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Why Potential Costa Rica Expats Fail to Make the Transition

by guest blogger TicoNuevo

Why Potential Costa Rica Expats Fail to Make the TransitionHere’s something to think about: a significant number of all of the expats attempting to settle in Costa Rica return home within one year. I have some ideas about why this happens, and how to avoid becoming a statistic. I’ll discuss the most prominent reasons for failure here.

A big reason influencing an early departure, I think, is a lack of preparation before potential expats arrive. Changing your country of residence requires an enormous, well-coordinated effort—lots of pre-planning. Unless you have changed countries of residence before, you have no concept of the volume and benefit of pre-planning your move.

Tied to lack of preparation is a lack of commitment. So, become committed. For all of our major decisions, my wife and I have 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.Move to Costa Rica If you decide that someday you’ll pack up and move to Costa Rica, you’re likely to harbor that goal as they move you into your assisted living quarters. If you rent in Costa Rica without any timeframe to purchase or get involved with Ticos or other expats, build a business, develop an active hobby, get involved as a volunteer, or learn the language and customs, your chances of getting comfortable enough to fit in and stay here are reduced severely.

Unrealistic expectations and a lack of familiarity about the lifestyle that couples or individuals attempt to fit into Costa Rica’s culture. In other words, if you think you can exactly transplant your North American customs and attitudes about how things were done back home into a Costa Rican way of life and/or expect Costa Ricans to behave like the folks back home, you might as well not unpack your bags. You are being extremely unrealistic and are going to be extremely disappointed AND very unhappy. 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 and the approach to resolving a problem or issue by Costa Ricans can often be very different than the one you with which are familiar.  


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Let me emphasize learning the language as something you can start before you move here. Nothing is going to help you more to fit in, make friends or feel comfortable with everyday life after you walk out of your front door each day, than learning the language. My wife and I got so involved in the details of preparing to move here, that we unintentionally let learning Latin American Spanish become our sacrificial lamb.

Number four on my list can be classified as laziness, ignorance or pure hubris. For example, if you attempt to act as your own Do not try to act as your own real estate agent in Costa Ricareal estate agent to find permanent housing in Costa Rica, I think, you have a fool for a client. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s different here. You don’t know the laws, rules, customs, probably don’t have a good command of the language, aren’t connected to the Costa Rica real estate market or have any 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.

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. So, do some research online, ask a friend you have made living in Costa Rica (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—the American-European “multiple listing” site and its companion GoDutch Real Estate site are perhaps the gold standard of Costa Rican real estate sites and exude credibility. If all else fails, a long shot is go to a chat room and ask someone.

The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica and 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.

I hope to see you back next week. Feel free to leave any comments on my blog.

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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