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Living in Costa Rica – Interview With an Expat

What is it like to move to and live in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is known for its stunning nature which makes it a popular country to visit. But what is it like to live here?

In this Ask an Expat series I interview people living all over the world but outside of their home country. 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.

Living in Costa Rica as an Expat

moving to Costa Rica and living in Costa Rica

Location: Jaco, Costa Rica
Name: Jason Mueller
Age: 32
Home Town: Williams Lake, Canada

His story:

Jason grew up in a small town in Canada.

“You could call me a country boy for sure. I have always been 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, city life was not for me.

After moving back to my hometown for a while I decided it was time for a drastic change so I decided I was moving to Costa Rica.”

Why Did You Move to Costa Rica?

“A friend of mine was planning on making the move to Jaco in Costa Rica and he mentioned that we should move together and open up a cable wakeboarding park because I was thinking to start 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 living in Costa Rica would be 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 other ventures”

What Do You Like About Living in Costa Rica?

living in Costa RicaThe 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 overcrowded.

Life in Costa Rica is great for expats because many people from around the world have relocated here (although mostly from the USA or Canada).

And the Costa Ricans are really friendly for the most part and very welcoming.”

What Do You Dislike About Living in 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. Us expats living in Costa Rica 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.  In Costa Rica however, 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 to Costa Rica is rich so they can charge foreigners extra.

I believe that the spike 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?

Patience is a virtue, grasshopper! This is especially true when thinking about moving to Costa Rica.

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?

expat life 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 living in Costa Rica do find it frustrating at times and I have been one of them but I think overall the lifestyle here is awesome for expats.

There is a Facebook group for Expats in Costa Rica. If you have any questions about moving here, or just want to connect with other expats, this is a great group.”

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

life in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a small country, only 51,100 square kilometers (19,730 square miles). The country has a population of roughly 5 million.

Tourism is one of the biggest industries in Costa Rica along with the exportation of palm oil and coffee.

Since the late 1980s Costa Rica has been a popular ecotourism 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.

Costa Rica also has an impressive 1,290 kilometers (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!

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Interview with an expat about moving to and living in Costa Rica

Author: Sanne Wesselman
A traveler, wanderer, digital nomad, and entrepreneur. I spend most of my time living and working abroad and visiting destinations all over the world. I use this website to share "the good, the bad and the ugly" of traveling and living abroad. Visit the About Me page for more info.

20 thoughts on “Living in Costa Rica – Interview With an Expat”

  1. We have vacationed in Florida for a few years for periods of 6 months, living in “55 plus” communities. We have become accustomed to being involved in activities such as, card playing, shuffleboard, exercise classes etc.. We are wondering if there are activities such as these in Playa del Coco. Thank you for any information you might give me.

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  2. Nice to get a perspective from someone who has made a place home. It always helps to plan and enjoy the place better. It also, gives one a very balanced perspective to the country – the positives as well as negatives. Thanks for so much information on Costa Rica.

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  3. Thats an interesting move! Canada is typically colder but I can understand why Costa Rica would seem like the getaway from the weather.

    Tico Time – never heard of it but you should adjust to make the locals feel like you are embracing the culture. I used to be very on time and need things done when they said they would be – traveling has taught me to lighten up and relax.

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  4. Very nice detailed information. I plan to venture out myself but moreso in the mountains. It’s very uplifting to read this as it continues to inspire me to pursue my plans of early retirement. Thanks.

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  5. Costa Rica sounds like a great choice for Canadians. It’s close to home and the weather is great. Did you have an problem learning Spanish or did you already speak the language before moving there?

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  6. Living abroad is not an easy decision and it takes a lot of courage and determination, However, if the country you are moving to is Costa Rica, probably it is all worth it. The naturally beautiful Costa Rica is a veritable paradise.

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  7. It’s interesting about how time and work ethic are so different, most places south of the boarder from the US are this way, I like to look at it as my dad said work to live not live to work and take time to smell the coffe, roses and enjoy life. Hawaii is a lot like this as well with locals.

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  8. This is a great initiative always good to learn from first hand experience of people and Costa Rica sure looks like a great place to settle down

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  9. I love expat interviews! This one is especially good as I’m a fellow Canadian expat. Feels like I know him, as I was not far from his home town when I lived in Canada.

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  10. This is one of my favorite series!! I have had the thought to leave it all behind many a times, but after a lot of heart to hearts with my husband and soul searching we never make the leap. I think we’ve found a good compromise, but there will always be a part of me that wants to head elsewhere and see if I can make it.

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    • Thanks for sharing that Suz! It’s often a difficult decision to move abroad and although expat life can be great it’s not always easy either! I am happy you found a good compromise and get to do some amazing traveling!

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  11. Great series! I am trying to leave all behind and take the courage to move abroad, and those articles of yours are truly inspiring, mostly because you don’t only focus on the amazing things the new place offers, but also on the difficulties that everyone is going to face, at some point.
    I am from Italy and now I am considering France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany (I’m kind of Europe aficionado!) as places where to move, although also moving in a totally different country (somewhere in South America or in East Asia) can be a great experience.
    Can’t wait to read more “Ask an Expat” articles!

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    • Thanks a lot Alice! 🙂
      Next month I am planning to post an interview about expat life in Amsterdam that might be useful for you. And if you ever have questions about moving abroad in general, feel free to send me an email at any time! I hope you find a great place to move to and I am sure you will find living abroad a very rewarding (although sometimes challenging) experience!

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  12. I love the insight from an expat’s perspective. It’s always interesting to learn about a country from the perspective of someone who’s been there for quite some time, their experience as both a foreigner and a resident is always so unique!

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  13. I love this series! It is interesting to read about operating a business in another country. I feel like “tico time” is something that would be prevalent in other cultures, when moving from a fast paced more workaholic type country (Canada, United States) to a slower, more relaxed culture (Costa Rica, The Netherlands).

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    • Haha that’s so funny… you see The Netherlands as a more relaxed culture? One of the reasons I first moved abroad (I am from The Netherlands) is because I find the Dutch culture too work focused, organized and not relaxed enough 😉

      Reply

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