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What are the Pros and Cons of moving to Costa Rica?

 
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 04:40 pm
Perhaps he wrote the infamous telegraph:
"Inglés dificúltaseme español olvídaseme mudo vuélvome"
(English difficult-for-me spanish i-forget mute i-become)
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 08:56 pm
My airport bus driver when I went to NYC last year was from Colombia. I did my usual number of trying to get the silent bus full of what, 4 people, to talk... and won out. Anyway, it was he and I heading toward the Y to drop me off and we had a nice long conversation. He lived in NY, obviously, and his wife in Florida. He spoke english quite well, all that taxi driving... what a way to learn about a country, drive people in a huge busy city!
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 02:22 am
I think there are better options for what you seem to be interested in. Like Brazil.

My two cents about moving to either country:

Pro:

Foreigners get favorable attention in these countries. You mentioned it a bit but I'll go on to tell you that it was't the big Japanese guy. By this I mean more attention from the ladies, and just more attention in general. It can be both a good and a bad thing.

Bask in the exchange rate. I'm damn poor in America for e.g. but with the same money would live a very comfortable life elsewhere. If you can make money stateside and live there you are living large.

Live two cultures at once. American culture is everywhere. Almost everywhere you go you will see a lot of American culture (movies, TV, music). So living in countries like this means you can really have both. You can find an expat community and maintain both cultures in your life.

People. It's a lot easier to make friends and the social constructs are a lot nicer in some other countries. Brazilians love America but most say they'd not want to live hre because when they visit the US they miss the "warmth".

Corruption. Having money is important. but in a corrupt country having money means all kinds of perks. Not necessarily illegal ones, it's just part of the culture. These places are great if you ahve money (as are most places for that matter).

Con

Crime. This was always the single most bothersome aspect of similar countries when i lived in them.

Exchange rate. If you are earning money in a poorer nation to use stateside you will face an uphill climb.

Corruption. Get used to things simply not working. Systems and procedures that are just slow and inefficient at times.

The first world has many benefits. When I'm outside of the first world I miss them.

Of course now that I'm here in the US I wish I were in Brazil. My stay here isn't much fun and I'm not nearly as happy as I was in Brazil.
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 09:43 am
Craven: Thank you for weighing in here! I hoped you would.

The exchange rate in Costa Rica appears married to the US Dollar. There has been a daily devaluation of a fraction of a percent for over 30 years. Currently you get a little over 400 Colones for each US Dollar. I am going to try and take advantage of this for the import of specific tech items that are prohibitively expensive there, but quite cheap here. As near as I can figure; I can live quite comfortably there for 5%-10% of what I can earn here. That leaves some room for trial and error.
Ticos I met who have lived in the States have reported the same sadness as your Brazilian friends about the coldness and unfriendly atmosphere. This is precisely my motivation for the move. Seeing what appeared to be an entire culture of people who place money much further down on their priority list made me question my own greedy motivations. I'm thinking total liquidation of assets and envisioning a more modest lifestyle for myself. Any advantages I've earned here are multiplied 5-fold there anyway, but my desire is to forget about the rat race. I must work… but I don't wish to be consumed by it. Idea
Crime seems to be the biggest Con that keeps surfacing. Considering I have no need to visit the shady areas I really think this is kind of a non-starter when compared to where I live now. Here I could be car-jacked at gunpoint, at any stoplight, any day of the week. According to what my Tico friends tell me; most crimes in San Jose are at knifepoint and you are far less likely to be hurt if you cooperate.
I am curious; what specific first world benefits do you miss when you are outside of the US? Where do you live in the US? And, why if you are happier in Brazil are you not there?
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 10:39 am
Just a quick thought. One of the concerns the people I mentioned at the beginning have, is that they won't be able to re-enter the housing/lifestyle market here at the level they left it. Everything here has increased in cost in the time they've lived in Costa Rica, while the value of their property there has continued to drop, slowly, but consistently.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 10:41 am
OCCOM BILL wrote:
The exchange rate in Costa Rica appears married to the US Dollar. There has been a daily devaluation of a fraction of a percent for over 30 years. Currently you get a little over 400 Colones for each US Dollar.


Hmm, pegged is dangerous. I wonder if it's pegged.

Quote:
I am going to try and take advantage of this for the import of specific tech items that are prohibitively expensive there, but quite cheap here.


Look into the taxes. In my experience the only way to make an easy profit with imports to third world countries is to cut out the tax in any way possible.

The taxes are usually complex and layered.

Quote:
Ticos I met who have lived in the States have reported the same sadness as your Brazilian friends about the coldness and unfriendly atmosphere. This is precisely my motivation for the move.


Yep, I really miss it. The agression and aloof attitudes in America are a stark contrast to good humoured friendly people.

Quote:
Seeing what appeared to be an entire culture of people who place money much further down on their priority list made me question my own greedy motivations. I'm thinking total liquidation of assets and envisioning a more modest lifestyle for myself.


Yep, as a teen there were times when I had very little money in the US. I remember thinking the pressure to buy brand names was ridiculous. In other places people are far less materialistic and it can be refreshing.

Quote:
Any advantages I've earned here are multiplied 5-fold there anyway, but my desire is to forget about the rat race. I must work… but I don't wish to be consumed by it. Idea


Look into teaching English. I worked as a teacher, translator and interpreter. Translating and interpreting is rough (translating is tedious and interpreting is fierce).

But teaching high levels of English is usually "conversation class". I used to get paid a handsome sum just to sit and talk with bright people at the top of their businesses.

It was the best job I could imagine.

I came stateside to get an education, but I'll go back to that life.

Quote:
Crime seems to be the biggest Con that keeps surfacing. Considering I have no need to visit the shady areas I really think this is kind of a non-starter when compared to where I live now.


Yeah, crime means you change your habits. But there is an advantage. In those countries the crime is very prevalent but it is very rarely gratuitous. That is America's speciality.

So in other countries the crime is more predictable.

Quote:
According to what my Tico friends tell me; most crimes in San Jose are at knifepoint and you are far less likely to be hurt if you cooperate.


This is very true. I have been robbed over 50 times. Heck sometimes the theives would leave me money to get home. In the US this is different. MAny young hoodlums are out just to hurt people.

So in poor countries I just kept money in each pocket and was never out for much.

One time I was robed and then there were two subsequent attempts to rob me that night. I just told them I'd already been robbed and they left me alone.

There is a lot of "nuisance" robbing.

Quote:
I am curious; what specific first world benefits do you miss when you are outside of the US?


I missed the beauty. Poverty is not pretty at times. But most of all I just missed seeing things work.

In poor countries there is a lot of acceptance for basic things simply not working.

Regular blackouts are "just life" and things like that.

Quote:
Where do you live in the US?


San Diego.

Quote:
And, why if you are happier in Brazil are you not there?


I want to get an education. After that I can return to Brazil, but have more options if I choose to then leave Brazil.
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 11:41 am
Craven; what do you mean by "Pegged is dangerous"? I don't like the sound of that… because it is! This wasn't something that occurred to me to worry about. Please tell me if you think the info below should cause me concern…

Current exchange rate is: 1 US Dollar = 413.56 Colones

Costa Rica's exchange rate has followed a "crawling peg" of small daily changes since1993. The rate of devaluation, indirectly set by the Central Bank, is driven by the market and is adjusted by the Central Bank through its sale or purchase of foreign currency. Virtually all public and private business is transacted at the same rate. Commercial banks are free to negotiate foreign exchange prices but must liquidate their foreign exchange positions daily with the Central Bank. There are no controls on holding or remitting foreign exchange. (Source: Released by the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs U.S. Department of State, March 2001)

Costa Rican Colones per US dollar - 359.82 (2002), 328.87 (2001), 308.19 (2000), 285.69 (1999), 257.23 (1998) (Source: CIA world fact book)

ehBeth: Thank you for your continued input. I guess what that means is Costa Rican Real Estate is not a very good investment for foreigners. On the other hand; the prices of a lot of "vacation property" there dropped drastically after 9-11. I wonder if, given some time, it won't recover somewhat. I also believe that as the Stock Markets continue to improve, Real Estate here will at least level off… if not start to decline. My Condo has gone up in value 250% in the last 3 years and I have to assume that is directly related to stock market crash. It's on the water (and they're not making any more of that), so I'm having trouble deciding if it's worth it to wait and see if it continues increasing or to dump it now.
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 11:49 am
O'Bill, the value of my house here has more than doubled in the past three years. At the same time, the value of our dollar has also increased against most world currency (including the u.s. $, again)

That means that people who have left the local urban housing market in the past 2 - 5 years won't be able to get back in, as suburban values have not increased at the same pace. People who left the country have had a particularly bad time on their return (I've got a friend who had to significantly downsize, twice, after two work stints in the U.S.) You want to make sure you don't get caught in that kind of squeeze - especially when you're looking at a slowly sliding currency.

I guess what I'm getting at is - if you are in the U.S. housing market, and can afford to stay in, while also implementing your plan - do so. At least until you're sure that you're not thinking of going back to the U.S. in the longterm. A sort of not burning your real estate bridges approach.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 11:53 am
Well, I don't know that much about Costa Rica's pegging. From what you say it sounds liek a mixture between a pegged and floating currency.

If it's market driven it's not pegged. So it sounds like it's pegged but takes market into consideration. A mixture of sorts.

When it's artificially pegged and doesn't float at all it can be dangerous if there is a sudden devaluation. Keeping your money in dollars would actually make this great for you but sometimes there are laws on how and whether you can do that (though there are certainly easy loopholes).

Thing is, the direction of the currency seems to be going in the opposite direction. If I were you I'd just make sure to really analyze the fiscal policies of Costa Rica because any money you have in their currency can be affected by their policy.

I doubt you will ever suffer a devaluation like in Argentina but that can be *really* rough.

A much more controlled unpegging and devaluation in Brazil was really rough on me. I was about to go stateside and my money devalued to about 30% of what it had been worth.

What is scary is that said devaluation was a small one in comparison to the way third world currencies can free fall after unpegging.

Sometimes when they move to a floating currency they simply sink.
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 11:53 am
Craven, you want to get some degree, you have the education already.

Occom: the pegged currency isn't that secure. I know that from experience. But it is likely that you'll get the blow whistle in case of an incoming devaluation of the colón.
The import-export business is fine if you know how to change the commodities you import. As free trade agreements are more common -and in the case of Costa Rica it is more likely, since it is a stable and relatively prosperous country- the price difference will diminish. These may mean less import taxes, but also the possibility of more competition.
Craven is absolutely right about efficiency. Some things in the third world just don't work the way they should. It could be traffic, sloppy public works (they open the sidewalk, put new phone lines, close the sidewalk 2 weeks later, open the sidewalk again because some lines don't work properly, fix'em, wait 3 more weeks to close it, but take a whole week to do it, because the rainy season came and the holes got flooded, now the sidewalk looks all patched) or shop salespeople who can't use a computer and need their fellow workers to do it for them once again.
If you're picky, it gets into your nerves.
Crime.
Craven's personal statistic is amazing to my eyes.
I have been pickpocketed once (1990) in 40 years of living in Mexico City. I move by public transportation carry only one wallet with money and credit cards.
One car was stolen while parked, and appeared a week later with missing parts (1988)
Unarmed thieves visited my house in 1982. I grabbed one of them, beat the hell out of him and handed him to the police.
Other thieves visited another house in 1999, while no one was there. They took all my CDs, 2 TVs, a video player and a few liquor bottles.
My wife has never been pickpocketed or mugged in all her life.
My older son (22) has been robbed once, at knifepoint, in a public bus, and pickpocketed once. His brother (18) has never had that problem.
So crime is a nuisance, but not something that takes away the joy of living.
I believe San José is much safer than the big cities of both Mexico and Brazil.
Finally, Craven is also on target when he says it wasn't the big asian guy who got the attention from the ladies. It was the gringo looking gringo... you!
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 12:14 pm
One thing about the crime that is important to note was that I was paid to teach by the hour (in different locations), so I crossed the city several times a day.

So while most people would make 2 trips a day I could make up to 10.

But even so, my crime stats are abnormal. Most people in similar situations were only robbed a couple of times in 5 years. While for a while I was getting robbed every two weeks (in one city of about 20 million the same guy tried to rob me three times in different areas).

So don't expect it to be typical. Nobody could figure out what I was seeing so many robbery attempts. Some of my friends called me a crime magnet.

Also important to note was that despite this inexplicable frequency I still considered it merely a nuisance.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 12:27 pm
Quick note as someone who has lived in southern California, not all of the U.S. is that anti-social. I was desperate to get out of there (L.A.) for just that reason. The Midwest is really quite warm and friendly in general.

When I first moved to L.A. and was my usual self, people thought I was trying to sell them something or recruit them into a cult. (And the people who I thought were being Midwestern-ly friendly WERE trying to recruit me into a cult. Shocked) When I came back to the Midwest after a few years, I had adjusted to the point where my neighbors (now friends) thought I was stuck-up and standoffish -- I thought I was being respectful and not freaking them out. Have since re-acculturated.
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 12:31 pm
That sounds like good advice ehBeth. A friend in real estate tells me he could rent my Condo out for the "on season" for $12,000-$20,000 depending on what I leave in it. Taxes and condo-fees are under $10,000 per year (for now), so that might be the right way to go. Idea

Thanks Craven… I will keep as much money as possible in US dollars. I would sure hate to take a beating like the one you endured. Teaching sounds like a wonderful idea… but my Spanish would have to improve drastically first. Embarrassed

Sozobe; being from a small town in Wisconsin; I know exactly what you mean! Floridians too, tend to think I'm crazy when I say hello to strangers.

Fbaezer: Thank you for your continued input as well. I'm glad to hear an opinion that crime in San Jose should be less than in comparable cities in other countries as that is consistent with what I've read. Smile

Ps, I knew it wasn't my Asian friend (who is originally South Korean by the way) that garnered all the attention from the ladies. :wink: I wondered if his formidable appearance played a roll in the lack of interference from local Ticos. In retrospect; I spent half of my time with Ticas outside of his presence anyway… and whether I was in a tourist or local spot; it seemed perfectly acceptable to the Ticos. I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't mention I rather like the "rock star" like reception I receive from the Ticas. :wink:
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 12:47 pm
sozobe wrote:
Quick note as someone who has lived in southern California, not all of the U.S. is that anti-social. I was desperate to get out of there (L.A.) for just that reason. The Midwest is really quite warm and friendly in general.


I have moved form California to the Midwest (well, Texas). I too saw a marked difference bwteeen the friendliness of the peoples.

But even in a comparison between the heart of America and places like Brazil Americans come across as agressive and unfriendly.

So it wasn't really a comparison of California, it's really a whole different concept of society.

So much so that Brazilians in America might be considered rude for being too friendly and affectionate, regardless of the state.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 12:51 pm
OCCOM BILL wrote:

Teaching sounds like a wonderful idea… but my Spanish would have to improve drastically first. Embarrassed


I used to teach people who spoke better English than most Americans. My students wanted not a word of their native language. They were polishing perfect grammar with conversation. They wanted to get used to American pronnunciation and such.

So really, most of the classes were just sitting down and talking about life. Talking with doctors about medical anecdotes, politicians about politics and so on.

Some of it was hardly work at all, heck a lot of the times we'd go to a bar and have a drink or something.

Quote:
I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't mention I rather like the "rock star" like reception I receive from the Ticas. :wink:


I hear ya. It's weird. I got tired of being "gringo" but didn't much mind the sexual attention. It was just a sacrifice I had to endure.

So I steeled my resolve and took one for the team. Lots of times more than one but I digress.

But this is an interesting side-topic, sexual exoticism in foresign fantasy.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 01:06 pm
Yeah, I know what you mean about general differences in "warmth". In Madison, some good friends of ours were from Brazil (like had just moved there from Brazil) and while I think of Madison as being quite friendly, they were appalled. They were about the sweetest couple I've ever met.

But SoCal is pretty much bottom of the barrel, friendliness-wise.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 01:12 pm
sozobe wrote:
But SoCal is pretty much bottom of the barrel, friendliness-wise.


I couldn't agree more.
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 01:13 pm
Craven de Kere wrote:
So I steeled my resolve and took one for the team. Lots of times more than one but I digress.
Sometimes it's tough doing ones civic duty. :wink:


sozobe wrote:
But SoCal is pretty much bottom of the barrel, friendliness-wise.
Have you been to Manhattan? Say hello to a passerby there Shocked and he's liable to jump out of his skin!
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 01:33 pm
Interesting development… I just received a call from a beautiful Brazilian woman named Maria whom I had met a couple of weeks back. I had been a bit annoyed with myself for failing to get her number for future reference… but it would appear, that even in my alcohol reduced capacity, I was smart enough to offer mine. She tells me she'd have called sooner but she just returned from Brazil! I insisted she tell me all about it over dinner tonight and she agreed. Is there anything special I should know about beautiful Brazilian women? :wink:
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 01:35 pm
Go Bill! Wink
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