5 things you need to know to become an expat in a “developing” country
actually i cant really advise you on this. currently i live in Costa Rica as an expat. I come from Oakland, CA via Detroit Mi. I have lived all my life in the big city. Now i live in a rural village 4 hours from the airport. we have to drive for about 2 hours over winding mountain roads to get any thing unusual, such as a curtain.
a recurring argument here among expats is if you can really call Costa Rica a developing country. the term “third world country” is definitely frowned upon here. For one thing CR has an amazing healthcare system that is cheaper and more accessible than the US. Education is a priority here, although the rural schools have a pretty flexible attendance policy and you often see young kid apprentices working at skilled labor with their families, learning a trade such as building, plumbing, etc. We have village water, which is filtered and treated, although some folks just get water out of the creeks.
however here are a few things i can tell you if you are considering fleeing the US due to lack of housing, toxic environments, trump supporters, congestion or just any old reason and coming to Costa Rica, one of the most tranquil places in Central America.
You will probably need to bend your crusty old mind to learn at least the fundamentals of another language
If, like me, you are a one-language person, and god knows many 2nd or 3rd generation americans find ourselves in this situation, you must learn to converse in the language of your new home. if you are an older person or just not that quick on the uptake this can be challenging. Personally i took a few years of Spanish in college which has helped somewhat but i am working my brain everyday to understand and speak. And, as you may know, speaking does not happen in isolation, there is the whole social aspect of speaking. This also means you must learn the customs and manners!! Very important. for example, here in Costa Rica, one simply does not begin any sort of conversation or inquiry without preliminary greetings and basic politeness. its just not done. you will be corrected, gently, but corrected. which brings me to
You must acquire cultural norms!
don’t bring your bad manners, loud voice and demanding demands here! Most people are extremely polite and will tolerate you, however you are eventually going to find yourself friendless and unwelcome. People also don’t seem to yell at kids here, in fact any raising of the voice will bring polite but oblique side eye your way. keep cool and slow down gringo.
The expat community can be weird
personally we have run into a gamut of people that has led me to be more judgmental about Canadians!(sorry, we also have found some very sweet Canadians!) we are a lesbian couple, and there is a distinct lack of older gay women here. we have made a few good friendships but have really also run up on a lot of weirdness, homophobia, and what i like to call “rich-people-itis”, which is a problem everywhere. the biggest symptom of this syndrome is folks who build giant homes out of white blocks, have meetings about wine and form cliques that will definitely not be inviting me or my ilk to join any time soon.
Watch out for fungus!
fungus is a real buzz killer here, along with poison snakes, giant spiders, huge beetles that appear out of nowhere and smack you right in the head, etc. so, you must be prepared. oddly, there is a real lack of anti-fungal meds here….so bring your own or be prepared to slowly rot away. the rot will also apply itself to all of your possessions, so say goodbye to books, paper, shoes not made of plastic or rubber and any other object made of an organic matter. don’t worry, there are a lot of work-arounds for this issue. One is to divest yourself of a lot of things you thought you needed and to read off of a kindle.
Have an exit plan!
i cannot emphasize this point enough. as beautiful and interesting as it is here, you may find yourself going crazy at various points as you long for a large library, an art exhibit of medieval paintings or some Korean food. you must be able to get out fast when the going gets rough! plan to spend time in other countries or just back in the good old usa. realize that different is good, but you may long for something a bit less rigorous now and then. that’s fine and i highly recommend that you don’t get yourself stuck in a situation that you cannot get out of for any reason.
so that’s about it for now, hope to see you soon!