Archive for August 2011

Six Tips for Successfully Using International Online Dating Sites: Part 1   Leave a comment

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of online dating sites appealing to people who want to date, marry or whatever with people from other cultures, countries and persuasions. Each has their flavor; their following; and their own fee structures. Across the globe, there are hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, on these sites looking for romance, marriage or whatever. I have used some of these sites and met some wonderful people. Some of whom are still in my life, as friends. I have also found some pretty crazy and manipulative individuals who find lying, stealing and jumping into your bed as easy as breathing. There are few rules and almost no police to govern abuses, before or after a meeting occurs. Whatever happens, happens! So, the first advice is to be careful – always. These sites have given me a short cut to meeting people, learning Spanish and looking for business opportunities. I have paid the “learner’s tax” and offer some tips to increase your opportunities for success.

Narrow your choices before you begin

Online dating internationally is a very different playing field from online dating in one’s own country. Knowing why you want to be with someone from another part of the world is really critical. Ask yourself that question. And have an answer that makes sense. You are likely to find that someplace along the way, if someone has interest in you, they will ask the reason you are traveling thousands of miles from home to meet someone when there are available folks in your hometown. What is it about that culture? Are your fantasies just that, fantasies? What do you know about their religion and its effect on people’s attitudes and values? Knowing where you want your new love to be from and why is critical to making good decisions. If you have decided on a country, do you know that each part has its own culture? There is a real difference between Costenas (people who live on the coast of Colombia) and Paisas (people who live in the interior). San Jose, Costa Rica is home to Nicaraguans, Colombians, Costa Ricans and a host of other different Latin cultures? Identify the part of the world that you want your mate to come from then do your homework. Know who lives there. Online dating, internationally, means that you are seeking a relationship in a culture that you do not know. Most likely language will be different. Values will be different. The meaning of things is different. Find the online dating site or sites that offer thumbnails, no matter how brief, to the people you want to meet. The only way to make sure your investment of time, energy and money is going to bear fruit is to make sure that someone from this part of the world fits your life, your values and is likely to bring you the happiness you seek.

Beware hidden costs and people who pad their lists

The cost of online dating sites can be relatively inexpensive. But this can also be a lure to get you in the door. This a multi-billion dollar business for a reason. That is why many sites show the young, beautiful men and women (sometimes in very suggestive poses) on their home pages. Remember there is no guarantee that the people they are showing as being members actually are available. I had one agency tell me, “Oh, we need to remove her photo, she has not been around for more than a year.” Remember, they are selling the fantasy. Before deciding, know what you are going to pay and for what period of time your membership will allow you to participate. Some sites charge for everything from sending an email message to sending a letter to sending gifts/flowers to their translation services to selling lists of people who they say are interested in you. These charges can add up. Unfortunately, some online sites/agencies will pay or urge people to write to you generating business for them. So, if you write, pay for translation services and send something then the interest suddenly goes away you know you have been had.

Know who you want in your life

Let’s say that you have decided on the city or region of the world you want your new love, friend of whatever to come from. And you have decided on one or more online sites to use. The next step is to have a sense of who you are looking for. What are their qualities? What do they look like? How old do you want them to be? Education? Children? Make a list. Dream a little. You will likely find that, if you have some of the basic stuff going for you – good manners, a job or income, are decently groomed, have good hygiene, and a desire to learn another culture – you will have choices available to you that did not exist before. Having said that – be realistic. A 65 year old man receiving only social security will probably have a different appeal than a 65 year old rich dude. A 45 year old with all the basic stuff, and a treat a woman right attitude, may find himself with the hottest 22 year old woman he has ever met. Regardless of the job he holds. Don’t get dazzled by the people who say they are interested in you. Remember, there are thousands of people just like you trying to get the attention of the person they think they like or want. And some of them are likely to want to get with the same person you do. Getting someone’s attention, and keeping it, establishing a connection, so that they keep talking with you is critical. There are internet sites out here to help you write a great profile, ad, or introduction letter. Use them, their helpful hints work. Do not be daunted when a person of interest loses interest in you. And do not hesitate to move on if you lose interest. This is where the sheer volume of the people on these sites will help. It may take months. It may take years. Be patient. Good things do come to those who are diligent. And remember, meeting online is just the start of the dance. There is more, way more, to do before going to the altar.

Posted August 31, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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Looking For Love (or Whatever) In Latin America   2 comments

Recently I met a guy, who said he was in Colombia looking for love and marriage. He had made a number of contacts via one of the online international dating sites. As we talked, I was reminded of a world that I discovered when I first started coming to Costa Rica and Colombia. A universe of people who are seeking, and finding, people in other countries and cultures for the purposes of dating, romance, sex, marriage, finding a way out, finding the love of their lives and more. I was so naïve. I had no idea such a network of people with like interests and varied motives existed, much less an industry raking in millions that is available to support them. I grew up in Rand, West Virginia way before the internet was a reality. All we had were White and Black people. And dating outside of one’s race – there were no other ethnic groups that I knew of in West Virginia – though a growing phenomenon, was still taboo.

What struck me though was that this guy was really down on Latin women, Colombianas especially. Undaunted by the fact that we were in a room with three Colombian women, including the woman that had invited him to my apartment, he told me that he had been married to a woman from Colombia, who he said “…got most of everything in the divorce.” And though he was here, again, looking for another Colombian woman, he just could not understand why they kept playing him for money. Now I am really a bit uncomfortable. Though the women in the room spoke no English, his agitation was obvious. He said he would go out on dates and they would bring friends, without telling or asking him beforehand, and he would HAVE to pick up the check. One woman had invited him to her house for lunch, he said, and then taken him by a Chinese restaurant, ordered a bunch of food – for which he HAD to pay, to take it to her house for them to eat lunch. I did not ask who got the leftovers. He went on to say that his ex-wife, who had family in Bogota, sent a suitcase with him to take to them. By the middle of our short conversation, I wanted to scream “Don’t you get it, my brother? It is not them. It’s you.”

But that would have been a too simplistic response to a more complex set of issues. Being the psychologist that I am, I asked him what he brought to the table. Why a Colombian woman? What images did he have in his mind of these women? Why did he think that the same drama continued to play out in his life? It turned out to be a decent conversation, with me offering some of the lessons that I have learned. As I have been told, I am never too shy to give my opinion. But our conversation also got me to thinking – these are questions that not only fit my new friend. Economic disparity, cultural/values differences, sexual attitudes and behaviors, interpretations of what is love, social and political discourse and more, within the context of relationships between north American men and Latin American women, however they are defined, are the subject of conversations in chat rooms, message boards, bar rooms and bedrooms.

While my travels to, and living in, this part of the world does not make me an expert on relationships between north American men and Latin women, my travels to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia have opened up dating possibilities that I really have not taken seriously until recently. In the past I have gone out with women looking out for a boyfriend to take care of them and their children or a husband to do the same. I have been asked for money and had offers of marriage. I have been fooled, understanding what is really meant by “beware a big butt and a smile.” All in all it has been fun. I have no complaints. I have learned a lot and grown immensely for my experiences. But to be honest I really did not take the possibilities of marrying a woman from this part of the world too seriously.

To me, the thing is – it seems that there can be a collision between fantasy and reality on both sides of the divide that can cause pain or bring happiness, making meeting, dating, mating (sex) and/or marriage amazingly complicated. There are horror stories, for sure. On both sides of the isle! There are also dreams come true.

So, now that I am here seriously and the possibilites of a long term relationship really does exist, for the next several weeks I am going to talk about “Looking for Love (or whatever) in Latin America.” And so the conversation is not one-sided, I have also invited some of my Latina friends to contribute their own stories and opinions. I hope you will find this subject and the next few blog posts as interesting – as I may find it cathartic.

Posted August 23, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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Is Colombia Really Ready for the World?   2 comments

On July 20, 2011 USA Today carried a twenty page insert entitled COLOMBIA Working hand in hand towards a new era. With a great lead picture of Presidents Santos and Obama in what seemed to be a hearty conversation the insert (full version available at http://unitedworld.usatoday/ourworld.htm) covered: policy movements aimed at improving foreign relations; opportunities for investors; education, health care and culture features; and more. Clearly the intention is to promote Colombia changing the country’s image in the minds of people in the United States, if not around the world, still wary of the country’s violent past and human rights abuses. As testament, my great friends Cora and Bill, who gave me the insert, remain concerned about me being here (a blessing for which I am thankful everyday) acknowledged that the report gives a different, and more positive, view.

At times, though, I have learned from experience, the aspiration of leadership does not always filter down to the folks who make things happen. For example, renting an apartment in Barranquilla has been an experience to be endured. As an extranjero, a foreigner, I kept running into people who wanted two cosigners that are property owners and a letter saying that I was working here. I could not help but to think that in many parts of the USA, and the world, people would be happy to take an application, a check and a smile. On one occasion when I called one apartment owner the woman that answered told me to have someone call back that spoke perfect Spanish. Do you think that if she understood my Spanish well enough to tell me that it was not perfect possibly she could have understood the rest of what I had to say? Finally, after finding an apartment I really liked I offered to pay the first six months in advance on a year’s lease. Whether it was that I had the cash on my pocket or the pitiful “what am I going to do” look on my face my landlord, who is also an attorney, was nice enough to agree upon a mutually acceptable exchange rate and we sealed the deal. What I know also helped, a lot, is my friend who calls herself my assistant, partly as a joke and also partly because I compensate her for her time and expenses uses her own network to help me negotiate processes and the issues I have faced. I am very sure that her willingness to speak up for me helped seal the deal.

There is a reason that some people rate Colombia, particularly the coast, as a hard place to do business. There lacks a “we want your business (and will work to earn your money) attitude” in many aspects of the culture. Neither Bancolombia nor Banco de Bogota would exchange dollars to pesos, even though both banks quoted me their monetary rates for exchange. Both referred me to the currency exchange centers around the city, which of course offer a much less exchange rate than the market. I have not found a bank here that will let me open an account unless I have a Cedula de Extranjeria, a government issued ID card. This is even true for CitiBank, which operates more like a franchise here. Meaning that establishing an account with CitiBank in the United States does not give one access to that same account in Colombia. Not a huge incentive for going with CitiBank.

Getting a Cedula de Extranjeria is proving to be an adventure. In Colombia, The Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS) is responsible for issuing cedulas. All Colombians have cedulas. Cedulas, along with their tracking numbers, prove you are who you say you are. So, it makes sense that to establish a bank account a Cedula de Extranjeria would be a requirement. Now this is where it gets tricky – or confusing. During my visit to the DAS I was told that I could not get a Cedula de Extranjeria unless I have a ViSA. That I needed to get a VISA in order to get a cedula was a big surprise to me. It is also a surprise to some other people with who have talked.

Equally a surprise was the DAS official’s interpretation of how long I can stay in Colombia. The law says a person can stay for 180 days in any given year. Which I thought was like Costa Rica, meaning after 180 days you have to leave the country for at least three days and then you can return to begin the clock ticking again on your next 180 days. His said that I could only stay for a total of 180 days in any given year. So he began to count the number of days I have been here in 2011 and then said when I leave in October, to take care of some business, I would only have 10 days left to stay in Colombia when I return to Colombia. But then he said that airport customs would probably stamp my passport for another sixty days, making the length of my stay a non-issue. Because if customs stamps my passport for 60 days then that will take me to 2012 when the 180 clock begins again. I must note that though a foreigner can stay for 180 days customs will only typically give a stamp for 60 days. To extend one’s stay you have to go the DAS to request an extension which costs about $35. Extensions are only granted in 30 day increments to a maximum of 180 days – a nice revenue source for the country. I also have people telling me that this interpretation is incorrect.

My friends in Costa Rica remind me that all of this would be much easier if I had decided to move there. And they are right. Costa Rica has worked this stuff out. And though some say that Panama is the gold standard in attracting extranjeros, other Latin American countries are creating their own incentives and promotions. They are making it easy. I have a bank account in Costa Rica. They only required me to have two references, one of who had an account at the bank. I got an apartment in Costa Rica with only a month’s rent, a security deposit and my signature with my passport number. You can stay in Costa Rica up to 180 days without having to pay a monthly fee to get your stay extended every thirty days.

Being a foreigner in most parts of the world can be a difficult transition to make, especially if the country is not used to having you there. I love Colombia and am willing to be patient and persistent to learn how to be here. I will say that if Colombia is making a commitment to attracting people, investors, retirees or tourists from around the world then assuring that the people on the ground and the systems supporting them are easily understood and manageable is critical to success. Costa Rica gets it. Colombia is still figuring it out. And perhaps that is the good news. Maybe Colombia will also learn from the mistakes made by Costa Rica and Panama.

By the way I am still waiting for the cable guys to get that service going – 5 days for a service visit and then they told me the building was not wired and it will take at least another six days before I could have service. Oh, well at least I feel at home here.

Posted August 14, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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