This Week in Costa Rica

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This Week in Costa Rica is a weekly, online radio program and podcast by US expat, Dan Stevens

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Retiring in Costa Rica can give you a chance to do some of the things you have always wanted to do

By Christopher Howard on Live in Costa In retirement, you have the chance to do what you want to do and be who you really want to be, provided you have the means to do it and are in good health. Some plan to spend their retirement time doing nothing at all, but find that this gets old very quickly and decide to do something meaningful with the last part of their lives.

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The important thing is to stay active and have some goals. This time in your life is that last chance to do some of the things you have always wanted to do. Now you finally have the freedom to choose what you want to do with your life. You may choose to take up a new hobby, start a part-timer business, improve your computer and Internet savvy, learn to play a musical instrument, do volunteer work, build something, plant a garden or travel. Retired life can become the perfect chance to try your hand at something new, without the burden of struggling to making ends meet. A new career can allow retirees to do something they enjoy and are passionate about. Many retirees envision themselves as writers, artists or humanitarians.

If you were unable to travel to your heart’s content while working, retirement can be your chance to make up for lost time. Some travelers find the more exotic the destination, the more exciting the adventure. If you are a thrill-seeker, majestic mountains, raging rivers, volcanos and jungles can be yours. Now that you are retired and have the time, your trips are not restricted to a week or two at a time. You might even opt to live at your destination for an extended period to really get a feel for the culture and surroundings and eventually end up moving there.

Living in Costa Rica can enable you to do all of the above. With the exception of working (You have to have residency with permission to work legally in Costa Rica — much like a Green Card), you will be able to engage in a whole gamut of activities and enjoy all of the wonderful things this country has to offer.

Granted Costa Rica is not for everyone, but a lot of Americans who have moved here and are very happy and love the Latin lifestyle. If you are adventurous and seek something more than a traditional retirement in a retirement community in Florida, then Costa Rica might just fit the bill.

My recommendation is to come check out the country. One the best ways is by taking one of my monthly relocation and retirement tours (see www.liveincostarica.com). Actually these tours are not just for retirees but for anyone who is seriously considering moving here, no matter what their age. I have had many young entrepreneurs and middle age people on of my tours.

At the end of the tour if you decide as many do that they like the country but don not want to live here, then you will have a place to visit that you have seen from an entirely different perspective than the average tourist.


We spoke with Christopher Howard about living as an expat here in Costa Rica.  That interview can be found below.

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Golden Rules for finding happiness and success in Costa Rica

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A few weeks back I had the privilege of interviewing Costa Rica expat and retiree guru, Christopher Howard on the program.  In our first month of preparing this This Week in Costa Rica, we printed this list in the studio and posted above the mixing desk:  Golden Rules for finding happiness and success in Costa Rica.

During the last 28 years that I have lived in Costa Rica I have had the opportunity to observe 1000s of foreigners who have moved here. Some have been very successful while others have not. Those who found happiness and saw their dreams come true followed most of the time-tested rules below. Hopefully if you choose to live or retire here you will keep these simple principles in mind so you can take full advantage of what Costa Rica has to offer and enjoy a new exciting lifestyle or the pura vida (pure life/good life) which abounds everywhere.

  1. Don’t have false expectations.
  2. Don’t assume that what worked at home works here. You have to adapt to the reality of the country.
  3. Don’t go into business unless you want to complicate your life. Most people come here to simplify their lives. The happiest people are those with pensions or other fixed sources of income who don’t have to work. If you do work, don’t expect to get rich.
  4. Stay busy and or find an interesting hobby. Almost everyone has a hobby. If you don’t have one, find a new one here. Costa Rica offers 100s of stimulating activities from which to choose.
  5. Don’t hang out in bars. I have seen scores of people come down here and because they were bored they went off the deep end by drinking themselves to death.
  6. Stay active and have a good exercise program.
  7. Have a good doctor or teams of doctors to meet your specific health needs. Costa Rica has an excellent and affordable health care system which draws retirees from all over the world.
  8. Single men shouldn’t get involved with low-life women or prostitutes (the easiest women to meet). Single women should watch out for younger men who are gold diggers. Take time to develop healthy relationships.
  9. Don’t leave your brain on the plane by forgetting to use your common sense.
  10. Don’t try to cut corners by thinking you can outsmart the locals by paying bribes, etc. It will all catch up to you sooner or later.
  11. Don’t make bad investments. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
  12. Try not to live in isolated areas with no home security. Burglary can be a problem in some parts of Costa Rica. There is safety in numbers.
  13. Don’t walk around alone at night. If you have to, be sure to know the neighborhood where you are and take a friend.
  14. Do your homework! Read all of the books and newspapers about Costa Rica, talk to other who have lived here for a long time, go to the ARCR’s monthly seminar and in general stay informed by reading the local Spanish newspapers.
  15. Learn as much as you can about the Costa Rican culture.
  16. Try to always check your sources of information especially what you see on the on-line Costa Rica news groups. Something happens to people who move here. They think they are overnight experts just because they have made the move. It takes years of living here to really be considered an expert. Funny things happen to JCL’s  (Johnny Come Lately) minds when they come to the tropics.
  17. It is VERY important to have a good BILINGUAL lawyer. Most Americans brag they have the “best lawyer”. Make sure this is true by doing your homework and getting good references from other expatriates. Having a competent/honest lawyer can make the difference between success and failure.
  18. LEARN Spanish! You need at least a survival level Spanish to get by here. Find a school that fits your learning style. Also read my best selling Spanish book, “Christopher Howard’s Guide to Costa Rican Spanish (amazon.com).” It is designed to give you what you need to survive linguistically in Costa Rica.
  19. Mix with the locals. Part of living in a foreign country is enjoying the people and culture. Don’t isolate yourself in a Gringo enclave like Escazú. That’s exactly why you need to learn some Spanish.
  20. Form a network of friends so you can lean on them in hard times. Making friends is easy here since foreigners tend to gravitate toward each other when living abroad.
  21. Don’t “Jugar de vivo” as we say in Spanish. Thus means to not act like a WAG (a wise ass know-it-all Gringo).
  22. Don’t be the Ugly America, Ugly Canadian, Ugly Englishman of ugly foreigner. This is the Costa Rica people’s country, you have to live in it and you can’t change it. So, DON’T wear out your welcome.
  23. Obey the law here and above all traffic laws.
  24. Travel around the country. Costa Rica is small yet very big at the same time and there are lot of incredibly beautiful places to see.
  25. Get Skype (www.skype.com) or Vonage (www.vonage.com) to stay in contact with friends back home so as to avoid homesickness.
  26. Get cable or satellite TV to get a slice of home and stay up with events there when you need it.
  27. Try to leave your hang ups and serious problems at home. If you had serious issues there, you will probably have them here too.
  28. Give back to the community. Try to help but don’t impose the Gringo way of doing things.
  29. Just because a person speaks English doesn’t mean he or she is trustworthy.
  30. The single most important thing you need to survive is good sense of humor. Go with the flow and don’t take things too seriously.


FOLLOW THIS TIME-TESTED ADVICE AND YOU WILL NEVER GO WRONG.

 

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Is it Hard to Make Costa Rican Friends?

Costa Rica Retirement News - The answer is yes and no. One of the many pluses that come with relocating to Costa Rica is its friendly people who generally like Americans. Costa Ricans are fun loving and rate very high on the World Happiness Index despite any personal problems they may have.

As they say here “Al mal tiempo, buena cara” (Put on a happy face despite the adversity).

I have a few really good Costa Rican friends. Two of my tico friends have demonstrated repeatedly that they really know the meaning of friendship by helping me during very difficult times like when my wife passed away.

To define friendship in Costa Rica one has to move away from the traditional “gringo viewpoint” and look at this term within the parameters of Costa Rican society and culture.

The majority of the ticos you come into contact with here are struggling to make ends meet every single day. Consequently, they don’t have the time or means to socialize, wine and dine let alone cultivate friendships like we do in the U.S. Americans work hard but usually do find the time to develop friendships. What this basically boils down to is that most of the people here are too busy trying to make a living and can’t really have much of a social life. On top of that, most foreigners tend to only meet working class people and those with lower income levels which makes forming friendships difficult.

Furthermore, most Costa Ricans who belong to the upper middle or upper classes tend to have their own clicks made up of friends they grew up with and business associates, thus making it almost impossible for foreigners to break into their social circle. Latinos tend to be traditionalists, nationalistic and somewhat class conscious (clasistas) which isolates those at the top from the masses and foreigners. I do know gringos who belong to country clubs and have Costa Rican friends and acquaintances from this strata of society but they also find it hard to form close friendships.

The inner workings of Costa Rican families also tend to pose an obstacle to making good friends. In Costa Rica as in most Latin countries the family is the center of social life. Basically everything revolves around family activities. You always hear the term “En familia” which refers to the family doing everything together especially during their free time. The family always come first and children even come before the family. Costa Rican women live for there children. So, with the family ties and children being the first priority friendships are put on the back burner.

Another factor is that expats tend to gravitate towards each other when living abroad which kind of isolates them from the locals. Most gringos I know hang out and socialize primarily with other gringos.

Spanish can pose another barrier in forming friendships. If you don’t speak the language, How the heck can you have a deep friendship? I do not know many foreigners who speak the Spanish language well enough to have the same level of communication with Costa Ricans as they do with English speakers. However, I do have a friend in Grecia who is the exception to the rule, speaks very little Spanish but appears to have a special talent for meeting the locals. However, I think most of his acquaintances speak some English and I don’t really know how deep of a relationship my friend really develops with the people.

I know another American who says he would get involved romantically with a Costa Rican woman only if she was an orphan and had no children for the reasons stated above. I find his statement funny but in a way true in order to ensure that he would receive more attention and time from his companion.

Really what it comes down to is that cultivating a friendship or any relationship depends on what you put into it and if the other party reciprocates, but cultural differences and language barriers can make this process more difficult when living abroad.

By Christopher Howard

If you are interested in a Retirement Tour Click Here to See His Tours.

Christopher Howard conducts monthly relocation/retirement tours fill in the form below to receive Chrisopher’s free book when you register for a tour and have him contact you personally. For details please see: www.liveincostarica.com. He also has authored and published 17 editions of “The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica” and other guides about living in Costa Rica. See www.costaricabooks.com

Parts of this article was originally published in Christopher Howard’s blog at www.liveincostarica.com/blog

 

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