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  • A House of Sparrows

You know you live in Costa Rica when...

life in Costa Rica

Back in August, I joined the Expat in Costa Rica Facebook group when Ryan and I decided to move to Costa Rica. Its a great group of expats, young and old, that help each other with day to day living in Costa Rica. I have used the group quite often in getting advice on certain doctors, destinations to visit and meeting other families who recently moved to Costa Rica.

The other day, a gentleman started a post "you know you live in Costa Rica when..." and hundreds of comments poured in sharing funny, difficult and amazing things about life in Costa Rica. It was fun to read everyone's experiences in this beautiful country and I though it would be great to share some of my own responses.

Like I always say, life in Costa Rica is one great adventure so check our my response to...

You know you live in Costa Rica when...

You see a bug in the shower and think "oh, thank goodness! It's just a cockroach"

Every time I jump in the shower, I do 180 degree sweep to make sure nothing has decided to call our bathroom home for the day. About 50% of the time there will be a gecko, moth, millipede, etc. hanging out. Just the other day, I spotted a cockroach and quickly got rid of it and actually thought, "thank goodness it wasn't anything bigger". If that would've happened pre-Costa Rica move, I would've freaked out to just have a inch long cockroach in my house. Living in Costa Rica, you quickly realize living amongst insects and spiders completely normal.


You have to sell your soul for some decent cheese

I love, love, love cheese, but unfortunately it is hard to come by in Costa Rica. So you either have to forgo cheese all together, or spend $15 on a block of cheddar.


The power goes out daily

I never realized how spoiled we are in the States until we moved to Costa Rica. Things we take for granted, like guaranteed electricity. Life in the rainforest is very different. The power goes out almost daily and while most of the time it kicks right back on only seconds later, there have been times some times it has gone out for hours and even overnight.

So we have learned to always bring a flashlight with us no matter where we go, especially next to the shower. Because too often I had to sit in the dark, completely soaked waiting on Ryan to bring me a light.


You throw your food scraps out your backdoor

This one was a big surprise for me. All of your food scraps cannot be put into your trash because animals and insects will become a major problem for the garbagemen. And since most homes do not come with a garbage disposal, you are left to gather your scraps for the day and chunk them out into the rainforest. Its a bit annoying, a bit gross but understandable. Another learning curve for this family.


You avoid American products at all cost

Now that our expat family lives in Costa Rica, we have tried to assimilate as much as possible to our new country's culture, but sometimes you crave a taste of home. However, in Costa Rica that will cost you.

Taxes on all imported goods are around 50% so any American product is going to be way overpriced. The cost of peanut butter, crackers/chips, wine and even dairy products from the States will literally make me gasp in the store. Its ridiculous. While this can make me miss a lot about the States, we end up saving a lot of money, and calories, so we haven't complained much.


When beans in a bag are your favorite Tico snack

Beans come with nearly every meal in Costa Rica but one of the most well-known and loved snack are beans in a bag. They are similar to refried beans but mixed with local ingredients that give them so much flavor. They are really good and we hve them several times a week. They are just a little weird because of the packaging but a lot of foods come in bag form in Costa Rica such as ketchup, mayo, jelly, and even salsa.


Gallo pinto is your go-to breakfast dish

Like I just mentioned, beans are a major staple in Tico cuisine so it makes since that their signature breakfast is rice and beans. Gallo pinto is a simple dish that is healthy, flavorful and my favorite go-to food for breakfast. Give me some gallo pinto with scrambled eggs and sautéed plantains and I'm one happy lady!


You start to ignore traffic laws

Driving in Costa Rica can be a bit terrifying. Everyone seems to follow their own set of rules and it takes you awhile to get used to driving here. People constantly pass in no-passing zones, which makes me cringe constantly, especially when they pass around sharp curves. Rolling stops, speeding, no seat belts, and even drinking a beer while driving all seem to be ok. Now it isn't complete mayhem but the lax nature of the culture here definitely passes over to its driving laws.


Bumpy roads no longer bother you

The road to our house is not paved and at a steep incline. Its covered in large boulders so our ride to and from town is a bumpy ride. The first few days Milena would constantly complain about all the jarring and jostling, but now its part of our life. Besides major highways, most roads are not paved and covered in holes and rocks. While this is normally not a problem, trying to keep a toddler asleep in a bumpy car is very difficult!


It can take an hour to drive less than 20 miles

Since most roads are not paved it can cause driving time to double, or even triple. Driving over 10 mph can be difficult on the backroads so you have to learn to be patient. Also, most roads curve around the mountains so there isn't ever a direct, quick road to anywhere. We often drive to San Isidro which is 20 miles away, but it takes us an hour every trip.


You become a coffee snob

Coffee is ridiculously good in Costa Rica. Not only is it integrated into the culture of Costa Rica, they have some of the most flavorful beans in the world. It is actually the only country where it is illegal to make "bad" coffee (they have to be 100% Arabica). This has created a mindset for the coffee farmers to only cultivate the best quality coffee bean and they have made the coffee remarkably good.

Every morning we start our day off with fresh beans from Santa Maria de Dota, our favorite coffee region in Costa Rica. Its packed full of flavor, strong and I always smile knowing I am enjoying a drink so important to this country's culture.

Costa Rica coffee

You make friends everywhere you go

Ticos are some of the most friendly, and warm people I have ever met. They seem to be genuinely happy and kind which is so refreshing. So far, wherever we have traveled in Costa Rica, we have been welcomed with a smile.

When we first moved to Costa Rica, we felt a little lost as we tried to figure out our new life in Central America. The people we had just met all rushed to our side and helped us with anything we needed. We are so thankful and appreciative to the people here and know we have made friends for life.


You can hike to a waterfall, spot a monkey, and watch the sunset at the beach all in one day.

Just the other day Ryan and I were talking about how Costa Rica has just about everything one could ask for. Natural beaches, diverse wildlife, hundreds of waterfalls, a vibrant culture and some of the freshest produce in the world. No wonder so many people move here, you have everything at your fingertips!


Toucans are your daily alarm.

The toucans are one of my favorite animals in Costa Rica, and we are lucky to live in an area that has dozens of them. They are vocal birds and you can often hear them every morning chirping as the sun rises. Its a gentle reminder that we are living beneath the rainforest, miles and miles away from the city.

Costa Rica toucan

Our toucan who visits our backyard almost every day


You understand what Pura Vida means and you live it

On our first trip to Costa Rica we were introduced to the phrase, Pura Vida. Its synonymous with the country and for tourists it can be seen as a fun, light hearted saying. However, it runs much deeper into the culture of Costa Rica.

Simply meaning "pure life", this belief in living a life of pure happiness and no stress influenced our family from day one. Costa Rica is a country of smiles and simplicity, a stark contrast to our hometown we have quickly learned to slow down and enjoy life.

Our family feels so much more free and uncluttered in Costa Rica. Sometimes when we talk to friends or family back at home, they will ask us if something is wrong because of how relaxed we are, and we simply respond with "pura vida". We try and live stress-free, drama-free and at peace with our new surroundings and its refreshing.

Life is so incredibly short, and our worries usually never materialize. Why should we focus on anything that doesn't bring us joy or make us better people? This new mindset has been the most rewarding and beneficial part of our move to Costa Rica. I hope as we continue to learn more about our new home, the culture of pura vida will remain at the root of our family and we can carry it home with us.

Live in Costa Rica? I'd love to hear your response to, "You know you live in Costa Rica when..."

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