An Expat Talks about Living in Quepos, Costa Rica
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Describe how you "dreamed" expat life would be before you moved overseas. Please provide as much detail as possible.
Having spent several weeks over the course of five years visiting the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area, I had a good idea of what to expect for general purposes such as restaurants, purchasing groceries, area happenings and events. Although the reality of living 24/7 in the same area is different than a general vacation, I feel that initially getting to know the area and making friends was key to a successful transition. Prior to moving overseas, I did not realize the importance of these issues. By making friends who were excited to have us join them in the community helped our transition and eased loneliness for friends and family back in the states. Knowing the area helped to provide familiarity in restaurants, availability of groceries, local doctors, dentists and specialists and an overall feeling of getting settled and acclimated. Connections, friends, a feeling of family and community is key to achieving a fulfilling life as an expat. Volunteer opportunities and church activities provide a wonderful springboard to get to know an area even when you may not know anyone initially and help ease that "outsider" feeling that many expats experience in the beginning.
How has your expat experience met the expectations you dreamed about before you moved abroad?
My expat experience has far outweighed my expectations. Living as an expat has been an eye opening experience! Learning another language has been challenging but rewarding. Learning to cook with fresh natural ingredients, shopping at the butcher/fishmonger/green grocery/bakery has been a definite change from the way I shopped in the states and a welcome change. Feria (local farmers markets) are common in Costa Rica and almost every local village has a weekly feria. It is a great place to meet friends and shop locally giving back to the local farmers. These were not issues I considered when considering a life as an expat. Wherein the area has a "big box" grocery store, it is a better cultural experience to shop at smaller local specialized stores which provide the freshest meats, poultry, fish, fruit and vegetables available. Living as an expat has it's own set of challenges and frustrations. We are fortunate to have a close knit community for assistance and support. As a expat, I didn't expect my priorities to change so drastically. Community and helping others became common place and "keeping up with the Jones" is not expected nor an issue. Costa Ricans are very family oriented and it is extremely easy to change your mindset if this was not your way of life in the states. Community events are attended by entire families as are beach picnics and special events. Their enthusiasm for family and love of country is contagious and certainly not something I even considered when I chose to become an expat!
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How has your expat experience NOT met the expectations you dreamed about before you moved abroad?
The question of how my expectations have not met my dreams is a difficult question to answer. One thing comes to mind after many years and I believe is common for many expats worldwide. As an expat you are jumping into a wonderful new world and anticipate sharing it with as many friends and family from your "home" country as possible. Remember their lives are very busy with jobs, school, children and family. They may not visit as much as you would like (nor as much as they would like either!) Prior to becoming an expat, consider locations that your friends and family will have affordable and easy travel to visit you. Do not be offended if you don't receive the visitors you anticipated. Remember also to pick a location that is easy for you to return to your "home" country in the event you have a family function or stateside emergency. Remember YOU have picked your perfect expat location. Your friends may not like it, not understand your move or have other priorities in their life. That's OK!
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