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Learn basic Spanish before you move to Costa Rica

Learn basic Spanish before you move to Costa RicaThis picture got your attention, didn’t it?

Well, that’s what I needed because when I start telling you that you should learn Spanish before moving to Costa Rica, most people don’t pay attention.

Imagine, you get stopped in your home town by a Latin, asking in Spanish where the grocery store is located. What would you say?

Most would answer “why don’t you learn English”? Am I right or wrong?

The other day I saw an expat in Escazu get mad at a Tico and shout at him in English. The poor sucker didn’t have a clue what the gringo was shouting at him. The Tico just turned around and walked away. This in turn made the gringo even madder.

I enjoyed the scene from my car.

That gringo definitely did not learn Spanish before moving to Costa Rica.

Tourist or resident

Most expats and even more retirees who move to Costa Rica expect the locals to speak English. Many locals do, but they have no obligation unless you are a tourist.Moving to Costa Rica

I know expats who have lived here for many years and they don’t even try to speak Spanish. When you go to a restaurant in Jaco Beach you can expect the waiter to speak English because most people who visit Jaco Beach are tourists.

If you go to a fancy restaurant in Escazu, you might find the owner or a waiter who speaks English. But when you go to the farmer’s market in Atenas to buy fruits and vegetables or you buy meat in the central market of Grecia you need to speak Spanish, or at least try to. if you are a legal resident it is a matter of having respect for the locals and it makes living in Costa Rica so much easier for you if you learn Spanish before moving to Costa Rica.

Kids and adults

Children learn a language is no time. I grew up with three languages and learning the fourth was pretty easy. But if you grow up with only English and you’re over 50 years old, it is not so easy to learn a new language once you decide to become an expat in Costa Rica.  But the Ticos are proud people and they like it when you try to speak their language and show some respect. Sign language also helps a bit. 

Immersion and private classes

If you learn one word a day, in one year’s time you will speak 365 words. I know many expats who have been living in Costa Rica for many years and don’t speak 50 words of Spanish. It is all about making Costa Rica real estate testimonialan effort. No need to become fluent, but please try. If you make the move to Costa Rica and you want to adjust to your new country, you should also try to learn the language. Take some private Spanish classes or some immersion classes, at least learn the basics.

Learn Spanish before you move to Costa RicaThere are many language schools in Costa Rica and even more private teachers. Learning Spanish will help tremendously to get you going. A good friend who thought he would never learn went to Peru and lived with a Peruvian family for a month now speaks very good Spanish and the Ticos love him for it.

Practice the language

Shopping in Spanish is a good start. Look at the labels and purchase the locally made groceries; it is much cheaper than the North American products. Imported products pay a lot of import taxes. You should also try to speak Spanish with your housekeeper.

Don’t try to teach your housekeeper English, there is no reason she should learn. Practice Spanish as much as you can. You are a guest in a Spanish spoken country, so you should learn Spanish before moving to Costa Rica. Please do and I’m sure you’ll have a happy life.


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I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send us. I know you all meet people on the plane, in the supermarket, at yoga, at the gym, at the Blooms ladies club, at the potluck organized by your community. Please remember the GoDutch Realty agents when you talk about your home in Costa Rica, when you meet someone who wants to purchase one, we appreciate it.

We Love your Referrals at GoDutch Realty

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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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