Last Updated: Apr 15, 2012
A successful relocation depends on many factors – most importantly, how well you adapt to your new home. Here are ten important steps:
Do Your Research
Doing adequate research before your move will help you prepare for life abroad. Read books about living in Costa Rica, and be sure to follow blogs written by current expats. Learning about others' experiences will provide insight into the ups and downs of life in Costa Rica. Pay attention to people's opinions regarding the difficulties of life overseas; you'll be better prepared for upcoming challenges.
Organize Your Finances
Don't forget the many financial aspects of relocation – monetary troubles account for the majority of expats who give up their dream and return home. Financial planning is one of the most crucial aspects to ensuring your move abroad is successful; make sure to budget for hidden costs and arrive with a considerable nest egg to fall back on. Evaluate the local cost of living to determine if your pension or employment dollars will provide the lifestyle you desire.
Apply for Residency
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving to Costa Rica, but make sure that you take steps to become a legal resident. Temporary residency allows foreigners the right to live here for a set period of time, usually one to five years. The most common types of temporary residency are Rentista (Annuity Holder), Pensionado (Retiree), and Inversionista (Investor). As a temporary resident, you are subject to certain residency requirements, and may have to exchange a required amount of dollars each month.
Avoid False Expectations
Many expats become disenchanted with Costa Rica due to a difference between their expectations and reality. No country, no matter how beautiful, is without its challenges and pitfalls. Doing your research and being honest with yourself will help prepare you emotionally for the big move. Develop strategies for handling potential frustrations, like long lines and red tape, and treat each new day as a lesson in Costa Rican culture. When daily challenges become overwhelming, remind yourself why you came to Costa Rica. Life here requires adjustment, but it's worth it.
Rent Before You Buy
Give yourself at least six months before you begin house hunting. Your dream property in January could be a floodplain in October; and a peaceful location at noon could be the midnight meeting spot for howling dogs. Neighbors, neighborhoods and property conditions are all different in Costa Rica, and a temporary commitment will allow you to fully explore an area before investing big bucks.
Learn the Language
You don't have to speak Spanish to live in Costa Rica, but it definitely enriches your life here. Even just the basics, like how to ask for directions and relay a courteous thank you, will help you feel at home – and elicit positive responses from Costa Ricans. Communicating in Spanish will help ease stress about running errands and going about your daily business, and make it much easier to create lasting friendships with locals.
Interact With Your Community
Immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture. Talk to your neighbors, go to your town's central park, shop at the farmers' market, and attend festivals and local events. Even if you feel like a fish out of water, act like you're a part of community life. Soon, you'll be saying "Pura vida!" and calling out "Adios!" as you pass neighbors in the street.
Make Friends with Locals
Costa Ricans are generally kind, especially to foreigners who exhibit an interest in their country. Make friendly overtures to your neighbors or people who frequent the same places as you, and you'll soon find yourself invited over for an afternoon coffee. As your circle of friends grows, you'll have ample opportunities to practice your Spanish and learn a ton about Costa Rican culture.
Keep an Open Mind
Most importantly, always keep an open mind. You're living in another culture, and it's up to you to adjust. Adapting is sometimes a simple matter of identifying and accepting a cultural difference, but it can also be frustrating. Why do Costa Ricans accept inefficiency and excessive red tape? Why do your friends always arrive an hour late for dinner? Instead of applying your own expectations to Costa Rican experiences, keep an open mind and explore the reasons behind the differences.
Be Positive & Flexible
If you are under the impression that you can move overseas and live exactly as you do now, then a new life in Costa Rica, or any foreign country, may not be right for you. Changes-- both good and bad-- are inevitable and expats that keep a positive attitude and welcome change are the ones who are happiest and most successful living abroad.