It took me a while to find the courage to leave everything behind and finally move to Costa Rica. My wife, who is from Costa Rica, had tried for 8 years unsuccessfully to get me to move. Last year, I finally took a chance.
I first visited Costa Rica 10 years ago after reading an article that stated it was the happiest country in the world. I fell in love with Costa Rica during my visit. Over the next couple of years, I would continue to visit Costa Rica on a regular basis.
This month would make one year since I have been living in Costa Rica. This is my experience so far – the good, bad, and ugly.
Visitors come to Costa Rica for various reasons – It is a common destination for surfers due to its many surfing spots. Hikers are also quite fond of Costa Rica because of the rain forest, volcanoes and biodiversity. I love the Hot Springs, food, and the people. Whatever the reason, it seems Costa Rica has a little bit of something for everybody.
Food – Dining in Costa Rica is a blast and there are plenty of restaurants to pick from – from local cuisine, to fast food chains like Mcdonalds, Subway, and KFC. The primary food in Costa Rica is Pinto(rice & beans) with plantains and fried eggs. This meal is referred to as comida tipica. Sushi, Italian, and Chinese restaurants are quite popular as well.
Language – Costa Rica is a touristy country, so it is possible to get by without speaking a word of Spanish. Beware – as you venture away from San Jose and tourist parts of the country, the likelihood of finding people and establishments that speak English diminishes. Learn the word PURA VIDA! because this is how you are going to be saying hello, goodbye, good morning, good afternoon, and good luck, from here on.
People – Costa Ricans are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. You will feel welcomed no matter where you go. Costa Rica is a racially diverse country. The majority of Costa Ricans are white, Mestizo (Spanish and indigenous descent), or Moreno; with a few people of African and Asian descent. As a black man living in Costa Rica, I have never experienced or felt any sort of racism. People are always nice and friendly to me. When they find out I am from the United States, they sometimes try to speak English with me. I try my best not to stand out.
Pura Vida Mae!
Insects, insects, and insects – Costa Rica accounts for only 0.03 percent of the earth’s surface. However, it contains nearly 6 percent of the world’s biodiversity. New species of insects are discovered frequently in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has lots of insects and there are everywhere.
I live in Guacimo where it rains almost every day. With the rain comes lots of mosquitos. The ants are always busy at work and there are no shortages of spiders. In Costa Rica, I have seen ants that look like spiders, and spiders that leap like frogs – speaking of frogs, our family dog Oreo died from eating a poisonous frog last year.
Cost – I have been to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, and Colombia, and the first thing I noticed when I was in these countries was how much cheaper they were compared to Costa Rica. In some case as much as 60% cheaper. Costa Rica is not a cheap country to live in, but it is a lot cheaper compared to the United States.
People – As previously mentioned, Costa Ricans as some of friendliest people. They are also very carefree people. Sometimes the carefree attitude can be frustrating for foreigners. The concept time is money does not apply here. There is little or no sense of urgency. It is not uncommon for the person assisting you with an urgent matter to close shop mid-way through service because it’s lunchtime, while you wait an hour for them to come back.
Healthcare – This section will not apply to most readers but I thought I should bring it up. Costa Rica has great private healthcare, but public healthcare is quite ugly. I get my healthcare through a provider in the United States, however, I have experience with Costa Rica’s public health care. 8 years ago around May, while my wife was 7 months pregnant with my daughter, she went to get an ultrasound because she could not feel the baby moving. They told her the earliest date she could get an ultrasound was March of the following year which would have been 9 months after the baby was born. This is not a joke. I have heard similar stories of patients having to wait up to 2 years for surgeries meant to correct life-threatening conditions.
Education – My kids are all Costa Rican citizens and attend public schools here. The number of off days and half days here are ridiculous. There are very few days in which my kids are in school for a full day. It’s either an off day due to a holiday, teacher conference or in observance of some cause. it also didn’t help that school was out, last year, from August to December, due to teachers on strike. I do not have any personal experience with the private school system, but common wisdom will dictate that it should be a lot better.
I love Costa Rica. I love the people, geography, and culture. Costa Rica has lots of insects. The public school and healthcare system need major work – overall I like Costa Rica and plan to stay. Be warned, Costa Rica is not for everyone, so do your research before you decide to move here.