The last time we were on a bus in Ecuador, my wife’s native land, we bought a change purse made of seeds sewn together. Vendors often sell crafts as well as exotic foods and drinks, and on one trip, we listened to a 15-minute sales pitch for miracle vitamins — just like an infomercial.
You’ll see people try almost anything to make money in Ecuador. One afternoon, from our spot in the sand, we bought sunglasses, a 20-minute concert by a guitar-duo, peanuts, jewelry and ice-cold beer. The only thing we had to get up for was the jet ski rental.
Ecuador always gets me thinking about all the things people do to make a living around the world. So I investigated a few other countries to add to my ever-growing list of unusual ways to make money. Here’s what I found…
1. China: Rent License Plates
Why rent the whole car, when you can just rent the license plate?
The International Business Times reports that Wang Xiuxia, a woman living in Beijing, made good money doing this.
The government had limited new license plates in the city to 20,000 per month, and Wang, who had accumulated a large number of them, rented them for as much as 10,000 yuan (about $1,600 at the time).
She also sold plates, but authorities eventually shut down her business.
2. Japan: Work in a Cuddle Cafe
Have you ever wanted to be a professional cuddler?
In the U.S., you can make about $60 per hour snuggling with strangers in your home. In Tokyo, Japan, you might work in a “cuddle cafe,” with a larger menu of services.
Customers pay 3,000 yen (about $25) to snuggle with someone for 20 minutes, according to Japan Today.
If a customer has only 1,000 yen to spend, he can “pet” a girl on the head for three minutes, or stare into her eyes for one minute. For 2,000 yen, he can massage her feet for three minutes.
3. Australia: Drill Ore Underground
I hope you’re not claustrophobic: One of the better-paying jobs in Australia is probing ore deposits deep underground, using a diamond drill to attempt to locate valuable minerals, according to News.com.au.
Miners can make $100,000 to $180,000, but they work long, hard shifts.
4. France: Be a Dancing BBQ Waiter
Can you dance while serving food? Working as a dancing waiter in an American-style BBQ restaurant was among the dozen jobs William Prendiville had while living in Paris, France.
He says he wasn’t very good, but the job led (indirectly) to a better gig “writing a quarterly magazine for a French company in the animal health industry.”
5. United States: Cliff Dive in a Restaurant
We have our own share of unusual ways to make money here in the States, and perhaps one of the least expected is cliff diving… in a restaurant.
I previously wrote about being a Casa Bonita cliff diver, after my wife and I visited the restaurant. Their team has performed more than a million dives!
6. New Zealand: Become a Banana Ripener
Do you like to work outdoors? The New Zealand Herald reported last year on the unusual jobs that show up on TradeMe.co.nz, a kind of eBay (but with job listings) for New Zealanders.
One of the postings was for a banana ripener. In this position, you apparently work in the fields to “ensure the consistency and quality” of the bananas.
7. India: Make an Appearance
Wouldn’t it be great to make big bucks just for showing your face? Indian movie star and dancer Shah Rukh Khan cashes in on his fame by showing up at events for a fee.
According to the Times of India, he gets about $15,000 just to make an appearance, and more than $1.2 million to dance at a wedding.
8. China: Operate a Live Crab Vending Machine
Want to own the most unique vending machine around? Business Insider reports that a vending machine at the main subway station in Nanjing, China, sells live hairy crabs.
Sales average about 200 live crabs per day. At about $4 each, that’s $800 a day!
9. Japan: Run a Capsule Hotel
How do you make money from people who can’t quite afford a regular hotel? Rent them a closet-sized room they can’t even stand up in.
That pretty much describes the concept of “capsule hotels,” which provide tiny cubicles guests climb into for a cheap night’s rest.
10. Australia: Be a Submarine Cook
If you like to cook and aren’t too claustrophobic, you can make up to $200,000 as a senior submarine cook for the Royal Australian Navy, according to TafeBytes.com.
And if you happen to get assigned to a yellow submarine, well, you can sing that song all day while you work.
11. China: Rent Yourself Out
Are you a white guy? You might be able to rent yourself out in China.
In a piece for The Atlantic, Mitch Moxley says he was paid $1,000 for a week, and all he had to do — other than being white — was stay in fancy hotels, eat great food and pretend to be an important business associate of a Chinese company.
To explain this common practice, his Chinese-language tutor said, “Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face.”
Your Turn: Do you think any of these unusual ways to make money would work where you live?
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).