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Old 04-21-2014, 06:07 AM
tuj tuj started this thread
 
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Hi all:

I have a potential opportunity to move to Puerto Rico. I will be heading to the island later this week for an interview with an employer and if that goes well, my wife and I will be returning for a short visit during which we will have to select where we want to live. We have never been to Puerto Rico. Neither of us speak Spanish, although my wife does pretty well at French. How big a barrier is not speaking Spanish going to be? Obviously we will try to learn, but initially we will be limited.

We currently live in Houston, TX. We currently enjoy nearly 3000sqft in our house here in TX and our commutes to our jobs are about 20min and 45min in Houston traffic, which is generally pretty bad. The job I am looking at is located in downtown San Juan. We are currently undecided between if we want to move to somewhere central in San Juan and accept less space and higher cost or if we want to look at a surrounding area like Dorado and try to make our dollar go farther and get something more like what we have in Texas.

I have heard the traffic in PR is pretty bad as well. Can anyone give me some ideas of what that means? How bad would it be to live in Dorado and commute to San Juan and back? 30 minutes? An hour? Two!? Obviously time-of-day has a huge factor on that, so I might be able to adjust my hours such that I could be on the road at 4pm.

I am also concerned for my wife, as she would be leaving her job and moving down without one. While we will be able to get by on my income alone, it would be preferable if after we are settled for several months, if she could find a job. She is in the IT field and does business analysis. I don't know what the IT job market is like in San Juan right now, can anyone shed some light? I'm assuming it is probably pretty tough.

Obviously I am nervous about a lot of things about this potential move, so anything you folks can share would be greatly appreciated. Any tips, tricks, etc, would all be great. I would really like to hear from people who have made this leap to the island from the mainland. What do you like about PR? What do you *not* like? Help me assemble what are the good and bad things, the pro's and con's.

Thanks all.
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Old 04-21-2014, 09:57 AM
 
Location: Boydton, VA
3,648 posts, read 4,512,363 times
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Wow...so much to say...it is not a decision to be taken lightly.

First....research this site for previous comments and the available demographics.
Research Caribbean Business.
Contact a relocation specialist to get a feel for the housing market.
Negotiate an increase in salary (you may need this to compensate for your wife's potential unemployment).
Negotiate a contract clause for a "repatriation period" back to your point of departure if things don't work out.

Traffic is miserable. Common driver courtesy you take as second nature, is non-existent in San Juan. The best solution is to commute during off hours, but that still leaves you driving for non commute purposes....and it will be challenging. Drivers think nothing about going from the inside lane at 50 miles an hour, through the center lane to make their exit....all at the very last second, as long as the can see a 25' hole in the traffic in which to squeeze their 20' car....sometimes it's an 18' hole, and you are expected to make room. And I do mean expected...if you don't, you will get all sorts of hateful looks from the offender.

Consumer goods and food are expensive, almost nothing is sourced locally, so it comes in via ship.
Utilities are expensive, fuel for the generators must be shipped in.
Infrastructure (roads, electric grid, telephone network, internet, water) is in poor shape in comparison to stateside.... the government is close to broke.

IMO, you can forget a home like "something more like what we have in Texas"....at the kilowatt hour charge for power, you'd need to be in the 6 figure salary range to afford to cool it.

On the positive side, the natural beauty of the island is stunning.....but bottom line is "you ain't gonna be in Kansas (or Texas) anymore Toto".

When you and your wife visit, pretend you are already living there...go get a haircut, she gets her hair done, stand in line at the bank, search out a doctor, shop with a calculator instead of a grocery cart, "buying everything you'd normally buy" at the grocery (or Sam's Club/Walmart) and compare the prices that you've noted from your current shopping experience. Think milk is expensive in Houston....3 years ago it was $6 a gallon in San Juan, price supported so don't expect anyone to offer it on sale. Remember, "fresh" fruits and veggies for the most part are shipped in...so fresh becomes a subjective term. Like flavored coffee ?....buy it on line, or learn to like the local coffee (we did, still miss it).

Learning the Spanish language will definitely be a positive move, we found it to be the predominant language.
Learn to ignore trash, it is everywhere, and few seem to care about it.

We did enjoy our 3 month visit and would return in a heartbeat, given the right opportunity...but we know what to expect and would modify our needs/lifestyle accordingly.

Good Luck, come back and give us an update.

Regards
Gemstone1
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Old 04-21-2014, 10:16 AM
tuj tuj started this thread
 
25 posts, read 73,784 times
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Gemstone1: Thank you so much for your insights. I have been to Jamaica twice and I've seen how they drive, which I'm assuming is probably a bit like Puerto Rico. We have our share of crazed drivers here in Houston, and the typical courtesy you see in most of the US (eg. waving when someone let's you merge in front of them) is largely absent in our traffic here.

I am aware of the much-maligned Jones Act that prevents ships from unloading first at PR. Seems like a really *really* stupid law that is well out-dated at this point. But it's a fact of life for PR.

I do understand that energy is roughly twice as expensive since the island has a monopoly on power generation and relies heavily on petrol for generation (which is really a poor strategy). I am surprised they have not made moves like Hawaii towards the harvesting and consumption of biomass generation, which is significantly cheaper than petrol gen.

As far as having a similar size house as we have in Texas, well, I figured that most of the houses do not have central air, and we are willing to go down a bit in size and live a more out-of-doors life, trying to enjoy the climate. Hopefully that will make the energy bill not so high.

I read an article in the NYT about PR's debt being downgraded to junk status which is quite concerning as well. The article also talked about a large exodus of natives from the island to the mainland, and that the island has essentially been in recession since at least '09 if not before that.

Please keep the comments and advice coming; I can certainly use it!!!
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Old 04-21-2014, 10:43 AM
 
529 posts, read 994,050 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tuj View Post
Hi all:

I have a potential opportunity to move to Puerto Rico. I will be heading to the island later this week for an interview with an employer and if that goes well, my wife and I will be returning for a short visit during which we will have to select where we want to live. We have never been to Puerto Rico. Neither of us speak Spanish, although my wife does pretty well at French. How big a barrier is not speaking Spanish going to be? Obviously we will try to learn, but initially we will be limited.

We currently live in Houston, TX. We currently enjoy nearly 3000sqft in our house here in TX and our commutes to our jobs are about 20min and 45min in Houston traffic, which is generally pretty bad. The job I am looking at is located in downtown San Juan. We are currently undecided between if we want to move to somewhere central in San Juan and accept less space and higher cost or if we want to look at a surrounding area like Dorado and try to make our dollar go farther and get something more like what we have in Texas.

I have heard the traffic in PR is pretty bad as well. Can anyone give me some ideas of what that means? How bad would it be to live in Dorado and commute to San Juan and back? 30 minutes? An hour? Two!? Obviously time-of-day has a huge factor on that, so I might be able to adjust my hours such that I could be on the road at 4pm.

I am also concerned for my wife, as she would be leaving her job and moving down without one. While we will be able to get by on my income alone, it would be preferable if after we are settled for several months, if she could find a job. She is in the IT field and does business analysis. I don't know what the IT job market is like in San Juan right now, can anyone shed some light? I'm assuming it is probably pretty tough.

Obviously I am nervous about a lot of things about this potential move, so anything you folks can share would be greatly appreciated. Any tips, tricks, etc, would all be great. I would really like to hear from people who have made this leap to the island from the mainland. What do you like about PR? What do you *not* like? Help me assemble what are the good and bad things, the pro's and con's.

Thanks all.


First of all, although Puerto Rico is an American unincorporated territory you might have to view your move as if moving to a foreign country, like Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic. Thinking that your move is similar to moving to Florida or Hawaii, is wishful thinking.

Speaking Spanish is a must but you might get away without knowing it if you keep to where a lot of Americans live. Tourist areas like Dorado or in the beach areas of San Juan English is heard a lot. Once you leave the big city people are polite but most don't speak English. Think again, it's like if you were going to Mexico or Spain to live. I would find that exciting, other folks might be threatened.

Commuting in the San Juan metro area is a nightmare , specially during morning and evening rush hours. If there is an accident it gets worse. On the average Puerto Ricans are as helpful and polite as can be, but once they get into a car they turn from Dr. Jeckle to become the horrible Mr Hyde.

Homes of 3000 sq feet are homes for millionaires here. The average middle class home or apartment is half of that, with very affordable homes running in the range of 900 sq feet.

Condos run the gamut, from the condos filling up the Miramar area to those near the Caribe Hilton hotel, but now you're talking big bucks, but not Texas big bucks!


Stateside educated Americans have a bigger advantage than locals in getting a specialized skill job. One doesn't even have to know Spanish, but it helps.

Schools are basically private for your needs. There are a good number of them here too , mostly religious. If you are not Catholic there are secular schools also, most are bilingual.

You might have heard horrible things about Puerto Rico. Crime, traffic, the economy in the dumps, and a government bureaucratic service that is a nightmare however there are a lot of good things too. Strangely , although the economy is in the dumps, shopping malls and traffic don't give that impression. People seem happy and always ready to party.

We have great beaches, great mountain scenery, good for hiking and eco tourism. World class museums, Ponce. World class golf courses, a philharmonic orchestra that gives performances that are great, Constant festivals of all kinds , from salsa to food fests, good restaurants, some on par with those of Manhattan, the prices too. It all depends what you're looking for.
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Old 04-21-2014, 11:26 AM
tuj tuj started this thread
 
25 posts, read 73,784 times
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clip314: Thank you for your reply! We have been thinking about this much like a move to a foreign country because of the language and cultural differences.

I was looking on Zillow over the weekend, and I was able to find a number of properties in Dorado that were in the $300-400k range that had 3-4 bedrooms and 2500-3000 sqft. Obviously San Juan is much more expensive. But from what I gather, everything is fairly negotiable, especially if the real estate market is not that strong right now. We're not trying to find a beach villa or anything like that. We'd just like to find something with 3-4 bedrooms and maybe a pool and greater than 2000 sqft.

No kids and not planning on any, so schools are not an issue for us fortunately.

So sounds like Dorado to San Juan downtown is not a good commute huh? Even if one could work early hours?
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Old 04-21-2014, 02:03 PM
 
Location: Boydton, VA
3,648 posts, read 4,512,363 times
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"Strangely , although the economy is in the dumps, shopping malls and traffic don't give that impression"....

Yes, that surprised us as well....The foot traffic in the largest Mall in the Caribbean was unbelievable. IMO it is largely due to the underground economy, which is working but paid under the table, or illegal activities and/or the dole...all of which contribute to the very low labor participation rate (and low tax generation and the resulting poor infrastructure) Caribbean Business article (somewhat dated). Being ready to party is an understatement.
Isla Verde has some nice homes and tons of beach front condos, and a commute from there to downtown is not too bad, except for the kamikaze drivers.

Regards
Gemstone1
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Old 04-21-2014, 07:21 PM
 
300 posts, read 395,753 times
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It's been awhile (like 25 years) since I lived in San Juan (14 months) and 10 since living en el campo (11 months). Here's my take for what it's worth.

English. You'll find most professional and higher level executives speak/write english when addressing us gringos. Work place chit chat occurs in spanish. Sometimes meetings would digress into spanish--especially meetings over lunch and drinks and dinner. (lots of looooooong lunch to dinner meetings) But for the most part, I was able to keep up at work. Outside of work, I was able to communicate with my horrible spanish just fine. Learn this phrase, "lo siento. yo nesicito mas practicar a hablar espanol."

Traffic. In-friggin-sane!

Realestate. I would rent for 3 to 6 months before purchasing. Would give you a better handle on the lay of the land. what features to look for in tropical home. And a chance to develop some connections. Beware, the normal rules of home buying don't apply. Last year I purchased a small development project / potential second home on Vieques. The transaction took over 5 months (from escrow deposit to close) to complete (even as an all cash buyer).

Your wife. This may be the deal breaker. I say the chances of her finding professional IT career type employment are probably 50/50. Would she be ok without a "good Job"? How often y'all go back to TX to visit family/friends? How much time would she be spending alone while you are at work? Is she the type who makes friends easily?

Exit stratagy. Plan with your wife. How long will you stay in PR? Go through all the possible what ifs. What if one of you losses a job? What if one of you becomes very ill? ?? What if, after 5 years, one you loves PR and one you hates PR?

Cost of living. Although items cost more, we (two kids and I) accutally spent less on day-to-day living on PR (country not san juan). Less is more in the tropics. When I lived in San Juan, my employeer provided an apartment on the condondo. You may want to ask for 3 months in apartment (this is very common). With the internet you can always order that special coffee, shampoo, fry-pan on line.

Heck why not? You only live once...

Last edited by blu4u; 04-21-2014 at 07:32 PM..
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Old 04-22-2014, 05:13 AM
tuj tuj started this thread
 
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Yeah, I think renting for 3-6 months is an excellent plan. Wow, an all-cash transaction took 5 months to close! Yikes!

As for my wife, well, we did this whole up-and-move thing 7 years ago from Cincinnati to Houston. It was quite the jump to go from a mid-sized midwest city to the fourth biggest city in the nation, deep in the south. Something of a culture shock, but I'm sure not as much as a move to the island would be. We would definitely like to find a job for her. She has worked for Berlitz before, teaching ESL and did very well. That's not a very good paying job compared with what she does now, but it is a way for her to meet lots of people and she really likes teaching. So one of our initial plans is for her to try the Berlitz teaching thing and see if she can't get a job doing that. She is extremely qualified and is already experienced in their method.

In terms of exit strategy, well I'm not sure I will be able to negotiate a repatriation clause into my contract. The company I am interviewing with tomorrow in Puerto Rico got a special tax incentive in 2011 and they get to keep it for 10 years and pay effectively 4% corporate tax; the catch being that all of their employees must be inside of Puerto Rico. They have had a number of employees join them for a few years and then move back to the mainland, so they are trying to avoid that; they want to hire people who will stay with the company for some decent period of time. Personally, I'm looking for the same thing, a company to spent some time with, I just had not expected it to involve a move to PR.

We are going through all the 'what-ifs'. Namely if I would somehow lose my job, we would almost certainly need to move back to Houston. So in negotiating the deal, there will probably be a sign-on bonus and we will try to hold in savings whatever it would take to move us back to Houston.

How about storage units? Are they extremely expensive in PR? I notice that a lot of places come furnished and we have a decent amount of stuff that I don't think we want to leave behind in TX, so if we get an apt. we'd need someplace to deposit all our stuff until we find a bigger place that we want.
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Old 04-22-2014, 11:44 AM
 
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store your stuff in tx. upon closing ship a container.
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Old 04-22-2014, 12:38 PM
tuj tuj started this thread
 
25 posts, read 73,784 times
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thanks blu4u, sounds like a reasonable plan.

Got another question. Since living in Texas I have purchased a number of firearms (long-guns and handguns) because I am a competitive target shooter (no, I am not a gun-crazed nut). I have already located a community of fellow shooters in Puerto Rico, so that's a very good thing. However I am very unclear on what the laws are regarding bringing firearms into the country. I understand that to legally own firearms in Puerto Rico, you must have a 'licensia de armas'. My understanding is that some of the gun clubs can help you get your paperwork in order, then you must visit a police station for finger-printing, then you must have three friends who already have their license sign a form in front of a notary swearing you are not crazy, then you have to wait 120 days. Does that sound about right?

I also have to admit that after reading as much as I can about the island, I am worried about crime. I have heard that carjackings, assaults, and home invasions are, well maybe not common, but certainly more prevalent than in the mainland, even compared to big cities like Houston or Chicago. I am very concerned about safety of myself and my wife. But I understand that getting a concealed carry permit costs over $1000 and that "self-protection" is not reason enough for a judge to grant you said permit. Somewhat troubling...

What did those of you who live there do in terms of personal protection?

Last edited by tuj; 04-22-2014 at 12:46 PM..
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