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Is it true that gringos living in Costa Rica do stupid things? Hey, I found 16 stupid things. Maybe you’ll come up with a few more. Post them in the comment box, please.
The first thing that I should do, in case someone misunderstands the term “gringo”, is to explain who are seen as gringos living in Costa Rica.
A gringo in Costa Rica is anyone who has lighter skin, hair that is lighter than black, and speaks Spanish with some kind of accent, or no Spanish at all. That means, that even I, who has been living in Costa Rica for 35 years, am still called a gringo even though I speak fluent Tico Spanish but with an accent.
Now you probably are one of the gringos living in Costa Rica and learning to adjust to your new lifestyle and your new home country. You probably do a few stupid things too. To be able to live in a new country, for sure you’ll make mistakes by saying the wrong words, by doing something that is not customary in Costa Rica and will be frowned upon by the locals, or by making a serious mistake when buying property (I am a real estate broker, in case you didn’t know). I want to warn you about those mistakes, the stupid mistakes, so you won’t make them. Don’t be surprised you think I’m talking about you.
Find out more about the 16 Stupid things gringos living in Costa Rica make all the time
1. Show off
Do not walk into a local bar with a wad of dollar bills in your hand. Do not show how much you have (or don’t have) by showing off. Lay low and don’t try to play the gringo millionaire.
2. Respect their ways
Do not think that Ticos do everything wrong because it’s not your way. In their eyes, YOU do everything wrong. There is a reason that people in a different culture do things differently, and if there is no reason, it’s still the right way, as long as you would like to be living in Costa Rica.
(Photo: from digital vagabonding dot com)
3. Don’t marry her
Picking up a girl in Hotel Del Rey and ask her to marry you. Then you buy a house, give her the power of attorney that controls the corporation that owns the new house, and then give her a credit card to go shopping. Two months later she will tell you she is pregnant and that it’s your kid. 4 Months later I see you walk a stroller through the neighborhood and when you see me you call me over: “hey Ivo, meet my son”.
4. Don’t abandon the property
Do not purchase property in Costa Rica and then abandon it. Keep it clean and fenced. The dream you had to triple your investment in Costa Rica might turn into a nightmare when you can’t get the squatters off your land.
5. Learn Spanish
Show a little respect for the local language and learn Spanish, at least the basics and don’t just put an “a” or an “o” behind the English word and think you speaka Spanish. Years ago, I had a client do that all the time and would say things like hamburgero and meato, and when he would order hamburger meat at the butcher shop, he’d order uno pound of meato hamburgero, please. Be proud of trying to speak real Spanish and show the locals that you’re trying. If you do, they’ll do all they can to help you and even speak bad English to make it easy on you.
6. Don’t pay upfront
Hire a contractor to remodel your house and pay him the whole job upfront. When the contractor never returns to even start the job, you decide to hire another contractor and you pay him 50% upfront. Guess what happened.
7. Don’t re-hire a thief
You fire the maid for stealing. You can’t find another maid and you feel bad for the one you just fired. She needs to make a living too, so you call her and hire her again.
8. Don’t wear bling into town
Take off all your bling and stick your wallet in a difficult-to-get-to-place when you go downtown in any large city in Costa Rica. Do not run the risk of getting mugged. I’ve seen gringos lose their wallet, watch, and passport on the first day of arrival because they didn’t listen to me.
9. Don’t give a full poa
When giving someone a power of attorney, make it a special power and not a general power, no matter if you trust that person completely. You can make a special power very specific for a very specific means that can be described exactly the way you want it. I have seen a person with a power of attorney sell somebody’s property for $1 and get away with it.
10. Don’t say you’re pregnant
Don’t try to say that you’re embarrassed in Spanish if you don’t know the right word. “Estar embarazada (embarazado if it’s a male…)” means that you are pregnant. The right way to say it is “tengo mucho pena” or “me da pena” or even “estoy avergonzado (a)“.
11. Don’t be loud
Do not be loud when you are in a Tico environment. Often the younger gringos living in Costa Rica do that in public places. Ticos hate loud people, especially when they are drunk. I have seen a loud gringo crowd empty a TGIF restaurant during a local football game because of the bad behavior of the gringo group. Be proud of where you’re from and show respect to the locals.
12. Don’t give loans
If your housekeeper, your gardener, your neighbor, or a friend asks you for a loan or an advance in their pay, say no. Don’t try to talk your way out of it trying to be nice, just say no, you don’t give loans or advances. If you do, you won’t get it back or they’ll be back for more and you’ll feel bad about it, so they’ll keep pushing for it. Say no!
13. Behave with education
Do not complain about the food to get a free meal out of it, it’s bad taste. Educated gringos living in Costa Rica don’t do that. Of course, you can complain and even send the food back to the kitchen, but do it in an educated way, without everyone else in the restaurant needing to know what is going on.
(Photo: Patrick Demarchelier For Vanity Fair)
14. Beware of the snakes
If you happen to see a snake, don’t try to take a selfie or try to kick it to make it leave. Not all snakes are poisonous, but you do not want to take the chance.
15. The other way around
In English and some other languages, the adjectives come before the noun, and in Spanish, the other way around: “el bolso negro” means the bag black, “la sonrisa preciosa” is the smile beautiful, and “el sol caliente” is the sun hot. You get it, right? If you don’t, read this blog that tells you not to be afraid to speak bad Spanish.
16. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes
The most stupid mistake that you can make when living in Costa Rica is being afraid of making any mistakes. Make them but learn from those mistakes. Do not turn a deaf ear to those who try to help by correcting you.
I’m sure you won’t commit all those stupid things as gringos living in Costa Rica do.
So don’t want to make any stupid mistakes when buying real estate in Costa Rica either! Just contact a GoDutch Realty agent.