Ok so a couple things I have learned to help me adjust to Costa Rica and hopefully they will help you also.
1. Pura vida is taken very seriously by the locals and is really a way of life and a philosophy. Most expats don’t see it this way. They see it as a way to show up when you want, do what you want and just be lazy. This is not true. It is how they express the slow living. Yes it can be frustrating at times, but it is their way and we are not and should not try to change it. Even if you have residency or even have citizenship, but you were born somewhere else you are still a visitor to this country. Embrace their way of life and keep it simple. This one is what I think is the most important of all the tips I can give. It will help you in every aspect of living here in Costa Rica. Enjoy it and take it to heart and don’t let your life in your home country spoil the experience you will have here.
2. Going..Going…Gone If you see it, you like it, you better buy it! It won’t be there when you get back. This equates to many things and in different ways. 1st example furniture. If you go into a store like Ashley’s and see a sofa you like. Get it now! Don’t walk away from it! Some might buy it out from under you. They don’t have a stock room! What you see is what you get. 2nd example is food products. I buy a number of things and minced garlic is a necessity in my house! I buy it at Pricesmart. Now they usually have it and I buy maybe one jar. Well they were out of it for 3 months at one point. So when it came in I bought 5 jars and anytime I go I buy 1 jar and try to keep a min of 6 in my pantry. That will get me though any drought. 🙂 Than there is the times when it just won’t be sold anymore. My wife loves the pineapple jelly at Pricesmart. We would buy it every time we went there. One day we go and its gone. That was over 6 months ago. 😦 So I asked a couple people and what I was told was if an items sells really well they will stop selling it. Its more trouble to keep restocking it , so its better to not carry it. So keep this in mind when you are shopping. If you have space buy the bulk quantity or follow the buy it now policy! Good luck!
- Consistency? The lack of this can drive an expat insane here. As an example you can go into a restaurant and order the same food over and over again prepared by the same cook and get a different dish every time. Now this doesn’t happen everywhere and all the time, but it does happen a lot. 1st example is a restaurant where I get consume de pollo (Gringo speak chicken soup) sometimes they use real chicken broth and it is a wonderful soup with a poached egg and chicken meat. There are other times it is made with the powder stuff they have here which I really do not like. 2nd example is salads. This happens a lot. You order one and it comes with certain items lets take for instance a chef salad. You get your lettuce, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, cucumbers, and avocado all standard in a salad. Now what makes it a chef is it is topped with meat like bacon, ham, cheese, and sometimes chicken or steak. You my order it one time and it has all these things. Next time it has none of the meat items except maybe bacon. The next time bacon, ham, chicken. You get the idea. Again all this is from the same place and the same cook who prepares it every day. I just look at it like every time I eat out it is an adventure and what I get I get and no matter what it is going to be tasty! Well most times. 🙂 Go with it people its an adventure!
4. Posted hours of operation We learned very quickly that yes most places have their hours that they are open posted, but we have also learned that is subject to change and be altered without notice. Also keep in mind most are closed for lunch. Yes even a restaurant will close for lunch! Now that can range from 1 hour to 3 hours in the middle of the day. So we head out for dinner and we know that we should not have our heart set on any one place to eat. We go to the 1st place that should be open and it isn’t so we drive until we find a place that is and we eat there. There was one time when we drove to 4 places before we found one that was opened. Next day I asked around to see if there was some holiday or event I didn’t know about? Nope there wasn’t. Now why is this? See #1 above as one of the answers to this question. The next answer did shock me a little when I was told this by a couple owners. If they make enough money they will close and take the day off. Again see #1. There are also family emergencies that happen. You have to remember most of these places are family owned and run so if something happens they are closed. There is also the no show of the employees. Again this could be for many reasons but see #1. They don’t have a lot of employees that if one or two or Gods forbid all of them get sick that they can just call someone else to fill in for them. So they close. All of this is understandable. So you have to be a little relaxed and understanding and know that you may head to one place, but end up somewhere totally different!
5. Ouch my ears! Costa Rica can be a noisy country. The locals love their music and they love it loud! Not all areas are this way, but most will have some sort of noise you may not be use to. Parties start at 9 pm or later and can go all night long. Can’t tell you how many times a neighbors house has had a party and they did loud Karaoke until 2 or 3 am. Now mind you I have had my party or two, but lets face it us old expats go to bed pretty early here so my party started at 5 pm and ended at 10 and the music and loud horrible Karaoke stooped at 9 pm. 🙂 They do love their fireworks here! You never know when you are going to hear the bangs and see the light show. Than there is the wild life and depending on the areas you live in there could be Howler monkeys, you will mostly have birds, there can be roosters, cows, horses, pigs, and dogs! There are all manner of sounds. The animals of Costa Rica do not know what time it is. So i f you think you are only going to hear a rooster 1st thing in the morning you are so wrong. They make noise all hours of the day and night! Dog you can hear barking all the time. Most locals don’t keep their dogs in the house so they are outside all day and all night or even roaming the streets. So be prepared for dogs barking! So you can either complain about all the noise or adjust your habits. I recommend a good set of headphones to sleep with at night. Me I can sleep though almost anything. My wife on the other hand puts in ear buds and listens to something I have no clue what she is listening to while she is sleeping. It is an adjustment no doubt. Again it may be noisy but the beauty that comes with it is well worth the noise. the birds and the monkey’s and the wild life is so great here.
Well those are my top 5 tips to help you visit and live in Costa Rica. I hope you find it informative and helpful and just remember we are here and this country is what it is and they have a way of life that is different from our own. We are not here to change them or make them more like us, if that is what you want to do while you are here you are going to be very, very unhappy. Embrace the difference. Live in the moment and enjoy the wonders that Costa Rica has to offer you while you are here.