Will Citizenship Add Coolness to My Already Astonishing Life in Costa Rica?

[Update early 2018: I did file everything and the document package was provisionally approved, but final approval probably won't come until the end of 2018. Meanwhile, I am studying to take the rather rigorous citizenship exams that are offered each three months. I can re-take these as many times as I need to, though obviously I hope to pass the first sitting.]

I've been arguing with myself for over a year about pursuing citizenship here in Costa Rica. I've put in the time, which is 7 years, why not get something for it?


The Benefits of Citizenship

There are a lot of benefits, such as being free from the residency requirement that you participate in Caja (CR's universal health care system), a free 10-year cedula (national ID car), easier banking/financial transactions, the ability to leave the country without having to worry about fulfilling the in-country residency requirements plus the return of my $200 residency security deposit (which I think is $300 for newer residents).

I've also been told by those who have gone this path before that many everyday transactions that involve use of ID become somehow easier because you are no longer a foreigner in the eyes of Ticos, especially those that control various process gateways. Doors open that swung with difficulty before and the wheels of bureaucracy in general suddenly present less friction if you are perceived as "normal." Those benefits are rather intangible to me at the moment but they are apparently real.

And, of course, one mustn't overly discount the somewhat facetious "coolness" factor of having dual citizenship and their passport, which may be less disagreeable to some countries than a U.S. passport due to my home country's unwelcome meddling in others' affairs.

The Name Change

 One drawback that I was hung up on for a while, however, was the name change thing.

Peaceful Tranquility for Adventuresome Travelers of Costa Rica's Serene Southern Mountains in Our Artistic Cabina

About three years ago we got the bright idea (it seemed at the time anyway to be bright) of adding a small cabin to our property here in Costa Rica's La Zona Sur for would-be guests, family and friends in particular. Click here for the AirBnB listing.

We worked on it only during our summer months the first couple of years from about January to April. This year, we felt we were close enough to completion that we could make firm invites to people to visit and enjoy the seclusion of our hideaway cabin during their stay. Some friends did accept and were to arrive mid-February.

The Big Push

Thus, mid-November we made the "big push" to get it all in order figuring an early start would get us done about the middle or end of January. Who knew that we'd be putting on the finishing touches right up until dark the day before our guests arrived! These last few months were a slog at times with long hours about six days a week. Other projects were put on the back burner during this time that we're only catching up on now.

4 mosaics adorn the outside walls of the costa rica cabin
Four tropical-themed mosaics grace the outside walls

We brought in electricity (which we didn't have except from a small generator during previous seasons), wired the place, brought in water from our second spring, added windows, gutters, an outdoor kitchen, outdoor toilet and shower, tower and tank for the shower and so on. As we crossed off another task on our to-finish list, we added two more right up until the final weeks.

Dealing with Contractors in Costa Rica

Enjoy this interesting guest post from Jason Mueller offering viewpoints on the pros and cons of residential construction in Costa Rica:

Chances are if you are reading this, you are new to Costa Rica or possibly thinking about making the big move to paradise to build your dream home and live a stress free life. After all you have heard that Costa Rica is supposed to be the happiest place on earth. What could go wrong? I’m sure everything in your mind will be just “pura vida”.

The truth is that if you are planning on building a new house, business, “cabina” or even a “rancho”  in Costa Rica things can go seriously wrong when dealing with contractors. So you thought that dealing with contractors in the USA, Canada and Europe was a pain in the butt? Well, “bienvenido a Costa Rica” welcome to Costa Rica. Hiring a contractor in the land of “pura vida” has its pros and cons, mostly cons but hopefully you get lucky and find one of the few reliable contractors in this small country.

Costa Rica sloth hanging in tree
Living the Pura Vida


So, it’s Day 1 and your backhoe is supposed to show up at 7 am to flatten your proposed area and the machine is nowhere to be found. It seems you did get lucky on this day because your construction crew did show up, at least most of them and they are really happy because they can’t do any work. The foreman calls the backhoe company all morning but there is no answer. Don’t worry the backhoe will show up in a few days with no heads up when you least expect it and your crew is drinking Imperials at the beach.  You’re only a week behind schedule at this point. Time to go to the beach, take a deep breath and remember why you moved to paradise

“Ticos” are notorious for always being late or just not showing up at all. You would expect a courteously phone call but in this case they will just turn their phone off so they don’t have to deal with you. After all you are the annoying “gringo” that expects things to be on time, “pura vida mae”.

When the Expat Life Gets Boring ... Write a Book!

Well, writing a new book worked for me anyway: Make Money Now Copywriting in Your Spare Time: Earn While You Learn Copywriting on Textbroker

I like to keep busy and usually the finca is calling out to me with its many tasks such as whacking the weeds, managing the compost, making progress on the cabina, patching a few potholes in the road, etc. During the rainy season, however, there is more downtime during the afternoon rains and you can only browse the news, check on friends in FB and so on before you decide to either hibernate or find some new challenge.

Cover of my new ebook on copywriting
My First eBook
Writing work on both Textbroker and for my other clients had ebbed recently, but it made sense to keep writing and write I did. I've always wanted to self-publish a book and my experience with copywriting has been so rewarding that it made sense to write about that.

The book writing, first draft anyway, went pretty smoothly. It seemed there were more things I wanted to say to my readers than my fingers could keep up with. Pretty soon I was looking at a dozen chapters and 50 pages of info. It finally grew to over 80 pages and 18 chapters.

Where it bogs down, which you know if you have ever written something lengthy, is in the second and third passes, trying to get the formatting and images right and fighting off that nagging feeling that your book will fail.

Despite a nagging doubt or two, however, I had a superb time plugging away on it during my spare time plus figuring out how to get it published on Kindle properly. My next task was to create a paperback version, which I've almost completed on Createspace, an on-demand hard copy publisher that is actually owned by Amazon. It surprised me how much work that actually was and I'm convinced that for the next book I will reverse the process. Paperback first, then the eBook. So, keep a sharp eye out for the hardcopy version (and second editions) in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Of course, writing the book is one thing but selling it is quite another as it requires a lengthy period of self-promotion, which is my Achilles heel, but therein lies another engaging challenge to while away the remaining weeks of the "emerald season" here in La Zona Sur when the fog rolls in and the rain drops fall.

I'm very grateful for a lifestyle that allows for me to pursue such endeavors as book and copy writing. I couldn't do it without you Costa Rica!

Pura vida!!

8 Ways to Get Your Holiday Goodies into Costa Rica Easily or Safely

My post about how to receive packages in Costa Rica while avoiding having them snagged by Customs, which requires a trip to San José and a couple hours of bureacratic SNAFU to retrieve said package, continues to be one of my more popular articles.

Still, I often get asked the question: "Just how do you get stuff shipped into Costa Rica?"

Drone chasing Cary Grant in North by Northwest still
Attack of the Drones - CC-SA-3.0

Unfortunately, Amazon drone delivery does not seem to be on the horizon anytime soon.

So, to supplement the original article, here is a list (probably incomplete) on the various methods that I've either used or have learned second-hand from others who have found them to be successful.

Squeezing Colossal Returns from Your Retirement Kitty in Costa Rica

Update: It has been almost a year since we opened our Costa Rica CDs. After nearly perfect stability in the U$D exchange rate for a couple of years, the Costa Rica Colon depreciated this year about 3%. Given that our CDs average approx. 11% return, we are still 8% ahead this year and expect to renew the shorter term certificates. 

Our confidence has also been increased in CoopeNae after a recent meeting for investors that we attended (or maybe it was the delicious shrimp, shishkebab and Argentinian wine served afterwards? :) ). For example, they have the highest growth rate among credit unions here and better liquidity than the national banks!

===== Original article =====
I've been aware of the enormous interest rates on savings in Costa Rica since we moved here, but until recently was unable to take full advantage of them because spare cash was tied up in other things and, I must admit, the big returns made me gun shy. I mean, there has to be a catch right? Yes, there is a catch, but looking back over our 7 years residing here, with the absolute clarity that 20-20 hindsight provides, I wish we'd taken the plunge sooner.
Typical CD Rates in Costa Rica for Colones Deposits

As you can see from the chart at the right, phenomenal rates can be had on Certificates of Deposit denominated in Colones. Rates for U$D deposits are dramatically less, but much higher than in the U.S., up to 3.5%.

For deposit amounts in five figures or higher, you can actually negotiate slightly higher rates as well. We were able to get 12% with a quarterly payout of interest on one CD.

The highest rates are not universal. These quoted at the right are from a local credit union. Bank CDs yield 2 or 3 points lower and National Banks even lower. The latter provide something like the FDIC insurance coverage enjoyed in the States however.

Which brings us to why you might not want to invest in such CDs:

La Georgina and the Hummingbirds at 10,000 feet in Costa Rica

road sign
Villa Mills. Blink and you'll miss it. 

It is not much more than a broad spot in the road. Harder to miss, just beyond the blue sign, is a crisp-looking red and white restaurant, which may have several cars and a bus parked in front depending on the time of day. That's La Georgina, founded in 1947, just a year before the 44-day Costa Rican civil war that sparked the abolition of their army and instigated several social reforms that carry on today. Must've been interesting times for this spot, since a lot of the fighting occurred up here on Cerro de La Muerte.

La Georgina restaurant
 I have doubts whether this place was ever in any danger of being obliterated by that war, but in any case we're certainly glad that it's still in operation. It's a spacious place and has restrooms built for no-waiting. The food is the usual Tico buffet, not bad, but not terribly creative either. The main attraction for us is in the back.

Feliz Día De Mamá in Costa Rica

August 15th is Mother's Day in Costa Rica. Here they celebrate it with style.

Unlike Father's Day, which is synchronized with the same day in the U.S., mothers in Costa Rica get their own special day, which falls on August 15th regardless of the day of the week. Costa Rica is unique in the world for celebrating Mom's Day on that date, which you can see on the map below signifying on which day per country mothers are celebrated across the globe.

map of mother's days around the world
Days around the world on which mothers are honored
Costa Rica Mother's Day is a bona fide national holiday, which means many stores, the banks and government offices including the post office are closed.

To help celebrate, I offer up these lyrics from "Gracias Mamá:"

Thank you Mother, for praying for me each night
Thank you Mother for being with me if I am sick
Thank you Mother for consoling me with your kisses
Even though you are not here with me, you are not far
You have given me and I will give you love eternally.

Which Lifestyle Would Cost Our Family Less - Oregon or Costa Rica? - Part 1: Taxes

Gringo expats decide to retire in Costa Rica for a wide variety of reasons. Topping many expats' lists of desirable advantages would be maintaining their living standard at a lower cost or enjoying a higher standard of living for the same cost. That goes for adventurous, frugal younger expats as well as older expats such as myself stretching their retirement dollars.

Costa Rica can certainly offer terrific savings, especially in the areas of health care and housing. Many other daily expenses, however - automobiles being the most egregious example - are higher than what most norteamericanos are accustomed to. Depending on your financial status, lifestyle choices, goals and ability to adjust, the comparative financial equations we all go through at some point before moving here will each have their highs and lows.
calculating living expenses in Costa Rica and Oregon
Taking Stock of Expat Living Expenses

One Constant Is That Things Change

As we approach a new phase in which our own income will shift to primarily U.S. Social Security, our calculations are changing. In fact, just in terms of cost of living, we find that it may actually be cheaper for us to reside in our previous home state of Oregon. I'm not going into all the gory details of that calculation, but this two-part article does hit the high points. Hopefully, it provides additional food for thought to those considering moving to Costa Rica

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