What I Learned While Living in Costa Rica As an Expat
As we were packing up all our stuff and preparing our luggage for our big trip, I had a bit of time to reflect back on my time in Costa Rica. I know it’s not goodbye forever since we plan to be back someday next year but it’ll be goodbye for now. It’s strange to think about who I was before I left and the person I am now. I was a fresh faced 23 year old, a year out of college working full time. I was always a bit unsure of what I wanted to do with my life and if anybody asked me five years ago if I imagined myself living in a small country in Latin America, I’d laugh at them and tell them they’re crazy. And yet, surprise! Here I am now with two years of living in Costa Rica under my belt. For my first time to Costa Rica, Yeison took me to the Hilton in Puntarenas for 3 days. Not a bad first trip I might say! I have to admit, before I moved I was a bit naive living in my USA bubble. I never really understood how or why the rest of the world sees the States the way they do but now I do. My eyes opened up to so many things, about myself, about other people and other cultures. Living in a foreign country will always change a person in one way or another. It doesn’t need to be a profound change but it’s safe to say that most people will testify to the fact that they aren’t the same person they used to be. So if you’re thinking about moving to Costa Rica, be warned. You WILL become a different person, you WILL learn more about yourself and you WILL fall in love with it. I only hope that everyone has the same wonderful experience that I had! I did have a few surprises but that is to be expected when moving to a new country. So while I’m in nostalgia mode, here are some things I learned while living in Costa Rica as an expat, like Pura vida mae! Just kidding, I learned a bit more than that What I learned while living in Costa Rica as an expat To be more patient First rule of becoming an immigrant or expat: Do not expect things to be done the same way as your original country. In the United States, customer service is normally the top priority for businesses (at least some). It is slightly different in Costa Rica. People work slower, don’t attend to their customers’ needs as quickly and sometimes it can be quite frustrating trying to get something done. Pack your patience when you move. You will find that your errands take a bit longer than it used to as lines at the bank take forever or the computer system at the electric company might be down. This is just how the way things are in Costa Rica right now. Even Yeison, as a Tico knows this is a problem but this is how it is while they’re developing their customer service skills. Also, don’t be that arrogant gringo that complains loudly. I’ve found that this is one of the reasons why Americans have a bad rep down here which I’ve seen with my own eyes. Waiting in the car for the clinic to open with our favorite furry friend That having expensive things doesn’t automatically make you a likeable person Luckily I didn’t grow up in LA or NYC or a place where the culture is all money, money money but I did grow up in a consumerist society. I was influenced by the media and saw how much people adored celebrities just because they were rich and famous, hell I was one of them! Thankfully my parents taught me very well the importance of hard work and the value of money so when it came to expensive things, society didn’t get to me in that aspect. I wasn’t exactly the girl who was wearing what was “in” that season nor did I care about spending a bunch of money on makeup or clothes. Maybe that’s why I fit in so well here. Costa Rica is a country whose people live in the moment, not in their multi million dollar mansions. Of course you will find rich Ticos who love to show off their Jaguars but for the most part, all the Costa Ricans I have met value their time with family and friends more than their luxury car. If you think flashing your money or showing off your diamond jewelry will make Ticos like you, you’ve got the wrong mindset. Costa Ricans care if you are a good person, if you have a good heart. They care about pura vida which is why that dicho is so perfect for this country and its people. A third language When I had to choose which language to learn in middle school, I chose French. My original dream was to study abroad in France, learn the language and live there for a bit. I remember thinking, “Pssh I will never need to learn Spanish!” Funny how life is right? I already speak two languages, English and Mandarin and I’ve always wanted to learn a third. When I made the decision to move to Costa Rica, I was determined to learn Spanish. I’m by no means 100% fluent but I’m proud to be at a level where I can understand nearly all of the conversations (I get lost when they start talking very slang). I know I still have a ton to learn (did you know there are 17 tenses in Spanish?) but when I moved, I knew just a little itty bit: hola and arroz according to Yeison’s friend. Now, I can carry on a conversation and talk to locals without being intimidated. My advice: start learning before you move. Do it. Please. I have met so many people who have lived in Costa Rica for over a decade and don’t even know how to say good morning. They assume for some reason that every Costa Rican is supposed to know English. You’ll never be able to fully immerse yourself into the culture if you can’t understand what’s going on and plus that just adds onto the “lazy American” reputation. To be proud of who you are When I was living in the States, I was fighting a personal battle for years. I was Asian living in America and yet, I didn’t feel fully accepted. I felt like I wasn’t a “real” American because I wasn’t Caucasian. The United States is a giant melting pot but I think it is still developing. I’ve had some nasty encounters of people telling me to “go back home” and not believing me that I grew up in the US. As a child of immigrants, I spoke English as my first language but went to Chinese school every week. I loved pizza and burgers but only ate Chinese food at home. I felt torn between two worlds and always felt like society was telling me I needed to have blonde hair and blue eyes to be beautiful. When I moved to Playas del Coco, the locals were fascinated by me. Asians are not common here (they are mostly in San Jose and Limon) and I was asked many questions. I loved that they were interested in my heritage, my upbringing and my background. I grew prouder and prouder of being Taiwanese but at the same time, I never hesitated to tell people I grew up in the States. Despite my inner war, I never put down the country that gave my parents the opportunity to have a better life and in turn, my brother and I. Also Costa Ricans are SO proud to be from Costa Rica and some of that rubbed off on me. Whenever I’m with Yeison and his Ticos friends, I love hearing them say things like soy tico mas que gallo pinto. Yeison is even more mixed than I am and he’s incredibly proud to say he’s from Costa Rica. Without even knowing it, he’s taught me to love every part of who I am. Yeison with three generations: me, my mom and grandmother That beans are delicious Beans are not a common food in the States. I love chile and the red bean mooncakes and mochi my mom bought me but besides that, I never really ate beans until I got to Costa Rica. Ticos love their beans. And I mean love. I’ve met some Costa Ricans who have to eat beans with every meal and some who can whip up so many different versions of beans you would be surprised it’s a real dish! It’s not my favorite food but I’ve grown to like them and learned to cook it the way Ticos cook them. If you move to Costa Rica, be prepared to eat lots of beans. Yeah I know, it may seem kind of bland but you don’t need to eat them everyday. At least they are incredibly healthy and you can try other dishes. Yeison’s brother makes a mean blended beans, black bean soup and empanadas with bean filling. You don’t need to love everything about Costa Rica but at least give it a shot. For me, food is the most fun and the best part of learning about a new culture so I’m always willing to try new things. I may not love it or eat it all the time, but I won’t stick my tongue out at it. The best blended beans I’ve ever eaten I don’t like the heat as much as I thought I did Growing up in Washington, I lived for the summers. My favorite time of year was summer, not just because there was no school but because the weather was amazing. Hot, sunny and long days with fresh air and cool breezes. I always imagined myself living in a tropical place where the sun shined all year long. Not anymore. After two years of living in an area where it is incredibly hot all year round, I found that my body can’t stand the heat as well as it did before. At first, I loved it. The first year I was happy and content and we didn’t even use air conditioning! But now, I avoid going outside in the middle of the day and am a baby to tolerating high temperatures. We traveled around the Central Valley last week and Yeison and I both fell in love with the climate there, especially San Ramon. We loved it so much that we decided to move there when we come back to Costa Rica. Our love of the beach doesn’t win over our love of fresh weather. Hiding from the heat Enjoying life and spending quality time is the most important thing When you die, what will you take with you? Your money? Your fancy jewelry? Nope, nothing. One of my goals in life is that when I’m on my deathbed, I won’t have any regrets. I want to know that I’ve traveled the world, I did and saw as much possible and that I loved as much as I could. That’s what I want to take with me when I die. Life is so short, it flies by in a blink of an eye. And time is so precious. I know I’m guilty of this but we shouldn’t waste our time being mad about little things. Believe me, it’s easier said than done but that’s one major thing I’ve learned from the Costa Ricans as another aspect of pura vida life. Don’t act with your liver, Yeison always says (a Costa Rican saying) and it’s probably one of the wisest things he’s ever told me. Costa Ricans know how to enjoy life. In Nicoya, you’ll see that many of them live well into their 100′s and they all say one thing in common that really resonates with me – All that matters is spending quality time with your loved ones. They may not be rich but they are the happiest, enjoying time with their family and relishing in the little things. This is probably the most important lesson that I’ve learned while living in Costa Rica and one I’ll take with me forever. Yeison and I love being silly together What will you learn? Everyone has a different experience when they move to Costa Rica. It depends a lot on why they moved, if they’re single or with someone and what their expectations are but for the most part, everyone I know has had a positive experience. Many people move here to find solace from a stressed out life or to retire in peace, which they do. Costa Rica is the perfect country for someone to take a step back and live a more relaxed lifestyle. I’m excited to start our new journey and am grateful for everything Costa Rica has given me. I know that I’ll learn even more through our future travels and I’ll be ready to experience a different part of Costa Rica when we come back! Like this post? Click here to get more like this straight to your inbox! What have you learned while living abroad? Share them in the comments below!
Travel Tips from a Pro Blogger, John Chow from Johnchow.com
When you’re a professional top notch blogger who is one of the best and oldest in the industry, you get to travel. A lot. People want you to come visit their office, people want you to speak at their conferences, people just want you, period. One such blogger is John Chow from Johnchow.com, who we met a few months ago when he was in Costa Rica for a business conference. Yeison and him hit it off well after he took him for a fishing trip around Coco (John even caught some fish) and we had a fun time showing him around. John even sponsored Yeison for his trip to New York City for Affiliate Summit! At one of the bars in Coco Fishing in Coco If you’re not familiar with John Chow, look him up. John has been blogging for years and knows the industry in and out. Because of this, he gets to travel the world helping others fulfill their dream of making a living online and teaching them how to do it. As a world traveler, he’s gone through all the ups and downs when it comes to being on the road and has picked up some tips and tricks along the way. For a different spin on blogger interviews, Yeison wrangled an interview with John to ask him about his travel style and his best advice for packing light. He’s a super nice guy who just really loves sharing his knowledge and Yeison had a lot of fun hanging out with him New York. So to hear John’s best travel tips, check it out here! Transcript Yeison: Hey guys, today we are with John Chow, he’s a very successful blogger, actually he’s like the Michael Jordan of the Internet and today he’s going to give some tips for travel. So John just for you to know, John is always traveling, he needs to assist a lot of conferences so John, what do you have to say? What are your most important tips? John: Well my number one tip for traveling is I never check luggage. With every trip I take, I always do a carry on bag only, mostly for security reasons but some reasons is that some airlines are getting so cheap that they charge you to check a bag. So they’re charging you to lose a bag essentially so I don’t check luggage.Now most of the time my dress is casual but there were times when I had to pack a suit and it’s very hard to pack a suit onto a carry on bag. I do have a Youtube video where I show how to roll a suit into the carry on bag so if you do a Youtube search, how to roll a suit, it’ll be the first one there and you can see it. The other thing is I try to travel as light as possible, think of when you’re going through security so that means leave the colognes and perfumes at home and have travel size just for toothpaste, as you keep it in the little bags with all my toiletries and stuff, just pretty light. For socks, you know there are socks you can buy that you can wash them and they drip dry in 15 minutes. All I get is 3 pairs and just rotate them, you wash it, let it drip and just rotate them. Yeison: OK well that was John Chow and his best travel tips. John: Oh and charge everything with a travel card, easy. Yeison: He knows about money, he knows how to make money! John: I always, like my credit card gives me cash back, travel points, gives me access to airport lounges at the Delta part of the airport. While the card uses an annual fee you add in the perks of the airport lounges and the upgrades, I’m actually making money on it. Yeison: Any other tip or anything travel? John: They say, just enjoy. Hell that’s basically it. Getting there can be quite time consuming sometimes and pretty much this year I decided that now I’ve reached a certain level where I only fly business or first class. So when I flew here from LA to here (NYC), I tried the new mini class, they don’t call it first class they call it mini class cause it’s Jetblue but I had a little suite to myself with the chair has massages, you got your own power station I plugged in all my computer and stuff and a big 25 inch LCD tv and the seat turns into a bed, totally flat. So it just turns into a bed and I fall asleep. Yeison: Great! Anything else you’d like to add John? John: That’s basically it, the travel card does sometimes give you food so that’s another thing with the travel cards. Yeison: Well just for you to know guys, John Chow sponsored mytanfeet, we are at the New York Affiliate Summit so if you want to start a great blog and make a lot of money, just go to his blog. His blog is johnchow.com and thank you very much. John: (pointing) He’s with me.
Ride the Seattle Great Wheel to See the Beauty of Seattle
When I was growing up, my town had a fair every July with rides, games, shows, performances and lots of great food. Being a kid, my favorite part was the rides, specifically the Ferris wheel. I have absolutely no fear of heights so I loved going around on the wheel, getting great views of the area with my best friends. I still have that same love for Ferris wheels except now that I’m older, the higher the better! Two weeks before I moved to Costa Rica, Seattle opened their very own Ferris wheel but unfortunately I was so busy with moving that I had no time to visit. I kept seeing pictures on Facebook of my friends on it and it looked so pretty, I knew that when I came back I would go on it with Yeison. Last weekend we were finally able to experience the majestic Seattle Great Wheel. Imagine our excitement when we walked up to the largest observation tower in the northwest of the United States! Seattle Great Wheel Location The Seattle Great Wheel is located on the pier on Alaskan Way of downtown Seattle. The Wheel The day we were in Seattle was absolutely gorgeous. It’s been two years since I was in Washington during summertime and oh how I missed it! The sun was out, no clouds in sight with a slight breeze. You can see the wheel from most anywhere along the pier, it’s fairly hard to miss. It makes for quite a picturesque backdrop with the sparkling waters and blue sky. Long line! You’re probably thinking, “Doesn’t it rain a lot in Seattle? Can you still go on the wheel?” The answer is yes, there are 42 closed gondolas so if you happen to come on a day that’s not quite as nice, you’ll be protected from rain or snow. You won’t get such a great view but you can still certainly go on it. As soon as you get to the wheel, you can tell just how new it is from first glance. Everything is shiny and sparkly! Each gondola holds up to 8 people and we actually really appreciated the air conditioning they have inside, it was needed for how hot it was that day. One of the gondolas You go around 3 times in the Seattle Great Wheel and the 4th time is to let people out. As you go up to the tallest point, you can see both downtown Seattle and Puget Sound. On a beautiful sunny day, it was just breathtaking! Hey whoever said Seattle isn’t pretty is so wrong, just check out the pictures below! Granted this weather only occurs two months of the year but still View of Downtown to the north View of downtown to the south – you can see the Mariners and Seahawks stadium Gondola 42 is a VIP cabin that has leather seats, stereo system and glass floors. So if you’re thinking about proposing to your girlfriend in Seattle, that would be a pretty romantic place to do it. The regular gondolas are pretty spacious, the seats are comfy and you can move around easily to look at all the views. This was Yeison’s very first time on a Ferris wheel so he was giddy like a little kid, checking out each window to see the view. Then again I was pretty excited too and I had to refrain myself from taking pictures the whole time and to just enjoy the ride. I’m actually happy they now have the Seattle Great Wheel as it gives first time visitors a spectacular view of all downtown and the water. It’ll definitely change any skeptic’s mind that Seattle is indeed a lovely city not just dominated by rain. It goes around a little bit faster than I wished but it’s enough time to see the view. Maybe I’m just being spoiled and wanted to stay up there for as long as possible since I love Ferris wheels so much! The pier on Alaskan Way already has some great attractions such as Seattle Aquarium, Argossy Cruises and Pike Place market close by but the Seattle Great Wheel gives it the extra special oomph to give to tourists. It’s a fun activity for the whole family and it’s not so incredibly high that someone scared of heights would be absolutely terrified. You can buy tickets online or at the wheel. During summer, I’d suggest buying them beforehand and printing out the ticket since there was a pretty long line when we went. You can bypass all that and pick your tickets up at will call. It is a little pricey for a quick 10 minute ride but they just opened a couple years ago and the high season is quite short. To buy tickets online, check out their website. Like this post? Click here to get more like this straight to your inbox! See what it’s like to go on the Great Wheel by watching our video! We were guests of the Seattle Great Wheel and all thoughts and opinions are our own. I honestly love Ferris wheels this much!
Aerial Video of Los Lagos in Heredia, Costa Rica
Residencial Los Lagos in Heredia is a large neighborhood in the province Heredia where Yeison grew up. Heredia is the capital city of the province, just 10 kilometers away from San Jose. It’s not as big or busy but a good amount of people live in the city, many of which commute to San Jose everyday for work. You can see that neighborhoods in the city are drastically different than neighborhoods at the beach. The Central Valley area is where the majority of the Costa Rican population live and work and as it would seem, life in the city is nothing like life at the beach. There are lots of houses in the Los Lagos neighborhood and it’s common to see bars and gates surrounding each one. You can find small pulperias, everybody says hi and knows each other and there are a few local sodas that have been there for years. Yeison and I ate at this one place that has been there ever since he was a little kid, for nearly 30 years! When people think of Costa Rica, they imagine beaches, rainforest, mountains and volcanoes which the country absolutely has, but what they don’t realize is that the Central Valley is a large metropolitan area and it’s filled with everything typical of a capital city. Yeison didn’t grow up on the beach or have monkeys as neighbors like jhow some people imagine. This is a common misconception many people have. For some reason they don’t think that Costa Rica has highways, cars or Internet when actually, you can find all sorts of big companies and businesses here such as Amazon and HP. You can even eat at Hooters or Dennys! If you want to see what the city life is like in Costa Rica, visit San Jose, Heredia or Alajuela. If you’re curious as to what a neighborhood in a large Costa Rican city looks like, watch this raw aerial video of Yeison’s neighborhood, Los Lagos. You can see more Costa Rica aerial videos here. Like this post? Click here to get more like this straight to your inbox! Raw Aerial Video of Los Lagos in Heredia
Hotel Review: Hotel La Rosa de America in Alajuela
Alajuela is the second largest city in Costa Rica after San Jose and it’s famous for several reasons. Most people think the Juan Santamaria International Airport is in San Jose but it’s actually in Alajuela. There are coffee plantations and estates like Doka estate coffee tours which we visited. We’ve traveled through Alajuela before but never stayed in the city until now. The theme of our last trip in Costa Rica was small and cozy hotels and in the big city, we weren’t exactly sure if we would find that without going to the outskirts of town. Luckily, we happened upon a little oasis in the middle of a big city, Hotel la Rosa de America. Hotel la Rosa de America Location The Property The hotel’s property is absolutely precious. As you drive into the parking lot, it’s a drastic change from what’s outside the gate than inside. They’ve landscaped it beautifully so that you feel like you’re staying in one elaborate garden instead of the city. When you sit outside your room, you gaze out on lavish flora carefully placed around the paths, watching hummingbirds and butterflies fly around. They’ve planted trees in certain spots so that the all the cabins are slightly hidden from the main path so that you have a sense of privacy. They have a large pool with a rancho area and plenty of pool chairs to lay in. The rooms We stayed in a cabin with superior rooms which included a double bed, AC, flat screen TV, walk in closet and a coat hanger. The rooms seemed like they had been recently remodeled and they did a wonderful job. The bed was incredibly comfortable, the shower was great but one of my favorite things was the towels. Many of the hotels in Costa Rica only supply you with one towel but they gave us several thick fluffy towels including a hand and face one. They even put chocolates on the swan towels! The room was more than enough space for the two of us and you could comfortable fit more in here. Even though we didn’t use it, I loved the walk in closet. If we were staying longer, I would have definitely utilized it more. They provide all the amenities to make a comfortable and convenient long and short term stay. Outside the rooms are chairs and benches for you to enjoy. As we were sitting outside enjoying the strawberries we bought from Poasito, we were given mango ceviche as a complimentary treat. Yum! We couldn’t see the full sunset from our room but since we were looking west, we were granted the privilege of seeing a gorgeous sky as the background to all the trees and flowers everywhere. The Service Service at Hotel la Rosa de America was great. The girl who checked us in gave us probably the most thorough introduction I’ve ever been given at a hotel, in a polite yet personable way. She told us all about the hotel, explained to us about the gate and showed us to our rooms. Overall Thoughts We had a lovely time staying here and it made for a great last night in the Central Valley. The only qualm I had was that breakfast was a bit disappointing. We came around 8:30 and nearly all the dishes were empty, no coffee or even clean cutlery. Nobody had cleared the dishes and we had to ask someone to bring more food, juice, coffee and dishes. It actually seemed like there was several school groups staying at the hotel since we saw a big group of kids walking around but even so, it’s important to keep breakfast going until it is actually over. Hotel la Rosa de America is in a wonderful location if you need to be close to the airport since it is only 15 minutes away and close to the city. Rooms are extremely comfortable, there is free Wi-Fi throughout the property and it is intimate but you can still see and talk to other guests if you want to. To book a reservation, visit their website and Facebook. We were guests of Hotel la Rosa de America and all thoughts and opinions are our own.