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Ticos returning home find adjusting difficult in Costa Rica

Ticos returning home find adjusting difficult in Costa RicaIf you are Costa Rican and left Costa Rica several decades ago, you will find adjusting difficult when you return.  You probably think that returning home for your retirement is pretty easy. Well, let me assure you it’s not and adjusting is difficult, much more than you’ll expect.

Costa Rica, like all other countries, has changed in those several decades that you’ve been away. It’s not that same Costa Rica that you left.

If you’d go to a meeting with former schoolmates, you will see that they have all changed. You will not recognize half of them. Some are bald now, others have a big beer belly, others have their hair dyed a different color or someone who had a nose job done. Of course, that’s only the physical aspect of time passing by. For sure, you’ll also notice, that they are all different persons than they were when you were in school.

The country

Everything has changed, the who country did. You might find adjusting a bit difficult. Just check these examples:


The prices have changed, of course, we have had several devaluations. In 1980, the exchange rate was 8.60 for the dollar. Now the exchange rate is 608. That’s 7,000% more.

In 1980, you could rent a nice house for 8,000 colones. That same house will now rent for 800,000 colones.

Ticos returning home find adjusting difficult in Costa Rica


In 40 years, the infrastructure has hardly changed. We have the same bad roads. Also, we have the same bad drivers, but a million more than we had before. You’ll get stuck in traffic, more often than you’d like to. You’ll find adjusting difficult.

The national sport

You might not have noticed, but our new national sport is not soccer anymore. The new national sport is to complain and to criticize everything.  But you remember that perfect Switzerland of Central America from before and you’ll find adjusting difficult.

A huge change

By living abroad, you got to know another way of living and seeing the world from a different angle. Therefore, you can also see the wonderful climate we have, the solidarity, the family, the children’s smile, our varied flora, and fauna, etc.

When you visit Costa Rica for a week, the family and friends take the time to invite you and to visit you. Once you move here, that is not going to happen as often if you’d like. Your family and old friends have other things to do. They have to continue working and fulfilling their obligations. That’s not because they suddenly hate you, they are just busy people. They’re as busy as you were during those decades of hard work. You’ll find adjusting difficult.

What to do

Now you have all this time on your hand, but others don’t. Get yourself busy, don’t expect your family and old friends to entertain you all the time. Look for activities, groups, classes to stay busy, and make a new network of friends. You’ll find adjusting difficult.

Do NOT compare

Do yourself a favor DO NOT compare the Costa Rica of your memories. It’s only in your memories and that does not exist anymore. You are not the same person as you were when you left, the time passed and you also changed.

Open up to the new, to what is there. Learn to orient yourself, be patient and smile. When a Costa Rican asks you where it comes from, answer the question with the truth.

Ticos returning home find adjusting difficult in Costa Rica

How to behave

Not everyone who approaches you will think that you are a millionaire because you come from the United States or Canada. If you do not want to be treated as a foreigner, make an extra effort not to look like a tourist when you leave your house.

Costa Ricans are kind but also a bit nosy by nature. If you come from a culture that is direct, quick and to the point, be patient. I’d like to remind you that Ticos have difficulty saying NO.

If you have the wrong attitude, Ticos will prefer to ignore you instead of telling you the truth about your behavior.


If you want to invest your money, get advice from one of our real estate professionals before buying or renting. All your friends and family will have opinions, and they’ll all be different. But it won’t be expert advice, even though it’s well-meant.

Do your homework before you make your move to Costa Rica. Read, walk the place where you want to buy, go during the day, spend the night and ask yourself: what do I want it for? Is this investment going to create the return on investment that I expect to receive? Or do I really want to lend it to a relative or a friend, just because of our friendship?

Be kind and compassionate with yourself, give yourself the opportunity to integrate. Now you have three home countries and three cultures: the one that you remember, the one where you lived and work most of your life and the one that exists now.

Take the time to fall in love with Costa Rica, learn to live with our defects and virtues. You’ll find adjusting difficult.

The Author

Xinia Salazar Vargas is our affiliate agent for Heredia. As a born and raised Costa Rican knows the upper Heredia mountains better than any other Heredia real estate agent in Costa Rica. For that reason, she can help you with all the different Heredia towns and suburbs. She has lived in Boston for some years and often has Tico clients who move from the US back to their home country. To purchase a property in Heredia, contact Xinia now.

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Ivo Henfling

Your West-side of San Jose real estate agent, covering Escazu and Santa Ana, Rohrmoser and Ciudad Colon. If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the Central Valley or looking for any property for sale in Escazu or Santa Ana, you need to contact Costa Rica real estate agent Ivo Henfling. Ivo has been selling Costa Rica real estate on the westside of San Jose, in the locations of Rohrmoser, Sabana, Escazu, Santa Ana and Ciudad Colon for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and those other areas. For Ivo, a deal is not a good one unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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