If anyone ever told you that living abroad in Costa Rica, or anywhere for that matter would be a magical, fairy tale paradisaical experience, take it lightly. Yes, living in Costa Rica is awesome, especially being at the beach.
However, when moving abroad you have to come with an open mind and open heart and be willing to be tested and put in tough situations at times.
It’s not easy moving to a brand new place, even if you’re in the same country. Costa Rica is no exception – many people market and advertise it as “living in paradise,” which it IS but that doesn’t mean coconut drinks on the beach and infinity pools everyday.
Unlike much of the expat community here in Coco, I’m not old or retired and I have a more unique situation since I moved down here purely for love and Yeison is Costa Rican. At first, we had planned to live in San Isidro de Heredia but things changed and two weeks later we were at the beach. I didn’t think too much of what to expect or what it would be like to be honest, I was just so happy to finally be with Yeison!
I think no matter how much research you do and how prepared you think you are, there will always be things that surprise you when you’re finally there. Some are good, some are bad but that’s what the experience is all about!
5 Things that Surprised Me About Living in Costa Rica
*Click here to read our Costa Rica coronavirus post. What the situation is in the country and what it’s like living in Costa Rica during COVID-19*
Immersing in Spanish – Como Aprender Español?
I’ve had quite a few friends who studied abroad for 6 months or a year and came back completely fluent in the native language. I kind of expected the same when I moved here. I would be immersing myself which apparently is the best way to learn and it wouldn’t be long before I would be watching telenovelas and reading los periodicos every morning.
Didn’t quite happen that easily. Since Coco is such a touristic area, many of the Costa Ricans speak English. And they love to speak English to you once they know you do! Many times I’ll have to ask them, podemos hablar en Espanol? so that I can practice. Plus I don’t expect them to speak Ingles to me at all, I want to learn and practice!
Also this one is kind of my fault but since Yeison’s English is damn near as good as mine, it’s just easier for us to communicate in English than me stammering, sputtering and mumbling inaudible and unintelligible Spanish.
I found that I had to learn on my own – can’t count on other people to do it for me. I buckled down and did my research. I love to learn on my own so I looked up apps and software to help me learn Spanish. I discovered that watching Grey’s Anatomy in Spanish subtitles helps a lot. Derek te amo. Eligeme, escogeme, amame!
Kindness of Costa Ricans
In the States, if you are an immigrant or foreigner and you don’t speak English very well, people aren’t that nice. I’ve witnessed this with my own eyes and ears as some Americans have assumed I don’t speak English, mocked me right in my face and told me to go back to China, telling me I’m not a real American. (I was born in the US if anyone is curious).
So imagine my surprise when I first moved down and how incredibly nice people were when I did try to practice my Spanish with them. Nobody ever made fun of me, nobody ever told me to go back home. Instead they patiently listened, gently corrected my mistakes and when I said the few words I knew, you could tell they greatly appreciated the effort.
Another example of their kindness. If you’re ever in an emergency in Costa Rica, you might be surprised as how many people are willing to help you.
One of my friends and her husband were driving in the middle of the countryside. Their car broke down, they had no cell phone and it was getting dark. A truck full of teenage boys pulled up beside them and instead of taking advantage of their vulnerability, they helped them push their car to the next town and let them borrow their phone.
Stories like this are incredibly common here.
I’ve heard stories where a tourist fainted and a Costa Rican stayed with the couple to show the wife where the hospital was, 40 kilometers away. Yeison is the same way, he’ll help anybody who needs it. They do what seems to be above and beyond for us foreigners but really it’s just normal for them.
Not All Expats Are Alike
You would think that every expat: American, British, Italian, Russian, whoever, would have the same mindset when they moved here. We’re here to experience a new culture, find a new life for ourselves and open our eyes to the world. We want to live in a peaceful country, to escape the rat race and the gossip and to just live simpler and happier.
You ever heard the phrase “Some people never change?” It applies to people here too. We live in a small town and a small community where everybody knows each others business or they deliberately pry into each others personal life.
For some reason, some expats here still like to stir up drama. Some really are here to live a different life, some are here to live their same life just by the beach. I’m not really sure why or how they can expect things to be exactly the same as the States or Canada (or even Western Europe).
It’s Costa Rica, things are done differently here as it would be in any other country in the world. Costa Rica’s not a perfect country, there are definitely flaws but what system is perfect? None.
Why move here if all you will do is complain and why move to a country where you don’t even like the locals?
Costa Rica has a population of about 4.8 million people. Not a lot but it is a small country.
The second time I visited Costa Rica we went to Limon and Yeison pointed out many Chinese communities to me. In San Jose, we met lots of Taiwanese people which I was pretty surprised about.
To be honest, I never thought of Costa Rica being one of the more popular places for people to move to. But in reality, it is.
I learned that Costa Rica has always been a popular country for people to immigrate to, especially from Asia and the Caribbean islands due to the huge appeal of the ability to make a new life and good money in the city.
Costa Rica is a large melting pot. You can find people from all over the world – heck Yeison is half Korean half Costa Rican! We’ve met many half Costa Ricans half Italians, half Costa Rican half Russian, half Costa Ricans half Chinese. Just all sorts of diverse people.
And if you’re born in Costa Rica, you’re a Tico or Tica. That’s it. Doesn’t matter where your parents were born, if you have an accent or if you speak a second language.
Subtle Culture Shock
It probably helped that I visited quite a few times before I moved here so I had an idea of what things were like. Living at the beach helped a lot too for sure. You always had a great central place to go to meet people, always had somewhere to go and something to do.
Besides the language, the rest of the culture shock was not as intense as I thought it would be. This time, I already had amazing support and experience which was more than anything I could ever ask for!
There’s always ups and downs to living abroad but I’m loving it everyday. I suggest everybody to go international for a little bit! It doesn’t have to be for a long period of time but just to experience something completely new and see the world in a different light.
If you enjoyed this post you might like my other living in Costa Rica stories!
Things I had to get used to living in Costa Rica
What I wish I knew before moving to Costa Rica
Sammi & Yeison, thank you so much for such a great forum! I am looking to retire outside of the US, and have been traveling a lot to scout out different places. I was in Tamarindo for a week last month and fell in love with the town and especially the people. Honestly the nicest people I have met in my travels anywhere. I am single and could probably live in CR comfortably on my retirement, as I am looking for a much simpler, and less commercial way of life. You mentioned you didn’t have any pets, but I was wondering do you know what the veterinary availability and quality of services is like in the Guanacaste area? I currently have 3 small dogs and a cat (not sure if I will have that many by the time I’m actually ready to make the move, as a couple of them are seniors), and their care is very important to me. I’m also looking at renting first, so do you know anything about the restrictions of renting with pets? Thanks so much!
Hi Sandy, we actually just rescued a dog this year so now we do have a pet and we live outside of Tamarindo. There are a bunch of veterinary clinics in the Tamarindo area and the quality is pretty good, the dog we rescued was very sick and he got good care from our vet and she also helped us get his papers to go to the US. Foreigners like to go to Dr. Cavallini because he speaks English but if you speak Spanish, there are a few in Villarreal that are good as well.
Hi Susan, I recommend checking out Grecia. That is the most popular “expat” town in Costa Rica. It is said to have the best weather because it’s 70 and mid 80’s all year long.
Susan Mix says
Greetings. Thank you for your great blog! We are 2 young retirees looking to move to CR. I am fluent in Spanish and English. We visit about 5-6 times/year. We have been to all areas of the country and love them all. We love the people, the food, the wildlife and the whole Pura Vida experience.
We are seriously considering moving there. We are looking for an area that is full of birds and wildlife, from monkeys to motmots, with an average temperature of 75-82 or so, not very crowded, but not terribly far from a good hospital, safe, and friendly. We don’t require an ocean beach. Of course it’s nice, though. We really don’t like wind. Any thoughts? I would like to subscribe to your blog or follow you. Thank you so much!!!
Pura Vida Forever,
I’ve been to CR a couple and loved what I saw of it…considering a move but have not found much written on which coast is better: Carribean or Pacific …do you have any comments.
There are more places to live on the Pacific coast, on the Caribbean coast the only town for living is Puerto Viejo. It really depends on what you’re looking for since they are all different but there are definitely way more places on the Pacific coast. You have places from the very north near Nicaragua all the way down to the Osa Peninsula.
My family and I moved to CR 3 months ago from Florida, we live in Desamparados which 30 minutes from San Jose. Our biggest challenge has been income. We have no work permits so we can’t work and no matter where you go they ask for cedula. I’ve had trouble enrolling my kids into school since they don’t know any Spanish they recommend paying for a English private school which we can’t afford. Our goal is to move closer to the beach but without income that’s not going to happen. We feel stuck.
Does anyone know of online job that we can work from home? Any suggestions of what we can do?
We are sorry for your situation but unfortunately the immigration laws are very similar in all the countries, we will suggest you to try to go the immigration and look for a way to get at list a temporary residence I know there are some ways to get it. Living at the beach is more expensive than in San Jose there are thousands of USA immigrants living in cost, most of them are retired or entrepreneurs I would recommend you to try to join some USA immigrant groups they are super nice and friendly and some of them have been in your situation.
From what I have gathered through research, work permits are very hard to get unless your talent is very rare and no Costa Rican can do the job. This prevents expats moving there and putting the locals out of work, which is a good thing. Your best option would be to find a job you can perform online. Do a search for online jobs and see what you find. I cannot give you specifics because you did not say where your talents lie. Good luck.
After reading and enjoying this blog I began to read the comments ppl are making here. If CR is going to soon be filled with these personalities, I’ll gladly stay right here in the beautiful U.S.A. Maybe and hopefully they take their marching & rioting w/ them. It seems that these Americans are offended in the U.S. & don’t even realize that they are the ppl cramming & ramming their views down the throats of “normal ppl” YES, I SAID “NORMAL”, we know who we are. We never gave their way of life any thought until they “MADE” us. Please go to CR, I no longer have the desire to live there.
Hi Ally, everyone has different experiences living abroad but I always tell people it is what you make of it 🙂 There are good and bad things to every place in the world and this is why I always advise people who want to move to CR to stay down here for at least 3-6 months first before moving as visiting and living are two very different things. Sure CR isn’t perfect but no country is, it is what you make of it and what I love about living in CR is not the foreigners who move here either – it is the Ticos 🙂
if you are an immigrant or foreigner and you don’t speak English very well, people aren’t that nice.
Cathy Steen says
The beginning of your venture spoke about how kind and caring everyone was when you tried speaking Spanish. Then not so kind in the states when situation was reversed. It may be because thousands and thousands of English speaking people have not yet overrun them and taken their jobs. It may happen if too many Ex-pats happen to head that way..
True – because of all the North American foreigners in CR it has become greatly Westernized and the locals have come to expect foreigners not to try to speak their language despite living there for many years (which is the situation for lots of retirees to be honest in CR).
You can drink the tap water in most places in Costa Rica – I wrote a post about it here: Costa Rica tap water safe to drink.
I’d definitely visit several times again before moving down, a lot of people make the mistake of only visiting Costa Rica on vacation thinking they want to live there and find out it’s VERY different vacationing and living. I visited many times before moving down (and making sure that I wanted to be with Yeison ha ha). Work visas are nearly impossible to get for foreigners (they only give them to foreigners who are filling a job a Costa Rican can’t do which is pretty much nothing) and finding a place to live is pretty easy, you can find lots of Facebook groups that are for rentals and real estate (for example Tamarindo rentals and real estate, Puerto Viejo rentals, you can look up San JOse and I’m sure there is one).
Hi Sammi – great article. I visited CR for the first time in Feb, and I met someone down there and recently went back to visit for a few days. I’m tossing the idea of a potential move to San Jose at some point in the future – one year? Two years? Not too sure, but I wanted to see if you knew much about work visas, job searching for someone who (currently) only speaks English, difficulty on finding an apartment or a condo to purchase, etc. Any info would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!!!
Hi Jamie, you can read this post about the healthcare system in COsta Rica: Seeing a doctor in Costa Rica as a foreigner.
If you are retired, many retirees apply for a retiree residency in Costa Rica which allows them access to the healthcare (this is why there are so many retirees in Costa Rica, they move down to take advantage of the healthcare system in CR since the USA is too expensive and Canada takes too long). There are many private clinics and hospitals or you can go public
Jamie Rush says
My husband and i are thinking of an adventure now that we are closing in on retirement. I, however, am worried about the medical part of living out of the US. I am diabetic and worry about getting the meds and the medical care I need. I know that Medicare would not be possible so how does it work?
I’d look at the small towns around the Central Valley like Zarcero (not too touristy, not an expat haven), Sarchi or Poasito. These are pretty local towns, not super touristic or have a lot of expats. Most expats who choose to live in a town instead of on the coast like Grecia or San Ramon. If you go up to the mountains of San Ramon like Concepcion, it’s not too expat-y and not touristy at all and it’s a very beautiful area.
We also lived in San Isidro de Heredia for a period of time, it’s in the city so you’re close to all the traffic but it’s in a beautiful area up in the mountains, only Ticos for the most part.
Just discovered your blog, and I really appreciate what seems to be a realistic and balanced view. My husband and I are traveling to CR with our infant son in a couple of months, and are hoping to move there in the next 5 years. Can you recommend towns semi-close (an hour or so) to the beach that are not expat havens? We would like to find a safe, affordable, and less touristy/ ex-pat place to live.
Thank You, VERY MUCH for a very well written article that paints a pretty but semi-realistic picture of life there.
I know I’m leaving the US, not sure when but I’m getting out of here. As a mature black man in America I’ve had enough and I’m looking for a place where Dr. Kings words are alive.
Can you share some of the town sides AND is there a difference in the Spanish dialect therected compared to the US?
Hi Dallas, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The Spanish here is Costa Rican Spanish, so the accent is completely different to the Spanish they teach in the US as well as the words they use.
As a semi-mature white male I’m looking for the same place getting out of America.thanks for the blog ,how is the drinking water?
Hi Sammi. Have you met LGBTQ expats in Costa Rica? Do they feel safe and comfortable there (maybe even more so than they do in the US)?
Hi Ariyah! I have met a few, generally Costa Rica is pretty open especially in the beach towns and touristic areas. The majority of Costa Ricans are very Catholic but LGBTQ awareness is growing considerably in Costa Rica and there even been gay pride marches and parades. The ones we have met haven’t mentioned anything negative.
Hi Ariyah, with time ticos are becoming more and more accepting of the LGBTQ population. As a gay man who lives with his partner I can say you won’t have any problems moving to Costa Rica. We can’t marry but we are gaining more and more rights. You don’t need to live only surrounded by gay people either. We are the only gay couple in a closed community and nobody has a problem with our sexuality. Most of our friends are heterosexual Costarricense too. And most of our gay friends mingle in mixed groups.
Public signs of affection are not common even though younger generations don’t care and hold hands and kiss in public.
Gay Pride is celebrated every year and is a big event, last time over 20000 people marched.
I hope this is useful to you.
Thanks for the input Gus! Great to hear your personal experience.
lachelle barnard says
Appreciated this space to see a few comments and loved the immediate responses to the posted comments!
For some strange and bizarre reason, I feel I am moving to Costa Rica!
I will continue to research but in the meantime, I am looking to book a trip there for the summer for about 2 weeks and take things from there.
Good luck with your trip and hope everything works out! 🙂
Terence Walker says
This is a wonderfully insightful and helpful post. I totally concur with many of your views and observations. Especially how different American cultural ideals are as opposed to other cultures. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many other countries around the world, and we Americans certainly leave bad impression many times. I’ve never quite understood why since we say American is the ultimate melting pot. If this is true then we should be the shining light of acceptance and tolerance, not the divisive and arrogant bigots we often see today.
I was born and raised in Detroit. My family heritage is black, white, native american, with asian, Arabic and Hispanics in good numbers by marriage and blood. Never a truer example of acceptance and diversity in one family. It sure makes for interesting family reunions. My wife is from the Philippines and of course the kids were raised in both Filipino and black cultures. Lately we’ve been considering leaving the states and migrating to the Philippines. More so for future retirement and a restructuring of life. I’ve just become too disenfranchised from the so called American dream.
My family and I have also been looking at Costa Rica and Belize and possible alternativeso to PI. Due to the proximity of both to the US, as well as more secure political, economic and cultural environment, these seem to be better choices. You are correct, no one place is perfect. It is up to each individual to decide their specific priorities and allow oneself to be open to change and differences which will surely come. But that’s all part of the cultural education and enjoyment of living in another culture. Yes it sounds romantic, yet many thousands are successful daily around the world when keeping an open mind.
Your post here just helps reinforce what I’ve already learned. It’s a never ending process but listening and getting advice from mutiple reliable sources does help reduce anxiety and reduce potential problems before making a life altering change. You can best bet I’ll email keeping a sharp eye on more of your posts. Thanks for the help and keep up the good work.
I am studying Spanish and will be in Costa Rica this summer. Do you have advice for how to get people to let me practice Spanish with them, beyond greetings?
When you first meet them, tell them “Estoy aprendiendo espanol, podemos hablar solo en espanol por favor?” and they’ll get it. Once I told locals I was learning Spanish, they automatically stopped speaking English and were delighted to speak Spanish to me.
Hi, I am French and moved to the USA 23 years ago. I can tell you from my experience that I am sooooo ready to move out! Costa Rica is on top of my list for sure and even more so after reading your post Sammi. I can totally relate to the unfortunate experiences you had with some people saying such thing as “go back to your f’ing country”. It has been said to me many times even in my workplace. You name it, I have been called, french fry, toast, frog, and the list goes on. Fortunately, not all people are like that.
I have been fortunate to travel to many places, but never did to Costa Rica. I consider myself fluent in Spanish which helps when travelling, although I look more like a gringo haha.
I look forward to exploring Costa Rica and meeting with locals.
Thank you for sharing your experience.
Hi Dominique! I’m very sorry to hear about people calling you names and things like that – the US still has a long way to go in terms of that despite how diverse it is! It really depends on which area in the US but there are always the bad seeds out there.
Hopefully you make it to Costa Rica soon 🙂 It’ll actually be a lot easier for you since you “look like a gringo” (it’s hard for me as an Asian here) but we have met a TON of French people here so you won’t be alone!
Oksana | Drink Tea & Travel says
I moved to Costa Rica about a month and a half ago with my new husband, Max, (we actually got married here on New Years Eve) and I can 100% relate to this, especially #1. Max speaks fluent Spanish (he grew up here), but English is still his first language, so, of course, we speak English to each other, and a lot of our friends here (we are in Avellanas) are also expats with really good English. 1.5 months in, I am struggling to practice… maybe I too should start watching Greys Anatomy in Spanish. Love the idea!
First, congratulations on your marriage!! Second where are you living in Costa Rica? Would love to meet up! Always keen to meet other bloggers 🙂 But yes, it’s so difficult sometimes because the locals really want to practice their English, especially in touristic areas so it’s easy to slip into speaking English a lot more. I made myself go out and find locals who didn’t know English to practice and that helped soo much. Definitely try watching English TV shows with Spanish subtitles, I learned a lot from it!
Hi Diane, if you’re looking for somewhere close to surf for your son, I’d suggest either the Nosara area or Tamarindo. Nosara has a huge expat community (the first in CR) and has some good surfing beaches like Guiones. However it is a bit more “rural” and not close to a city or major airport so it’s a bit “out there.” This type of expat community is one that is very into the organic, vegan/vegetarian, surf/yoga lifestyle and has many retired expats. There are still many foreigners there who are younger but mostly looking for the surf/yoga culture.
Tamarindo is a big surfing beach town that has a fairly large expat community. Many tourists who go there are young backpackers (and I notice a lot from Europe). It has more of a party atmosphere than Nosara because it is more developed and has more tourists that aren’t into the same type of lifestyle as Nosara. We have an article on Tamarindo here: Playa Tamarindo
We are close to retirement, and blessed with an almost 18 year old son. We are currently in Texas (land of guns – ugh), but wondering about relocating to Costa Rica this summer after our son graduates from High School. Our dream situation would be to find a nice location where our son could take a “gap” year between high school and college, and maybe learn to surf, before starting college (hopefully in C.R.!).
My question is….are there safe communities with plenty of 18 year olds, expats and locals? If it was just us, we could settle into an expat retirement location, but we are looking for an area where he can make friends his age too. None of us speak spanish yet, but are starting on Duolingo.
Thank you! Hubby and I, our dream is to move to C.R. and retire there. But, we need to make sure C.R. will be a good fit for our son too.
I am not quite sure if by this moment you are fluent in spanish, let me say just one thing: Thank you! We Costa Ricans really appreciate when a foreign try to speak costa rican spanish, which is not the same spanish from spain or mexico. If you end up talking using mae, vos or usted, you will be more than set, keep it up and welcome to the heart of the americas!
Hi Daniel! I am ashamed to say I am not completely fluent in Spanish but hey it’s my third language and I do pretty well, I can understand majority of words. I need to practice the tenses and grammar since that is the hardest part for me. But I always try to speak Spanish to the locals and it’s usually pretty funny because if they speak English, we end up doing a Spanish English mix which actually helps me learn. I don’t say “mae” though, Yeison told me that he doesn’t like to hear girls use “mae” so I refrain hehe. But I do use many other slang words he has taught me 😉 Muchisimas gracias!
Great article! My husband is originally from San Ramon and we have recently been considering moving closer to his family’s farm. (Although I think I want to be closer to the beach…. financially it is a no-brainer to build on the family farm in San Ramon) We have been there many times but I am scared of actually moving from the US. However I think it would be a great adventure for our family and great for the kids to learn about their father’s culture. I know that there are plenty of retired expats all over CR however are there many younger families? We are in our early 30’s with small children. Do you know of an expat group in San Ramon or surrounding cities?
Hi Eva! I know there is a small expat community near Concepcion and there is a very big one in Grecia, actually most of the Central Valley expats I know are in Grecia so you’ll find plenty there with several families. You can join Expats in Costa Rica FB groups to connect with others but yes, there are a lot of retired expats here! I was definitely nervous when I first moved here especially since I’d barely been outside the US so it took awhile for me to get used to living there but it was a great learning experience. I think it’d be wonderful for your children to learn about their father’s country and culture! If anything I bet they will love the adventure and nature here 🙂
I have just returned from my second trip to Costa Rica in 4 months and I’m in love ! I was in Coco both times, I can’t believe you live there. Instead of making this post too long I’ll cut right to the chase, I would like to move there within a year. I have a car lease up in less then a year and that is the time frame I’m giving myself to get my stuff together and leave . Now, obviously my major question would be what do I do for work ? I have read many posts that said it would be near impossible to find a job unless hired illegally. I do have an MBA with experience in my field but I am only 24. I have a good job now that sadly I could totally do with just a laptop and wifi but my job would never go for it.Do you think trying to find a job that lets me work from home would be my best bet?
Hi Bailey! Yep we lived there for two years and we are back again this year. As for work, most foreigners who move to Costa Rica work online as they don’t need to worry about work visas or working illegally and you can make more since the average salary here is much lower than North America with long hours. If you aren’t fluent in Spanish, your options are very limited if you want to have a corporate job or something like that plus it’s damn hard to get a work visa for it – you have to show that you can fulfill a position a Costa Rican cannot. Therefore many foreigners work online or open their own business and in Coco, you can work illegally at a restaurant or bar or something but the pay to be honest, sucks. If you can find a job online, that’d be better.
Daylana Vargas says
Hola!, de verdad que me encantó la publicación y saber que le gustó mi país y como somos acá me alegra mucho. Espero que disfrute todo lo que Costa Rica tiene para ofrecer al mundo.
Saludos y Pura vida 😀
Pura vida Daylana! Si Costa Rica es un chuzo 🙂
Hi Rony! Costa Rica is quite different throughout the country so it really depends on what you’re looking for. I know many families at both the beach and the mountains and that is largely because of weather. Some people like the heat from the beach, some people prefer a cooler climate. Some of the most popular places for expat families in CR are Playas del Coco (beach in Guanacaste), Grecia (mountains in Alajuela), Escazu (near San Jose). The beach areas are definitely more touristic and is a bit harder to blend in with local culture – the small towns in the Central Valley are best for this such as Grecia and San Ramon.
I have been looking at moving to Costa Rica along with my wife and 4 young kids. Looking for a slower pace of life. All we do right now is work, work, work, we don’t want to raise our kids in such an unenjoyable environment. We are looking to move somewhere where we can blend in with the Ticos and learn their culture. We currently own a pizzeria and I think of doing something that has to do with restaurants there. Any recommendations/ suggestions on what part of Costa Rica I should investigate more.
Having the opportunity to speak Spanish every day, and Sesame Street Spanish at that, I discovered I knew more than I thought. Will continue with Duolingo and some conversational Spanish CDs to listen to and repeat. So many folks in Coco speak English, and the locals seemed to appreciate your effort to communicate in Spanish even if they habla ingles.
Thank you so much for your post. As an American thinking of moving to Costa Rica, it is nice to know you are adjusting well there. Now to learn of some of the pitfalls. I don’t know Spanish at all and plan on learning as I go. Me fear has somewhat abated knowing the locals are patient. Off to continue my research.
Hi Robin! I highly suggest learning some Spanish before you come. It’s quite intimidating at first to be in a country where you don’t know a single word and knowing even just the basics helps so much. Locals are quite nice here if you tell them “estoy aprendiendo espanol” and they’re very patient when you practice with them. I planned on learning as I went and I really regret not starting before I left! Just my two cents 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!
My friend and I are talking about possible moving out of the US to another country. Although, I do have an 8 year old daugher. Both her and I speak spanish fairly well. My friend does not but teaching her I’m sure wouldn’t be that hard. What I am worried about is Work…I am a nurse here and she is in the social work field…I know neither of us would have to have these exact jobs but how hard is it to find a job in Costa Rica? We would come with savings but as we all know that doesn’t last long. How is the schooling in Costa Rica? I could always supplement my daughters education at home.
Curiosity killing this cat,
It’s actually quite hard for a foreigner to find a job in Costa Rica unless it is waitressing or something like that in a touristic town and that doesn’t pay very much. If you want a “real” job that pays more, I really suggest doing it the legal way and getting a work visa. Public schools are all free in Costa Rica and there are private ones, which can run a few hundred a month depending on location and the grade. Most foreigners who work in Costa Rica have started their own business or work online to support themselves and the good job opportunities are in San Jose. The salaries in Costa Rica are also much less than the US so don’t expect to be making the same amount. It’s something many foreigners don’t know before they go and they don’t realize the reality of actually working in Costa Rica.
As a Brit who has been an expat for 30 years now I can definitely relate.Now in China things are very different as we are a rarity here and get gawped at snd there is much less diversity here. But it’s still an smazing ride.considering my next move now maybe Costa Rica?Thanks for the info!
I can relate since being Asian I’m a rarity in Guanacaste and I get stared at and pointed out a lot. It’s an interesting experience I must say from being one of thousands to now one of two! Haha Costa Rica is always an option 😀
Great post! I’ve lived and studied and traveled abroad a lot, but I’ve never really been in any one place long enough to consider myself an expat. It’s interest to see how the experience changes if you’re living in a place long term. As for the Spanish….keep it up! And make Yeison speak Spanish with you!
Thanks! Yeah it’s definitely quite an experience and eye opener once you stay in one place for awhile and see how it’s really like. haha I’ll try. Lo intentaré!
Stacey Sandlin says
Hi Stacey stopping by from Baskets Life! Love this blog ! I’m an expat to ~ purely for love as well! Our first stop Lithuania whew culture shock! So funny my husband is the same his English is so good that I’ve still never learned Lithuanian! Shame on me! Love your stories! Good to know there are other expats out there like me!
haha love that we can relate! I’m glad to find your blog through #sundaytraveler, I’m looking forward to reading your expat journeys in Lithuania! And goodness, Lithuaian sounds difficult anyways! Always fun to learn a few words though I bet 🙂
Loved this post, so interesting! I am lucky, I might be English and my language ability is not that amazing (although I do try, it’s ignorant not too, and I do have lessons!) but my English husband is amazing at languages, he can speak several and that makes things sooo much easier! 😀 Costa Rica sounds amazing, would love to visit one day!
Thanks Emma! haha it’s always great to have a multi lingual partner, makes traveling a bit easier. Hope you get to visit sometime it is amazing 🙂
Anastasia Sofia says
In England too, I find people can be particularly unforgiving of visitor who don’t speak much English, which is kinda shit – wanting to learn is a fabulous thing! I’m also learning spanish now and hoping to get over to Central America maybe this summer to really knuckle down at it. I will also be begging everyone to speak Spanish, and only spanish with me!
I completely agree Anastasia! Yes English is the universal travel language but there’s nothing wrong with learning another one, even just a few words here and there. I am sure once you are here you’ll be hablando en español in no time 🙂
I love the honest look at living an expat life. Could apply anywhere, I bet, but gives a great inside look at the workings of life there.
Thanks Erin! Definitely people think moving abroad is like a fantasy almost and then they get hit with harsh reality. It’s work no matter where you go, not a vacation!
Mrs. Chasing the Donkey says
So much of this is just for ‘expats’ no matter where you move. You have an advantage that you visited quite a few times before I moving. I have heard so many horror stories from people, who hated where they moved – because they did not do their homework. Great read.
Yes I know so many people who came to Costa Rica for a 1 week vacation and then moved here, not knowing that it’s not just life at the beach and easy peasy. They get a HUGE surprise when they find out how things really work here and then leave in less than 3 months. Do your homework people!
I truly enjoyned reading your post. There is nothing I could disagree about your experience. We know there is not such “perfect” place to live because we are not made perfect at all. Live simpler, happier, in our means with a positive and hard working mentality will take us anywhere.
Personally I married a US citizen and I became US citizen as well. We are seriously planning our move to Costa Rica. I really don’t care about the next updated Iphone. I just want better quality life in general!
Thank you! That’s exactly what we want in life, not the best or most expensive thing but just a happy simple life appreciating what we have. Come back to CR! 😀 They have the next iphone here too loL!
Travelling Book Junkie says
I have never visited Costa Rica but it has always been on my extensive ‘must visit’ locations and after reading this post I think it has moved up considerably. I love visiting countries where they are so accepting of others regardless of where you are from or what you do.
Living in the UK people still have many preconceived ideas about people and I hate it when I hear things like “you are in England now so speak English” and yet when the English travel abroad they believe it is their right to continue to speak English and not even try because “everyone speaking English nowadays!”.
I would love to learn a different language and dapple wherever we go. So I can now have a broken, very broken, conversation in French, German or Italian but I still can’t seem to grasp languages that well. I even went to night school to learn Italian and didn’t get past the first term – my husband had said that if I could learn the language we could move to Italy, which is my dream – however, we are still in England because of my poor language skills 🙂
Great post thanks for sharing!
Oh I know! I always make it a point to not be that ignorant gringo who is like “WHY DON”T YOU SPEAK ENGLISH” and make a fool of themselves. It just makes me slap my forehead and not want to be associated with them. I’m not 100% fluent in Spanish but I always try to make an effort.
I’m friends with some italians and picked up some words! Well mostly bad words but hey 😛 It’s a beautiful language! I’m sure you can learn it, just keep trying. Think of some delicious pizzas and pastas as the reward hehe
Chaitanya Shah says
Great article. I can totally relate to some of the things you said! 🙂
What a great post, I love your comments about expats. I find many expats interesting they love being in another country yet want it to be the same as America, England,Australia etc and don’t seem to get the reason they went there in the first place was to experience something different. As I always say the gossips at high school are the same people whatever their age and wherever they live 🙂
haha I said that exact same thing! I feel like I’m in high school but I am the young one here! It’s so interesting and just makes you really scratch your head and wonder, why are you here then? Guess we just have a different mindset of those who actually want to experience a new culture and something new versus those who just want to brag and retire in a tropical area.
Nice post, Sammy! I find the language barrier the hardest thing to deal with. When i moved to Croatia, considering that I already speak three languages, I was pretty sure to learn Croatian quickly. It turned out that Croatian has nothing to do with the rest of the languages I speak. Thus, still not able to speak it. *embarrassed* about it.
Thanks Frank! Ugh me too, I kind of came with the mindset that since I’m already speaking two languages the third would be easier to pick up. Nooot exactly haha. I think language learning is always different from everyone though and it truly depends on the person. Me, I am a tad lazy so I don’t practice as much as I should. Hey at least we are both trying! 🙂
I can definitely relate to the first one about language. Becoming fluent doesn’t just happen like magic and six months might be all it takes for a kid to become more or less fluent but if you’re over 18 and have a significant other who speaks English really well, it’s not that easy. So totally feel for you on that one!!
Never been to Costa Rica but I’m enjoying reading about it!
Definitely! I wish it was easier but even full immersion takes a long time unless you’re a kid. I’ve met a Costa Rican/American couple where they only speak Spanish to each other because the Costa Rican’s English wasn’t very good so the husband had to pick up Spanish and is 100% fluent. It’s definitely much much harder than it looks. I’m glad you can relate Diane! I bet your French is going great though 🙂 Merci!
Sharon @ Where's Sharon? says
It sounds like it has been a relatively easy adjustment then?
The Spanish thing I can relate to. I have spent a lot of time in Central America trying to learn Spanish and thought it would be so much easier than it is! I will get there one day though!!
It was in some aspects. Other aspects no haha. I’m determined to be at that point as well, I’ve been getting lazy but I’m close!
A Southern Gypsy says
Great post Samantha! I don’t have this experience myself…yet. I hope to one day and be able to write about it as well. I think it’s great that the locals are so kind and eager to speak English (even though you want to practice your Spanish) 🙂
Thanks Ashley! Don’t worry you will soon embark on these experiences yourself whether you’re just visiting or living. 🙂
Constance - Foreign Sanctuary says
Great post, Samantha! Great minds must think alike because I am in the process of writing a post a little similar to this as well about being an expat in Taiwan!
My expat experiences have been a little like yours as well! The locals are amazing and super helpful! And it took me awhile to conquer the language (but I don’t know if I will ever consider myself fully fluent). I tried learning from my husband and I tried practicing with the locals but I ended up going to school for a year to learn the basics of Chinese such as tones. It was then easier for me to increase my vocabulary and practice communication. With that being said, my husband and I have always communicated in English and his English was always good but now it is great!
Hey that’s great you are learning Mandarin though! So many expats here don’t even bother to learn Spanish which is in all fairness, difficult but so many words are similar in English but they don’t even know how to say good morning after living here for 10 years. Mandarin is HARD so kudos to you for learning it! I don’t think I would be able to if I didn’t grow up speaking it haha. I think it’s a mental thing as well – Yeison and I met speaking English so it’s all that’s in my mind and hard to get out of that habit!
Raphael Alexander Zoren says
Latin People in general are extremely friendly towards foreigners, although it is always a few bad seeds out there the ones who are giving us the reputation of being from “dangerous and not safe” countries. Glad you’re having a nice time in Costa Rica! 🙂
True! But majority I’ve met are wonderful. There are always bad seeds out there wherever you go in the world. Just gotta ignore those ones 🙂
A Brit and A Southerner says
This is really a great post that I can specifically relate to being an expat of England and moving to USA 7 years ago. I think I was fortunate in the respect that I came from a developed country, one that is English speaking and probably one of the closest related to USA! However, you make a great point about the American culture sometimes finding it difficult to accept or maybe tolerate foreigners, especially those speak a different language. Rather than immersing yourself in the cultural diversity that this creates, many oppose this which is fair enough but I think it’s demeaning for the country as a whole.
I enjoyed this post a lot, keep up the great work!
Thanks Chris! Even a change where the native language is the same can be huge in terms of culture. Even English itself there are different words and saying for each country. I agree, it is demeaning and the States was built on immigration. Everybody there has roots back to another country (unless you’re Native American/Indian) so it seems ridiculous that they are not as accepting.
Hi Samy, this is a fantastic text. And it seems, there is a gift of a totaly funny humor. Can we us your text and translate it to our german friends?
Hello Andres, sure you can 🙂
The states are very accepting. Have no clue what you are referring to. Maybe you’re just too sensitive. The US takes in more immigrants than any other country in the world. And, not every non-indigenous person is an immigrant to this country. The country was built in 1776. So, if you have ancestors that were settlers prior to this time, they are not an immigrant to the US. Because they existed in this country prior to the existence of this nation just like the Indians.
Yes the states are accepting, in most areas. But I don’t think I’m being too sensitive when someones mocks me to my face about who I am and tells me to “go back home” because I am Asian even though I grew up in the US. That doesn’t sound very accepting but that is just my own opinion. Would you call that being sensitive or … perhaps something else? The US is built on immigration, you can’t deny that. That’s why it’s called a “melting pot.”
This was a good article. Do you have any resources for people who are looking to move to CR?
To Juan, the US was built on immigration but to the sense of taking advantage of those who immigrated to the country. The Africans were taken as slaves, the Chinese were brought in to build railroads, the Mexicans were “allowed” to stay to tend to farms and become migrant workers and on and on with stories all the same for every single immigrant group that came to the US. The draw for immigrants however is the promise of a better life for their families, only to be treated marginally. The US has long history of oppression, hate, conspiracy all under the guise of democracy and a better life when in reality it is the continued pursuit of those in power for the mighty dollar. Let’s not get things twisted, this is a country that was taken from Native Americans, who they themselves were treated atrociously and was practically wiped out.
Hi Jennifer, thanks for reading! There are some good resources on the Internet, International Living is a good one and if you do a quick Google search you’ll find a ton of websites for foreigners looking to relocate to CR.
Thank you, very interesting. What about medicine cost?
Medications are cheaper than the US or Canada and for most of them you do not need a prescription you can visit Farmacia Fishel website to get an exact idea of much each medication cost here.
In fact Fishel is one of the most expensive places for meds, try Farmacia La Bomba there are several of them in San Jose. They really have the best deals !!!
That’s true, unfortunately they are only in San Jose.
Debbie Kane says
Farmacy Fischel is VERY expensive I recommend “LA Bomba in San Pedro San Jose it has GREAT discounted meds and high quality . OOPS I see someone ealse just said it LOL I second it then :)..
I’ll have to go check it out next time we go on a San Jose run! I wish they had some in Guanacaste