song by the way as it was what I was listening to while writing this article.
Since I couldn't think of a good title for this article, I guess you can say I was inspired by this one.
And it's in Mexico City!
So it's kinda relevant to the article.
Metallica -- For Whom the Bell Tolls
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Thanks for reading.