American Expat Living in Costa Rica - Interview with Niki

Published: 14 Jun at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Costa Rica
Discovering Atenas COSTA RICA is a website and blog about a new adventure for our Texas family, growing, traveling, learning, blogging, building, teaching, loving and LIVING in Costa Rica with 2 small children and a newborn. We just opened a beef jerky company smoked with local Costa Rican coffee wood and share our funny, interesting and playful to serious experiences through our blog. We read so many stories about culture shock and why "gringos" are not accepted in Central America, but we have completely different experiences, mainly because we have small children - we are accepted because Costa Ricans love children. After all the research and planning, we chose Costa Rica for this reason. We want everyone to know how great it can be living and traveling with children in Costa Rica. Niki's expat blog is called Discovering Atenas Costa Rica (see listing here)

Las Ruins in Cartago, awesome place for kids to conquer the castle!
Las Ruins in Cartago, awesome place for kids to conquer the castle!

Here's the interview with Niki...


Where are you originally from?
We hail from the great state of Texas, Lake Conroe area, just North of Houston.

In which country and city are you living now?
Currently, we live in Atenas, Costa Rica which is a small family town located halfway between San Jose and the Central Pacific beaches.

How long have you lived in Costa Rica and how long are you planning to stay?
We have been here for 1 year and plan to move closer to Grecia since it has higher elevations and more opportunity for our family and business. It is only about 20 minutes drive higher, but about 10 degrees cooler; being from Texas, we like the idea of a cooler climate with a yearly average of 70 degrees. We probably will never go back to the states, we love it here and our businesses and family are thriving.

Waterfall, cold but who cares?
Waterfall, cold but who cares?
Why did you move to Costa Rica and what do you do?
We moved here for a simpler, slower paced lifestyle, with focus on spending more time together as a family. We wanted another child, but not if we were stuck in the same, time-sucking jobs, plus we were growing weary of the negativity around us in the States. SO we quit, sold our houses, cars, boat and moved to the Happiest Country on Earth. We noticed there was a need for information for younger families so we started a website & blog. We also brought our smoker from Texas and started smoking beef jerky with Costa Rican coffee wood. The locals love it and the expats crave it, so we started a business called Carne Rico JERKY. We are having good experiences with the system here and are already in the stores.

Did you bring family with you?
We brought the family, Max age 4, Sara age 2, Coffee dog age 10 and had a "Tica", Sofia age 2 months, born here. Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos and Ticas and endearingly, they now call our baby a Tica. We had a great experience with the delivery and if we were not so old already, we would have had a few more kids, but we started late, so we look forward to living a longer life here to watch our kids grow up.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
So far, so good. The grass is always greener, right? We are happy people, so we try to take the good with the bad and turn everything into an opportunity, rather than a catastrophe. We have never been robbed, the locals love our blonde children, and life is simple and much healthier here. Nothing is convenient, so as long as you don't compare everything to the conveniences of the States, you will not be disappointed. If we get 1 thing done everyday, Pura Vida, it was a good day. We never overload ourselves or our expectations because the system does not work quickly here. We came here legally and continue to run our business within the legalities of the Costa Rican system, and employ an attorney for our residency, permits and barcodes. We pay taxes and insurance just like back home, and challenge ourselves every day with the Spanish language. Our kids are happy and we are free.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I will admit, it is wonderful having a conversation in English, but it is equally rewarding to have a successful conversation in Spanish; especially when you are looking for something like a small mechanical part to your hair clippers, or pine nuts. Some things just do not translate. It is always nice to share a positive experience with other young families who wanted more out of life, like us. We were worried there would be nothing but older, retirees living in Costa Rica, but we have met a ton of expat families and are beginning to make life-long friends, with expats and locals.

Christmas in Atenas, Costa Rica
Christmas in Atenas, Costa Rica
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Get outside. Costa Rica is not the cheapest place to live. Costa Rica is not the most beautiful place in the world, Mexico has much nicer beaches, but Costa Rica has micro-climates, making it so biodiverse and pleasurable to travel. You can do anything here other than snow ski or ice fish. There is an abundance of wildlife and recreation and, while it is a tourist driven economy, the locals love to get physical too, from the jungles, to mountain biking and hiking, to white water river rapids. My point is, life is not a beach, there is so much more to Costa Rica, and the kids always appreciate our new nature.

What do you enjoy most about living in Costa Rica?
Ticos and Ticas and all their "isms" and the way they love our family.

How does the cost of living in Costa Rica compare to home?
Half the cost, twice the living if you live like a Tico; Twice the cost and half the living if you live like an American

Freedom in Paradise, Costa Rica
Freedom in Paradise, Costa Rica
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Costa Rica?
There is no mail service home delivery and internet shopping is twice as expensive, and as a parent of 3 small children it is hard to find time, energy and patience to go shopping, so we definitely miss having a box from Amazon arrive at the front door since it is always fun to get mail.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Costa Rica, what would it be?
Do your research and don't compare. Surprises are costly and devastating. Culture shock is common, so as long as you do not expect everything to be like it always was back home, it is a positive, new experience because nothing is done the same way you are accustomed to. Being slightly OCD, we have grown more patient and remind ourselves to be more tranquilo. Pura Vida!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
language

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I hope nobody dies because we have no plans to return home.

Costa Rica Caribbean Coast with Max and Sara
Costa Rica Caribbean Coast with Max and Sara
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn the language.
  2. Do your research (for at least 1 year, we toggled with different countries and ultimately chose Costa Rica after tons of reading and research)
  3. Don't compare - Never compare your new diggs to old diggs, take everything like a new experience instead of trying to figure out why it does not happen the way it did back home
  4. Don't listen to grumpy old folks and naysayers - they are everywhere, even in paradise!
  5. Immerse - get to know the locals & their culture
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Our blog is a blast. We find ourselves laughing at our stories and adventures and when we go on our family outings, we are constantly taking pictures, videos and saying to each other, "this would be great for the blog!" Traveling with kids can be a challenge, but we always try to make it fun, it kind of takes the pressure off being in a foreign country, not knowing exactly how to get around and forgetting bug spray. I mean, we always forget something, so who cares? As long as we never forget our camera or our kids:)

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
through our websites:)
www.DiscoveringAtenas.com
www.CarneRico.com
niki@discoveringatenas.com
matt@carnerico.com

About the author

Expat Blog ListingNiki is an American expat living in Costa Rica. Blog description: A blog about a Texas family, growing, traveling, learning, blogging, building, teaching, loving and LIVING in Costa Rica! We just opened a new BEEF JERKY company in Atenas, COSTA RICA and live in the happiest place on Earth!
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Ruthi wrote 3 years ago:

Hi Niki we are a couple thinking about coming to CR to teach English.I am a professional teacher from the UK with experience,and an MA.Do you think I could get a job? I have just finished teaching for 3 years in China,before that I taught high school for 30 years.Took early retirement to travel with my husband.Any contacts greatly appreciated.

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