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4 Reasons Potential Costa Rica Expats Fail to Make the Transition

4 Reasons Potential Costa Rica Expats FailHere’s something to think about: a significant number of all of the expats fail. This mostly happens within their first year in Costa Rica, then they return home.

I have some ideas about why this happens, and how to avoid becoming a statistic. I’ll discuss the most prominent reasons that expats fail to make it.

A big reason influencing an early departure, I think, is a lack of preparation before they arrive. Changing your country of residence requires an enormous, well-coordinated effort. Apart from lots of pre-planning.

Only those who have changed countries of residence before, conceive the volume and benefit of pre-planning a move.

Tied to a lack of preparation is a lack of commitment, that’s when expats fail. So, become committed.

1. Set goals

For all of our major decisions, we always set very specific and realistic timeframe goals and objectives. Goal setting has always worked well for us. It gives you something to work toward and something to shoot for. Most of the time, we have achieved our goals well ahead of our timeline. Someday you’ll take the decision to pack up and move to Costa Rica.  You’re likely to harbor that goal as they move you into your assisted living quarters.

4 Reasons Potential Costa Rica Expats Fail

Your chances of getting comfortable enough to fit in are reduced severely when you don’t:

  • Rent first for a while,
  • Get involved with Ticos or other ex-pats,
  • Build a business,
  • Develop an active hobby,
  • Get involved as a volunteer,
  • Learn the language and customs,

2. Unhappy

Expats fail mostly when they have

  • Unrealistic expectations,
  • A lack of familiarity about the lifestyle that couples or individuals attempt to fit into Costa Rica’s culture,
  • The idea that they can exactly transplant their North American customs into a Costa Rican way of life,
  • Attitudes about how things were done back home,
  • Expect Costa Ricans to behave like the folks back home.

If you belong to any of these, you might as well not unpack your bags. You are being extremely unrealistic and are going to be extremely disappointed AND very unhappy.

4 Reasons Potential Costa Rica Expats Fail

Costa Rica has a wonderful, but very different culture than the one in which you have been living. Remember the old saying there is more than one way to skin a cat. The approach to resolving a problem or issue can often be very different than the one you are familiar with.

3. The Language

Let me emphasize learning the language as something you can start before you move here. Nothing is going to help you more than learning the language to:

  • Fit in,
  • Make friends,
  • Feel comfortable with everyday life after you walk out of your front door each day,

My wife and I got too involved in the details of preparing to move here. We unintentionally let learning Latin American Spanish become our sacrificial lamb.

4. Hire an Agent

Number four on my list can be classified as laziness, ignorance, or pure hubris. If you attempt to act as your own real estate agent, I think, you have a fool for a client.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s different here.


Expats fail because they don’t. I can think of several reasons why you need to hire an agent:

  • Knowledge of local laws, rules, and customs,
  • Good command of the language,
  • Connections to the Costa Rica real estate market,
  • Inside info about where potential pitfalls lie (such as potential title issues).

Don’t approach every problem, issue, or task with the attitude that best and only way to do something is the way you’ve always done it back home, or that you can do it better than the locals. You will not only raise your frustration level off the charts, but you are likely to quickly ingratiate yourself with the good citizenry of this country.

4 Reasons Potential Costa Rica Expats Fail

Use an Expert

Use a real estate expert. This is easier to say than to do. There is no experience required to become a real estate agent or broker in Costa Rica.

There are several ways to get started:

  • First, do some research online.
  • Then ask a friend you have made who is living in Costa Rica if he/she knows someone (if you have made any whose opinion you trust).
  • Check out Costa Rican real estate websites. Observation of quality will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
  • I strongly recommend the American-European “multiple listing” site and its member GoDutch Realty website. They are perhaps the gold standard of Costa Rican real estate sites and exude credibility.
  • If all else fails, a long shot is going to a chat room and ask someone.

The Author

The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica. He and his wife used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. In his blogs, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.

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I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send us. Also, please remember the GoDutch Realty agents when you talk about your home in Costa Rica, we appreciate it.

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