Jun 18 2018

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – June 18, 2018

Welcome to our Retire For Less In Costa Rica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue: 



A Walk Around Our Neighborhood (Video)

Come for a walk with us around our neighborhood in San Ramón de Alajuela and get a glimpse what it’s like to live in a Costa Rica coffee town.

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Integration 101: Being Bien Educado

How you speak and what you say are all part of la buena educación, “good upbringing,” a very important trait in the eyes of Spaniards and Latin Americans. This is not related to schooling but how you treat others…Personal hygiene and courtesy are of primary importance, from the look of the fingernails to table manners to the rituals of politeness.

The first rule of courtesy is always to greet everyone; acknowledge their presence. If you enter a bakery, for example, you greet the person there before placing your order. Buenos días, señora. Buenas tardes señor. (Good morning, ma’am. Good afternoon, sir.) Notice that día is masculine, so its Buenos días. Spanish speakers are often astonished while visiting a home in the United States or Canada to see children pass by them without any greeting and even at times without saying anything to their own parents. This to the Spanish and Latin American mind is mal educado. The custom is that you show respect by greeting everyone.”

Excerpted from Tune Up Your Spanish: The Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken Spanish, by Mary McVey Gill and Brenda Wegmann, p22.

Being bien educado.

La buena educación is one of the reasons I came to Costa Rica, and Latin America in general. After having lived in Mexico for 2 ½ years in the ‘70s, I was aware of the Latin rituals of politeness all too well. I learned by observing and then doing. I noticed, too, that the children were much more included in social events and parents were not excluded from teen parties. I noticed that everyone at a gathering was acknowledged, from the grandparents down to the young children. I saw being bien educado as being an integral part of the fabric of Latin life. It’s one of those civil things that attracted me to Latin America.

Even before my years in Mexico, back in the 1960s, I noticed this decorum. I lived in the San Francisco Bay area and my friends were Latins from every part of Latin America. Both my girlfriend at the time and my roommate were from Colombia. I would go with them to dances, family events, and other Latin functions. I was never excluded, and I learned to be bien educado. I felt like I belonged because they readily accepted me. In fact, at college, I always belonged to the International Relations Club and visited the International House at various college campuses in California. I was often chosen to represent Colombia at cultural events featuring the folkloric dance, the cumbia. To the spectators, I was Colombian, albeit a blond-haired, blue-eyed one.

It’s so easy.

Being bien educado is the easiest way I know to begin the integration process. It will be especially helpful in your community, barrio, or neighborhood. It’s something you can use every day the rest of your life, whether you’re in Latin America, Europe, the U.S., or Canada. Sometimes people say that Costa Rica is like the U.S. was 50 years ago. But I think that good manners and acknowledgement went out the door well before that. It doesn’t come naturally to us because, to some extent, it may never have existed in the northern European culture. Certainly though, people were friendlier many years ago, more courteous and polite. But being bien educado is something that can be learned.

So how does being bien educado help you integrate?

Because you now acknowledge everyone, and by uttering a few pleasantries along the way, you will be seen as someone who is friendly and approachable. In just a few short days you’ll be waving at your neighbors. They’ll see you and you’ll see them. You will be familiar, as will your car. It’s the single best thing you can quickly and easily do to enhance your experience and integrate into your community. But please, don’t wait for them to start. It must come from you. All you have to say is “Buenos días. ¿Que tál? ¿Como está?” (Good morning. How’s everything? How are you?) I guarantee, they will respond. They’ll be thinking, “This is no ordinary Gringo, but one well-brought-up. His parents taught him well.” Soon, very soon, it will come from them too, and you’ll be well on your way to making some new friends and acquaintances. Are you being bien educado?

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Featured Property in Lake Arenal: Newly Remodeled 2BR 2BA Lake View Home-$89,000

Listing ID# RS1403476

Location: San Luis, Tilarán, Tilarán, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Listing Type: Residential Sale
Bed/Baths: 2/2
Location Type: Countryside
View Type: Lake View
Total Lot Size: 443.79 m² (4,776.90 sq ft)
Total Living Area: 100.00 m² (1,076.39 sq ft)


Newly remodeled to enhance the great views on this lake view two bedrooms, two bathrooms with the master having a bathtub overlooking the lake view. House is near the end of a quiet lane off the paved road in San Luis. This property is within walking distance to all amenities to include the lake and two of the best restaurants in the area.

Also available next door 1/4 acre lake view lot for $30,000. Live in this while you build your dream home and use this is as your guest house. Photos and details of all work will be available to the purchaser so there are no surprises, and to ensure the quality of work that has been done.

Listing ID# RS1403476

Click here for more photos and to contact the realtor for this property.

Click here to check out our other properties under $150,000 and read about what to do before you buy.


Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica


I’m so excited to announce that my new book, Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica is now available on Amazon.com! Here are a couple of my 5 star reviews:

“Outstanding. I have been looking for a book that would tell me where to buy certain items that are not available in the local Costa Rica stores and I found all of that and more. Information such as translation from English to Spanish and of course Spanish to English. This is helpful so when I am shopping I can find what I am looking for using the translation. There is a break down of measurements and substitutions that was helpful. I like the few recipes that are included, and can’t wait to try them. This is a great book with so much information to help you learn about cooking in Costa Rica. I love the layout of the book and the clear explanations, and its easy to locate what I am looking for without going through an entire book. Also the resources in the back have been super helpful. Thanks so much for the book.”

“Practical as well as scholarly, this is a must-have guide for any man or woman who commands a kitchen in Costa Rica. Wonderfully readable and quickly useable for whatever and whenever you may need to know all things culinary in Costa Rica. And if that were not enough, what an amazing tour guide for English-speaking lovers of food in a Spanish-speaking culture, where the recipes you know and have always loved can come alive in new and exciting ways. I just feel smarter having read it!”

When you move to a Spanish-speaking country, it can be daunting to stock your kitchen and cook meals when you don’t know what your ingredients are called in Spanish. And even when you know the Spanish translation, it can be a challenge at times to find what you are looking for.

You can download this practical, comprehenive guide and on-going reference tool on your smart phone or iPad so you have it with you whenever you shop. The table of contents is interactive, so you can easily click through to the meat section when you are at the butcher shop (carnicería) or to the dairy section when you are standing in front of the dairy case. Here’s what you will find inside:

  • A little bit about me, our life in Costa Rica, how and where we shop for groceries, what we spend, and some insights about grocery shopping in Costa Rica.
  • An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English food dictionary, broken down into the following sections:
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Meat & Poultry
    • Fish & Seafood
    • Grains, Nuts, Seeds, & Baking Ingredients
    • Dairy & Eggs, Refrigerated & Frozen Foods
    • Beans, Canned & Prepared Foods
    • Herbs, Spices, & Seasonings
    • Condiments
    • Beverages
  • An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English food dictionary in alphabetical order.
  • An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionary of things you find in the kitchen.
  • A Glossary of cooking terms and helpful adjectives to use when buying and cooking food, ordering in a restaurant, and reading recipes in Spanish.
  • Recipe substitutions for when you can’t find familiar ingredients here in Costa Rica.

Chipotle Beef Chili

  • Recipes which I have adapted to use with ingredients found in Costa Rica, plus some favorite recipes of other expat cooks in Costa Rica.
  • A U.S. Measure to Metric Conversion Guide for temperature, volume, weight, and length.
  • A resource section with links to expat cooking blogs, Facebook groups and pages, specialty products, and other food-related things.

Buy the print edition on Amazon.com

Buy the Kindle edition on Amazon.com

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for your iPad or computer at this link.


I hope you enjoy my book and find it useful!


Our Ultimate CR Healthcare Tour

We are proud to offer the Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica. When asked what he liked best about our healthcare tour, one of our guests wrote, “the wide variety of places we saw, the experts that Paul HCTOUR_030arranged for us to meet and talk with, and an emphasis on all aspects of health, not just doctors and hospitals. Mental health is just as important as physical, if not more so.”

HCTOUR_008David and Donna H. recently too our healthcare tour and had this to say on one of the expat Facebook groups: Donna and I just finished the medical tour that Paul and Gloria (Retire For Less in Costa Rica) offer. It was excellent! Two days of information and tours around hospitals and clinics as well as educational and cultural centers and even information on some of the banking. The tour is designed to introduce a new arrival to the Costa Rican system of health care that includes, not just the body but the whole person. I highly recommend this tour to anyone that is new, or relatively new in country, especially to the people that live in and around the central valley. Paul taylors the two days to the groups needs as far as their ability, including any and all physical limitations, and his own experience and contacts with the people at the various institutions makes this tour extremely personable and pleasurable. It is a really great opportunity to learn more about the health care and how you can tailor it to your own needs, and learn more about what is available to enhance your experience while living in Costa Rica.”

We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over nine years and have used the Caja, Costa Rica’s public healthcare system extensively, as well as the private system, when needed. We’ve learned the system and have been referred up the ladder to see specialists in the maze that is the Caja system. Gloria’s even had surgery here.

Our blend of personal insights and on-the-ground experience combines to answer your questions about whether or not Costa Rica’s healthcare system could meet your individual needs.


But, while it is focused on healthcare, you will learn a lot more about living and retiring in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Most of the second day of the tour takes place in the town of San Ramón where we live and use the services. And you will come to our home that day to listen to two presentations.

Our tour is designed to save you both time and money, packing a lot of information into a short period of time. Our goal is to show you the possibilities and to try to demystify Costa Rica’s healthcare system. Our tour lasts two days and 1 night and includes lodging, transportation, meals and non-alcoholic beverages.

Sample Itinerary

You’ll visit:

  • At least two private hospitals in San Jose area
  • Hospital Mexico, the largest and best public hospital (they even do open heart surgeries there)HospitalMexico
  • An insurance broker for a presentation on the various supplemental health insurance options, including public, private, and international plans
  • A senior living retirement community
  • CPI language school for a presentation about how learning Spanish increases your options for healthcare and some basic medical Spanish.
  • Our local hospital here in San Ramón
  • A local EBAIS (community clinic)
  • The office of our dentist in San Ramón
  • A local Seguro Social office where you would sign up for the Caja (national healthcare coverage)
  • A pharmacy
  • A local feria (farmer’s market) where you will see the abundance of fresh food available.
  • The local Cruz Roja (Red Cross) to learn about their services and programs.
  • A health food store (macrobiotica), and more!


You’ll learn:

  • If the Costa Rican healthcare system could meet your needs and put your mind to rest, once and for all, about this sensitive subject.
  • About the public system and how it works, about the private healthcare system, and how you can use a combination of both to your advantage.
  • About the EBAIS – where healthcare starts in Costa Rica.
  • Approximately how much you would pay for Caja.
  • About medical tourism in Costa Rica.
  • About home health care in Costa Rica.

Prices: $650 for a couple, $550 for a single.
Please contact us if you are interested in booking a tour. Space is limited.

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What’s New on the Website

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