Are you happy in Costa Rica?

Hello everyone!

According to the 2016 UN World Happiness Survey, Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland are the happiest countries on earth.

How about you? Are you happy in Costa Rica? Do you feel happier today in your host country than before in your home country? What has contributed to the change?

In your opinion, are locals in Costa Rica happy? How can you tell?

Please share your experience!

If it were not for the traffic.!!   I am retired.   As a result, I can usually skip the worst hours where the entire San Jose metro area is clogged with cars.    But that means staying off Ruta 1 ( General Canas autopista ) between the hours of 6:30am to 10am, and from 3:30pm to 7:30pm.   The typical Tico has to add almost two hours to their  daily commute each way.   That kind of congestion makes for a very long day for Ticos and those expats that are trying to work here outside their homes. 

The daily congestion also makes for headaches for expats who have to battle the traffic occasionally.  And one never knows where a road block of cars on any generally busy street will occur that can easily add 30-60 minutes to a one way trip.

Barring traffic, Costa Rica is a beautiful place to live.   The weather is wonderful.  The majority of people are friendly, responsible, and honorable.   I have yet to lose something that others could identify as mine.   I have lost my phone only to have a security guard call me the next day saying he found it.   That is rare in US, much less other countries.  The only people that have tried to take advantage of me are other US citizens or Canadians living here. 

I am happy here, because my lifestyle permits it.   If anyone has a job that requires timely arrivals, their lives are a mishmash of very early days and late nights.  Its like working a 12 hour shift; one has just enough time at home to cook, eat, and go to sleep before starting over again the next day.

The other downside to Costa Rica is the cost of living.   I came here expecting a reduction of 30% in my cost of living.   That may have been possible 10 years ago.  Sadly, it is a pipe dream today.   If an expat hails from San Francisco, NYC, Vancouver or Toronto I suppose it is possible to view this economy as a good deal.   But for others like myself coming from more normal economies within the States, or Canada, the cost of living is almost equal to the costs of living in the US.

I don’t think we’d be comparing apples to apples to compare these developed countries to Costa Rica.  The available tax base, the infrastructure, the governments are just not comparable.

That said, I would definitely say that “happiness” is very subjective.  I would not say that Costa Ricans overall are “happy.”  I would say that they are more content with their lives than the majority of North Americans, especially those from the U.S. 

The way of life in the States is to gain more - more money, more house, more toys, better job, etc..  The majority of Costa Ricans do not live or strive for things in this same manner.  For most, family comes first.  They don’t just say this, they live it.  In this way I believe they find a lot more contentment in life and therefore are “happier” than most North Americans.

Personally, I am now happier here then when I left the States.  I definitely assimilated into life here.  I own less, I don’t desire or have that need that I used to have for bigger and better.  I prefer Ticos to Gringos and feel they are much more honest and caring as friends. 

My opinion is that if you don’t assimilate, learn the language, adapt to the culture, scale down, you will not find happiness here.

-Expat Dave

good words Dave.   I like your insight.  it is all true

After living here for 19 years continuously, I decided, with the influence of my sister in Washington, and my wife here, to return to the USA. Not because I was not happy, but just for a change of routine.  I had processed most of the paperwork to bring my wife there, which is completely crazy and expensive (it's actually cheaper to pay a Coyote $4500 to walk her across, as a way of comparison) so I went ahead. I purchased a car, a lot, and a mobile home.  45 days later I started selling all of it, and I returned here.  Why?  I was returning to the time when I used to live there.  When many were honest, and you could trust people to some extent.  I got ripped off and lied to by the car dealer, the mobile home dealer, the septic tank guy, and the water company. Only my realtor and the surveyor were honest. I have no answer except that the US has finally managed to catch up with the worldwide dishonesty theme.  I went to Wallmart for a phone, because you have to have one, unlike here. The kid that sold it to me was nice so I spoke to him (in Spanish).  He tells me that he pays $240 per month on his phone bill, which is about what his co-workers pay. That's on a salary of minimum wage for sure.  What happened to saving money for a car, house, education, future, etc?  The future is too far away. People are connected with wireless friends, they are told what to like by their TVs and how good they are being treated, how free they are and how lucky they are.  No thanks, I like the honesty here, and at least I know that I have to look out for everything, and take care of myself.  I'd rather be poorer in paradise.  Just my 2 cents.

I love living in Costa Rica... and YES I am very happy!
Everyday, my husband and I express gratitude for this beautiful little country and the life we have created here.

We love the weather, the lifestyle...eating cleaner, fresh and real food are the first two things for us. We raise our own chickens and fresh eggs!  Knowing where our food comes from is very important to us!

Being a part of the local community is a BIG asset for me, as well.  I love all my neighbours, the dirt roads, the simpler, more laid back lifestyle!  I love going in my ATV to my Spanish class, a Food Bank Board meeting... on my way back up the mountain, I love to stop and look at the beauty of the mountain ranges..!

My neighbours are happy in their life... even though they are struggling to learn to live within all the changes that we expats have brought to their lives.We have changed a lot of things for them, increased the costs of goods, food, etc. 

I would far rather live here in Costa Rica with what is going on currently in North America...even as a Canadian!

The cost of living is so high there .... that there is no way we could live the lifestyle we have here in Costa Rica on the same money in Canada!!

At this point in my 15+ year adventure in Costa Rica...would I change it...NOPE!  Do I love it? Yup!  Everything, everyday.?  Maybe not ...but overall... it is a great life!

Except the food cost is 30% higher for less quality and the beef here is all but inedible.

Yes, of course, I am happy living in Costa Rica.  I have lived here for 19 years, and consider Costa Rica my home.  I have visited the US several time, and could not wait to return.  I was alittle homesick the second year, but I got over it.  I invent things to do, and I keep very busy.  I would like to meet an english speaking women to walk with on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Someone young at heart, to walk, play chess, or ride motorcycles, someone healthy and happy!  my telephone 8375-4287, my name is Michael, but everyone calls me Papito! :)

My entire worldview has drastically changed as a result of my expat experience of Costa Rica. What can I honestly say that I like most about that experience? Is it the language or the landscapes, the waves or the women, the freedom or the frivolity? As impressive as all of those things are, none of them truly captures the essence of what Costa Rica has meant to me.

Yes I am happy. And what I am happiest about is the change living here has wrought in me, primarily in the following 3 ways...

Change #1: Learning Humility

When I first came to Costa Rica I was anything but humble. I was a lawyer-MBA type who was flown down to orchestrate a large business deal. It was a heady experience and one that indeed did go directly to that part of my body.

But all that came crashing to an end and when the dust finally settled, I did as well, in my new home. And I learned, gradually, to be humble. Living in a foreign country can do that to you, if you really immerse. Oh, there are plenty who come here and never do that. But that's just not my nature. I did immerse and it changed me.


Well, I believe the natural grandeur of this place put me in my place. I was, and still am, humbled by both the beauty, power and fragility of nature. I was humbled into dismissing the notion that human progress can proceed in a way that puts us at odds with nature. Nature will either win that battle, or the “spoils” will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of the victor.

I was humbled by living shoulder to shoulder with people who were different. I gradually came to the realization that being from the world’s largest superpower doesn’t make me any more exceptional than they already were. Neither did my education, money, language, customs, intelligence, or anything else. That we're all just homo sapiens striving for the same basic live a dignified life.

Change #2: Learning Respect

I came here thinking very firmly that I had all the right answers. That the indoctrination of my upbringing, education, church and nationality made me a much brighter person than I really was. I often notice that attitude with gringos who come here either to visit or live. If it is to live, you either learn to respect, or you are in for a very unhealthy experience. Those are the ones who grow bitter and continuously grumble about how the ticos have it all wrong. Well, they may have it all wrong, but they’re smiling (actually laughing at you) while you sit miserable.

You see, it pays to learn to respect other viewpoints. It enhances your human experience to learn to stand in the other fellow’s shoes, especially if those shoes are far different from ones you have ever tried on. It is one of the greatest lessons of life I have learned here. It has served to remove those impact blinders that I came here wearing. I began to see the world from a different and far more open-minded perspective.

Change #3: Learning Patience

For many years this came as a hard lesson for me. I did not understand the concept of time that existed here. It seemed as if time didn’t matter, or at least that these people certainly didn’t respect my incessant worry over its scarcity. They seemed to take the view that there really was enough time to go around and meet everyone’s needs. Maybe that’s because there is a far different definition of “needs meeting” here than exists where I came from. People here just get along with a lot less and are content with that. The idea of arranging your life to achieve maximum efficiency with the goal of having more just doesn’t occur to most people here. The goal of life is not to have more, but to live more. The two are not the same (I know that may come as a surprise to many).

So a much slower pace of life is what prevails. One that breathes deeper meaning into the concept of “relaxing and smelling the roses.” And there are so many “roses” to smell here. In the U.S. people strive to make a gazillion so they can have maybe 50% of the peaceful experience that a tico making less than half the poverty rate in the U.S. has simply by walking outside of his humble choza (home) and taking in the spectacular and completely free panoramic vista of his daily existence. So why should he be in a hurry?

So, first out of sheer necessity, and later out of a deeper understanding of true happiness, I slowed down. And I believe (hope) that it has added years to my life. It has certainly decreased the moments of panic and rage.

Maybe you expected me to write about something different. Maybe you expected me to tell of my favorite location, activity, or experience. But no, my favorite things about living here are the life’s lessons it has taught me.

I am grateful for that.

Priscilla :

Hello everyone!

According to the 2016 UN World Happiness Survey, Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland are the happiest countries on earth.

How about you? Are you happy in Costa Rica? Do you feel happier today in your host country than before in your home country? What has contributed to the change?

In your opinion, are locals in Costa Rica happy? How can you tell?

Please share your experience!

First of all, is that survey only of "1st world" countries? Why is it always mostly made up of Scandinavian countries? Something seems "off" in their methodology that causes this. Maybe it's because people stay in their houses most of the time  in Scandinavia's cold weather, so don't have time to get out and cause problems. LOL.

"Happiness" is hard to define. I like the word "contented" better. Happy is what I feel momentarily when something I see as "good" happens. "Contented" is what I want to be, being grateful for what I have and accepting of "what is".

I am "more content" here than in the U.S. mostly because of the following reasons:
     * I can afford to live here on social security, without working, which I could not afford to do in the U.S., or at least not in the kind of beautiful tranquilo location I live here. In the U.S. I'd be living in a crappy subsidized  apartment complex or bad neighborhood. Here I am living amidst some of the most beautiful surroundings I've ever seen.
     * I love nature and am surrounded by it here. I see parrots, toucans, monkeys, iguanas, and all sorts of other wildlife on a daily basis.
     * Ticos are more relaxed - "tranquilo" - and their way of being patient and talking to people they don't know and remembering you when you walk into their store and saying hi or shaking your hand is completely different than the big city ways I was used to, and I like it.
     * The weather here, while admittedly bad at times (too much rain or too much wind or too much fog or too much sun) is always changing (where we live) and always interesting.
    * I have more free time, have land around me, and so am more inclined to spend more time outside doing things. So it's healthier for me and I've lost weight as a result, and I am more content because I am not always surrounded by the 4 walls of my office or the 4 walls of my house.

As to the locals, when I first came here many years ago I rode the bus a lot. I observed Ticos - mostly the poorer ones - on the bus, and noticed that the children almost always seemed content, smiling, cared for, respectful, and well behaved. This is in stark contrast to what I saw in big city U.S.
I noticed people were friendly to me even though I looked and acted different from them. I never had anyone steal anything from me (though for sure that does happen!) and never saw anyone behaving badly in any way, really.

I think that the Tico culture has somehow evolved to encourage people to be content with what they have. I knew people who lived in dirt floor shacks who cooked with fire, who invited me in for a meal (which was delicious!).  And they seemed very content and well adjusted. I have seen very poor people in many parts of Costa Rica who almost never seem depressed or discontent. (Maybe they are but they sure don't act or look like it, as compared with the poor I see in the U.S.). Surely there are many very poor people here who don't have enough to eat who are not content, but in general people here seem to be able to get by okay and be content with what they have.

Tico culture is more about people being people and  exhibiting kindness and helpfulness and patience and accepting what is, whereas U.S. culture in contrast leads people to want more and more Stuff, more money,  more power and other materialistic signs of "success".

Americans see "time" as something not to waste by talking to random people and Ticos see "time" as always available for a chat or helping someone.

I've seen a very busy construction supervisor stop when running late for a meeting, to help a stranger change a tire so they could get to work.

I have had Ticos stop and help me when I had a car problem without my even asking for help. I know this is said to be sometimes dangerous as some criminal type Ticos or Nicos (yes there are some bad people around) may use it as an excuse to steal from your car. But in my case, every time I've been offered help it was out of a true desire to help me. (Be careful but don't be too afraid! Use your common sense!)

So those are just some of the reasons I love living here and why I find the Ticos great people to know and live with.

You can read more about my views of Costa Rica in my latest post "Retiring In Costa Rica" on my blog which you'll find here: …

I have lived here for almost 40 years. Moving here was the best choice I ever made in my life. The country is NOT perfect but a lot better than most places in Latin America. I visited every country there before I decided to move to Costa Rica in 1980.

The quality of life, friendly people, user friendly country for Americans and other foreigners, affordable medical care, NO military or terrorism, year-round fresh fruits and vegetables, good telecommunications, beautiful scenery, beaches lakes and mountains, a virtual nature  lover's Disneyland and so much more.

You never here anything negative about the country in the international media.


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