Costa Rica is a country that can be proud of both its history and its geography. A country underwritten by the philosophy of peace, Costa Rica abolished its standing army in 1949. Furthermore, while most of its neighbors were subject to civil war, dictatorships, and political corruption, Costa Rica has more than a sixty-year history of democracy.
And yet, perhaps even more peaceful than the political system is the country’s beautiful landscape. Encompassed by beautiful coastlines to the east and west, Costa Rica is a mountainous and volcanic country, rich in forests. Amazingly, while Costa Rica only accounts for about 0.03% of the world’s landmass, its rich ecosystems are home to almost 6% of the planet’s biodiversity. Nestled among creatures big, small and fantastic is a relatively happy group of expats. InterNations’ Expat Insider 2014 survey found that over a third of respondents living there were retirees, with an average age of 52. Maybe it’s the sandy beaches or the volcanically enriched coffee, but whatever the case, expats living in Costa Rica have fallen in love with the country. In the survey, just under half of the respondents living there said they were considering staying in Costa Rica forever.
Unfortunately, all is not completely peaceful in the land of coast and coffee. Recent figures suggest that there has been an upsurge in crime, particularly petty crime, in Costa Rica over the last few years. Although in a much better situation than its neighbors economically and socially, Costa Rica is still a developing Latin American country.
This is attested to in our survey, where less than three in ten expats living in Costa Rica felt their level of personal safety was very good, well below the global average of almost a half who feel the same way. Nonetheless, like in most countries, if you avoid the rougher parts of town, you should be fine. Just under half of respondents said Costa Rica is generally a safe place if you keep an eye out for the more shady parts of town.
Known as ticos or ticas, Costa Ricans are a heterogeneous bunch. Although largely the descendants of Spanish settlers, plenty can claim heritage from some of the world’s other great empires, such as the British, Italian, and Dutch. Theirs is a culture defined by positivity and inclusivity, and a veritable slogan among them is “pura vida!” Although this literally translates into English as “pure life”, the cultural translation is much harder to define. Used as a greeting, farewell, or as an answer when asked how you are feeling, “pura vida” has many meanings and is used quite often. The most accurate translation is probably either “going great” or ”this is living!”.
Furthermore, the tico culture is one centered on the family. The people are very close to their families, and children will often live with their parents well into their thirties. Such a family-oriented culture has resulted in something of a “small town feel”. If you’ve made the decision to make the move to Costa Rica, you will quickly find yourself among friends. More than four in five survey participants living in Costa Rica said the population was either friendly or very friendly. Furthermore, nearly a third of respondents said that their circle of friends consisted mainly of locals, which is almost twice the global average. Interestingly, almost half of participants met their friends in their neighborhood. And your neighbors-turned-friends might help you out with your Spanish as well. At least that was the case with our Recommended Blogger Kim, who lives on a farm near Limon. Her tip for other expats is: “Learn Spanish and talk to your neighbors. They love to help you get the words right.”