Life is full of lessons. And for us, Costa Rica living is replete with many good ones.
From the lessons we learn from nature to the lessons we learn from each other and ourselves, the longer we spend in Costa Rica, the more we are aware of life’s big and little things.
And while there are lots of little, practical life lessons – for example, never leave even a drop of juice on the counter (the ants are coming!) and always shuffle your feet on a sandy sea bottom (stingrays love to hang out there!) – for the sake of this post, we’re going to dive a little deeper. Without further ado:
Patience is a Virtue Worth Cultivating
We’re not going to sugarcoat this one: Patience is a virtue you must cultivate, if you live in Costa Rica. Because we may not be an island but here, we definitely run on island time: Ahora doesn’t mean “now” and mañana probably doesn’t mean mañana. There’s always a line at the bank and the post office. And start/end times are usually more of a suggestion.
So, we won’t sugarcoat this, either: Learning to adjust to the tempo of Tico time – Costa Rica’s loose interpretation of schedules and differing approach to the value of “productivity” – is a learning curve. For some of us, it’s a steep curve. Unless you already abound with patience, there’s likely to be a time (or ten) that make you want to vent some frustration.
But give it a year, a decade, and then a lifetime, and you’ll find that Costa Rica living helps you cultivate patience. Even more, one day you’ll realize that you’re better for that patience. Living here teaches you to roll with the tides, and that is a life skill that helps you relax into the ups and downs that life inevitably serves.
And by the time we realize we’re adjusted, we’re happier people for our newfound patience.
Natural Resources are Finite
To outside eyes, Costa Rica seems synonymous with abundance: In almost every promotional photo and video, the countryside is lush with greenery and teeming with 5% of the world’s total biodiversity. Smiles are freely given. And the sun is a daily visitor.
And yet, Costa Rica is exceptionally aware of how finite are the world’s resources. Without going into a long history lesson, once upon a not-so-distant time, Costa Rica was on the world’s familiar track to bulldoze biodiversity in the name of progress and development. In the 1980s, we made an about-face, looking instead to eco-tourism – then, just an emerging trend – as a vehicle to restore, protect, and regenerate the country’s natural resources. (Today, more than 25% of Costa Rica is protected.)
Not despite the fact, but because we’re now one of the world’s greenest countries, we are still acutely aware of nature’s delicate balance. What’s more, our seasons – a distinct wet and dry – make this balance evermore clear: Toward the end of dry season, when not a drop of rain has fallen in months, the aquafers can dry up. The ground is parched. In exceptionally dry years, our clean electricity (much of which is hydropower) grows dear.
So, we live in a perpetual state of both awareness of and gratefulness for nature’s abundance. We work to preserve and protect it. And we’re richer for this awareness.
Nature is Powerful (and that can be humbling!)
It takes one Costa Rican thunderstorm (and its following sunset) to redefine your understanding of nature’s raw power. As gale-force winds rip through the trees and set your roof to rattling, as water falls in literal sheets and lightning rends the sky in two, you realize that nature is a powerful mistress and we are but her humble subjects.
Add to that, active volcanoes, earthquakes, heavy surf, creepy crawlies, landslides, floods, and other acts of nature, and Costa Rica (the tropics, generally) reshapes how we all interact with the natural world.
For those of us who choose to stay for the long haul, we also learn a lot about how we fit into this natural world. We learn how to live in a world inhabited by insects, snakes, and arachnids. We give thanks for modern architecture and a lazy afternoon to enjoy a storm… from the safety of our modern architecture. And, yes, we do make a little time to sit back and enjoy the ride!
Depending on where you’re from, this one may be either controversial or a given. So, a brief proviso: This one isn’t about politics, but rather about how a country and a culture can approach the human equation.
Costa Rica fundamentally believes in two basic human rights to well-being: education and healthcare. Since 1949, all Costa Ricans have enjoyed access to public education and public healthcare.
As a result – and as a very general statement – Costa Ricans are healthy and well educated: We have long life expectancies (2022: 80.75 years) and high literacy rates (2018: 97.86%), especially when compared to our neighbors, including Nicaragua (75.01 years life expectancy / 82.61% literacy), Mexico (75.32 years life expectancy / 95.25% literacy), and the United States (79.05 years life expectancy / 94.20% as the highest state literacy rate, for New Hampshire).
These dual values permeate Costa Rican life and help define a nation. As Costa Ricans – either born or imported! – we internalize their value, too. And for most of us, that means both the big picture and the personal: We slowly begin to work toward both values ourselves, from taking a daily morning walk on the beach to doing some mental gymnastics as we stretch our Spanish skills.
Never Rest on Your Laurels
No country is perfect but sometimes, it seems like Costa Rica’s national pastimes are 1) fútbol/soccer and 2) criticizing the government/general state of union.
From popular-culture political satire to conversations with your taxi driver, you’ll find that Costa Rican conversation often turns to government (and everything that’s wrong with it). Ticos are very, very aware of – and vocal about – the imperfect state of affairs, and they’re not afraid to talk about it, joke about it, rant and rave about it, and then laugh about it.
And yet, Costa Ricans also love their country. They hold their values dear. They dream of great and greater things. And so, as you hear them yet again complain about the municipality or critique the president, know that it’s [mostly] rooted in a desire to be better. This is growth mindset, on a grand scale – and one that permeates our lives, pushing us to seek more, for our adopted country and for ourselves.
It Doesn’t Hurt to Be Kind
Costa Ricans are well known for their kindness. It’s a national cornerstone! Wherever you go, you’re likely to earn a warm smile and an offer of help.
Depending on your country and specific place of origin, this may or may not be a novel concept. For some of you, smiling at a stranger is second nature; for others, it would be cause for concern. If you find yourself a member of the second population, then buckle up for a big dose of traditional Tico kindness.
After an adjustment period (which can last anywhere from a day to a couple of months), you’ll soon be smiling, offering help, and waving with the best of us. We hope you’ll find, as we have, that a kind word and a warm smile help nurture an equally kind and warm heart.
And Nothing is Forever
One moment you’re staring at a blue sky and the next, a wall of black roars in on the coattails of thunder and lightning. One hour the waves are consistent and perfect and the next, the ocean is a sheet of glass. One month, the sun-bleached ground is a chasm of cracks and scrub and the next, the same landscapes have erupted into a sea of new green.
Costa Rica is a place where constants are ephemeral. Every day – sometimes, every minute – is a reminder that life can change on a dime. And that circles us back to what we said above: Living here makes us a little more aware of and grateful for what we have. We appreciate the reminder.
Want to Do Your Own Costa Rica Living?
Helping people like you just happens to be one of our fortes. At Blue Water Properties, we are happy to help you in any way we can. We can talk about locations and costs of living, schools and lifestyle. We can refer you to residency attorneys or other sources of information, and share our own experiences and lessons learned.
As a company and as people, we thrive on relationships and promise the fastest communication and best services in the industry. And that begins with lots of information. We are happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction, even if you’re only in the beginning phases of planning your future move.
We’re proud to offer some of the best Costa Rica real estate, from condos and homes to land and businesses for sale. So, go ahead – try us. Give us a chance to show off our expertise – and wow you with the possibilities! We look forward to it.