My wife and I have spent a total over 15 years in Costa Rica and… while we initially moved here to “retire”… we definitely have not had a typical “retirement”.
While we have not exactly been absorbed in a typical Tico community we have interacted with literally thousands of Costa Ricans throughout the country and can categorically say that the differences between “gringos” ( North Americans ) and Costa Ricans are a LOT greater than most people think.
Most gringos read about… and see the “pura vida” side of the people and the country and believe that that is all there is. And that is the primary reason that most visitors and expats are attracted to the country.
Biodiversity, the wildlife… the plants, flowers… the ability to see two oceans, volcanoes, rivers, banana plantations, agricultural lands, larger cities, lakes, mountains, jungles, cloud forests, … all within a day’s drive… is one of the main attractions of the country. It definitely was for us.
Most do not see the differences and assume that we are all alike.
Having had a daughter that married two Ticos ( no , not at the same time…) and being grandparents to two Costa Rican grandsons… I can state categorically that the cultural differences are huge.
The pandemic and quarantine that affects us all is a perfect example.
The statistics of the infected, tested and the deaths in Costa Rica vs. everywhere else on the planet are a prime example. They are head and shoulders above almost any other country in the world.
I look at a lot of property throughout the country and do a lot of driving and meet people on almost a daily basis. And yes, I am careful to keep social distancing in mind but this is about what I see…
Most rural areas are aware and are careful, but they feel that they are safe because of the lack of visitors “from outside”. And even the Guacaste area which is the primary area visited by vacationers has zero deaths at this point and very few infected.
BUT… the differences?
Expats and gringos from the outside scream and are violent about any restrictions to curb their desired “freedoms”. Quarantines are seen ( by many ) as an infringement upon freedom of choice… even though the U.S. is a nation of laws. And they see lockdowns and closure of business as a direct slap against freedom… even though it is for the public’s protection. Not much different than the outcry against and changes to the freedom to bear arms… or any infringement of it.
50 years ago my sister marched against the Vietnam War. My father vehemently disagreed with her… He refused to pay her college tuition. But then 20 years later, he admitted he was wrong.
Back to Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is unique. It is similar to where the U.S. was many years ago even though the rest of the world is now different.
Costa Ricans love their country… they love the concept of “pura vida” and everything it stands for. And for the most part they obey their laws without question.
The quarantine… most obey… except those in the rural areas… they are aware but belief that they are safe.
In the larger cities, the new quarantine restrictions, for the most part… are obeyed… schools are closed and children seldom play together any longer and stay home. Businesses are ( or were ) closed and almost everyone obeyed without question.
But the differences too… are that Ticos have a different view of the world than we do. And they truly believe that everything will return to normal very quickly… despite the fact that Costa Rica is heavily affected by what happens to the U.S. and its implementation of quarantine restrictions and lockdowns. Unemployment in the U.S. is the worst since the great Depression and no one knows or can predict what kind of future we will have… except that it will be different than “pre-pandemic.”
Will it all start having a major effect on Costa Rica?
Sadly, I do not see how it cannot as our countries are inextricably tied together. And… even though the concept of “pura vida” is Costa Rica… will it really continue?
I believe yes.
Because eventually, things will return to some degree of normalcy… and in the meantime many of us continue to search for what many in Costa Rica already have… and what the country is.
Is it really as good as many of us believe?
For many of us… even those who are skeptical… it is.
It is our escape.
It is not perfect… but it is better than the anger, the dissension and the lack of trust that exists “back home” for many of us.
It is not perfect…
But for many of us… Costa Rica really is an alternative and is better than almost anywhere else.