How to Be an Expatriate in 2020

A dear friend just shared this link to an article in the New York Times that I have to re-share since it has some good ideas and information that might help those of you American readers considering living in another country. The article,  How to Be an Expatriate in 2020:

I might check into the two sources they referenced on transferring money from the states to another country, since a regular bank wire of money is too expensive I think. I have my SS check auto-deposited here in my CR bank account which covers my basic living and I get other money from my U.S. Credit Union via ATM here for free at my bank’s ATM which doesn’t charge me and my stateside CU doesn’t charge at that end. When you move anywhere you have to work out these little details over time. “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”   🙂

They also referenced International Living Magazine which I took for two years but found way too commercial for me and I think they are mixed up in real estate, especially in Ecuador which they push a lot, plus their gimmicky ways to get rich on the internet. Be careful of such schemes if you subscribe.

The article also mentioned some networking organizations which can be good, and the one for women sounds especially good for them. I tried the other one mentioned, InterNations, which is heavier on the younger expats in the big city of San Jose here and it did not meet my needs. One year was enough for me!

Right here in little Atenas we are getting more younger couples with children and jobs coming from the states. Some use local private schools and some home school and the rare one who is “really international” send their kids to the local public schools in español and of course they are the ones who are integrated into the community.   🙂   The young Americans here who are still working do all their work online. The internet has really shrunk the world!   🙂   Of course they are a different breed from us ol’ retirees!   🙂   But in some ways we are a community.  9 million Americans living overseas it says.

Anyway, I like to share things like this I learn about that might help you who are considering a move here or to any other country.

¡Pura Vida!


NOTE: This week I’m living with a Tico family in Heredia while in an Spanish Immersion Class at Tico Lingo. I will try to report on some nights about the experience. A little scary! No English for a week! But hopefully a good way to learn Spanish!   🙂

The “Trip Gallery” from my Thursday trip to Rio Tarcoles is ready to view with 35 species of birds photographed out of about 40 species seen. A good birding trip!

Why did I move to Costa Rica?

Nearly three years ago I started this blog to publicly discuss and seek guidance in what I then called my “Costa Rica Decision Process.” I just went back and read one of those early posts that really sums up my 16 reasons for leaving the U.S. and choosing Costa Rica for retirement written on June 28, 2014:

Click the above title and read the reasons I listed three years ago and you have my answer for today! Oh sure, I could add some things I’ve learned since that make it even better and some things that are more negative than in that list, but overall it sums up pretty well why I came and why I stay. And the list is totally mine, not from some website on retiring in Costa Rica. And yes, I’m really glad I did it! No regrets and I expect to stay here the rest of my life.

A few readers of this blog have written with specific questions and contact me when they come here to check it out. I am happy to help! Nothing in it for me. I’m retired and not selling services. 🙂

Now, I have wondered at what point we get too many Americans, Canadians and Europeans here!? There are a few “Ugly Americans” (Remember the 1960’s book?) already here and they are the ones constantly complaining about something that is not right here in their eyes. When an earlier neighbor was complaining about the relaxed atmosphere and infrastructure and said, “You know how these people are!” I thought to myself, “You need to go back to the states.” In three months he did. This culture and atmosphere is not for everyone! So check it out thoroughly for a good while before you decide to move here! But be sure that many of us love it here!

And for more reasons, just go back and read all the entries in this blog or see my Costa Rica Photo Gallery that I call:  Charlie Doggett’s COSTA RICA  and you will visually see why I love it here!

2nd only to Canada in Healthcare!



If considering Costa Rica as your place of retirement, you will be pleased with the results of the latest World Health Organization study on both the health of the people and the quality of the public healthcare provided, especially in regards to premature deaths. (Click above title for article.)  Or see World Health Statistics 2017 from the WHO.
Panama was in second place with regard to fewer premature deaths in Central America (In case you are considering Panama, which was my second-ranked choice for retirement). And in the WHO survey Costa Rica ranks 19th healthiest country in the whole world! Glad I live here now! 🙂
¡Pura Vida!

Commercialism Creeping In!

Construction has begun in a large vacant lot behind one high school.
And they cut down at least 8 large trees! Sob, sob! Sign enlsrged below.
Atenas, Costa Rica

Basically a Membership Health Club focused on Triathlon Athletes
It appears to be mainly a large swimming pool and track for running and bicycles.
Atenas, Costa Rica
We have other public and private parks/gyms/pools in town but this looks like it will be the nicest and of course the newest! The title “Academia Just4Fun” in English sounds like a chain of businesses and maybe North American with that English name. I expect to learn more in time. It is only about 400 – 500 meters from my house.

We are slowly becoming more than a sleepy little farm town, good or bad. At least there are no typical U.S. fast food places yet! Welllll . . . Atenas does have a POPS Ice Cream Parlor which is owned by Pops Costa Rica, but it is something like a franchise from General Mills USA and modeled after the Pops Ice Cream Parlors in Virginia, but locally owned like the franchised McDonald’s in the bigger cities (and tourist towns) of Costa Rica.

My observation is that Fried Chicken and Ice Cream are possibly the two top comfort foods in Costa Rica and it interested me to see that all the stand-alone McDonald’s in San Jose and Alajuela have two separate windows and lines for nothing but their soft-serve ice cream! And there is nearly always two ice cream lines waiting from around 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning when they quit serving much breakfast. Ice Cream Rules! Although there are a lot of KFC’s in the cities, they have more competition than McDonald’s with many Latin American Fried Chicken (el pollo frito) franchises. There are major fried chicken chains from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico. So the Colonel has to work harder here!  🙂   And yes, the traditionally thin Costa Rican (Tico/Tica) is beginning to get heavier, though not as fat as North Americans. And the popularity of hamburgers (hamburguesas) is growing with several local Tico restaurants having them! And they are good! And pizza is following!

See also my general Atenas photo gallery, People & Fiestas,  Public Art & Graffiti Atenas, and/or my Flora & Forests Walking in Atenas photo galleries. I live in a very nice little coffee farming town in the Central Valley, 45 minutes to an hour from the capital that I am afraid is getting too popular with expats from the north. Too many gringos can destroy the local culture. Especially some from the states who try to make everything be “like America.” If you want that, stay there! 🙂

More Birds on My Tree & Little Theater Experience

See also my other posts of tree birds:  Animales Fantasticos,  Arbolitos de Pajaros and still one more coming!

For you guys back in the states who think I just live with the birds and have no social outlets, you couldn’t be more wrong! Sometimes I have too much going on to live the slow, simple life I’m here for. One group I belong to is expats that take charter bus trips to San Jose for cultural activities plus some local recreational activities. Last week we went to the San Jose Little Theatre Group for a very interesting little play titled The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. It was about a teen boy with Asperger’s syndrome that was a little emotional to me since that was one of Juli’s problems. But I enjoyed it and our group of 40 filled the theater which we had to ourselves. It was a late afternoon private performance and then we went to an Argentina Steak House for a very good dinner before returning to Atenas. Thanks to Tony Phillips who puts these trips together!

La Bohéme Opera Sunday Night

Teatro Nacional Stage seen from Balcony
They asked us to not take photos during the performance.
Note the screen for subtitles. Opera was in Italian and subtitles in Spanish!
(What did you expect in a Spanish-language country?) I understood maybe 30%.
Thanks to Amazon Kindle I had read it in English before the performance
AND watched it on YouTube with English Subtitles, so I was ready!  🙂
Our Atenas Group in the Balcony of Teatro Nacional

Atenas Expat Retirees on Bus to San Jose

Opera Program Book
And oh yeah, it was a fabulous performance! Perfect in every way!
The arts are very important here and done well in every medium.
And I’m interested in something other than just birds!  🙂

Outside Teatro Nacional
(Photo made earlier than today’s visit.)

Inside Lobby of Teatro Nacional
(Earlier shot. It was packed full tonight!)
There is a great little restaurant off the lobby but packed tonight,
so Anthony and I ate burgers at McDonald’s across the street. Shameful!

We went to a 5:00 PM performance and our bus was back in Atenas by 8:30 PM. Nice!

Another Expat Trip to San Jose

Yeh! It is kind of like the senior adult trips we had at both First Baptist & McKendree Village when in Nashville. And a lot of fun! Focus this time was indigenous people art work that we were not suppose to photograph. I honored their rule (though some did not). Bought nothing!:

NAMU is the Bri Bri indigenous language for Jaguar and name of shop.
Not allowed to make photos inside. Lots of masks, baskets, carvings, etc.

Afterwards we stop at “Porky’s”
for a choice of 50+ hamburgers & 100’s of beers.

This was my second trip with this group, the other being a Central American Art show I shared about in one blog post. July 31 I’m going with the music lovers of this group of expats to San Jose for a performance of the opera La Boheme. That should be interesting since I have not generally cared for most operas, but think I will like this one. I’m reading the English translation of the script now thanks to Kindle! The men get together for dart tournaments but that has not interested me yet.

Why Not Mopt instead of Mopped?


These two seniors stayed through last several rounds until girl on the right spelled
“Mopped” as “Mopt” to be eliminated. Wow! English is a difficult language!
Inglés es difícil de aprender.

A few of the early arrival participants. Orange shirts are seniors and
blue shirts are 9th through 11th grades. They were all so nice and polite.
Los estudiantes son muy simpaticas.

The 3 other “Native English Speakers” as judges besides me. Mainly record keeping!
But good to have several because I could not understand some of the kids at times.
The man and woman at other end of table are from Australia.
Gringos ayudan.

And another Expat read the words and definitions or examples when requested.
The girl in blue is spelling one of the words.
This expat lady also does the free lending library at La Carreta Restaurant.
Estoy feliz de ayudar.
We had several breaks in the three hour spelling bee when students showed
some of their other English language work. Here some students put on a
puppet show of “Little Red Riding Hood” in English of course! Cute!

I was there at 8:15 and left a little after 11:00 for my jungle adventure which will be storied in other posts. Maybe one more tonight. 🙂    And note that I am back to including Spanish language words and phrases in red so you will know what is Spanish AND because my Spanish teacher wants me to use more Spanish all day every day and include a Spanish section to my blog or just some Spanish lines like I have done with this post.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.
‒Nelson Mandela

Another 90-Day Visa Collected!

A 15 hour day and nearly $200 for a bloomin’ rubber stamp with “90”
handwritten over it. But I cannot rent or drive a car without it.

Nine Canadian and U.S. Expats joined tour guide Walter on “Visa Run” today.
Canadians in the majority this time! 5 to 4!

Ten of us squeezed in and out of his new van all day today! 

At the border we wait in lines at Both Nicaragua & Costa Rica Immigration.
This was twice for each country, out, in, out, in! 🙂
A “helper” in Nicaragua did most of our line waiting for us while we shopped.

On the way up a late breakfast at Rincon Corobici Restaurant overlooking river.
Then a late lunch or early dinner here on the way back. Great food & views!

And why do I do this? Only to keep the option of driving open for me until my residency is finalized and I can get a Costa Rica Driver License. (Maybe next March) As a residency applicant, I have a letter saying I can live here without renewing my Visa, but the transportation department says that to drive here with my Tennessee Driver License, I must have a current Tourist Visa. 90 Days is the max you can get per trip out and in. Some people are doing this instead of applying for residency, but not practical in my thinking. So I will continue this every 90 days until my residency and a local driver license is obtained. Two more times probably. And I may decide to do some tourism in either Nicaragua or Panama and accomplish the same purpose on my return. 

Expat Party, A Comedy of Errors!

I greatly admire the lady with the big covered patio whom I understands gives parties regularly. That’s a great idea for us foreigners to get to know one another and create new relationships.

I got invitations to this one twice from two different sources. A widely distributed email and a call from a Tico friend with an invitation. She said our new apartment manager Hans was going and she would pick both of us up. That is when I decided to go. At least I would know two people when I got there.

The day of the party arrives and Anna calls to say that Hans can’t go because his security guard is off that night and he needs to be the security. And she will be late if she makes it at all (she never made it), but “It will be easy to find with a taxi” she says. They all know Calle Alvero (I asked her to spell it) and it is the black gate on the left and something about the end of the road. So, what the heck, it will be another adventure and I’ll just go on my own.

It is a BYOB and a snack, plus we will chip in 3 mil colones each ($6) for the pizza. No problem. I get my 3 liter bottle of Ginger Ale (the only non-alcoholic drink brought) and some pricey banana nut bread from my favorite bakery. I’m ready, so Anna and Hans will just miss eating the most wonderful banana nut bread and mixing ginger ale with whatever!

I call the taxi number saying “Necesito un taxi en Hacienda La Jacaranda, en barrio fatima, al lado de rio cajon.” Then I get the same reply as always, “En cinco minutos. Su nombre por favor?” They always say they will be here in 5 minutes and always want a name, which I guess is in case someone else tries to get my taxi? Strange thing is it actually takes right at 5 minutes every time! Small town!

I’m talking to Hans when the cab arrives and the driver doesn’t want to waste time, so I say a quick adios to Hans. Then I carefully read the address that Anna says every taxi driver in town knows. He gives me this questioning look. So I show it to him in writing on the back of an envelope. “Calle Alvareo” then added “Puerta Negra” for the black gate. He still looks puzzled and I thought that maybe this would be how I get out of going to this party that I had now lost enthusiasm for.  Then he says something like, “Oh . . . Calle Vareo.” I asked if near CoopeAtenas (which I had been told)? He responded “Si,” and we are on our way. We turn on a street near the Coope (remember that there are NO STREET SIGNS OR HOUSE NUMBERS!) and the first little house had a black gate but I said “No” and we kept going until we found a big black gate on the left near the end of the road.

We drive in the dirt driveway where there are several houses. I ask the lady at first house if this is Gail’s house? She says “No, go to the end of the road.” (so that is what Anna meant about end of road which is actually the end of their shared driveway) past other houses side-by-side in the same compound. The invitation said 5:00 but to be there before 6 if you want pizza. So I arrive at 5:45 and I’m the first one there! These expats already behave like Ticos! Fortunately Steve was right behind me, coming all the way from Sarchi! We talked and hung a white bed-sheet for Gail’s movie while others start arriving – maybe 20 total.

The first hour we stand around talking with drinks in our hands, sorta getting acquainted. Then she collects money for pizza and asks if meat or vegetarian. It arrives soon from La Finca, my favorite pizza place so far. Enjoyed the meal and table conversations. Everyone there was from Canada, U.S. or somewhere in Europe. One guy bragged about having three passports. Wow! Its all I can do to keep up with one! Another guy explains why his little Canadian-made jeep is by far the best 4WD vehicle to have in Costa Rica. Okay, I’ll make a note of that! Didn’t tell him I hope to never buy a car again. Another guy talked about spiritualism and how he went from a Pentecostal to a meditation guru. The guy from Sarchi says he is now moving to San Isidro del General in the Talamanca Mountains. Now that did interest me. That’s where I photograph the resplendent quetzal. Finally she announces that the movie is starting.

It is an Indie film winner from Argentina in Spanish with English subtitles. But she could not get the

Gail’s photo from last year’s movie party.

subtitles to work on her player nor could the 2 computer expert guys (every group has them). It seems she lost the remote for that machine and the guys say you can only go to subtitles with the remote. I watch about 15 minutes in Spanish of some criminal heist movie that I can’t understand. I go whisper to Gail how nice she is to do this, but I have a big day tomorrow and haven’t learned enough Spanish yet to follow the movie. She was fine with me going! Four others had already left! I walked the mile or so home (How would I order a taxi in Spanish to this non-address?) and then I had a nice rest of the evening. Sometimes it is harder to adjust to the expats than the Ticos!  🙂   Our parties at the apartment went better than this as did the expat potluck lunches from the little evangelical church. I’ll keep trying! And I do know several people here now! I also expect to become part of an ARCR birding group in the coming months.

See what an exciting social life I live?