Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
Grecia, Costa Rica
One woman explains how she was lured to Boquete, Panama and Grecia, Costa Rica by romanticized articles on other sites touting that she could retire for $1,000 or less. Once there, she found the cost of living to fluctuate significantly, the streets strewn with garbage and transportation challenging.
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?
I had no cross-cultural training. I was lured into the "Retire for Less" hype in the glossy very romanticized articles in other publications and ventured out entirely on my own as a very gullible and naïve older single woman.
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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?
I tried to learn Spanish once I arrived in Grecia and even took lessons for several months, but was disappointed in the teacher and his lack of teaching pedagogy. I attempted to learn it through Duo Lingo, but abandoned that because living alone I discovered that it was extremely difficult for me to PRACTICE.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Probably to some degree, but because of the HYPE presented in the magazines I thought that there would be enough interaction with other x-pats to overcome it and to assimilate.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
I lived in Boquete, Panama and then in Grecia, Costa Rica. The culture shock in Boquete was more severe than in Grecia due to the filth that was in abundance. Garbage strewn out on the streets for days at a time with little or no attention paid to cleaning it up, drunks sleeping in the streets after a "night on the town", the putrid odor of spoiling meat wafting through the grocery stores. It had less of an impact on me when I relocated to Grecia although, as in Boquete, the cracked and broken sidewalks, dimly lit stores, and the unreliability of finding consistency in the super markets was frustrating.
Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?
Absolutely! The honeymoon stage didn't last long at all maybe a week or so. I wouldn't describe my second phase as irritation-to-anger so much as it was disillusionment-to-frustration. It didn't take me long at all to become disillusioned and to eventually become increasingly frustrated by the inconvenience associated with living there.
What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.
I was never angry. After all, I made the decision to relocate so the only person I could be angry with was me. I was never depressed, but felt extremely isolated and lonely particularly in Grecia. I am a people person and became increasingly frustrated because the opportunities to mix and mingle were off set by the difficulty to get to them. If I wanted to attend any event be it in Grecia, San Ramon, San Jose it required a strenuous walk up a steep hill and then at least three bus trips ONE WAY to get to any of the surrounding cities and towns. Not to mention what I call RIDGE CLIQUES.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
There was little I found to appreciate about the culture in Boquete. I sensed a certain resentment among the Panamanians against x-pats. The ones I encountered did not make an attempt to engage. Grecia was distinctively different. The Ticos were gracious, friendly and willing to provide assistance as best they could.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
Communication, lack of mobility, the total inconvenience of it all. Also, trying to make ends meet financially. The phrase Retire for Less and only needing $1000.00 per month is bogus. In both locations supply and demand caused prices on consumer goods to spike, rent is on the rise. Only utilities were in line with the advertisements.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Unless your wired toward the rugged adventurous life, willing to make lots of sacrifices in your standard of living, and don't mind dealing with the labyrinth of paperwork, procedures, and inconsistencies in communication associated with acclimating and attempting to gain residency not to mention not so reputable landlords, attorneys and others then go for a visit, but don't relocate,
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