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Forget About Being a Gringo Mechanic in Mexico

Published October 1, 2022 in How to Make a Living Abroad , Mexico - 1 Comment

Over a week ago or so, I met up with some random American dude that was new to Mexico City.

Every so often, you have people who post on Facebook groups about how they are new to the city and want to meet someone.

You will see these comments too on other social media platforms.

Whenever I see one, I usually throw a comment out there in response saying how "I'm down to meet up, message me."

I have a shit ton of free time so I don't mind meeting strangers.

Though, in many cases, they don't message me.

Perhaps it's due to the fact that my Facebook profile has nothing on it shown to the public (not even a profile picture of my face).

Not even my full name.

I've noticed anyhow that ever increasingly people are having more and more of a bias against social media users like me who don't put their face and name on there.

At any rate, some of them are willing to risk meeting up with a potential chainsaw killer or some deranged cannibal.

And we meet up.

With this guy, we met up somewhere "kinda in between" in Coyoacan.

They have some fountain over there that has a mini statue of coyotes or whatever they are and you can see pictures of the same place in this article I wrote here.

That's where we met.

He was living in Condesa. I live in Iztapalapa.

It's kinda in the middle but, in terms of time it takes to get there by metro, not really.

I don't think going straight to Condesa would've costed me much more time.

At any rate, we met up.

He was some Indian looking American dude.

His name was Andy.

Who seemed quite young.

About my age actually in the late 20s.

Not as old as some of your stereotypical expats who are retired in their 60s.

But, ever increasingly, more and more of these new digital nomads and expats are younger and been visiting Mexico City as the news has been reporting for some time.

We met up anyhow for a beer in some place near that mentioned fountain.

From what he told me, it was his first time ever being outside of the US and traveling in general.

He apparently works for some online job as many of them do.

But has been contemplating a change in career as he doesn't like what he does.

I forgot what ti was exactly that he did but it was some technical, computer job.

Whatever.

But he wants to change it up.

He's not sure if his boss will let him keep working remotely forever and definitely not while abroad.

As I wrote here, not every boss is OK with their employees working abroad and some look for ways to work abroad without the boss or HR knowing.

Anyway, he began asking me questions at some point in the conversation.

Most of it was a normal conversation.

Basic questions: "how long you been here? What do you do for work? Why do you like Mexico?"

So on and so on.

But, like some foreigners, they do get inquisitive about "how do you make it work abroad?"

For him, he obviously already knew how to support himself abroad (even if his boss wouldn't approve and might find out someday).

Though, outside of what he does for work, he wanted to know how I did it.

I explained.

He didn't seem that interested in what I do for work (affiliate marketing).

And mentioned something about how he's interested in having a more "local" job in Mexico.

Which, to be fair, some do exist for us gringos in Mexico.

Be it the usual ol' English teacher, journalist for some news company back home like the NYT, Embassy job, etc.

Some of those jobs -- like the journalist for NYC or US Embassy -- are obviously harder than most to get.

But they do exist and some easier ones are out there also.

Though, when I began traveling to Latin America, it was a lot more creative self-employed types making it work.

That's how I got started making money online and have been at it since.

But he didn't want to do that.

Was curious about what local jobs are out here for him.

And he said something about wanting to be a physical therapist or something like that.

I forgot what the exact job title was but something to do with helping those recover from physical accidents.

I nodded along.

And, in the moment, I didn't try to smash his dreams.

I've been down this road before and trying to tell a new gringo in town who is in love with living abroad that his idea of working a "normal" local job that anyone could get back home isn't true for us down here.

Though, given the recent wave of gringos to Mexico City, I'd guess he'd have maybe some local market of people similar to him that he could relate to and market his services independently to.

Especially as I imagine at least some of them have to be involved in sports, physical exercise and might need someone to help them recover from any accidents.

But I'd have my doubts about his ability to get proper certification down here in Mexico (assuming you need it, I have no idea on what qualifications you need for this job).

And obviously I have my doubts about his ability to get the legal right to work this specific job.

Which is where a good deal of the issue is -- getting that work visa for a job that a local could do.

It does happen to be fair.

As I wrote here, some Haitians got jobs long ago in OXXO and some locals were mad about it asking "why couldn't Mexicans do those jobs?!?"

But I think that's different.

If you are coming from a third world country with no opportunities and claim to be a refugee, migrant or whatever, then you might get more sympathy for some local job.

Granted, as you can see here, many of those get deported from Mexico too.

Guatemalans deported from Mexico

A majority, I imagine.

In Mexico, I don't think they are very kind either to the poor immigrants from poor countries but, as you can see here, there was some effort by the Mexican government to offer jobs and help to poor people from places like Honduras.

Still, that's because they are poor from poor countries and there's some sympathy for them (those mostly it was an effort to stop some of these people from going to the US as Mexico felt pressure to do so).

And obviously, even for those poor types, there was no way Mexico was going to offer all of them jobs.

Mexico, like many countries, does care to protect its local workforce despite plenty of Mexicans bitching about people in the US wanting to do the same.

Oh the irony!

Still, for us from the "first world," we don't have anything like that working for us.

It might be easier for us to live here long term legally (until they completely stop visa runs and they've been cracking down on them last year) but there will never be any effort to offer gringos local jobs at OXXO or whatever.

Not unless the US collapses into a civil war and tens of millions of gringos flood into Mexico to escape violence.

But, despite that, you do have some gringos who, when contemplating a life here in Mexico, think about the obvious question: "how will I support myself?"

As of this writing, I can currently think of three other gringos who contemplated such a question.

As I wrote before, there was a European dude I met once (German if I remember right) that wanted to be a mechanic.

I tried explaining to him that he will never be a mechanic in Mexico but he wouldn't listen to me and my landlord from Pachuca named Maria.

Second, an old guy I know from my high school has been messaging me about moving to Latin America over the last few months.

I think I might've convinced him to move to Paraguay long term simply because I was explaining the financial and legal issues of moving abroad and that Paraguay is easier for residency than most countries.

Not sure if he is thinking about Paraguay but that was the vibe I got last time. Who knows. Maybe Mexico. We'll see.

But, in our first conversation, he mentioned how he wanted to do something physical.

I'm pretty sure he said he wanted to be a mechanic down here.

Unlike the German dude, he was accepting of the reality I told him and understood that, under no conditions, will Mexico ever let him legally be a mechanic down here.

It's just not happening.

Third, I remember my sister.

She has no interest in moving to Mexico.

But, months ago, I posed the question to her on how she'd do it if she had to.

She was thinking about what jobs she and her husband could get.

She works in something to do with mental health help and he is a nurse.

I told them that they are almost guaranteed to not get local jobs in those fields down here.

The fact is that, as I said, it is very hard to get a work visa for those jobs down here in my opinion and you have to bring something to the table that a Mexican cannot.

Or have some local business want you and not the Mexican.

Now, to be fair, I'm just talking out of my ass here.

I've never tried to get a work visa.

But I think I'm talking just common sense here.

I just don't see the Mexican government approving you to be a mechanic, a nurse or a physical therapist when a Mexican could do those jobs.

On top of that, there are two other issues.

First, the pay is so dog shit that you really would be better off working online for USD than working a local job in pesos unless you can find a local job (like Embassy employee, representative for a big business back home, NYT Journalist, etc) that pays well.

Even when it comes to English teachers -- a job I wrote about here in Latin America -- they often don't pay that well either unless you bring real credentials.

But good pay for English teaching is easier to find in Saudi Arabia or China from what I've heard.

Second, I imagine being the "gringo mechanic" or "gringo physical therapist" would just be a funny and very odd scene to everyone witnessing it.

Just something that you literally never see.

It would definitely confuse the locals when they pull up to your mechanic shop and see a gringo approaching them in their gringo ass accent.

Some of them would probably look at you in confusion with their broken teeth and sun shining on their face. They'd shake their head, ignore you and go looking for the person they think running the shop.

Only to be told by another employee that it's the gringo who runs things here.

I imagine such a local would be confused.

Maybe even get in their car and drive away laughing.

Granted, many would maybe stay.

Probably most would.

And accept the services.

Just find it confusing is all.

Imagine even a weirder scenario like a gringo who is working in the metro selling chocolate or headphones.

Yelling out in his gringo accent and blonde hair "SE VENDE SE VENDE CHOCOLATE 5 PESOS!!!"

I have my doubts.

Above all, it'd be very confusing primarily because you come from a "first world country" and so they'd wonder why the hell you came here to live a lower middle class life working a job like that. 

On the first point, it's like Rocky in Rocky 2 where you have this incredible boxer cleaning up the ring and carrying buckets of spit.

It just looks weird, isn't what you'd expect and, quite frankly, is beneath you.

The locals see you as someone who likely has lots of money.

In fact, they stereotype the living fuck out of all of us into sometimes having way more money than is realistic.

And, here you are, being a mechanic for 400 to 500 bucks a month.

Odd. Odd motherfucker.

Would be as odd as seeing said gringo also live in Iztapalapa.

That would never happen, right?

In either scenario, the other reason why it's weird is because it simply never happens.

It hasn't happened enough times for the locals to process it and accept it as a new normal to life down here.

So, above all, it'd be weird.

And, to be fair to Mexico, there are worse countries in Latin America that are more direct in wanting to stop the gringo from taking local jobs.

The Panama List

This is one country that, as far as I am aware (and correct me if I'm wrong), is much more direct in what jobs gringos are never allowed to occupy.

Instead of it just being an informality where Mexican government officials would just find it odd as you applying for a work visa to be a physical therapist or whatever, this is where they actually have a solid list in Panama that states explicitly that you will not EVER be allowed to have certain jobs.

EVER!

Want to see the list?

Check it out here!

"Profesiones que no pueden ser ejercidas por extranjeros en Panamá."

From what I counted, there are exactly 213 jobs we are not allowed to have in Panama with separate laws passed for many of them.

Many of them quite normal!

And, for some important ones like engineers, you have to wonder if Panama really has enough engineers to disqualify foreigners from applying?

Most countries do not have enough engineers!

It's a tough job and most people are not capable of it.

So it's not like the gringo is necessarily taking a job that the local would want.

There's probably, at times, local vacancies that could be filled.

But, in Panama, they don't give a shit.

Similarly, there are many other jobs that seem quite specific and don't make a lot of sense.

Like you can't be a sociologist or a psychologist for example.

Looks like there's some vet related job you can't have.

It looks like accounting is off the table.

And most of the jobs -- a good deal of them anyway -- just have to do with engineering as I said before.

You a foreigner? STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM OUR JOBS!

Of course, with these specific jobs, I'd imagine you could be allowed them if you were naturalized as a citizen in Panama.

But it seems residency and a work permit won't cut it like it would in quite a few countries.

Let's move onto another example.

The Brazilian Ratio

No, I'm not talking about how many hot women there are for every ugly woman in Brazil.

That ratio is like 100 to 1.

I'm talking about the ratio companies in Brazil need to comply with in order to hire a foreign worker.

As you can see here, they are very specific as to how many of your employees can be foreigners:

"Like most countries, Brazil has a ratio that limits the number of foreign employees per company. Companies must ensure that two-thirds of its workforce are Brazilian nationals, and the company must justify the need for hiring foreign employees."

Obviously, that cuts down on the amount of jobs are likely available to you as a foreigner.

To Be Fair

It should be said though that none of this should be news to you.

Nor is it a direct criticism necessarily of any Latin American country that has these rules on the books.

We only talked about Mexico, Panama and Brazil but obviously there are many other countries we could've brought up.

Though, in my opinion, I think Panama is seemingly a bit strict on the matter.

It would make since for Panama to restrict foreigners from being the President or some other high national security job.

Regardless, every country or basically every country has restrictions on the books for foreigners looking to take on formal employment from a local job.

Of course, we Americans might make fun of it because you got so many Mexicans looking for jobs in the US and taking them but yet Mexico has rules against us where we have to get the work visa.

This is your moment to call out how hypocritical that is to you.

Alright, done?

Good! Let's move on!

But, like I said, the US has its own restrictions to, formal requirements for work visa technically, deportations of those working illegally, etc.

Like I said, most countries have rules on the books.

Though one could argue that, just because other countries do it, doesn't justify countries in Latin America doing it.

You can have your opinions all you want on if the rules are justified or not but they are how they are.

There are of course differences.

It's not weird to see a Mexican mechanic in the US but it would be weird to see a gringo one in Mexico.

But that difference in why it would be weird for one and not the other has already been explained.

And the other issue is again the financial aspect of it where these jobs just pay shit.

They're not worth taking.

That might be obvious but, as I mentioned with at least 3 other gringos, apparently it's not so obvious with those back home thinking of moving here but with eyes on that mechanic or physical therapist job.

Of course, as you can see here, some Mexicans bitch about us working remotely and not working a low paying job like they work.

I found it funny when I read that.

It's like other articles I wrote here where you have Mexicans coming up with reasons to bitch about us but they don't really care about those specific reasons. They'd bitch about the opposite if the opposite was true. Some of them (though not all) just don't like foreigners in general.

Anyway, let's wrap this article up on a positive note: what should you do if you want to be a mechanic?

How to Be a Mechanic & Physical Therapist Legally in Mexico

Let's go full circle.

Let's say you are that German guy or the Indian American dude where you JUST CAN'T imagine a life in Mexico without being a mechanic or a physical therapist.

It's been your dream since you were 9 to be either one of those professions in MEXICO specifically.

I understand your pain!

I, too, wanted a local job in Mexico when I was 9.

I wanted to be a drug lord actually running a local cartel.

The CJNG won't return my phone calls.

So, in order to pull this off where you get some local job that isn't typical whatsoever of gringos from "the first world," let's think about this.

We need a work visa obviously but I have my doubts about getting that for a mechanic or physical therapist specifically.

I'm recommending to you that you get naturalized as a citizen in some other fashion and then try to get that local job.

Simple.

Marry a local woman.

Or, if you don't like the idea of marriage, get one pregnant.

If you have a girlfriend already, get her pregnant and giving birth in one of the countries down here.

From my limited legal understanding, any of the above will obviously help you get that "Latin American Green Card" as I wrote about here.

Might take a few years but you got this.

Of course, you could also qualify for residency through investment, income or whatever else and simply wait it out 5 or more years until you qualify for citizenship in whatever country you are thinking about.

Obviously, while doing any of the above, make sure you learn Spanish and the local history and culture of the country.

They will probably test you on all of the above for the citizenship test if they have one.

Then, when you are a citizen, I can only imagine that you actually can work as a mechanic or a physical therapist without needing a work visa.

I could be wrong though.

Correct me if I am.

But, if you are naturalized as a citizen, I'd imagine that the legal right to work these more "normal" jobs that gringos don't typically take up (like how we take up English teaching so often) would be easier to get or straight up granted to  you through naturalized citizenship.

Boom!

You can finally be a physical therapist or a mechanic in Mexico or whatever Latin American country.

Though Panama? Not too sure. Ask your lawyer.

At any rate, that's all I got to say.

Leave any comments below.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,

Matt

1 comment

K - October 8, 2022 Reply

My favorite parts: “At any rate, some of them are willing to risk meeting up with a potential chainsaw killer or some deranged cannibal,” and “ I, too, wanted a local job in Mexico when I was 9. I wanted to be a drug lord actually running a local cartel. The CJNG won’t return my phone calls.”

HILARIOUS!!! Fantastic hijinks, observations, and adventures— the best blog I’ve read!

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