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I Think the United States is Broken

February 9th, 2008

This was not the original title. The original was to be another “My Readers Write” thingy. Alas, I have gone on a rant that may please or offend some of my readers. While replying to the email below, I found myself waxing forth on about 20 other topics, ranting I guess… going off subject… decided it was way too long for an email response, and decided to share it with the world… cathartic I guess, at least for me. Kind of a mental laxative for. It is REALLY long… sorry. My blog.

From Karin:

One thing that worries me about trying to live in CR is the thought of having to be on guard all the time against house thieves. I’m originally from NYC and am used to watching my back in public, but I’m not used to having bars on the windows, etc.

Your page on Culture Shock mentioned that the concepts of right and wrong vary from culture to culture. I’ve heard Ticos blaming most of the petty (and violent) crime on Nicas that have come into the country.

Have you formed an opinion on why “Thou shalt not steal” and “Do unto others, etc.” are ignored by so many people there? Are they less attached to their “stuff” than we are?

So sorry to go astray Karin, but your answers are (buried) here.

I think “stuff” is relative. If the best you can afford is a radio, the loss of that radio is maybe equal to another person losing their DVD player or cell phone… Just my thoughts.

And… if you think the ten commandments or golden rule have anything to do with our 2008 world, you are probably pretty disappointed daily in your life. Ethics and morals have been under attack by the far left for many years, and the US is an example of how a society can deteriorate when it shifts from basic values, religious or otherwise. In fact it is my opinion that it is far worse in the US than here in Costa Rica, though of course there are areas in the US where people still respect one another, the laws of the land and their own God as they define Him or a higher power if that word is better. Of course, they are ridiculed for their beliefs.

I think the USA is broken.


I am not a particularly religious person, but I think people need to respect other folk’s belief systems and not try to impose their own. Oddly, the terrorists are trying to export and enforce THEIR version of Islam to everyone in the world… The basic Islamic beliefs, while different, are still basically good unless distorted for personal use. Still, there is a huge faction in the US that minimizes and makes fun of those (religious or not) who want and choose a simpler and more basic approach to life and family. They change the words to Silent Night… heavens! Nobody wants to offend! Merry Christmas is now offensive? To whom? Ever had a non Christian tell you not to say Merry Christmas as you walk down the street?

These people want to change how we address each other or groups of people, yet they use words often even more offensive! Example? How about the ridiculously named, “Native Americans”? Ever actually speak with a “Native American”? I have, and I know of none who care to identify themselves as “Americans” at all! They identify themselves with their own Nation (OK, tribe if you want to get silly). Oh… BTW… they actually WERE sovereign nations unto themselves and doing quite well before we decided to relieve them of that overwhelming burden of self governance. All in the name of Manifest Destiny, but really sort of a military assisted living program.

The PC police monitor your words and thoughts and tell YOU how to think, act, and what is right based on what THEY think is right. Free speech, while technically still on the books, is really pretty much gone. No, I am not advocating the use of hate words… I just think this PC crap is another example of what WAS maybe good idea with good intentions now gone horribly wrong.

I consider this attack on people for how they think, speak, worship, or express themselves to be little more than domestic terrorism. It may not be as destructive as Islamic terror, but it sure seems to be having a similar effect… maybe just a tad less bloody.

The Bad Guys!

Yeah… the Nicas and Colombians are blamed for everything… but the Blacks and Latinos were blamed for everything in the US as I recall. I doubt that has changed since I jumped ship. Anyway, all those groups tend to be on the lower end of the economic scale, so I suppose that blame is at least partly justified… Have to eat right?

Crime here? The Cost?

It is FAR cheaper to live in CR than in the USA, but there is a cost involved that people conveniently forget. Those high taxes you pay in the US for (normally) buy those superb services like ambulances, paramedics, police that respond instantly and are well paid and well trained (though seldom well appreciated). Taxes also pay for (generally) well equipped schools with vast sports facilities, computers, after school activities… the works. Even urban schools in the US (Chicago for example) generally are far better equipped then nearly any public school in Costa Rica.

Down here, you pay almost NO taxes, but you also get almost no police services and the Cruz Roja ambulances are often equipped with not much more than an oxygen bottle. With no police, you make do! You may chose to live in a gated and protected community that hires it’s own security. Ironically, those Gringo hideouts are the least secure and most dangerous places to live… a favorite, Escazu, had well over 700 reported home break-ins last year. The really important word is REPORTED? As there is little point, a lot of folks never report crime here.

However all is not bad! There are a zillion safe and wonderful places to live where you can have great neighbors and be safe in your home. I meet people all the time who live safely and without fear! Is that what you want? Well that carries with it the responsibility to learn Spanish and actually BLEND into the Latin culture. That is a price tag that many expats do not wish to pay. They’ll stick with each other, learn 9 words in Spanish, and tell their friends they live in Costa Rica.

The COOL thing is that this is changing! I am seeing more and more over-50ish North Americans moving here, living in areas that are predominantly Tico, adjusting to and LOVING life here. They are safe. They are contributing. They are learning the culture and have discovered that just because you speak Spanish does not mean you are a Mexican gardener. They watch out for each other. Basics. Like holding hands in kindergarten.

The bars on the window? Deal with it. They are everywhere and while many folks will explain them away as part of the Spanish influence (and they are partially right) they have evolved into a requirement depending on where you live. Close to bigger cities and tourist areas… expect to see more bars.

How about the younger expat?

My son 28 lives here with his wife and three year old daughter. He is very concerned that while here in Costa Rica, she will never be exposed to or have access to the zillion things US kids take for granted every day! He is right of course. Kids here play soccer. Few other sports. Very few computer labs… in fact, very few computers at all… few tennis or basketball courts… little track and field. Few if any after school activities that are school sponsored.

My son’s high school and his frame of reference (Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinos) had pools, a TV/radio station, clubs, probably 20 different sports and may about 400 extracurricular things to do. Granted, that may be an exceptional high school… but my point is that down here, those things simply do not exist at all even in the high priced private English schools. They are just not available. He is considering a move back to the USA… not a bad idea, but he simply has NO idea how much all those things cost in the higher taxes he will pay. I paid $7,000 per year in taxes for his fine high school, a super police department that patrolled my neighborhood 20-30 times per day with under 2 minute response time, and paramedics that drove mini hospitals in case we got sick.

Phrases like “Pay me now or pay me later” or “Ya gets what ya pays for” or the ever popular “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” all work fine in Costa Rica. If you move here, bear these in mind. You can NOT have it both ways.
Although I am pretty sure I’ll get blasted for saying this, but I think that those parents who move here from the USA with kids of school age just so they can “expose them to another culture”, while well thinking, are NOT doing them any favors. I am referring here to permanent moves, not a one year visit to another culture thing which I DO support.

The REAL thing I see in the younger expat (not including business transfers) is these people seem to be using the kids as an excuse for their own inability to cope with life in the USA… conveniently blaming Clinton, Bush, the system, the Republicans, Democrats, banks, Britney Spears … whatever/whoever… for their lot in life. I am already getting a ton of email from the Hillary and Obama haters getting ready to leave the USA if either are elected. That is just wrong, You cannot escape your life. It follows you.

To Karin… I do apologize. Poor woman asks a simple question or two and gets the whole enchilada of pent-up crappola.

To you 8,000 or so who get this Blog via email, sorry to jam up your email and use your bandwidth. If I have offended anyone… well, that is why people have Blogs… to say what they think. To spew!

Comments of a polite nature are, of course, welcome so long as they agree with me.


28 Responses to “I Think the United States is Broken”

  1. Bryan on February 9, 2008 10:41 pm

    I think you bring up some good points and make some parallel comparisons between the US and CR. One thing you have to realize that you didn’t really touch upon is happiness. I have found that the simpler people are, the happier they are. This is certainly not true in the US as you probably have witnesses yourself.

    As far as the crime goes, well, I think you hit it right on the head… you get what you pay for. And you make do with what you have.

    Great post.

  2. Karin on February 9, 2008 11:39 pm

    No apologies necessary for the rant. It happens. And I agree with a lot of it, though I believe the P.C. and litigation-happy extremes are starting to go out of fashion.

    But my question was referring to the disrespect of self and others that leads to stealing for the sake of greed as opposed to need (basic needs or drug/alcohol addiction). “I want it, they can get another one, they’re rich,” is the attitude that creeps me out. Locks keep honest folks honest, but concrete bodegas with metal doors? Sheesh.

    And it’s not the T.V. I’m worried about, though being divested of my computer would be problematic to say the least (I expect to keep frequent back-up drives hidden here and there). It’s Great-grandmother’s china figurine. That sort of thing. I have to pass this stuff to the next generation way before I was planning to (my death), or store it in a safe-deposit box, and never get to enjoy it myself. I can do that, but it will be part of my personal culture shock.

  3. Chuck on February 10, 2008 12:05 am

    Generally agree with you on this. I have a question that is more about how the blog operates. You seem to have multiple authors here. Is there a way to tell who wrote a particular piece (like this one)? It’s kind of nice to get to “know” people by their writings, and since you have multiple authors here, I feel like it’s hard to make that personal connection here without knowing who wrote what.

    Thanks,
    …Chuck

  4. Rob Sage on February 10, 2008 4:46 am

    Great post, you may as well let it all out and get it off your chest!

    Rob Sage

  5. Tim on February 10, 2008 9:06 am

    To Bryan

    “I have found that the simpler people are, the happier they are.”

    Also known as “Ignorance is bliss”? 🙂 Yeah that is true… thought too simple can get awful boring after you have been to the big city. Can’t go back to innocence.

    To Karin

    You are overreacting. If life and living here was not manageable, then I would leave. Just that simple. It IS manageable and THAT was what I was writing about. Where and how you live is 100% critical. I know many many folks who have never had an incident. I know others who seem to have them all the time. Crime against you is generally avoidable, but those who, time and again, find themselves at risk, are IMHO, about at dumb as a box of grapes. I read about a traveler from Europe who visited CR before and was robbed. He was robbed again on his next visit. Seems he took his laptop into a BAR in Gringo Gulch (Escazu/Santa Ana) for a few drinkies. Left late at night. He was then relieved of his PC by a taxi driver who was most likely unlicensed. Ummm… Why take a laptop anywhere at night in ANY city where you KNOW you are at risk? This was his second trip? Slow learner methinks.

    You are totally off base with your comment:

    “… to stealing for the sake of greed as opposed to need (basic needs or drug/alcohol addiction).”

    It is clear you are not in touch with Costa Rica.

    1. The ONLY reason people steal here is for the “basic needs / drugs”. Did you think they would steal your PC and give it to their kids? These people snatch glasses off your face at a stoplight because they can be resold for $2.00 which currently buys TWO pieces of crack.

    Although people complain about crime, of the now estimated over 50% who return “home” within one year of arrival in CR, they seldom (not never) list crime as the main issue. Keeping you and your goodies safe is quite manageable, but from reading your comment above, I am not sure the expat life is for you unless you choose. The expat life is not a piece o cake for most folks. You need to adjust and be WILLING to adjust. A LOT of folks are not.

    “concrete bodegas with metal doors?”

    Costa Rica homes are built of concrete for about ten reasons, but some of the biggies are:

    1. CR is an earthquake zone suffering earthquakes at the rate of 3-10 per day. Most are too small to feel, but still home are build of cement and re/bar for SAFETY so they do not fall on you. You wanna live in a frame house? LOL. Better find another location. My home is concrete and for SURE I don’t want frame and drywall as I did in Chicago.

    2. Concrete holds the cool of the night during the heat of the day.

    3. Concrete is generally far less maintenance

    4. Cost of construction is a fraction of other form. Remember, average income here is about $4,000.

    I could go one but you really need to do a LOT more research. CR is a maybe just less than 3rd world country (2nd world?) and it has its issues for sure, but it is a special place and I love it. A LOT do not, which is also why I tell everyone who will listen to NOT commit to CR until you have lived here for at least 9 months and make NO deals that cannot be undone with less than 4 phone calls.

    To Chuck

    There are a few authors and the writer is always listed just below the Post. This one was mine (Tim).

  6. Doug Ward on February 10, 2008 9:15 am

    I agree.
    One thing though.
    I think you are far better off raising kids here than in the M-pyre,
    I have a buddy that brought his kids here 16 years ago when they were 3.
    One daughter moved to Charleston SC ( a nice place),got a job as a legal assistant and quit 28 days later to move home.
    Why ?
    She said ” those people are all raving lunatics” LOL.
    She shoulda tried Miami or LA if she wanted to meet THE REAL idiots.
    Pura Vida
    Living in the boonies with my Tico friends and no bars….hardly a Gringo in sight, thank God !………..

  7. Cy Bolinger on February 10, 2008 10:08 am

    As you most often do, you have really hit the nail on the head! Your “rant” speaks the unvarnished truth. I often ask myself why I want to no longer live in or be a part of the US social order? Well, you listed many of the reasons. The US is becoming a contaminate. We have too much of too much! There are too many malls, too many high-grade plastic people frequenting high-grade plastic places. Now, it is becoming a regrettable fact that ugly Americans are overwhelming too many foreign cultures. It is obvious Costa Rica is singing the “American influence blues”. Look at San Jose and the big and ugly new places coming up at Sabana Norte. Look more at the Americanized enclaves like Santa Ana and Escazu. Just take a look all over Costa Rica! What a really disgusting fact is to see Americans taking over and commandeering a culture that is simple, caring and sweet which is the REAL Costa Rica. It is blatantly sickening to me that so many of us want to be as close to Wal Mart as we can get. This is a keen mind-set, again, constructed mostly with high grade American plastic. I continue to marvel at the genuine devotion to the truth of living in Costa Rica conveyed in “The REAL Costa Rica” blog. THANKS!
    Cy Bolinger

  8. Karin on February 11, 2008 10:35 pm

    OK, time for ME to rant.

    I did not say “concrete houses.” I was talking about wooden houses with concrete bodegas which I have seen myself during our nine trips to CR.

    One of my dual-citizenship buddies in Dominical found his TV antenna on his neighbor’s house. He took it back and put it back on his house. Need or greed?

    I’ve read many CR books. Maybe even one or two you haven’t, though you mentioned two in your “moving to CR” pages that I will order.

    I have friends who have been there for years. I have Tico and Tica friends (not just acquaintances) in Talamanca where we spend most of our time. Yes, I’ve heard about earthquakes. How about the one in 1991 that literally changed the Caribbean coastline?

    We’ve had an S.A. for three years and have been through all kinds of red tape, including spending days trying to get a bank account.

    I’m told my Spanish is getting pretty good.

    You have a wonderfully informative site, but we’re not all tourists, here. Please stop assuming on the basis of ONE QUESTION about stealing (which you finally answered, thank you) that I have not done my homework!

  9. Roblynn on February 12, 2008 11:36 am

    I read your rant with great interest, and sure agreed with most of it. I do have to point out some things in the public schools that may have changed since your son was in High School. The availability of sports is no longer free in Flagstaff Arizona. Now the schools can no longer afford extra curricular sports and the students pay a 195.00 dollar play to pay fee for every sport they play! That gets expensive with jock sons! Of course if you are really poor the school will pick up the tab, seems we were never quite poor enough. Also high school sports is now treated like collegiate sports, you can get disqualified for any infraction of the aau or entity that governs all childrens lives. My son was six feet seven inches and loved basketball. He went out for the team his senior year. Beacause when he was 13 and we were homeschooling he took a shop class at the high school, they said he was a fifth year senior and therefore was inelligible. They accused the high school of recruiting and had a hearing to see if he could play. No Way. The perks in the USA just werent worth the hassle to us anymore. By the way we live in the beautiful mountains of Heredia, meaning San Rafael and love it here. And yes we definately have had to learn spanish here. Thanks for your site. Roblynn

  10. cindy on February 13, 2008 10:14 am

    You are wrong to say that tico’s “only” steal for need, or money to feed the family. I live in a tico area, am the only gringa here, and have been here for years. My tico friends have taught me about not trusting any other ticos and not leaving anything out, or available to steal. For example christmas lights, what a shame they must be put behind iron bars and not on trees out front, my new ceramic house number…got many warning on that, a hose running out front with a sprinkler I could to on and on, need or greed? These warnings from ticos about other ticos. Nothing is sacred. There are many who are honest, but ticos steal from other ticos just as much as from foreigners. You seem to have a real hate for Santa Anna and Escazu Tim, why is that? Your feeling left out of gringo gulch? Why do you care that some of the expats choose to live in this lovely area, where they find all the modern conveniences? I live in a tico area but find myself there once a week for shopping, great food stores, restaurants etc. For me its a good mix to live in a smaller, safer area and do my shopping and get my city “fix” in a short 30 minute drive.

  11. Tim on February 13, 2008 12:38 pm

    Cindy

    OK I’ll modify “The ONLY reason people steal…” to “The near ONLY reason people steal…”. In the context of her original email and my response, I was trying to make a point that the overwhelming majority of petty theft ends up at some point, to be drug related. I am changing this more or less to avoid argument… but I have a truly hard time believing that a person who steaks Christmas lights is going to run home and decorate her house with your lights. Nope… I am betting that somehow, somewhere, those lights will somehow get converted to cash or exchanged for something else. I also doubt the hose robber plans to take that hose so he can wash the car he likely does not own.

    Regarding Santa Ana and Escazu.

    First, the term Gringo Gulch has been used in CR for AT LEAST ten years and probably more. It refers the the large number of Gringos who chose that location to live.

    Do I hate it? LOL! NO! Why would I? Do I think a person is smart to live there? Hell no!

    “I live in a Tico area but find myself there once a week for shopping, great food stores, restaurants etc. For me its a good mix to live in a smaller, safer area and do my shopping and get my city “fix” in a short 30 minute drive.”

    OK. let’s examine these statements.

    You go there once a week for shopping? So you can pay 30-50% MORE than you would pay for the same goods sold elsewhere? The prices in Escazu are well known to anyone who lives here as just plain ridiculous and the only reason they are sustainable is because of the high concentration of Gringos who will pay those prices.

    Example? Last week, my wife and I met our daughter at a newish strip mall (centro comercial) as you head up the hill past Scotia Bank… maybe 200 yards up the rise. I expect you know it. There we find a store selling children’s clothes. My wife and I stop in thinking to get something for our granddaughter, age 3. We find a REALLY beautiful little sun dress thingy that is well made and really quite beautiful. And only $156.00. That is NOT a misprint. Textiles in CR are dirt cheap and we can and HAVE found beautiful children’s clothing of equal quality for $30.00 or less. $156.00? I don’t think so. Thanks! But to me, this speaks of the mentality of those who live there? They clearly WILL pay that much! The point is not whether I or anyone can afford $156.00. I CAN… comfortably… but I will NEVER pay that money for a three year old and my only granddaughter to boot. Am I cheap? Hell, you decide.

    Great food stores? Which ones? Sarettos? (sp??) Auto Mercado?

    Both are popular for the ONE reason that they carry a wide variety of products and trade marks FROM THE USA. The meat is overpriced by at least 10-15% OVER any GOOD Tico butcher shop. The produce is 30% higher than you will pay at any good feria on a Saturday or Sunday morning. So you pay a huge premium just for what I consider to be a “feel good” grocery shopping experience. Sorry, but while I will go to certain stores to buy something special from “back home”, I buy my meats and vegies from local Tico merchants who provide better quality at lower cost. I also feel good about supporting the mom n pop businesses who have it hard competing with the big boys. I’ll overpay for a Thanksgiving turkey though…

    Now let’s discuss restaurants! I agree! There are some good ones, but for my wife and I to eat at one with maybe a glass or two of wine for my wife (I seldom drink), is now not uncommonly $75.00 to $100.00. HUH? You state you have been here for years… if true, then you recall when you could eat at some very good restaurants in Gringo Gulch for $25-$30 per couple, drinks included! Of course THAT was before the HUGE influx of North Americans.

    Your last reference to “safer area” makes me wonder if you read the paper. Escazu had over SEVEN HUNDRED home invasions last year! Those are the ones reported and everyone who lives here know a ton of stuff never makes it to the “stats”. There have been numerous street shootings and robberies.

    Now in fairness to Escazu, the “city fathers” ARE hiring a ton of private police and security personnel to beef up the safety of those who live, work and shop there, but do you think they would be doing that if all was well? Escazu is FAMOUS for crime.

    Oh… and for sure, I do not feel “left out”. LOL! Left out of the robberies? Left out of paying too much for too little? Left out of inflated real estate prices caused by too many foreigners paying WAAAY to much to live in those high rises so they can feel safe and not have to deal with the the hoi polloi? Left out that my wife could NEVER go out for her nightly run if we lived in Gringo Gulch? Left out that I would worry every night that she might be robbed, shot or worse?

    The area we live in is very safe… few or no robberies, a few Gringos, lots of Ticos, but also 3 Italians, some people from Spain, two from France and one from Bermuda. I cannot ever remember hearing of a street shooting though there have been a few home break ins… but a fraction of the number in Escazu. Left out? Hardly.

  12. Gabo on February 17, 2008 12:38 pm

    Every country has good things and bad things.
    I’m from Costa Rica, and I cannot expect to live in USA the same way I live in Costa Rica.
    So is the same with American citizens and any other person who comes to our country.
    I like this blog, is very accurate.
    You are doing a great job.

  13. Tim on February 18, 2008 8:44 am

    Thank you.

    You have it right. While we all are (or should be) proud of our birth country, no country is perfect. The again, neither are our kids and we still love them… most of the time 🙂

  14. Craig on February 18, 2008 6:54 pm

    I am considering a move (for several months) to Costa Rica. I was planning to stay in Buenos Aires but I wish to take my dog with me and I do not think he will be happy in a concrete jungle. But this crime thing scares me. I am planning to stay in Heredia (San Rafael). Is the crime in Heredia as you say it is in Escazu? I also read your earlier post about people getting robbed in their cars on their way from arriving at the airport. Definately has me rethinking things.

    I would prefer to stay in a non-gringo area, and from what I hear San Rafael is not exactly gringo gulch. But until I learn the language better and learn the area better I think San Rafael is a good option. Thoughts?

  15. Steve on February 19, 2008 10:47 am

    Just found this blog recently. So far it seems like a nice place for discussion about living in Costa Rica. I have lived here for 9 years. I am married to a Tica.

    I´ll be reading more…

    Steve

  16. Chuck on February 20, 2008 11:11 pm

    Hi Tim,

    I’m replying to your reply to me from 2/10, about figuring out who is writing what on the blog. I guessed that this original post was by you, but I didn’t see any name immediately below the post (still don’t–am I blind to it?), which is why I asked. I see that on today’s (2/20/08) post, at the bottom, after “Filed under,” it says “Susan Lutz (Carmichael).” It just seems like I’ve seen other posts here without that info, like the one for 1/18/08. Anyway, it’s certainly no big deal, but I do enjoy being able to associate the name with the ideas.

    …Chuck

  17. Tim on February 21, 2008 11:58 am

    Hi Chuck

    Hmmmm! I see what you mean! When any of the others write something, their names appear… but when I write… nothing.

    I think that must be because I do not login as a writer but as owner of the blog.

    I will experiment the next time I Post and we shall see! I guess for now, no name is MY name 🙂

    Also, as I have received several complaints about the other contributors not contributing very often, it will only be me for a while until I figure out how to have others who will actually post more often.

  18. Larry in Georgia on February 25, 2008 9:08 pm

    I am in the initial investigation phase for finding a place to spend 6 months of each year. The other 6 months my wife and I will travel or live on a 15 acre place in north east Alabama.

    We have traveled quite a bit and lived in China for a year and prefer to live outside of an American compound. I am learning Spanish and intend to continue studying.

    Where does one start in looking for a place to live? We would probably have grand kids spending some time there as well but not the entire 6 months because of school.

    I have read your posts and find it very educational and enjoyable

    Thanks for any pointers you might have.

    Larry

  19. Ella on March 14, 2008 3:30 pm

    I am doing research on moving to CR with my husband and 2 kids(1 school age 1 preschool). Where would be the safest place to live with the kids, and could the kids attend public schools (the cost of private schoold scares me). US has been a second home to us anyway (althoug kids have been born here), and english is our second language which we have learned fluent. We belive we could learn spanish quickly. The gringo gulch does not appear to me and we would move for economic reasons also so, I would love to move to a safe but relatively cheap place. I do not care for american food, I care for healthy food that I have to pay much too much for organics here.

  20. James on March 24, 2008 7:39 pm

    Hello Tim,

    This may seem a bit off topic, but I was reading so many of your catagories, I did not know really where to post! I agree with you about the US being broken, and after reading this blog and all the comments, I decided it was as good a place as any to make a reply.

    Thanks for your blog, I think it’s great and I just recently came across it. I am a Army and Navy veteran, disabled but get aroud fine. I have a BS in biology and am a photographer and have had a keen interest in CR for many years now. I want to move somewhere in Latin America so have been researching all I can and trying to brush up on my Spanish. Land developers email me all kinds of things about the advantages of their “gated communities” and condos, but I love nature and have never really been into the retirement community scene anyway. “The Real Costa Rica” has confirmed a lot of things I had suspected. Thanks again.

    Now, I am 43 and wish to retire early. I receive 2,700.00 USD from VA disability and 800.00 from S.S. disabilty monthly. Could I live comfortably on $3500.00 a month there? (Thats tax free, or net). I do not want a lot, just a modest place with a good view…and I will be moving down alone.

    I am pretty sure I can still receive both checks and live abroad. Do you know anything about that?

    Also, I should have about $80,000 or so to bring with me by the time I make my move (hopefully this year. So my next question is two-fold…would I come out better buying a place already built or buy property and hire someone reputable to build for me?
    Secondly, have you got any regional recommendations for me to look into? I would greatly appreciate any advice you can give me on this.

    I’ll visit first, then I guess I should rent when I move, while I search. One more thing; I would like to not spend all my cash on a purchase. With a fixed and lifelong income I think I will be able to get a…lost for what it’s called…pension type visa or residency? Anyway, I would like to be able to finanace at least a portion of my purchase and have some to put in the bank.

    I’m a tough cookie and a nice person who has traveled all my life. If and when I move down I would prefer to live among Ticos and their culture.

    Thanks again, any other advice is welcome too.

    James in NC

  21. James on March 24, 2008 8:29 pm

    Tim,

    I should have explored the blog more carefully. One of your other posts…Moving to Costa Rica answered some of my questions. I still welcome anything you can tell though.

    Thanks,
    James

  22. Ron on April 3, 2008 10:56 am

    Jim…I too am considering a move to CR. Perhaps we could share info and cost. southcltguy@aol.com

  23. CA-gringo on April 8, 2008 11:44 am

    “1. CR is an earthquake zone suffering earthquakes at the rate of 3-10 per day. Most are too small to feel, but still home are build of cement and re/bar for SAFETY so they do not fall on you. You wanna live in a frame house? LOL. Better find another location. My home is concrete and for SURE I don’t want frame and drywall as I did in Chicago.”

    As a 3d generation Californian, I find this comment highly amusing, and a little ignorant. The fact is, stud frame structures are among the -safest- to be in during an earthquake! Yep, it’s been tested, more than once. It’s because, like a good expat, they move -with- the prevailing forces, not against them.

    The unreinforced masonry buildings on the other hand, tend to collapse in heaps. Presumably Tico architects and engineers take it for granted that they need to plan for earthquakes. Maybe even termites. 😉

  24. Christine in DC on April 28, 2008 8:36 pm

    I stumbled to your site preparing for my short trip to CR in 2 weeks. This is all very interesting–and what I find most interesting is that if I didn’t know this was about CR, any of the things could have been said about American cities. Many of the very same points (about crime, people isolating themselves within enclaves) are made here.

    My city living has prepared me well, I think, for most street crime. I was reading a comment a traveler made about being relieved of their luggage that they left in their car at a hotel…I thinking “duh,” but of course not everyone’s had the education I have. Ever since moving here, I never leave anything in sight in my car–and truly, nothing in the car at all. I mean anything. I was taught that lesson quickly after moving here–broken into 3x (one time, my snow brush was stolen–doubt that gave them much money, but I may have missed the snow brush trade here…). A lot of it here is drug related, too. Affluent (or relatively affluent) people are often targeted–either because they are living in known rich areas or because they’re new wealth in a formerly poor area. Similarly, it’s the people who flaunt their wealth and disrespect what’s going on who are targets. I see people prancing along in my neighborhood (which has more than its fair share of muggings) with their nice new laptops. Almost makes me want to steal it to prove a point. I digess… Anyway, I find the discussion interesting.

  25. Bob on May 8, 2008 5:42 pm

    I really enjoyed your in depth web site and my subsequent 2 weeks vacation in C.R. I found the people to be very genuine and helpful(my wife and I stayed in a B&B in the outskirts of San Jose). Anyway, to comment on the stealing thing, I have lived in Western Samoa and had almost everything I owned stolen in the first year. All that meant was that I needed a smaller storage space with a bigger lock (camera gear, travelers checks, and passport). It was actually quite comical to see a Samoan wearing one of my tee shirts that advertised Schrader Wood stoves. You get over it and you find out you didn’t really need all that stuff anyway. Further, I found that staying out of the “European compound” and living in the Samoan village enhanced my cultural experience and forged many long lasting friendships.

    I am planning an experimental stay in C.R. soon and hope to pursue similar living arrangements that worked so well for me in the South Pacific.

    p.s. Happy 8th of may to you all.

  26. Sugar on May 9, 2008 6:22 pm

    Hey, I will be studying at a university called Veritas University and it says that I will be living most likely either in a Tico/Tica home (homestay), or a shared apartment nearby. I think it’s all in the Zapote district, so how safe is that area? Are there reports of foreign college students being killed? Because I’m just asking for info in order to know what to prepare for, because I am still going no matter what you say EXCEPT if you say that, “Yes, hundreds of foreign students are slaughtered each year in broad daylight.” or something like that. Then, I might not go.

  27. Robert on June 13, 2008 9:11 am

    I outlasted the 40% who leave in a year but I am in the process of leaving Costa Rica and never planning to return. Costa Rica is on a slippery slope and everything that I see the natives are greasing that slope. Perhaps some of you who responded are providing a a bit of speed by wearing blinders.

    I visited Costa Rica several times a year for 12 years before living there for over 2 years. In the time I lived there my apartment (2 blocks from the Presidents home) was broken into 3 times. After I had the first break-in I installed a security system that did not deter anyone. My car was broken into 3 times; I had a friend (Tico) 85 years old that was mugged at 10:00 in the morning while taking his walk for 10,000 colonies. He nearly died and was hospitalized for 2 months; I was the victim of petty crime too many times to remember; and, on two occasions in one year would have been the victim of robbery in popular tourist areas if I had not been diligent about my safety. I do not want to live that way.

    I do not want to imply that I did not find some good people there but if you have exposure to the vast majority of people who live in poverty you will have difficulty finding anyone who is not opportunistic, has empathy; has any understanding that you should not have babies at 16 years old, the father should be in the lives and suppport their children; to get ahead you need to finish school; you need to work hard; marijuana (and other drugs) is not harmless (it is physically and emotionally addictive); and, anyone who considers being truthful as a common way to communicate.

    Somewhere I read that there are not guns in Costa Rica and whoever wrote that has to stop watching the US news channels and watch the local news that reposts on murders nearly every night. Yes there are a lot of Nicaraguans, Columbians and other Latin people in Costa Rica but they are not the entire problem. Is the FARC in Costa Rica? They certainly have a strong presence in other Central American countries and to think Costa Rica is not their next target is burying your head in the sand.

    Getting anything accomplished takes so much time you don’t have time to enjoy what Costa Rica has to offer. There are 3 or 4 clerks in the ICE office to service 40 or 50 people that are waiting. They spend 10 minutes with each person. Banking is improving because of the competition from foreign banks but what can be accomplished in 10 minutes in the US will take an hour. Someone on this blog described the roads as average to bad. I invite the person who said they were average to try and drive from San Jose to anywhere in a reasonable time. Maybe the surface of the road is not too bad but spend time behind several trucks that are traveling at 20 KPH and see if you can get to the beach and have anytime to enjoy that day.

    If you want to buy a car, be prepared to pay 50% more than in the US. By the way I have a 2006 Honda CRV for sale. Insurance (a government monopoly) will be more than twice what you are paying in most parts of the US with a 20% deductable on your car and the other vehicle if you are responsible for the accident.

    Yes, there are problems in the USA but there is a chance to get it changed and more and more people are demanding a change. I do not want to discuss our political system or politicians but I see more interest in changing things than ever before. I am not speaking of the changes proposed by Mr. Obama either. There is definite majority of Ticos that get wrapped around thinking that this is the beauty of Costa or that Pura Vida lasts forever; their apathy will only cause this to get worse and worse. Although many assume that we Americans are rich they do not appreciate that many of us were not born with a silver spoon in our mouth and worked hard for education and a career. Many criticize the US and refuse to appreciate the aid we provide them such as the new Coast Guard station, hospital ships, and the list goes on.

    My opinion is that perhaps there are people that can enjoy living in this environment but do not abandon what you have at home before living there for awhile. Fortunately, I am blessed and did not have to give up my residence in the US. I will probably never return to Costa Rica and hope that someday they can change what is obviously happening.

  28. John Monroe on June 27, 2011 9:32 pm

    Websites like this get really silly really fast. Expats are always defending a move to some other country. It’s a silly as all the PC stuff you hate. People have been moving from country to country since the beginning of our existence. There was nothing wrong with it then and nothing wrong with it now. If someone is being clueless about a location, let them be and reserve your energy for people who realize there is a whole world out there.

    I do think you are very wrong about people’s reason for wanting to leave the US. The US has gotten very bad. Period. I have traveled to many countries but didn’t need to in order to see the bankruptcy going on here and I don’t mean financially.

    A person can and should move if where they live does not support their needs or what they want out of life. I don’t think it’s because a person can’t “hack it” in the US if they want to move because they are tired of eating poisoned food and watching the kids around them turn into predatory trolls who will eventually kill us.

    I grew up in the 80s where after school specials talked about social issues and we formed clubs in school because we cared about things to now see kids care so little about anything and themselves that they’ll video tape their friends getting hurt and stand over them and laugh. Now if that’s not scary to you, I don’t know what is. I could go on and on but it’s again.. silly.

    Every place has it’s pros and cons and I don’t think it’s right for anyone to decide if someone’s reason for moving is frivolous. I mean, if a person wanted to move to another country because the sea shells had more colors it would be a valid reason. 🙂

    And I definitely don’t think the US is the best country on the planet or close to it. It’s nothing more than a fourth world country with a bunch of icing on it.

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