I’ve always had the bug to live internationally. (I consider myself medium-well-traveled; I’ve visited a handful of different countries and probably a quarter of the US states). Then one day I looked around…40 years old and still living in my home state. And I don’t even particularly LIKE my home state…
So I’ve spent the last six months researching international schools (I’m an intermediate school teacher) and preferred locations worldwide. Costa Rica was at the top of my list - I’m very into nature and conservation, have always felt an affinity with Latin American culture, and it’s supposed to be a very friendly and safe country. I just got a job at a private international school in San Jose and I’m super excited!
I’ve never actually been there - just done tons and tons of research and gotten information from friends that have visited. Realistically, there was no way for me to visit EVERY location that would have worked, so I had to base my decision on the advice of friends who know me and my experiences in other Latin American countries. I know I will experience some culture shock but I’m not really sure what form that will take. I enjoy people but I’m an introvert at heart, so I’m hoping that a support system of fellow teachers will be enough to sustain me.
I have about 6 months to pare myself down to whatever I can fit onto a plane; brush back up on my conversational Spanish; and prepare for the unknown. Woohoo!
Any stories or advice from others who have made a similar life change is very welcome!
Our oldest son, afflicted with a case of “the US really sucks and I like the parts of Europe I’ve visited” obtained a one-year work visa for a country he’s never been to (which is saying something - he’s got globetrotter hashmarks halfway to his elbow) and in which he knows not a soul (again saying something - he globe-trots couch to couch) and will land there to look for work in a few weeks. It is a country with one of the most dismal climates on earth and, despite a recent and largely evaporated economic renaissance, not usually found in the same sentence with “employment.”
OTOH, before we landed here in the great northeast, Costa Rica was on our shortlist. So good luck.
I picked up and moved overseas never having visited my destination country. I moved with only what would fit in three checked bags on the plane. I landed not knowing where I would stay that night. It all worked out and more than 10 years later I am still here.
Go with eyes wide open and your mouth shut. Listen much more than you speak.
Banish any and all variations of the phrase “back in my home country we did it this way…” from your lexicon. Back home was different, not necessarily better.
Be prepared to challenge some basic issues related to your general mindset. One common issue is frustration at not being able to get things you want/need in a timely manner. Businesses and/or government agencies may not operate in ways you are familiar with nor in a manner as efficient as you might hope.
If you approach your move with an open mind it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Costa Rica is a mostly gorgeous country with pockets of extreme poverty. The shanty towns in parts of San Jose rank among the worst I have ever seen outside of Haiti. That said, the people living in the shanties (mostly Nicaraguan refugees) are generally very nice to strangers. As in any desperately poor area, the crime rate is higher in than the general population. Appropriate precautions should keep you safe.
The scenery ranges from beachfront to mountain rain forest, and all is worth spending extended exploring time. San Jose is very much like a typical "big city"in the US. Standing on some streets and looking at the business signs up and down the road will leave you thinking you are in Atlanta (or your closest major metropolis).
Driving is pretty hazardous. There are red hearts painted all over the major roadways in San Jose. When I asked our driver what they meant, he said that each marked the spot of a fatal accident! The government is trying too crack down on reckless driving, but it will take a long time to retrain the ingrained habits of the people!
NitroPress, the climate was a HUGE factor in deciding where to go. I figured that if I got to choose where I was going to live, it was going to be in a place where the idea of “snow” was foreign. We just had snow a few days ago and I kept telling myself “it’s your last winter with snow…it’s your last winter with snow…”.
Iggy, thanks for the advice! I like to think that I’m laid back, and I do enjoy new experiences, but I also know that living in a foreign country is completely different from touring it. I’m trying to anticipate problems…except that I really don’t know what form these problems will take. My mantra will have to be “Go with the flow.”
Doctor Jackson, I have two years (at least) to explore the country in-depth, and I will definitely be taking advantage of it (and forays into other Central/South American countries as well). I have heard that San Jose itself is not that great…I will be in one of the “suburb” provinces just outside of the city. Hopefully that will get me a little closer to nature, but I’ll have to save the really fun stuff for 3-day holidays and vacations.
Coming from a big state in the U.S., I’m having a hard time getting an idea of the scale of things. Costa Rica is so small that it seems like I can get anywhere in the country over a long weekend…although I understand that the roads are shoddy and taking the buses anywhere means a long trip in the end. I’m actually very, VERY excited about not having to own a car, so I’m cool with long bus trips. I’m planning to buy a bike to get around the town I’ll be living in.
Check out this website. It’s by a married couple near retirement age who lost their jobs and moved to Costa Rica in search of a cheaper lifestyle. They’ve got a lot of info including over 100 videos covering the nuances of their new life in Costa Rica.
As small as it is, Costa Rica has several distinct areas, with different climates and “personalities”. The Caribbean I’m told is your choice of muggy, muggy or muggy; the Central Valley gets a lot of rain and very little wind; the Pacific is the driest and windiest part, specially its north (Guanacaste, which is where I worked for half a year); there’s both wet and dry (<— very rare worldwide) tropical jungles. A/C often gets used the way it is in the US: 40ºC outside, 18ºC inside, and the doors open :smack: San José is the biggest city as well as the capital, nearby Cartago has a superb technical university.