Yikes! Costa Rica! What have I done?

OK,  so now that I got your attention. 🙂 Recently I have been discouraged by people talking smack about Costa Rica and decided to ask a question and see how it gets answered. I went on Facebook and posted the following message on a couple expat groups I belong to.

“So here is a question for those who have lived in Costa Rica for more than 12 months. Would you do it all over again? If you would what is the 1 thing you would do differently. If you wouldn’t why wouldn’t you do it again? I will use some of the responses in a blog I am writing. I will give your Facebook name as credit or let me know you don’t want me to use your name and I will just do anonymous.”

So before I give you their responses and there were a lot of them, I should give you my response.

Yes I would do it all over again. I guess the one thing I would have done differently is came here sooner. I could have moved here many years ago and I didn’t. If I had I could have tried to make some opportunities for some family and friends to have join me here if they wanted to. Do I miss my family and friends? Yes with all my heart. We Facebook and Skype to keep in touch and up to date. We do however go back 2x a year and see everyone and some have come to visit us here. So it does work out. Is it hard? Very much so, but for me it was a great decision as my health has improved 100%. I may blog about those changes later.

Now I did hand pick them only because so many of them actually said the same thing. Not that I was surprised by that, but no need to have 100 posts saying the same thing. So here are the responses in no particular order. Great advise if you are thinking of moving here.

  • Rick Vollman I would do it all over again. I am extremely humbled and never have to worry again about what I have and I don’t have. Washing dishes by hand, filling up ice trays. I don’t miss a thing from the states.
  • Sara Pompey Ford I would do it all again without the slightest hesitation. If I was going to do anything differently, it would be to have brought more friends and family with me.
  • Nel Cameron I would do it again in a heartbeat. Differently? I would have brought more stuff in my container. We had loads of room but just no time to think it through.
  • Steve Johnson Would do it again, but would not live near my totally useless in-laws!!!!!!!!!!
  • Cathy Glasner We moved 13 months ago and would do it again!! What would we do differently?? Would not have shipped a car, would have bought one in CR!
  •  Sarah Starkey I would have imported a good 4WD car, with a known maintenance / ownership history, from the US instead of renting from overpriced CR rental agencies for months, renting a REALLY crap car from a private party for several months and finally, buying a REALLY REALLY crap car from a “trusted friend” who, it turns out, would probably sell his own mother if there were money involved. In the end, I would have saved thousands of $$ and the headaches of paperwork, etc. would have been worth it.
  • Dianne Hill Fischer Would do it again. I Would work harder on learning Spanish before I came. Would make things a lot more enjoyable.
  • Lori Sanders Been here almost a year. I would have come sooner too! I wanted to make sure it was a go so I only recently went back and shipped some things I knew I could either not get here or would be outrageously expensive here. Hindsight is 20/20 but I wish I would have shipped my stuff sooner. . And I don’t even regret the one and only tattoo that I have. I got it here. A Golden Orb spider and the words Pura Vida!!
  • Steve Johnson Many people advised us to sell everything before we came. Our antiques, our memorabilia, our family heirlooms???????? We shipped EVERYTHING, and are very happy with that decision.
  • Sarah Carling I would have kept my life more minimal so we could pack up and move easily round the country rather than settling in San Jose. We realized after we had our baby here that we had recreated our old lives rather than seeking out new ones.
  • Jon Graham I would have rented longer to experience life in different parts of the country.
  • Chris Poindexter Yes, I’d do it all over again. Differently? I’d have brought our leather couches.
  • Wendy Tayler 23+ years… had my residency in the works before moving down. Yes. Would do again. Raised 5 children here. What I would have done differently? Not married the tico I married…. glad he is gone.. glad I stayed after.
  • Peggy Stewart Absolutely would do it again. The only things we would do differently are to sell our house in Canada BEFORE moving here & to take some sort of instruction in Spanish BEFORE moving.
  • Ann Duff-Ealy Lyons I’ve been here 20 years and made just about every mistake that is possible… still, I wouldn’t change anything because I learned a lot from every mistake and became much stronger for it… and besides that, I felt so much at home here from the very beginning and fell so much in love with this country, that I could never leave… it’s home, and I’m blessed to have 2 homes now… the one where I was born and the one where I chose to be.
  • Chitown Gal I’ve been here 14 months and I wish I would have enrolled my son in his current school right out of the gate. The primarily Tico private school he attended initially was a really bad experience for him as one of the only expats plus he is leaps and bounds ahead of where his Tico peers are academically. Now that we have found a good fit with his school, I could definitely see us here longer than initially planned.
  • Rachel Loughery Been here six years. What would I do differently? Brought a couple of extra bikinis!
  • Ross Lustman I’d have started studying Spanish sooner, and I’d have started shopping at the Feria sooner.
  • Nancy Van Patten Absolutely, I would do it again! One thing I would do differently, I would have brought more of our furniture; even tho’ the house was purchased with furniture, I still would prefer my “comfortable ” stuff now!
  • Pat Cheek Certainly do it again – have never looked back–but I wish I would have brought my tools! hammer, saw , screwdrivers. jut the usual stuff….can;t really think of a thing I miss other than my kids and Dad! oh yes and a few friends –all of which can visit whenever they wish and most have chosen not ..go figure???
  • John Wegner Just like we said in Texas: “I wasn’t born here but I got here as fast as I could.” I’ve been here 3 years and several years of vacations. Wife here for “a lotta years.” Took way too long to get here. Do something different? Nothing, really. Maybe have the guts to throw out a pile of “stuff” that we brought down in the sea container and will never use here.
  • Debbie Rudd I would definitely do it again. You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to leave. I brought two suitcases with me and basically still have only the essentials. I feel like I am actually getting to live a life here which is something I didn’t get to do in the US. I enjoy the people, the culture, the beauty of the country, and am very happy to have settled in Grecia.
  • Frank Gould Would I come to Costa Rica again? Yes. Definitely yes. But let me be the group’s curmudgeon for a moment. There are lots of Costa Rica’s in the world. Some with richer cultures and certainly better cuisines. A good example is Portugal. Slow paced country, friendly people, low crime (at least relative to the amount spent on police resources) and a tyrannical bureaucracy. However, in one way Portugal and a few other places are better–lower cost of of living.Costa Rica like some other countries have mismanaged their fiscal activities (introducing huge import fees and inflation) in an attempt to support a bloated bureaucracy and periodically to win elections by spending money on poorly thought out public works . A case in point is Guanacaste. Regarding the bureaucracy, on any given day, the people dining at sodas are over represented by gringoes and Costa Rican government workers and by not by the local population.

    What saves the governments of Costa Rica and Portugal from doing more harm to theirselves and their own people appears to be that those countries are simply not strategic in world affairs–forgotten places except as vacation destinations and (in the case of Costa Rica) as “mule” trails for drugs into the US.

    On balance, Costa Rica is a great place–certainly not for every expat. For those few, it is nice to be in a forgotten part of the world. Let me take a guess as to those people you know who find contentment here–adventurous souls who are not only tolerant of different cultures but embrace (with some occasional complaining) those differences.

So the following Facebook user made a good point:

Faye Witcher Yes, but Bunky, this audience is 100% of the people who stayed. Presumably there are a lot of people who tried it but left, and they wouldnt be on a forum like this.

The following was a follow up by another Facebook user:

Margaret Aliff The people I know who have left here mostly did so to be closer to their families…children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and some still spend part-time here. I do not think the cultural differences are for everyone and imagine many are not able to adjust. Too many who stay here still seem to expect ?

Faye and Margaret do have a point, but I did get this one in private and they don’t want their name released for fear of backlash from the expat community on the open forums and I don’t blame them. I’ve seen some of those expats online tear people up for talking bad about Costa Rica, but I have also seen them tear people down because they talk good about it. It viscous out there! Hater are going to hate and Lovers are gonna love. Just watch your back.

Anonymous  We live near Tamarindo, for context. 1)Too hot 2) Not much to do beyond beach and pool with three year olds (see number 1). 3) Not a good “value” (i.e. things are more expensive than they should be) 4) Shitty dealings with other expats (our landlord and his property manager are both unprofessional, cheap, know-it-all turds) 6) Dangerous drivers 7) Poor air quality. Smells like a campfire all dry season, but especially now, which is really, really bad for your lungs. 8) Expats that blindly lash other expats for complaining. Sometimes there is a better way. I will judge (silently). It is not ok to ride your bike on the side of the 55 mph road with your 18 month old on the handle bars. I will complain (to other expats). What if the Founding Fathers hadn’t complained? 9) Restaurants suck and are overpriced. Bad combo. Lots of people who leave would cite Tico time. I don’t have a business, only have a house keeper (though she shows up when she wants), am not trying to build or repair anything, so it doesn’t bug me that much. The concept bugs be a lot, especially because I think those that engage in it are doing themselves a disservice to their credibility, and by reputation now (it is called Tico time, not Jose time), the credibility of their fellow countrymen, but I haven’t had a lot of experience with it, especially compared to those who are actually trying to get things done. I was told recently by an expat who has a business that he believes there are a lot of Ticos that have a carefully crafted story designed to eventually get money out of you. It doesn’t start right away; the “long con,” if you will. Its sad that he has had enough of those types of experiences that he mentally rolls his eyes anytime any Tico starts a tale of woe.

Kimberly Beck Hovland 4 years in and we are on the fence. We have both started looking for work in the US again just to keep up with the cost of living down here. We are not pensioners. One thing that I have trouble dealing with on a daily basis is being worried about leaving the house alone. I have this fear that one day I am going to drive up the hill and see our dogs hurt and our house broken in to. I heard one guy say “we traded our stresses for worries when we moved down” and that is kind of how we feel. Let it be known that we don’t live the “normal” expat life either though. We farm most of our food and take care of a decent sized farm. We haven’t hired help in a long time because of the things that would go missing. Wondering if I misplaced something or if it was taken is not fun.

This was just a sample of the responses I received, but as you can see very positive, for the most part. The point of this blog is don’t let all the negative people out there scare you. The person who had the courage and trust to privately emailed me has very valid points you also should consider. There are areas of Costa Rica where those concerns are minimal. I just think they pick the wrong area to live in. Sometimes that happens. There is always the good in every bad and bad in every good. No place is perfect and no place is without its faults, but as you can see a majority have no regrets! Do your research and follow in these wonderful people’s steps and take their advise and their cautions.

Pura Vida!


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