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An Expat Talks about Living in San Jose, Costa Rica


What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

San Jose

How long have you lived there?

six months

What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?

There are many Yahoo! list serves available that help expats get to know where others meet and socialize. Also, Costa Rica AM (www.costaricaam.com) is an English-language e-newspaper that provides a lot of good information.

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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.

San Jose, as the capital of the country, attracts people from all regions of the nation. So we have many people of African descent from the Caribbean coast, many Nicos (people from Nicaragua), a large Chinese population (especially in the San Pedro suburb) and expats from all over the world. While the main religion is Catholic, there are many Baptist churches, Mormons and other Christian groups. People seem to be very accepting of differences.

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

This is a city of white-collar jobs in finance/banking, government, businesses etc. Also, many shops and restaurants, casinos and other tourism businesses.

For English-speaking travelers, jobs are usually in private school teaching English or in call centers. Neither pays well and most employers don't want to bother with the legalities of getting work visas for employees. That means working under the table is common for foreigners.

Tourist visas are good for only three months and then the traveler has to exit the country and return. New visa laws expected to be promulgated in the spring of 2010 will limit the awarding of tourist visas for only two consecutive times.

In general, what are peoples' priorities in this city? For example, do lives revolve around work, family, socializing, sports, etc.?

Family is everything as with all Latin American cultures. Ticos make very good friends and once you are introduced into their families you become part of it. They will go out of their way to help you in every way possible.

If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.

Come and see for yourself before you make a commitment to moving here. There is a lot of hype about Costa Rica being a paradise, a cheap place to live or retire, and a safe place because it eliminated its army in 1948.

The reality is that San Jose has a high crime rate, the iron grates on all of the houses and businesses can be off-putting - as can the security guards with loaded riffles - and it isn't a cheap place to live. Food, utilities and rent in certain areas of the city are quite high especially for a developing nation.

Other issues in San Jose: air pollution from cars is pretty bad; noise pollution gets on your nerves after a while; it isn't safe to walk outside in the late evening or night; the streets, sidewalks and highways are in terrible shape; and government monopolies make it near impossible to get a cell phone and makes renting cars super-expensive because of the mandatory insurance.

People must visit and spend a few weeks talking to people before deciding to move here.

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Comments about this Report

Mar 6, 2011 06:44

Your review is accurate (source: I lived in CR for six years before relocating to China)

Jul 21, 2015 08:40

I agree with most of your comments. However, I feel the need to note that iron grates on windows is not just San Jose, they are seen all over Latin America. I think you are very mistaken in saying it's hard to get a cell phone. That couldn't be further from the truth. You can get them everywhere and all different types with all different levels of services. I use a prepaid smartphone that cost $60 at Jerusalem off Parque Central in SJO.

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