A SPECIAL BLOG POST FOR MY SUBSCRIBERS CONSIDERING A MOVE TO COSTA RICA!
Occasionally someone will ask me such things as “Are you glad you moved to Costa Rica?” or “If you had it to do over, would you do it again?” or “Do you miss the States?” or “When are you coming home?” or “Have you ever wished you had moved to a different country?” or “If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?”
The short answer to all but the last question is that I absolutely love Costa Rica and have never once missed the United States nor doubted it was the right thing for me! And I have not gone back, having no reason so far. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows why this is true for me and that Costa Rica is a perfect fit for my love of nature. But before I tell you the one thing I think I did incorrectly, a quick summary of what I did correctly . . .
What I Did Correctly Before My Move Here
If you go back to the beginning of this blog in June 2014 you will see that I was pretty meticulous about the details of a move to another country and fortunately I had had the experience once before when I moved to The Gambia, West Africa for 3 years. I followed all the websites’ and individuals’ suggestion of doing my “due diligence” (a popular phrase then) which simply meant lots of research on living retired in Costa Rica and the details of doing it legally, successfully and learning what it would take for me to be happy here, etc. ad infinitum! I did that! (Except not thoroughly enough with the language part!)
Plus I traveled here 4 times before moving and checked out other countries online and in the case of Panama, visited them 3 times (a reasonable option). Plus my last trip here before moving was to take the “Live in Costa Rica Tour” sandwiched on either side of a two-day conference by ARCR on all the details of a move here, residency options, legal stuff, both private & public medical services, shipping stuff here, getting a lawyer to help, etc. And on that same trip I hired a local lawyer who specialized in expat residency and began my residency application which was made easier with still some time still left in the states so I could personally secure all the needed legal documents that would have been much more difficult trying to get from here!
So, Then What Would I Do Differently?
Just one thing! I would have made learning to speak Spanish fluently my JOB ONE! Though I had two brief classes in Nashville, I was a slow learner and not using it there, so to accomplish that . . .
I should not have made finding a place to live the first task, as I did, but I should have enrolled in an Immersion Spanish Language School for the first 4-6 months (in another town since there is not one in Atenas) where they provide a cheap rent living with a Tico family that speaks only Spanish plus daily language classes and local tours in Spanish. Younger people might accomplish this in 3 months to some degree but a slower-learning old man like me needs more time and I’m just guessing on the 4-6 months. I tried one of these immersion schools for one week in Feb. 2020, just before Covid hit us big here, and it was very helpful, just not for a long enough time. It would be harder now while paying higher rent for my more permanent housing. But I’m going to talk to them again and may try additional weeks periodically with follow-up classes on Zoom or Skype. My current teacher is not moving me forward fast enough and nor is Duolingo! I’m ready for a change in my language learning! 🙂 I will report on any change made and what progress if any I make. 🙂
So, my only regret about being “Retired in Costa Rica” is that I am still not fluent in Spanish – though I am immensely better than when I arrived here! 🙂 I speak more Spanish than maybe many of the other American expats (some don’t even try.) I do great in restaurants and traveling 🙂 and okay in the supermercado and other shopping, but I could do better and cannot handle much over the phone. Taxistas help me, so I am better there than on the public buses and the free public medicine that I should be using more is one place I can’t manage with my slow, simple Spanish – that and some casual conversations, especially with strangers, though it helps when a marketer calls on the phone that I can honestly say “Lo siento, no hablo español.” 🙂 Stay tuned for updates!
So what I’m saying is that if I had learned to speak Spanish fluently that first year, the rest of my 8 years would have been so much easier and more fulfilling!
That’s what I would have done differently!
Okay, maybe one other little thing that was not a problem when I first moved, but recently my small Credit Union in the states that I’ve been a member of for 45 years has had difficulties getting a new debit card to me quick enough or wiring money, where a larger international bank would be better equipped to serve me overseas. And I have to have a U.S. bank because my pension checks require that for auto-deposit. I’m still managing and have shifted some of my savings to my Costa Rica bank, but that is one other little detail that one considering a move here needs to straighten out, preferably before the move! 🙂
And by the way, the U.S. Social Security is more accommodating than my other pension sources, as they deposit directly into my Costa Rica Bank Account. And it was easy! I just went to the U.S. Embassy’s SS Window in San Jose and they took care of it immediately with that very next check arriving here! 🙂 Plus that became my “proof of income” for the residency application. 🙂