US Expat Living In Costa Rica - Interview With Niki Sims

Published: 16 Nov at 11 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Costa Rica
Niki Sims tells us that when in your sixties and having worked your entire life looking forward to retirement, it is a bit disallusioning to discover that Social Security won't cover your basic needs if you remain in the US. Having a son in a different country - Costa Rica - offered opportunities for a simple, satisfying outlook; an opportunity to slow down the pace of living in one of the happiest countries in the world. To live in the hills at 4,000 feet above sea level in the midst of tropical forest, growing soy plants, many barking dogs, fresh breezes, and a 15 minutes walk to the closest shopping village, seemed a fantasy out of a dream. Turns out it is a way of life that is new, exciting, filled with adventure and beauty, amidst friendly neighbors. Niki blogs at her site called "Niki Sims" (see listing here)

Niki Sims

Here's the interview with Niki...

Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Portland, Oregon, USA.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am living in Costa Rica, province de Heredia, town Santa Barbara, neighborhood Betania.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have been in Costa Rica five months and plan to live here the rest of my life.

Why did you move and what do you do?
There are several reasons why I've moved to Costa Rica: 1) my son and his family live and work here; 2) I cannot afford healthcare in the US on my social security earnings; and 3) I feel like I've arrived at home here.

Did you bring family with you?
My son and his family are already living in Costa Rica. My brothers and sisters remain in the US and I will be visiting them at least once a year.

Niki SimsHow did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I continue to be very surprised at my emotional and intellectual response to living in a new country. It has not been unusual for me to relocate throughout my life - and very successfully as I thrive on change. But. With this move it has been incredibly challenging learning entirely new geography, logistics, and most particularly the language, although not having a network of friends available comes in a close second on that one.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Without a good grasp of the language here it is very difficult to create friendships. All the taxi drivers in the small town I live in as well as the folks at the grocery store and bakery know who I am and that I can't speak the language. I have words, but putting them into sentences with the correct syntax remains a challenge. There are many US and english-speaking expates here in Costa Rica. I have joined a Women's service group, but that meets every other month, so not much joy there. Language is the kingpin as I want to live as a native citizen, not spend time recreating a US experience.

Niki SimsWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
My recommendations on the best things to do in the area are: 1) go for regular walks in your area and get to know and create a community with those you shop from and live around; 2) check out the museums; 3) take the regular local buses to and from different destinations for the exploring and discovery potential; 4) To the extent that you can, learn from other expates who have a positive perspective and attitude about their new country.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The one thing that astounds and to the toes delights me about Costa Rica is the culture based on love for one another through strong family bonds and a happiness factor as the base they operate from.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
The cost of living in Costa Rica has been rising for th past ten years. Right now I would say that transportation is the greatest savings if you don't have a car. Groceries are about the same unless you are a vegetarian who shops at farmer's markets. Rents can be found much more cheaply than the US if you are willing to live as a native citizen.

Niki SimsWhat negatives, if any, are there to living here?
If you want to experience a different lifestyle than those who hang out only with other rich expates, learning the language is of paramount importance. There is also some negative sentiment re: expates here and there, but certainly not to the extent of what I experienced in the US in terms of discrimination. Costa Rica is beginning the process of relying on technology, but it is only in the beginning stages. Very long lines at the bank and for any municipal effort. One must be very patient and passive. There are many arenas for corruption of public and other officials in Costa Rica. That is not to say that it is not happening in my original country, just that the culture in Costa Rica is much more aware of it and willing to entertain disclosures of same in their media.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
My one piece of advice to anyone moving to Costa Rica is to LEARN THE LANGUAGE!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Isolation due to not knowing the language well enough to reach out and create a network of local friends.

Niki SimsWhen you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I'm here for the long term.

What has been the impact of moving as an older adult?
There are differences. I find I'm not as flexible or adaptable as I have been in the past, and certainly I make adjustments to my behavior as a result, but that came as a pretty big surprise to me.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Do your research by reading blogs, vacationing to the country and going to different destinations, then staying in one place for one month acting as a citizen.
  2. Learn the language.
  3. Be open to new experiences and move around your new country with gratitude and a smile on your face.
  4. Understand that you are ingratiating yourself into a new culture, not replicating the life you knew before you arrived here; the new country is the boss - not you.
  5. Relax, go slow, enjoy yourself.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My expate blog is a vehicle to stay in touch with friends in the US that I won't see as frequently as I used to. As such, I attempt with my blog to share personal experiences and reflections about how I'm adjusting, what I'm finding fascinating, plus what day to day living is like in my life in a new country.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I can be contacted for further advice by sending comments on my blog; or by email via: niki{at}nikisimsoracle{dot}com or nikisimsnew{at}yahoo{at}com; or by requesting a contact on Skype via: nikisims.new54.

Niki blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Niki has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Niki, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There are 2 comments

B2burns wrote 5 years ago:

The author should have worked and saved harder to ensure a good life in retirement. Social Security was NEVER intended to be a living income but only a supplemental income. Everyone knows that who plans their future.

Judy Ackerman wrote 4 years ago:

This article is one to which I can personally relate. Niki sounds like someone I'd like to befriend. We have so much in common. I too live in Costa Rica. And I too relied on Social Security as my "nest egg." What seemed like plenty of money years ago just doesn't stretch far enough in the States. And with all due respect to B2burns, his/her comment comes off as a tad pompous. I worked hard all my life, couldn't have worked and saved "harder," as he/she suggests. I'm doing the best I can with my meager income, finding I can do that much better in Costa Rica than in the USA.

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