Starting a new life in a different country is certainly challenging, initially it may all seem exciting and romantic, like a long vacation, but as time goes by you start falling into the realization that this is your new reality, and adapting to it might not be simple, even if you speak the language and you already have your job and a few friends, adapting to a new culture and different way of doing things, can be both frustrating and scary, and more so for those expats that are perhaps are not as outgoing.
For those expats living in Costa Rica, the good news is that Costa Rica is considered among the most welcoming and friendly countries to move to, the easy going temperament of “ticos” and their good attitude towards foreigners certainly makes things a lot easier, but there are other things that are important to consider if you want to thrive as an expat in Costa Rica here is our is of the top ten tips.
Learn the language: This is the first and most important – must do. A lot of Ticos speak English, but don’t let this put you in a comfort zone, learning the language is going to become more and more important the more time you spend in the country, understanding the language will not only help you with every day things but also with cultural aspects. If you already speak Spanish then you are a step ahead of the game, but make sure you use it as much as possible, learn the slang, the expressions, the intonation, etc. From the Pura Vida to the tuanis, make it your goal to communicate like a Tico.
Embrace the culture and the locals: Many expats tend to surround themselves with other expats living in the country and this is O.K., however, it is also important to embrace the local culture and make friends with Costa Ricans that can help you through the process. Culture shock is said to be one of the hardest things about living abroad, but If you keep an open mind and learn to appreciate the Costa Rican culture it will make it easier for you to see the good things about living in a different place, plus, it will gain you the respect of the locals.
Be a tourist, travel and explore: Going to the beaches in Guanacaste is just one of the things that can be done in Costa Rica, in order to learn about the country and appreciate everything it has to offer, make it your personal goal to travel to different areas and explore the country, there are so many different and beautiful places to visit just a short drive away; knowing your new home is the best way to fall in love with it and learn all about it firsthand.
Enjoy Costa Rican cuisine: Habits are tough to leave behind, you’ll certainly find plenty of restaurants that serve American dishes and you can find most ingredients at the supermarket to cook your own meals for when you are feeling a little homesick, but trying traditional Costa Rican cuisine and drinks will help you discover new flavors and tastes; you can find fresh fruit and vegetables year round in Costa Rica; delicious and healthy (as well as unhealthy) dishes, pick your favorites, give them your own twist and prepare them for your family and friends.
Don’t be naïve: This isn’t the United States, Canada or Europe; although you will find all your basic needs covered in Costa Rica, and when it comes to access to education, technology and health you won’t have any problems, there are certain things in Costa Rica that will be frustrating and sometimes absurd, things that you are not used to experiencing back in your home country; our advice, don’t let frustration win, accept and understand that this is your new home, things work different here, perhaps at a different rate, perhaps they don’t make sense to you, but it’s also part of the country’s history and charm; after all, living in Costa Rica also has many advantages, some which you won’t find back in your native country, there is more good than bad when you put things into perspective.
Make a good network of friends: Having a support network is necessary, even if you are not the outgoing type, make an effort to make friends, both Costa Ricans and other expats, it’s important that you have local friends that can help guide you through life in this country, while is also necessary to have other expat acquaintances that can relate to your situation.
Volunteer for a cause that you’re passionate about: When you find something that you are passionate about, you find a strong motivator, there are many different volunteer programs in Costa Rica, from sea turtle conservation, single mothers’ education, dog shelters, wildlife conservation programs, beach and river cleaning programs, the list goes on. Helping others is a great way of becoming involved with your community and making friends who you share interests with.
Be careful driving: You may be a great driver in your native country, but driving in Costa Rica is a challenge that you’ll have to get familiar with, it requires a different set of skills, patience is one of them. The heavy traffic in most areas of the country makes driving here very very very stressful. It is said that Costa Rica is a peaceful country, except when it comes to its roads, and it’s quite true, get familiar with the transit laws, and watch out for potholes, irresponsible drivers, horrible directions etc. Carry your passport with you always if you don’t have your Costa Rican license.
Have a trustworthy lawyer: When you first relocate to Costa Rica your real estate agent will become the first person to help you with all questions that arise, ask them to recommend a good lawyer, or get recommendations from your local friends. Remember that laws in every country vary, a trustworthy lawyer can walk you through the legal process necessary to purchase real estate, to pay your taxes, to form a corporation or get your residency.
Love where you live: Take your time and choose an experienced real estate agent…so they can help you find the right area for you to live in, a house that fits your needs which falls within your budget and is well constructed. When you are getting ready to buy your house, take into account location, maintenance, proximity of services, etc. If you love your house and the area you live in, you will be comfortable, at ease and happy living the Pura Vida in Costa Rica.
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