Expat Stories: Moved from USA to Cochabamba, Bolivia (Part 1 of 2)

by Anonymous Male - From Wisconsin, USA
(Cochabamba, Bolivia)

Photo © BoliviaBella.com 2013

Photo © BoliviaBella.com 2013

1. How did you first hear about Bolivia and/or become interested in Bolivia as a possible place to live?

I met a girl from Bolivia while in college in the United States. We had a brief relationship while she was there, an on/off long-distance relationship after she moved back to Cochabamba, and ultimately I chose to move to be with her.

2. Where are you from originally and why are/were you considering living overseas when you first took Bolivia into account as an option?

I was born and grew up in Wisconsin, USA. See above for the other part of the answer.

3. Which languages do you speak? If you do not speak Spanish, has this made adjusting to, and living in Bolivia more difficult for you?

English is my native language, and I speak enough Spanish to function in a Spanish-speaking environment. I have some conversational ability but am far from fluent. I had studied Spanish for 4 years in high school prior to moving to Bolivia, and that did help me on some level even though it had been more than 10 years. Of course when I arrived I wasn’t able to DO anything in Spanish, that mostly came from immersion and time. I think my prior knowledge just helped in terms of shortening the amount of time before I became somewhat self-reliant in the language. Of course it was a difficult adjustment, but far less so because my girlfriend is bilingual, and her family was very supportive and kind from the day I arrived.

4. Did you come here as an individual, couple or family?

Individual.

5. Are you planning to live in Bolivia short-term or long term?

Long-term, but not the rest of my life.

6. Do you work or plan to work or start your own business in Bolivia?

I have two half-time jobs teaching English. I teach secondary school students at a private colegio, and I teach and provide English-language support at a software development firm that works with American clients. After about a year living in Cochabamba my impression is that my jobs are among the best available in the city for teaching English. There was certainly a lot of luck involved in getting those jobs, but much of it was also due to TEFL certification, prior work experience in the United States and Japan, and significant coursework in college. I studied math and linguistics in college, and my university offered a minor program in TEFL (still a rarity I think) that dovetailed with my linguistics minor, so I figured why not do both. It was probably the smartest decision I made in college. It’s not difficult to get a job teaching English in Cochabamba, but there is competition for positions at more reputable institutes and schools. Being a native speaker provides a significant advantage.

7. Is Bolivia the only country to which you contemplated moving, or did you consider other choices? If so, why did you ultimately choose Bolivia?

I had always offhandedly thought about living abroad, though never seriously addressed it until I was in college. My TEFL minor program required an internship experience (typically in a TEFL situation, i.e. abroad) and I applied for a long-term teaching position in Japan. However I was only selected to be an alternate for the job, so I wound up only staying in Japan for about 3 months. I returned to the US for a few years after that, worked and saved money and then came to Bolivia to be with my girlfriend.

8. What steps did you take to research about Bolivia to prepare yourself prior to arriving?

Scoured the Internet, got a lot of help from my Bolivian girlfriend and her family, and learned a lot from speaking with consular officials. It was always over the phone, though; I don’t think I ever received a reply from any consulate to a general-inquiry email.

9. What do you miss most about your home country?

Acceptable Internet. Smooth roads and sidewalks. More and better Asian food, a few friends, not having to haggle, microbreweries, cleaner cities.

10. What do you like/love/appreciate most about Bolivia?

Genuine kindness, Cochabamba weather! (I had enough Wisconsin winters), fresh homemade food everywhere, lots of diversity.

11. Did you relocate on your own, or do you work for a company that relocated you to Bolivia?

On my own.

12. If your plan is/was to retire in Bolivia permanently, how did you prepare financially, and in other ways to make that possible?

(Unanswered).

13. For those of you who have lived in Bolivia for at least 6 months, now that you are here, what have you learned about Bolivia that you did not know before?

A lot of Spanish, specifically Bolivian/Cochabamba Spanish, for starters. Really I didn’t know much of anything about Bolivia, just a few of the bland facts, before I came. I have a better understanding of what locals mean when they talk about a relaxed/slow-paced life. Now that I know a lot of people here and a lot of popular opinions on various aspects of life, I feel I have a better understanding of Bolivia’s place within South America as well as the rest of the world – economically, politically, etc. – and why things are the way are, I guess. For me it’s only been 1 year here, albeit quite an educational one. I still feel like a lot of cultural stuff I’m only really getting on a surface level, though, and that probably has a lot to do with not yet being fluent in the language.

Please click to read page 2 for this expat's responses to questions 14-25 of our survey.


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