Fbaezer, I fully intend to merge with the Ticos (and Ticas :wink: ). It is the friendly people there that attract me most. I enjoyed the nightlife at the local hangouts more than the tourist places. I made friends with locals that I still keep in touch with via email. I found it simply amazing how welcome they made me feel.
Caprice, thank you for the comprehensive checklist. I've been able to check off most of it and I'll share in case anyone else is interested in making such a move.
Housing- In a word; cheap. An upscale expatriate neighborhood would cost a little less than a middle-class neighborhood here in West Palm Beach. The condo I live in now could be had for about half what mine's worth and adequate housing could be purchased for around $30,000. I'll probably live in a nice hotel for the first 6 months or so and, believe it or not, this can be done for about $1,000 per month. Those on a tight budget could rent a decent place for around $250 per month. That's what my friend Lucy pays for a cozy 2 bedroom home and that seemed like a decent neighborhood.
Groceries- Very Cheap. Brand name bottled drinks are perhaps half the cost while everything else is around 20% of what you would expect to pay here. A hot meal at the grocery store near where I stayed cost about $1.20 and a 6-pack of Imperial (tasty local beer) costs half a buck. 2 pizzas and drinks at the local Pizza Hut cost $68
(ridiculous) but most restaurants are way less than half of what you would expect to pay here. Only in expatriate communities do they charge prices similar to here. Ram Luna is the nicest restaurant I've ever been to. 5 star service, beautifully decorated, excellent food and a mountain top view overlooking all of San Jose
Dinner for 6 cost about a hundred dollars and they argued that we didn't have to tip so much!
Weather/natural phenomena- Tropical storms but they say Hurricanes don't really go there. Half the year the weather is extraordinarily perfect and the other half is the "rainy season". Not much different than South Florida accept that the temperature is even closer to constant.
Health care- is reputed to be good and very inexpensive (damn near free for Ticos). I don't know how accessible but I assume very in San Jose since there are 2 million people living there.
Transportation- is expensive to own. Cars cost about double there because of huge duty taxes that get steeper the older the car is. Taxis, by contrast, cost next to nothing and buses are cheap and will take you anywhere inaccessible by commuter planes. Commuter planes are around $50 to go anywhere because it is a relatively small country (about the size of West Virginia).
Income- Better plan on starting a business because the average Tico earns about $300 per month.
$800 per month is considered exceptionally good money! On the other hand
that should tell you how low the cost of living is
San Jose, like all big cities, is full of business opportunities. I believe I'll start out as an importer. Learning all of the Customs and Duty laws is driving me a little crazy on account of my deplorable Spanish, but I have figured out most of it. Certain products I am 99% certain I can make a decent profit on. I'll know about the other 1% in about a month (when I visit there next).
Local flora and fauna- Rain forests cover a descent portion of the land, so yes; there are plenty of wild animals and bugs. They don't bother me and the wild monkeys are pretty cool. There are active volcanoes (breathtakingly beautiful), but no one seems to be afraid of them.
Lifestyle issues- For the most part; I envy their laid back lifestyles. The friends I made there; couldn't care less how much money they made or had. They seemed to live to dance, laugh and get together at private parties as well as go downtown to the bars.
Internet- I'll be taking my 2-way satellite internet connection with me. The satellite it addresses is located at about the equator and I'm told it may work even better there than here. My ISP doesn't even have to know I moved. :wink:
Customs behavior- I'm sure there are some differences, but I haven't heard of anything major. Ticos are considered one of few peoples who actually like Americans. As a whole; they are very well educated and understand that the presence of Americans is good for there economy. The treatment on my last visit was extraordinarily polite, whether I was in a touristy or local type of place. Expatriates that I met there echoed the same. Expatriates already make up 1% of the population there.
If my method of obtaining permanent residency works the way I think it will; I will never be required to give up my US citizenry
But like Ossobuco pointed out; I may very well choose to, to save a fortune on income taxes. I agree with you all that the United States is a wonderful country. I've never lived elsewhere and may very well decide I don't like it when I leave. I currently live 1,000 miles from most of my family (Wisconsin) and an extra hour and a half on a plane is all I'd be. From what I've read; no expatriate has ever been denied the right to visit as often as he pleases. When I first came to Florida 9 years ago; I fell in love with the weather and decided I wanted to live here. It's been kind to me. When I first went to Costa Rica; I fell in love with the people, the natural beauty, the customs and the overall feeling of peace. Maybe I won't like it
but I think I'm going to have to give it a try. Again, I thank you all for your input and please, keep the ideas coming!