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An Expat Talks about Living in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

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

Puerto Viejo

Describe how you "dreamed" expat life would be before you moved overseas. Please provide as much detail as possible.

We dreamed that the Caribbean side of Costa Rica would be something like this: Wake up to fresh fruit picked from our fruit trees. Walk down to the beach with our surf boards.

Dance to the local reggae and mingle with the friendly locals. Enjoy the Caribbean culture and food. Explore the sea life and jungles filled with amazing wild life.

Fix up our small, humble bungalow into a sustainably built bungalow.

Replant more fruit trees to attract local animals.

Enjoy a quiet, safe "Tranquillo" life style. Come to understand what "Pura Vida" is all about.

How has your expat experience met the expectations you dreamed about before you moved abroad?

The plant and wild life experiences surpassed our expectations. Waking up to see Howler monkeys in our mango trees. Witnessing morpho butterflies flying through our yard... I could go on.

Some of the people were amazing. Some were very helpful and friendly. Some of the expats were helpful and some added wonderful things to the community.

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How has your expat experience NOT met the expectations you dreamed about before you moved abroad?

We didn't expect to get robbed as much. Even with bars on our window, triple pad locks on all our doors and a large wall (which at first we were horrified and embarrassed about) but came to appreciate. Our neighbors telling us we needed to up our security with shards of glass on top of the wall or barbed wire. Instead of people bragging about their gardens, they would brag about the level of security on their homes. They found barbed wire and other measures something to brag about. (yikes) The over all lack of police help or presence. The drug problems that have become rampant all over Costa Rica but especially along the Caribbean side. Local teens walking around in a crack induced haze that usually turned to anger and violence. We never expected to find it more dangerous than our own country. We have never been robbed nor harassed like we were in the towns of Limon and Puerto Viejo. Never expected to see the level of complacency among the locals and expats about the trash, the poverty, the genuine disrespect for their homes, and other people.

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Comments about this Report

maxtmill
Jan 17, 2012 22:31

Wow, this is a disappointing report of conditions in Costa Rica. It echoes alot of what I have read about - that home burgleries are commonplace, & one site even made a joke that at least the robbers usually wait to rob your house when you are not home! Yet I have read that if a homeowner protects himself with a handgun, he may sit in jail for a long time until things are sorted out! I have also read of the slum-like atmosphere in regard to trash & such lying around amidst the stunning beauty of the country. And ticos taking advantage of "nice" expats who think they are going to be welcomed & treated well. Stories about the poor medical care are frightening, for me especially since I am a Registered Nurse. Lack of respect for the lives & well-being of others. The dilemma is, if you live in a gated community, you will miss out on the aspect of living with Nature, & you will be more of a target for robbery because robbers will assume you are wealthy. If you live within a mixed community of expats & ticos, you leave yourself wide open to be robbed & taken advantage of. It is all very upsetting. Sure, it may be nice to settle into a mixed expat community let's say in the Tilaran area near Arenal, but what happens when you need to venture out of that protected little community to seek health care of whatever? Initial investigations of CR stated that people were well educated & lived frugally but were happy with what they had. Very confusing!

guest
Mar 19, 2012 23:02

Wow, after reading the above report and maxtmill's comments, I'm definitely removing Costa Rica from my list of traveling to or expat-ing to locales. Thanks for the honest info.

guest
Mar 20, 2012 09:59

Hmm, your expectations sound like ours, we are considering Puerto Viejo but need to be there longer, know more. May I contact you off-list when we plan our next visit (later in 2012 or in 2013?). Thanks, Kristen G gandrowk@hotmail.com

guest
Mar 20, 2012 12:36

This is a very interesting and honest report. I want to report that I lived in CR for almost 4 years, in the Heredia area, (Concepcion de San Rafael de Heredia). While there is theft everywhere, and I did have bars on my windows, I also felt very secure in my Tico house, comfortable walking to the local grocery at night, even comfortable walking at night in Heredia centro. I did witness someone pulling a gun in a car in front of me once in Desemparados, but other than that, witnessed no crimes except that I myself was robbed by "friends" on several occasions, and robbery is very commonplace. Nonviolent crime-robbery happens a lot, so everyone locks cars and watches their things. However, many people are very pleasant and honest, and overall the environment I felt to be safer than in U.S., in terms of personal safety. This person may be living in a more drug-ridden zone, which probably amps up the crime. Many areas in CR are still safe and comfortable, the people extremely cordial, and I have made wonderful friends there, and can't wait to move back when my daughter leaves high school here in U.S. So, I guess this is just to say that CR is an entire country, and someone's review of Detroit might sound very different than a report on Lawrence, Kansas. It is not only a choice of which country to live in, but also which part of that country, just as it is in the U.S.

vnazaire1
Mar 20, 2012 16:58

Well, I am shocked though not entirely surprised . The poor people in Central America constitute a caste like in India as the middle class and well-off prefer to blame the poor for their lot in life. Poor in Central America, most of the time, means brown or black skinned people, illiterate or no more than a functional grade 5 education, no job skills, unemployed for years with no hope in improving their lives, living from day to day in shacks with no electricity or running water. That is the reason for barbed wire, shards of glass,drug traffic. Lack of police presence is due to poor pay ( just enough to eat properly : I have had a lieutenant of police in a seaside village asking me to give him 50 dollars to purchase some needed spare part to get his police motorbike on the road again as he had to hop on a bicycle to make his round). Rich people in these countries are satisfied with living behind heavily secured gated villages, a notion foreign to us in Europe or in Canada. But, you will find exceptions to this in mountain villages. What about the Pacific side of Costa-Rica ? Same or better ?

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