What to consider when deciding whether to relocate to Costa Rica

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What to consider when deciding whether to relocate to Costa Rica

You may have been thinking about moving to a new place for a while and you have taken the first step towards choosing Costa Rica by reading this article.  To help you along in your decision making, here is a list of ten common questions that you should ask yourself before taking the next step in pursuing your dreams of living in your ideal location:

1.    Can you see yourself living here?

A sub-question to this one is: have you visited Costa Rica?  Thanks to the Internet, we now have the ability to visit nearly anywhere in the world with the click of a few buttons.  You might even have friends who have visited Costa Rica and shared their stories of how much they enjoyed the time they spent here.  Do the photos and stories move you to want to be here?  To need to be here?

2.    How big of town do you want?

If you are a cosmopolitan person and you long for the big city lights, sounds and scenes – then I can stop you right here and tell you that Costa Rica will make a relaxing holiday get away from your passion for humans in action, but nothing more.  This is a land of small, tightly woven communities centered around nature’s playground.  People here regularly enjoy the gentle, calming sounds of the surf, not the bustle of the concrete jungle.

3.    What climate do you enjoy?

Costa Rica has a generously warm climate as a whole, and the Southern Zone is blessed with the higher end of the temperature spectrum.  The air is full of life and breezes flow through the jungle year round. This is a place for people who don’t mind sweating a little and cooling off with a dip in their local body of water.  The green or rainy season (May-November) is a very pleasant kind of fresh heat, with lush, plentiful rainfalls as a treat throughout these months; and the dry season (December to April) is the kind of hot where a straw hat and a cold drink in hand are helpful ways to get through the day.
Average year round temperature is 69 – 89F.

4.    What hobbies and activities do you do?

If you’re the kind of person that likes taking a variety of eclectic cultural classes like calligraphy or pottery, you might find it difficult to seek out existing groups.  But with the advancements in connectivity via social media, people are creating their own groups and organizing workshops every day.  What you can expect to see most of here is health and wellness groups, with many existing networks of yogis, reiki healers, acupuncture, permaculture communities, spiritual guidance, surf schools, adventure groups, business networks; and room for plenty more.

5.    Are you looking for (gainful) employment?

Many jobs are done on the Internet these days and an increasing number of young couples who work in the growing tech sector or those who work in job that can be done predominantly through teleconferencing are finding that they have the freedom to choose from where to work.  The amount of money that businesses are saving on office space allows for a business to have a bigger travel budget for their employees and so many young families are choosing the good quality of everyday life in Costa Rica and traveling back home when needed.

But if you are looking to find work in this tropics, this is a competative market for employment with cheap labour being a big contender.  Business proprietors can find success, but as is typical of anywhere with a competative market, the key is to differentiate yourself and spend time getting to know your client base.  So although this is not a place to make a quick buck in business, work-life balance and overall job satisfaction can be huge motivators here if you are ready for this type of challenge.

6.    How do you anticipate getting around?

What’s characteristic of the Southern Zone is that most, if not all, communities are off the beaten path (or well beaten path, or weather beaten, etc).  Some homes in this region require lengthy travel along dirt roads, meaning that 4-wheel drive is sometimes the only option.  Motor bikes are the choice method of transportation for locals because they are cheap and efficient on this terrain (and somehow manage to carry what seems to be an impossible amount of passengers at times).

 As roads improve, cycling is becoming more viable for short distances around town, but still unpopular for travel on the highway, especially at night, because of the lack of infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.  It is still done but you tend to cringe when you have to squeeze between a cyclist and a tractor trailer. 

Expats have imported their own ideas of how to tackle these hilly dirt roads and tend to opt for the four-wheel variety of open air vehicle, that being the ATV/quad/4x4… whatever you want to call it.  It may be our lack of ability to balance ourselves on this terrain, with most expats unlikely to have spent their formative years negotiating potholes and learning the quick reflexes it takes to ride a 2-wheeler on these windy, tree-lined roads.  Nevertheless, this safer and super fun alternative mode of transportation makes for exciting jungle and wildlife tours while on your trips to the local supermercado.

7.    Will you feel safe?

When there are haves and have nots, crime is always going to be an issue.  Every community will have its stories about crime, some more sensational than others.  In saying that, the Southern Zone is characteristic of having many luxury houses that are not in gated communities and most do not have bars on their windows.  Many people will tell you that they feel safe enough here to keep their doors unlocked.  Neighbors tend to be friendly with  neighbors and people keep an eye out for what is happening in their community, less out of paranoia and more out of a keen interest for what is taking place around them.

To better protect yourself, think smart and don't leave the window of opportunity open.  Flaunting your high-end objects to people you don't know may attract undue attention, but this is the case anywhere.  Be humble and friendly; getting to know your neighbors - locals and expats alike - will create bonds that include mutual protection and caring for each other's best interests.

8.    What is the politic climate?

It is likely safe to assume that most people do not want to live in a country with constant regime changes and military police in the streets.  Costa Rica is regarded as the region’s most stable democracy, having had 14 democratically elected governments since the drafting of the new constitution in 1948.  These elections are widely regarded as peaceful and transparent and the governments being elected are generally quite progressive in comparison to other similar nation states.

9.    Can you comfortably afford life here?

The general rule of thumb for how much it costs to live a simple life – Costa Rican style – is $1000 per person per month.  This means living like the locals do and sticking to Costa Rican brand foods, eating out once or twice a week and shopping for clothing online (if you need to), while still living in a beautiful house in a beautiful place and being able to pay for all of your bills, taxes and services.

10. What are your basic cultural preferences?

Do you like to be able to speak English wherever you go?  Do you like to make your opinion heard over anyone else’s?  If you reserve the right to do things how you want to and strongly believe that you deserve to have things done how you like them and in a matter of time that suits you – well, then Costa Rica might try your patience.  This is a burgeoning developing nation and the infrastructure is still growing and adapting to the changing world at a different pace to most developed nations.  People here are family and community oriented and are not overly interested in foreigners trying to change the slow but steady pace at which life here is conducted.  Patience is a virtue in Costa Rica and Spanish is a bonus – you get to enjoy a far more earnest and level relationship with your Costa Rican neighbors.

If you can see your answers to these questions stirring up more questions of what your life might be like in Costa Rica, call or email or even drop in to our office to discuss how to make this a reality for you.  Osa Tropical Properties has been serving the Costa Ballena communities for ten years and we are here help you to navigate the journey to feeling at home in Costa Rica’s south Pacific.