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An Expat Talks about Living in San Salvador, El Salvador


What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

San Salvador

How long have you lived there?

9 years

What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?

1. American Society of El Salvador, Organization of U.S. Citizens and their families Resident or Working in El Salvador, Chester Stemp, President. Tel: (011)503-224-1330 (International School of E.S.)Weekdays. E mail: c_stemp@intschoolsansal.com

2. British Club of El Salvador, located in the upscale Escalon area of the city, Club offers a Pub/Restaurant, pool and garden area, lending library and weekly activities such as "Dart Night" on Wednesdays view their site at http://www.webhash.com/british_club.htm Membership free to UK and British Commonwealth Citizens, others pay small monthly dues.

3. The Union Church of El Salvador(Protestant, services in English), the Churche's comphrensive website: http://www.unionchurchofsansalvador.org/links.htm has all the information you require on "Ex Pat" organizations in El Salvador. E mail the Pastor at jacobson@amnetsal.com

4. Also the German Club(see British Club website), a large Spanish Society and an Italian Club exist for ex-pats from those countries.

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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.

There are some 2 Million El Salvadorians living and working abroad, most in the U.S., many emigrated during the Civil Conflict that raged from 1979-1992 and many have become US and Canadian Citizens, or legal residents of those countries, therefore at least 60% of el Salvadorians have at lest one family member residing abroad, and some 40% of the GNP is generated by "Remesas" or remittanes sent home monthly by family and friends working abroad called "Hermanos Lejanos"(Brothers Far Away). On the other side of the coin, many Salvadorians have been deported back from the U.S. for commiting felonies(Gangs) or for being in the States illegaly, and some resentment exists among them and many of the poorer and working classes unable to emigrate. Many Salvadorians are able to speak English to some degree and the vast majority are friendly and helpful.

From: http://www.dirla.com/elsalvador2_1.htm#San%20Salvador


An estimated 86 percent of Salvadorans are Roman Catholic, while most of the remaining 14 percent comprising Protestant faiths, such as Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, and many fundamental sects.

San Salvador...

Situated in the highland valley and surrounded by magnificent volcanic peaks and green hillsides, San Salvador is beautiful and intensely over-populated.

One of the most overwhelming capitols in Central America, the city is packed with rich and poor alike, who rarely mix, living their lives from within their own, economically defined boundaries.

Sprawling outdoor markets that sell everything from produce to baby shoes typify the city. Street commerce is competitive and intense. San Salvador isn't a beautiful city, and their are no major tourist attractions to speak of, but newcomers are overwhelmed and fascinated by its industry and energy.

Wealthier neighborhoods are located in the northern and western hills above the downtown area. These barrios offer elegant tree lined streets, peace and quiet, but residences are walled and have many guards.

Few foreigners live outside San Salvador or on of its surrounding districts, such as Santa Ana, San Miguel, or Sonsonante. Most of the foreign population own or rent homes or apartments in Colonia Escalon, Colonia San Benito, Colonia San Francisco, or Colonia Altamira.

In these areas, the price for an average mansion fluctuates from U.S. $120,000 to the high end of $700,000. Rent generally runs from $1,000 to $4,000 per month. These homes are located on half acre lots and have at least four bedrooms, swimming pool and maids quarters.

Outside the stereotypical expatriate areas, nice, very secure homes with back yards can be purchased between $50,000 and $90,000. Condos sell from $30,000 and rent from $250 per month. Most of these moderate priced neighborhoods are located on the outskirts of the older, wealthier areas.

Foreign Ownership...

Foreigners can own private land in El Salvador, including beach front, without restrictions.

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

The main industry in which ex-pats are involved in is Apparel and Textile Manufacturing. Other than that exist opportunities for CERTIFIED Teachers in such English Speaking Institutions as the American School and International School of El Salvador view: http://web66.coled.umn.edu/schools/SV/ElSalvador.html also the British School(which hires teachers from UK/Commonwealth countries) and the Pan-American School.

For those not certified wishing to teach English exist a number of small English Academies and Schools, as well as prestigious "Colegios" or High Schools in San Salvador as well as in the cities of Santa Ana and San Miguel, most reputable schools prefer teachers to posess a TEFL Certification. Pay is low by U.S. standards ranging from $3.50 hour and up for part time English Teachers, note that many Salvadorian-Americans/Canadians teach here and many small private teaching co-ops exist. Many volunteer opportunities also exist through the various International Aid and Releif Organizations that operate here in el Salvador, however it is best to contact them first in your home country before travelling, for example see: http://web66.coled.umn.edu/schools/SV/ElSalvador.html or http://www.beliefnet.com/story/64/story_6435_1.html

In general, what are peoples' priorities in this city? For example, do lives revolve around work, family, socializing, sports, etc.?

In San Salvador the capital, there is much industry, dominated by several outlying "Free Zones" dedicated mainly to Apparel and Textile Manufacturing. Ordinarily, lives of ex pats in the City revolve around work. There are also many Americans living or retired here who have married Salvadorian Women and many are engaged in Teaching or running small businesses. There is little "socializing" as compared to areas such as Costa Rica or nearby Antigua, Guatemala or Roatan, Honduras which are basically 'resort towns' catering to ex pats. There is a large US Peace Corps contingent stationed in towns and villages around the country, as well as many volunteer organizations (NGOs) engaged in reconstruction and disaster releif.

If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.

I would not advise anyone to come here looking for work without certification nor special skills, nor basic Spanish skills, unless connected with an established school or employer. If one has a vehicle, one must exercise extreme caution in driving around this congested city, as most vehicles(except New Autos with compulsory Bank insurance) have no insurance and drivers have been known to "hit and run". Bus Service is plentiful and cheap, on mainly aging diesel spewing older vehicles or "Microbuses"-Coasters driven by rather reckless and careless individuals known as "Buseros", robberies on public transport, especially in the evening hours, are not infrequent. To sum it up, most Ex Pats who arrive here have employment with an American, Canadian or European based firm or have family ties mostly through marriage to a Salvadorian Citizen. Opportunities exist here though, just be sure you are prepared.

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Comments about this Report

Nov 23, 2010 00:34

The writer missed out that the biggest gang in the world (MS13) started in El Salvador and LA and is now in 6 countries. It is regarded as a bigger treat to the USA than Al Quaeda. NO westerners use public transport and San Salvador has one of the biggest murder rates in the world. Average 15 per day. My sister lives there, in one of the best areas, and has done so for 18years. The biggest problem for everyone, from the super rich to the average wealthy, is that all of your staff will steal from you. From toilet roll, to rice and Rolex's. Basicly unless you are being paid a very large ammount and only going to be there for a short term it is a country to be avoided. Westerners live in a bubble as separate from the locals as possible. You drive to work, make sure your windows and doors are closed and locked especially at traffic lights and junctions. If ever there was a country that resembled the phrase 'Banana Republic' more than El Salvador I haven't heard of it or visited it. And I'm a travel journalist of 35 yrs experience. You can't just go for a walk in the streets of San Salvador, you are just a target. I've spent time in Columbia and even in Bogota old town at night and never had a problem. In Salvador everything is within all the huge number of Malls....with security guards everywhere. I could write pages more, but sufice to say unless you have no choice, a country to avoid.

Jul 7, 2011 18:48

health coverage for over 60

Nov 28, 2011 17:21

Sounds like living in Los Angeles or any big city to me. Typical American lock your doors never go out don't talk to anyone or trust anyone. Hopefully everyone takes you up on your advice, so the rest of us can enjoy a great vacation for many years to come!

May 27, 2013 02:21

I've never heard the number 40% in regards to remisas. The usual quoted number is 15-20% of the Gross National Product in offical publications. San Salvador is a beautiful city with many things to do. It has a lot of green space which is lacking in many central american capitals: parque Bicentinario is a great example of a place you'll see Salvadoran families flock to on the weekends. The botanical gardens are renowned as one of the only in the world located in a volcanic crater, the Iglesia Rosario is hailed as one of the most beautiful churches in the world, there's a witches market in centro which is extremely entertaining to walk through, not to mention many many interesting restuarants run by Salvadorans who have studied overseas and are now returning to their home country to cook up innovative and tasty fusion dishes.

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