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Why not lend money to a friend or employee in Costa Rica?

Why not lend money to a friend or employee in Costa RicaIf you’re a nice person, you’ll find yourself obliged to lend money to a friend or employee soon after you arrive in Costa Rica.

You know, they are poor, and you are rich. That’s how some will see it.

Probably, where you come from, you’re too proud to ask anyone you know for a loan. But to lend money to a friend or an employee here is pretty normal. There is one advantage to it: at least you know you’ll never get it back.

I’ve had friends, as well as employees, come up with the most amazing stories to get you to lend money. They’d make you cry and make you feel bad that you have so much and they have so little. And that’s when you feel obliged to lend money. So don’t feel bad about falling for some bullshit story.

Burying grandpa

When I owned a spice factory, I had several employees, called display, travel to the grocery stores to stock the shelves with recently delivered merchandise. One female display told me her grandpa passed away and they had no money to buy the coffin and pay for the burial service.

She had worked for the company a few years and was a good employee. So I didn’t doubt for a moment when she asked me for a loan, so I wrote her a check.

I didn’t hear back from her for over a month when one of her colleagues told me she was working for another company.  Also, it seemed that grandpa had been dead for quite a few years.

Why not lend money to a friend or employee in Costa Rica

Don Eliezer

Don Eliezer, we called him don Eli, was my dad’s gardener. He had a drinking problem, don Eli I mean. When he didn’t drink, he worked hard. He could do my dad’s garden, all on a slope, with just a machete. What a job, in that heat, under the burning sun, all day long.

Once in a while, he’d ask my dad to lend money from him. My dad knew that don Eli would disappear for days. Sometimes he’d be there, under the mango tree, but in a deep alcohol-induced sleep. Or he’d be snoring on the couch in the TV room.

We all knew not to lend money to don Eli, that it would be a problem. For him, his wife and his kids. And the garden would look bad for a week or so. But, a few weeks later, all was back to normal. Until the next loan. Don Eli never paid these loans back, but he was a good gardener. When he wasn’t drunk.

Why not lend money to a friend or employee in Costa Rica

Breakfast at Fresas

A killer strategy to adapt to local habits is to marry a local. A Dutch friend of mine married a Tico, he voted for the communist party. She came from money, worked very hard. He did not, he was born poor anyway.

Once in a while, they’d run out of money. Her daddy wouldn’t sponsor a communist, so they were on their own, with their 2 kids. And they had to eat, right?

So they’d ask all their friends for a loan. There was always someone who would lend money, mostly feeling bad for the kids. We did too, we’d lend money to them once in a while. But never got it back.

Until one day, we gave them a loan on a Sunday morning. They hadn’t eaten for several days. That same day, we found out that they went straight to Fresas. Fresas is a restaurant in Heredia, famous for their great breakfast. That was the last time I ever gave them my money.

Why not lend money to a friend or employee in Costa Rica

How not to

Of course, there are many honest and responsible employees and friends that do pay what they owe. Sometimes it is just really hard to say no. Especially when you think they really need the loan. We grew up in a different world, with much more sense of responsibility. We pay off our debts, at least I do.

So how can you stay out of trouble and not lend money to a friend or an employee? Just say that you don’t give loans out of principle. WikiHow also has some great tips.

Fortunately, Ticos have flaws and so do we, you just need to learn which flaws so you can prevent culture shock. Thinking of hiring a real estate expert to buy or sell a property in Costa Rica? Contact us now.


The grammar of the Spanish version of this blog was checked and corrected by Wagner Freer of Spanish School for Residents and Expats. We strongly recommend this language school as your best choice to learn Spanish, click here to contact them.

Spanish School for Residents and Expats


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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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