Over the last couple of decades – and especially in the last few years, thanks to digital nomads! –  more and more people are choosing the pura vida and the Costa Rica expat lifestyle for our year-round sun, excellent healthcare, green landscapes, and so many other reasons.

That said, before you make a major leap, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of living in Costa Rica: When it’s no longer a vacation and becomes real life – real life, where you need to bank and shop and live, often in Spanish – will you fall in love with the real-life Costa Rica expat lifestyle?

For so many of us, the answer is an enthusiastic and resounding YES! But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t encounter any potholes on our road to paradise. Quite the opposite, often! Living in Costa Rica often means adapting and integrating and, sometimes, laughing at the mistakes and lessons we learn along the way.

So, we thought we’d roll a few of the big and little things into a fun quiz format. You know, for all of us who grew up taking quizzes in print magazines that we held in our hands… this one’s for you!

Read each question, be sure to answer honestly, and tabulate your points (1 each for Part I, 2 each for Part II, and 4 each for Part III) to check your score at the end. And please remember, this is designed purely for fun! Life in Costa Rica takes a bit of adjustment, and we hope this lighthearted quiz will provide a bit of insight into just what types of adjustments we mean.

Costa Rica lifestyle checklist

PART I: The Basics

There’s a definite bare-basics requirement to the Costa Rica expat lifestyle. There’s also a baseline attitude and/or approach to life that predisposes expats to an easier adjustment to life in paradise. This section touches on a few of the big ones.

Costa Rica expat lifestyle basics

Scoring: Give yourself 1 point for each question you can answer YES.

☐ Have you ever moved somewhere radically different from “home” and/or lived abroad before?

☐ Do you live off of savings OR do you receive a pension or annuity OR do you work remotely OR do you work for a multinational [that will help secure your work permit] OR do you qualify for a digital nomad visa? In other words, can you support yourself without having to find work in Costa Rica?

☐ Do you live a fairly active lifestyle?

☐ If “no, would you like to live an active lifestyle?

☐ Do you consider yourself street-smart?

☐ Is 50% to 99% humidity your idea of paradise?

☐ Are you ok with not having to pump your own gas?

☐ Do you consider yourself resourceful? Are adept at the fine art, invention, and science of “MacGyvering”? Or, at the very least, are you comfortable YouTubing “how to XYZ?” – and then, doing it?

☐ Do you consider yourself a patient person? Does your patience hold up for a second, third, or fourth round of XYZ?

☐ Do you typically enjoy attacking new challenges and adventures?

☐ Do you enjoy being surrounded by unspoiled nature?

☐ Do you consider casual dress and footwear to be acceptable daywear?

☐ Can you diffuse a frustrating or stressful situation without resorting to raised voices and/or requesting to see the manager?

☐ Is “good enough” something you are or can be ok with?

☐ Can you live without deep-dish pizza? Or food delivery, for that matter? (Depending on location.)

PART II: Cultural Adaptations

At first blush, there’s a whole lot alike between Costa Rica and the U.S., Canada, Australia, and many countries across Europe. It might not be that big of an adjustment, you think. I got this!, you say.

And, while your mileage may vary, almost everyone experiences culture shock of some stripe or variety. Your ability to accept and adapt will serve you well. This section is a lot about that side of the Costa Rica expat lifestyle: How willing are you to be outside your comfort zone, recalibrate for your “new normal,” and integrate into your new country and culture? Because we guarantee, Costa Rica will not change simply to meet your expectations. 

culture shock Costa Rica

Scoring: Give yourself 2 points for each question you can answer YES.

☐ Do you speak Spanish? Give yourself an extra point if you can count into the ten-thousands and even hundred-thousands! (Ex. How do you say 268,912 in Spanish?)

☐ If “no”, are you willing to learn basic Spanish so you can communicate the basics and, hopefully, begin forming Spanish-speaking connections?

☐ Can you weather (haha) 90°F+ (32ºC+) heat? If not, do you enjoy air conditioning OR are you willing to live far from the beach?

☐ Are you able to laugh your way through the line at the DMV (or, pick your favorite bureaucratic government agency)?

☐ Quick! Can you learn to convert ¢28,322 to USD (or your home currency) in your head, if the exchange rate is around ¢575 to $1? (And are you ready to recalibrate, if next week the exchange rate is ¢650 to $1?)

☐ Can you find the charm in insects, reptiles, and sea creatures? If not, can you at least come around to the idea that they are “interesting”?

☐ Are you okay with substituting an unavailable ingredient in your favorite recipe? How about almost all of the ingredients?

☐ Are you a dog lover? Do you (or could you) feel comfortable walking around street and/or beach dogs?

☐ Are you relatively immune to allergies, rashes, and insect bites – especially from mosquitoes? If not, are you willing to wear repellent when necessary, even if that’s almost daily?

☐ Do you love bank hours, holidays, and lines? If not, can you accept their existence?

☐ Is not getting it right the first time ok?

☐ Are you willing to give up checks (and paper billing) and pay utilities and other bills via online banking or in cash?

☐ Would it be a problem to be a 1-, 2-, or even 5-hour drive to specialty shopping and medical needs?

☐ Are roosters acceptable neighbors? Even at 4 a.m.? (Their internal clocks don’t always work. Trust us.)

☐ Do you like fried chicken (or fried farmer’s cheese, for the vegetarians) and rice and beans?

☐ Are you offended there wasn’t a vegan option above? (Subtract 2 points)

PART III: The Big Daddies

There are a few elements of the Costa Rica expat lifestyle – especially here in Guanacaste, former cattle country and now beachside hotspot – that are so different, they’re almost jarring. Yes, we said it! Because we’re committed to full truths (and even the hard truths) – and one of them is that life in Costa Rica isn’t always perfect. With a bit of humor and a serving of gumption, though, we think you can handle it.

Costa Rica lifestyle major differences

Scoring: Give yourself 4 points for each question you can answer YES.

☐ Have you already spent extensive time (months, not weeks) in Costa Rica? Preferably, during both the rainy and dry seasons?

☐ Can you accept that things (even Very Important Things) will get done on a schedule that almost never coincides with your preferred or expected schedule? And by that, we mean it can take 2x, 3x, 5x longer than you’d like?

☐ Are you ok with sharing the road with riders on horseback?

☐ How about sizeable herds of cattle? Can they be considered pedestrians?

☐ Are you a Type B kind of person?

☐ If “no,” can you work on it?

☐ Are you willing to throw toilet paper into a trash can, at least in select public restrooms?

☐ Can you accept that the 7-continent model is just one of many accepted around the world and that Costa Rica’s 5-continent model teaches that “America” is one continent? Can you read “We are all Americans!” without immediately summoning a counterargument?

Aaaand, computer mouses down!

Now, let’s see how you scored. Obviously, many of our questions were humorous and a bit tongue-in-cheek, but they’re really not far off the mark from the reality of living in Costa Rica and Guanacaste.

If your Total Score is:

Costa Rica expat lifestyle quiz score

60+ points: Disculpe, pero ¿sos tico?

You are made for the Costa Rica expat lifestyle! Are you sure you don’t already have your cédula? You are level-headed, patient, and you embody the pura vida. Your adjustment to life here will be easy (as adjustments go) and you’ll have very little problem fitting in, whether you’re visiting the bank or getting your vehicle inspected, waiting on residency or buying a home, hitting Liberia for major medical or trekking to San José for a hard-to-find something. You belong here! 

30-59 points: Ready to Get Your Feet Wet

Life abroad is an adjustment. You don’t have to cross the finish line immediately! That’s what research and relocation advice (check out our Costa Rica relocation blog, we have tons!) and time are good for. Before you get too into the weeds, we’d strongly recommend visiting and staying awhile. Take Spanish courses online or, even better, during your visit! Test yourself in a bank line or trying to connect a public utility (a cell phone is a low-barrier-to-entry option!). Wade into the waters of Costa Rican life and see where the tide takes you. 

29 points or less: Pura Vida Newbie

You have some work to do – and that’s ok! Chances are good that several items on our list took you by surprise; that just means you need to really dig into online research (our Moving to & Living in Costa RicaYouTube series is a great start!), talk to people who live here, and maybe consult with a Costa Rica relocation expert. Work on slowing down, cultivating patience, and focusing on the process, not the outcome. And when you’re ready, come on down and check out the Costa Rica expat lifestyle for yourself!

Dreaming About the Costa Rica Expat Lifestyle?

Dreaming About the Costa Rica Expat Lifestyle

So, how’d you do? Do you think you have what it takes to move to and adapt to the Costa Rica expat lifestyle? If not, could you?

True fact: Your new life in Costa Rica often begins with research. A lot of research, far beyond the basic Spanish before moving to Costa Rica – research into geography and lifestyle and other elements. We’re here to help, every step of the way.

At Blue Water Properties of Costa Rica, we’re committed to you. Not to selling you a property or spamming you with all the options, but to helping – genuinely and with good intent – to match you to the perfect property for your needs and wants. We thrive on relationships and promise the fastest communication and best services in the industry.

At Blue Water Properties of Costa Rica, we’re proud to offer some of the best Costa Rica Real Estate. We have both condos and homes, land and businesses for sale.

Go ahead – try us. Give us a chance to show off our expertise – and wow you with the possibilities! We look forward to it.