You are a rich Gringo.
Recently, a friend from Costa Rica stayed with us in Casco. She was basically the girl version of me: college age traveler who fell in love with a foreign country. She stayed and started a small business in Latin America. She’s just a bit older, and a lot better looking than me.
Gringa: “Evan, I’ve lived in Costa Rica for more than 10 years. I speak Spanish with a Costa Rican accent. I date Costa Rican men. Some of my best friends are Costa Rican. Gringos don’t get more Tica (Costa Rican) than I am. Punto.” (period)
Gringa: “Yet, I still have to send my assistant to price barter. I can’t buy fruits at the market or contract someone to build me a retaining wall without paying significantly more.”
Me: “Yeah, me too.”
Gringa: “I’ve just learned to accept this as a Gringo ex-pat fact of life.”
Gringos are perceived as rich. All of them. It doesn’t matter if you are a social worker or a celebrity, an entrepreneur, or a retiree living off a skinny social security check. You are rich. As the saying goes, “Gringos siempre tienen plata.” (Gringos always have money)
This rich Gringo stereotype stems from a couple things:
First, North Americans and Western Europeans make more money. For example, there are per capita income discrepancies: USA is 47k. Panama is 13k. Even if you earn just below USA poverty line ($22,350), you can vivir bien (live well) in Latin America.
Next, simply being in Latin America. Traveling inherently means that you have excess income. It doesn’t matter if you travel on a shoestring budget or a private jet.
Finally, Gringos tip frequently. It’s part of our culture. On the other hand, Latinos do not. The ability to tip, again, suggest that you are rich.
Just face it. You are a rich Gringo.
While being perceived as rich helps you date women, it doesn’t help live a day to day life. Price discrimination based on being Gringo becomes frustrating for ex-pats. My savviest Gringo friends share tricks and tips on how best to get the non-inflated price. It’s like a little game.
Here’s an example: I wanted to paint a room in mi casita. A painter quoted me $100. I then sent a Panamanian co-worker. She was quoted $60 for the exact same project. I tipped her $10 for saving me $40.
Business school and common sense has taught us that cutting out the middle man is key to price savings. Yet, my time in Latin American has taught me different. By ADDING a middle man you save money. True story.