Life is about give and take. Sometimes when we decide to make big changes in our lives, we can begin to feel like we are giving more than we are getting in return. When this happens to us, it is a good idea to breathe, regroup and consider all of the reasons why we are making the big changes in the first place.
Is it because we are actively seeking some better way of living? I can’t tell you that Costa Rica will be better or worse than where you are right now. But I can point to the different ways that living in Costa Rica has changed the lives of the expats we know who have come to call this country ‘home’.
Of course, we’ve all heard the many ways that living in the tropics will bring you peace, comfort, isolation, nature, beauty, and so on in that vein. Instead, I would like to show you how living in Costa Rica will change your interpersonal skills in the form of give and take. To take a page out of Adam Grant’s 2014 book ‘Give and Take’, helping others drives our own success. And as a group of realtors in the area, Osa Tropical Properties wants to help you find your ideal way of living differently.
When first arriving in Costa Rica, the most important thing that foreigners learn off the bat is that they need help. Whether it is a language barrier or a cultural one, both unknowns can be crippling when you first arrive wanting to do business. The best course of action for anyone thinking about doing business in Costa Rica (like purchasing real estate) is to find a reputable realtor in your region of interest. Your agent will explain the process to you and will set you up with your team, which can include lawyers, surveyors, builders, etc, that will help you get from start to settled. This may not be the first advice you get from people who have already been through the gauntlet, but it is the best advice we will give you if you want to be on an equal playing field of give and take from the get-go.
When building or buying your dream home, you may find a number of things that require the agreement of other persons. This may include things like view easements or shared common grounds. What you will find is that the majority of the time, it helps to have working, friendly relationships with your neighbors. A shared element of respect means that asking for your neighbor to trim a tree will be easier when you are willing to do something similar in return or are willing to share the costs.
Recognizing your neighbors from seeing them on a daily basis will be something new for a lot of people, especially those coming from urban areas that tend to be more of a melting pot. When you begin chatting with these people more and more often, you will learn more about your local area than you will through other avenues: what events are happening, where to go to find a certain item, or what type of plants grow best in which conditions. There is so much to learn from watching how others do things and observing how they interact with one another. We may not know the ins and outs of a place when we arrive, but with a little patience and a watchful eye, we can find the keys to the intercultural give and take that we need to take us from feeling foreign to friendly.
On the flip side of influence, negotiation can be a bit harder to learn than being a good observer. But negotiating is something that we all must learn when we leave the purely democratic ways of life in the first world. In countries like Costa Rica, you may find that you are being quoted a price that is different from the next person in line. This is not standard practice across the board by any means; however, when it comes to the bigger ticket items like getting a quote from a builder, it is best to roll up your sleeves and unleash your inner interrogator. Why are you being charged this much? Are you getting a full breakdown of projected costs? Have you compared these with a few other quotes? Being foreign can sometimes mean that you have a bright orange sticker on your head that reads: $$$. Don’t let this get you down. Just because someone wants to fleece you doesn’t mean that they are a bad person and it also doesn’t mean that you should give in to their wishes. Know your facts and use the team you’ve built around you to get the information you are lacking.
When the job is done and you are living your day-to-day life to the standards you have set, you are now in a position to help others who want to do the same. This is the time to remember that it was you, once, who was starting out fresh and didn’t know how to do what you now consider to be the most basic things. When our struggle is complete, it is our time to help ease the pain for another by providing them with the answers to the questions that they didn’t know they have.
There is no one way to live in Costa Rica or anywhere in the world. All we can tell you is that for most people who we have helped find their place in the sun, when leaving what you know behind, the greatest asset is a strong sense of community. The motto of ‘give and take’ is one for the masses. A good community is one whose members are willing to give when they have, and take when they need. And when you are finally feeling settled in your piece of tropical paradise, give thanks and take nothing for granted.