There has certainly been a lot of back and forth about living in Costa Rica lately. As a resident for 18 years I can’t resist throwing in my two cents worth.
Is today’s Costa Rica, the gentle, laid back, emerging-from-the-third-world country that I came to? Absolutely not! Petty crime has become violent crime, empty pothole-filled roads have become jammed packed roads, the cost of living has skyrocketed (wages for staff, goods at the supermarket) and the wide open admiration and interest in a foreigner has faded, especially among that group of Costa Rican businessmen and government officials who think they can do things as well as we can and resent what they now see as encroachment.
So how do I cope? First I learned early to speak Spanish. That ability makes dealing with bureaucracy much easier and less frustrating. The people I meet everyday understand that my ability and willingness to speak the language is a show of respect for them and their culture. I moved to a rural community where my neighbors are still interested in meeting the much rarer foreigner in their community, to share experiences, to get to know me and tell me about themselves and their lives. I hire my neighbors to do all my odd jobs, and I don’t yell and scream when they make a mistake. They charge me 10 percent of what the Canadian plumber, electrician, mechanic, gardener, maid would charge me.
I buy in my community at the hardware store, the co-op and not at the giant American-like superstores. I eat at the Soda with its chipped coffee cups and paper napkins and appreciate the personal attention and the incredibly low prices. And I don’t tell people everyday that it can/should be done differently. I want to and I get frustrated, but I try and go with the flow.
In short I have attempted to assimilate here, not try to make it like the country I left. So I still find peace and tranquility and smiling faces and kisses on the cheek and hearty handshakes. When it gets to be too much, I check the weather at home to find it is -30 today, and I remember that the beach and a relaxing getaway is only an hour and a half away.
So stop complaining, embrace the differences and enjoy yourself. That’s why you retired here!
San Pedro de Poás de Alajuela