If you’re looking to make friends, Costa Rica is the place to go. A study by Internations, among 12,500 expatriates, places Costa Rica in second place among 65 nations, for its quality of life and ability to adapt to the culture.
A warm “pura vida” is one the hooks that Costa Rica’s expatriates fall in love with, according to the report Expat Insider 2017: Looking at the World through Expat Eyes.
Costa Rica is the second favorite country in the world of people who are looking for a home outside their home country. Bahrain is tops. Following Costa Rica is Mexico, Taiwan, Portugal, New Zealand, Malta, Colombia, Singapore and Spain, rounding out the top 10.
The research was elaborated with more than 12,500 people from 166 nationalities and 188 countries who offered their impressions about living as foreigners. These are people who live and work in another country to their origin, as part of a company or on their own.
The country rankings list the best (and worst) among 65 destinations across the globe, focusing on essential topics: quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, family life, personal finance, and cost of living. The report also compares results across the years, identifying the biggest winners and losers in 2017.
Costa Rica was an attractive country due to the ease that outsiders have of adapting to the culture, the speed to make friends, the high quality of life indexes and the favorable conditions to establish a family.
The 2017 report takes a closer look at the Ease of Settling In Index, from local friendships and expat bubbles to feeling (un)welcome in a country and its culture.
When it comes to friendships forged abroad, Costa Rica has the best results for both finding new friends in general and making local friends: 34% and 26% respectively are completely satisfied with these factors (globally: 18% and 12%).
Expats say it’s easy to make local friends, with almost one in five (19%) saying their social circle is mostly Costa Ricans and 63% saying it’s a mix of locals and expatriates.
Moreover, 87% of respondents in Costa Rica are generally satisfied with the friendliness of the population as well as their attitude towards expats. About four out of five (81%) generally feel at home in the Costa Rican culture; another 75% agree that it’s easy to get used to the local culture. It took more than half the respondents (52%) up to just six months to start feeling at home there.
The language barrier in Costa Rica may pose a problem sometimes. The percentage of expats who agree that getting by without local language skills is easy is about average (47% vs. 46% worldwide). “I hate that I don’t speak the language fluently and I am a little embarrassed at my language skills (I find it very difficult!),” one British expat admitted.
Fortunately, not everyone shares this view: 55% think that the local language isn’t hard to learn, and about half (49%) describe their proficiency in Spanish as “fairly good” or “very good”.
A WELCOME AS WARM AS THE WEATHER
It’s not just the friendliness of the local residents, Costa Rica is in the top 10 for three of the five indices: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, and Family Life. The country made particularly impressive improvements in the latter index, jumping 16 places due to better scores in the Quality of Education and the Availability of Childcare and Education subcategories.
According to the report, Costa Rica has also made big improvements in the Personal Finance Index, jumping from 43rd place in 2016 to 24th. Almost seven in ten respondents (68%) are generally satisfied with their financial situation, with 79% saying they have enough or more than enough to cover their daily expenses.
With almost a third of respondents describing themselves as retired (32%), many said that they appreciate the slower pace of life and pura vida vibe. One American respondent enjoys the “freedom to live a peaceful, happy life, surrounded by peaceful, kind and happy people”. With such a warm welcome and tranquil lifestyle, 48% can see themselves staying forever.
COST OF LIVING
Vietnam, Mexico, and Colombia are the countries that offer the best living costs according to foreigners residing in those countries. 93% of respondents said that in Vietnam they have what they need and even more than they expected. In the Asian country, foreigners say that there is an ideal balance between the money they earn and the costs they have to assume to live there.
Colombia also becomes an attraction for foreigners, since 73% consider that one of the great advantages of this place is the low cost of living there.
Costa Rica appears in position 43, the lowest place it obtained in the entire index, a situation that reflects what foreigners perceive, that despite the good relations they develop, the country is an expensive place to live.
The report indicates that destinations with lower living costs help expats to balance their books. Number 1 Vietnam has climbed from fifth place to take the top spot in 2017. Number 2 Colombia and number 3 Myanmar are new to the global top 10. While Costa Rica made significant improvements.
WOMEN NOT WELCOME?
For 86% of all respondents, gender has never been a reason to feel unwelcome abroad. However, there is a difference between male and female expats: only 79% of women say they’ve never felt unwelcome due to their gender compared to 94% of men. Among expat women, 11% state they feel unwelcome due to their gender very rarely, and another 7% feel less than welcome sometimes. The percentages for men are noticeably lower, 3% and 2% respectively.
The five countries where expat women don’t feel particularly welcome are Kuwait, India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Japan.
Infograph prepapred by La Nacion based on the InterNations report: