We’ve been to 24 countries and counting and so far we have yet to find a “perfect” place to live. It’s a relative term after all, we can think of a few destinations that would be perfect if the cost of living was 1/3 of what it actually is – but contrary to public opinion, we didn’t hit the lottery and cost of living was a large factor. Other factors we included in our search of our new home were business opportunities, access as a tourist, healthcare, food, people, nature, culture, weather, lifestyle, and proximity to family. We’ve been living on the pacific coast of Costa Rica for a little over three months now and we plan on being here for a long time to come, its our little slice of heaven but it’s not for everyone.
We can think of a million reasons why you should move to Costa Rica but there are a few factors that you should keep in mind if planning on moving here.
Don’t move to Costa Rica if…
You don’t like to sweat
Unless you are situated far up in the mountains, and chances are you aren’t because more than 75% of all expats that move to Costa Rica live in or near a coastal town, you are going to break a sweat even during the smallest task. A quick run to the grocery store? You will sweat your butt off inside since they don’t have AC. And then again walking to your car to load the groceries. And then again taking them into the house. That’s three separate sweats just to get groceries! You’ve never really sweat until you’ve hiked in Costa Rica. (I’ve been drier after just getting out of a shower.) Love hot showers? You won’t anymore! Plan on taking multiple cold showers per day to stay fresh and be careful not to break a sweat drying yourself off. It happens all.the.time.
Why we like it
Sweating is healthy and gets rid of toxins out of your body. It also is great for your skin and gives you a nice glow. When you’ve had a few too many drinks the night before, sweating helps quicken the recovery time of a dreaded hangover. Not to mention it beats the freezing cold any day of the week. You spend more time in the pool and appreciate rainy days more than ever before.
You can’t stand bugs
Costa Rica houses around 6% of the entire world’s biodiversity, many of which are insects. Unless you spend 24/7 in a beekeeper suit, you will have multiple bug bites on you at all times. Seriously, I can’t remember the last time some part of me didn’t itch. I don’t care how awesome your insect repellent is, you cannot avoid bugs in Costa Rica. It’s as simple as that. Forget about leaving food on the kitchen counter for longer then 10 seconds because 200,000 ants will suddenly appear to investigate. Do spiders freak you out? How about ones the size of your hand that have fangs and are poisonous? Don’t forget to shake your shoes out before putting them on! We aren’t saying you have to love bugs to be happy in Costa Rica, we are just saying that it would be a full-time job avoiding them, plan accordingly.
Why we like it
Sure bugs are a nuisance but we have learned an unimaginable amount of wildlife facts and have seen some absolutely beautiful critters in our new home. Not only are you introduced to wildlife that you have only seen on the Discovery Channel, but we have learned to appreciate our surroundings. Mantis, walking sticks, butterflies, katydids and even ants, especially leaf cutter ants, are fascinating and often breathtaking creatures. You never really learn to love bug bites but it is simply worth the trade-off of a package deal for the beauty of the wildlife.
You aren’t willing to learn Spanish
Costa Rica houses some of the friendliest people we’ve ever met and all they ask is that you respect their culture and nature. Tourists can easily get by learning a few popular phrases, no harm no foul. But if you plan on living here for more than a few months, it is expected that you learn to speak the native language. Since many people here speak English as a second language, and love to practice with Americans, you will have to make a real effort to learn and practice your Spanish on a daily basis. Although challenging at first, you will be surprised at how quickly you begin to learn Spanish. It is possible to live here for years and never learn more than basic Spanish, many people do it, but you will miss out on some amazing cultural conversations and as a result will never be fully accepted into the culture.
Why we like it
Forcing us to learn a new language is something we’ve always wanted to do in our lifetimes. It is something we can always use and it teaches us patience while keeping our minds fresh and sharp. It also means that we are being accepted by the locals, which is something we take very seriously. We do not live in the United States anymore and we do not want to disrespect their culture. It’s certainly not easy but to us it is extremely gratifying when we can communicate and show that we are learning. This also changes our overall communication with people we may not normally talk to which is a big deal to us. Did we need to mention that Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States?
You don’t have patience
Coming from the hustle and bustle of a large city like Chicago, we expected a much slower pace of life which is one of the reasons we moved here. However, we didn’t expect them to move this slow. You really do need to have patience here and understand that there will be a lot of things out of your control. Money can’t buy you out of this one either, these are things everyone has to deal with. We learned very early on that the harder you push and the quicker you want things to happen, the slower and more painful it will actually be. Even if you are planning pessimistically, double that amount of time to be prepared. “Mañana” doesn’t mean tomorrow here, it just means not today.
Why we like it
Learning to accept the things you cannot control will prove valuable to us for the rest of our lives. There is no such thing as escaping stress, only learning to better deal with it and patience is a key factor in doing so. We don’t sweat the small things anymore, instead we focus on putting positive energy into the universe and hoping it comes back. Life is a lot better when you stop to smell the roses and you are conscious of the things happening around you. Pura Vida!
You are entitled
Many Americans move to Costa Rica as an escape from the rat race in the United States, seeking a slower paced lifestyle with more balance. Some Americans feel as though the entire world revolves around them and that Costa Rica somehow owes them something. Don’t be one of those Americans that think they helped make this country a better place by throwing your money around here. Tourism is a large part of the reason Costa Rica is thriving but as anyone moving to another country, you have to earn your stripes. Understand that you do not have rights here and nobody is going to come to your rescue. If you plan on living the same way you live in the United states, might as well just retire in Arizona.
Why we like it
For the first time in a long time, we feel like we are part of a community. We have shown respect to our neighbors in the form of learning the language, practicing local customs, helping when we can, being patient and respectful. As a result, we’ve been accepted into our community and get treated as a local. When a friend sees us walking on the street, they pull over to pick us up and vice versa. Its common courtesy here.