What is it like to move to Costa Rica? To start a new life in a foreign country?
In the Ask an Expat series I interview expats living all over the world. Hopefully this will inspire you but will also paint an honest picture of the ups and downs of life abroad. Whether for a few months or for the rest of your life, living abroad is a unique and sometimes challenging experience.
Expat life in Costa Rica
Location: Jaco, Costa Rica
Name: Jason Mueller
Home Town: Williams Lake, Canada
Jason grew up in a small town in Canada. “You could call me a country boy for sure. I was always fascinated with travel from when I was a little kid going on vacations to places like Lake Louis and Disneyland with my family. When I was in high school I took a trip with my girlfriend at the time to Costa Rica because her uncle owned a hotel. We had a great trip that I will never forget and that is when I originally fell in love with Costa Rica. After that I was hooked on traveling and did many backpacking trips to places like Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, and Hawaii along with some other vacations. I had opened a limousine business in Vancouver in 2009 because I had always wanted to have my own business but the city life was not for me. After moving back to my home town for a while I decided it was time for a drastic change so I moved to Costa Rica. I have started a couple of businesses here: Vacation Rentals Costa Rica and Jaco Ropes. The last one offers zip lining, rappelling, bungee jump and a ropes course between the trees. We have only been open for a year now and business has been tough starting out so I took on some extra work with A-1 Auto Transport handling accounts in Costa Rica.”
Why did you move to Jaco, Costa Rica?
“A friend of mine was planning on making the move here and he mentioned that we should move together and open up a cable wakeboarding park because I was thinking to do a similar business in Canada on my own. We took a few vacations together to scope out the country and both of us really liked it and imagined a life living in paradise. A mutual friend had mentioned that Jaco would probably be the best place for the park because it has a high concentration of tourists from around the world and it is only 1.5 hours away from Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. We ended up having a falling out but I decided to stay and work on the ropes course venture with a few local business partners.”
What do you like about Costa Rica?
“The weather is for sure a huge attraction along with the beaches. The nature is truly beautiful with a huge diversity of flora, fauna and wildlife. I love the fact that you can go up to the mountains and enjoy the most moderate temperatures in the world, then one hour later you can be sweating at the beach drinking fresh coconut water. The surfing is outstanding and there are so many surfing spots to choose from that don’t usually get over crowded. Costa Rica is great for expats because many people from around the world have relocated here mostly from the USA or Canada. The people are really friendly for the most part and welcoming.”
What do you dislike about Costa Rica?
“It can be a very frustrating country to get anything done. This becomes increasingly difficult when you operate a business and need to get certain things done. The locals are known as ticos and they are notorious for not being on time, we expats call this “tico time” and it can really piss us off. Coming from Canada which is a very fast paced culture, if you say you are going to be somewhere at a certain time or have a job done by a certain time you better not be late but in Costa Rica all common courtesy is thrown out the window. I find that nobody respects your time. Some of the locals look to take advantage of “gringos”: they assume that everyone who comes here is rich so they can charge extra. I believe that the hike in tourism over the last 20 years has resulted in high prices and on top of that the government charges too much for importing goods which makes some things expensive.”
Any tips for moving to / living in Costa Rica?
“Patients is a virtue, grasshopper! This is especially true when thinking to relocate here. Don’t expect everything to be the same as back home, most likely you can double or triple any deadline. Come with more money than you plan on needing, there are countless stories of people coming here with big dreams but they then run out of money and the dreams fade away into a nightmare just to send the person home with their tail between their legs. Try to learn Spanish, although many people speak English here it will help a lot to learn the language and you won’t be taken advantage of so much.”
What is the expat community like in Costa Rica?
“I would say thriving. The country attracts people from all over the world to live here for really good reasons. Although the country is behind the times compared to North America the amenities are very comforting for the people that need their luxuries. Jaco, Playa de Coco, Esterillos, Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio and San Jose have many expats so it is easy to find like minded people to connect with. Some expats do find it frustrating at times and I have been one of them but I think overall the lifestyle here is awesome for expats.”
Is there something you just have to see or do when you are in Costa Rica?
“I always recommend that people go to Manuel Antonio National Park. It is located about 3 hours from San Jose. The beaches are incredible and you are sure to see monkeys, sloths and much more. The town is situated right on the beach and there are many hotels, restaurants and attractions to choose from.”
About Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a small country, only 51,100 square kilometers (19,730 square miles). The country has a population of roughly 4.5 million. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the country along with exportation of palm oil and coffee.
Since the late 1980’s Costa Rica has been a popular nature travel destination, and its main competitive advantage is its well-established system of national parks and protected areas, covering around 23% of the country’s land area, the largest in the world as a percentage of the country’s territory. It has a total of 1,290 kilometres (800 mi) of coastline.
The country has been voted the happiest place in the world for many years by the happy planet index. The most popular saying in Costa Rica is “PURA VIDA” which translates to pure life, that pretty much explains it all. Pura Vida!
For more information about Costa Rica: VisitCostaRica.com
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featured image source: costarica.com