Saturday, April 16, 2022

Costa Rica-- the Positives and Negatives of Living There + Why We Chose to Leave

Our previous host country (Thailand) went into full Covid fear mode; mandating a PCR test at 38 weeks of pregnancy. Should an unlucky to-be mother test positive, an immediate forced C-section would be performed, and afterwards both baby and mother would be quarantined; but not together, in separate rooms, and Mommy would not touch her baby, nor would the baby be fed her milk, for 14 days. 

Even assuming a 1% risk, we deemed it waaayyyy too high, so at 32 weeks pregnant, we hopped on a plane to Costa Rica.

Having moved far too much for my liking in the 5 years, we really wanted to make it work there, especially since, as parents to a baby born on Costa Rican soil, we would be given the right to apply for permanent resident status, and our baby would automatically be granted Tico (the local slang word for Costa Rican) citizenship.


So, with that, let's go over the positives and negatives of living in Costa Rica, and why we ultimately ended up leaving. 


Positives

The weather- I spent most of my life in California, between the Bay Area, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, and the climate in the central valley of the Costa Rica, puts the Golden State to shame. It is perfect, year round. 64-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s more hot and humid in the beach areas, but the climate here in general is unbeatable.


waterfall in the distance amidst the emerald forest

Nature— one of the last places on the planet with actual wildlife in its forests.
In Asian countries, like Laos, much of the animal life has been hunted out of existence- the jungles sit silent, and neutered.
The opposite is the case here. Just looking for housing in a wealthy gated community along the coast in Guanacaste, I encountered a Howler monkey walking the golf course, who decided I was a little too close and bared his teeth at me to back away, a coati-mundi (South American version of a raccoon,) and two different species of snakes as well. 
If you want to interact with the planet as it once was, you won’t find much better than Costa Rica.

video: Howler monkey warns me on the golf course to put my mask on


video: venomous coral snake eats a competing snake on the forest floor near Arenal volcano



Beauty- the country is gorgeous, particularly the area around Uvita, near the Panama border, where the rainforest descends down the mountains to meet the sea. The emerald hues, and many waterfalls make it a paradise to behold. 
video: sliding down the jungle waterfall in Uvita


Negatives


Expensive- My friend, who is Filipina but living in Costa Rica, described the country as the most expensive on earth, and she’s lived in Norway.
“There is no way Costa Rica is more expensive than Oslo,” I gently corrected her, “Or Bermuda,” — 

“No, it is,” she rightfully interrupted, “Because in Norway I got paid far more, and even though things cost more, I could still save.”
And I stood corrected, understanding her paradigm completely.

video: Costa Rica- the world's most expensive country



Costa Ricans earn very little, and staples like cars, gasoline, and food (both groceries and restaurants) cost more than in the US. And again, the prices in relation to the median salary makes survival here very difficult for the average Tico.
It also means that the money I worked so diligently to save, has a burn rate much higher than I am comfortable with.

Food-- The country wins the world bronze for least tasty food, (Colombia- gold, Myanmar- silver.) It's not particularly healthy either. 


The Roads— Costa Rican roads are notoriously bad, aside of the main highway connecting San Jose to the beaches, where they have toll booths every ten miles or so to extract more out of the underpaid Ticos, driving here means constantly keeping your head on a swivel to avoid the potholes that dream of destroying your car’s suspension.

Government corruption— Even in Los Laureles, the wealthiest area of the capitol city, potholes are plentiful. And should the government, by some miracle, authorize repairs, like everything in Costa Rica, they’ll take at least twice as long as they would in the United States. 

To boot, there is a high rate of taxation, and the government offers little in return except an ever expanding bureaucracy, and a government health care system that is spurned by the wealthy in favor of private providers. 
100% of the Ticos I spoke with on the subject affirmed the story of massive corruption, they only differed in the level of visible frustration outwardly expressed on the topic. 
To add injury to insult, none of the taxes go towards paying for a military, which the country has successfully eschewed since 1948, meaning a greater percentage of revenue collected is able to find its way into the pockets of government bureaucrats. 


Covidiots— In December 2021, outside the national airport, I was nearly arrested for not wearing a mask. I was, once again, OUTSIDE. 

Inside, when leaving the country by way of SJO, my mask was below my nose, the police gave me an incredibly stern warning, and their anger was palpable. 

True, outside of the capitol things are a lot more lax, and most people dislike the mandates, but nearly everyone complies, often for fear of being fined.

video: a store owner scared of being fined, chases my business away


Also, in terms of our decision to leave, it definitely did not help that the school we were sending our 4 year old to, banned us from attending the end of the semester party that was, again, an outside event, after determining we were not vaccinated.


Leadership — Until the election of April 2022, the ruling party had the same blueprint for the country as the incredibly successful socialist paradise of Venezuela, and its President was a disciple of Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum.


The Vaccine— the government has been trying to mandate the vaccine for 5 year olds and up, and rumors (unconfirmed at this moment) are they are making it a mandatory Annual vaccine for everyone. We know the vaccine doesn’t even prevent transmission …
What happened to "my body, my choice?"
No, this is Communism in action, where a centralized power believes they know what is best for everyone.
Also, who is to say that Pfizer didn’t pay a massive bribe to a couple well placed government officials? Imagine a yearly revenue stream from millions of people. That’s gotta be worth the bribe.


It’s a Giant pain in the Ass — The bureaucracy of Costa Rica is slow, expensive, and deadly. Examples:
In order to purchase a 2005 Honda with 178,000 miles on it, it cost nearly $700 in taxes and lawyer fees. That prices rises dramatically with newer cars, adding substantial friction and expense to the process. 

Applying for permanent residence, the number of documents needed is startling. We spent thousands of dollars, and, partly due to our extensive travels, we were unable to procure all the necessary paperwork.
Want to stock up on food en masse and live outside the capitol- good luck. The Pricesmart (Costco like warehouse ) are few and far between, and the prices there aren’t even good.
A 13% sales/VAT tax is applied to nearly everything (and who knows the import taxes,) and because Costa Rica is a small, hard to get to country, it simply costs more to ship and distribute within, but gosh darn it, if you value efficiency, this country is not for you. 


The beauty of Costa Rica is the nature. It’s gorgeous and wild. There are large amounts of water as rainfall is plentiful, and the climate of the central valley is positively unbeatable.

Unfortunately, even as nature lovers, the negatives outweighed the positives, especially because we refuse to subject our children to the Covid vax, the government seems so eager to impose on everyone, and well, for us Costa Rica is an amazing country to visit, but I’ll chose to live in a more efficient country with greater personal liberty.


video: rainfall of the central Valley