13 September 2016

Erin Morris - Expat in Costa Rica

Erin Morris - Expat in Costa Rica

We’ve had the chance to talk to Erin Morris, 36, an American expat who has moved to Costa Rica with her dog. Ms. Morris who has been living there for six years, now works as a book, event, and website designer; writer, story teller, and artist.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I grew up in South Carolina, but none of my family was originally from there. I’m like a mutt. I like it like that.


Q: What made you move out of the USA?

A: I discovered an abundance of nature, a gorgeous climate, and a laid back lifestyle in Costa Rica that exceeded anything I had experienced in the US. I quit the cubicle and moved for what I thought would be just one year. Well, one year flew by, and my love for the country only grew the more I got to know it.


Q: Where are you living now?

A: I’ve been bouncing around for the past year, from the beach to the mountains. It sounds exotic, but for me it is exhausting. I’m looking forward to finding a place to settle again. 


Q: How long have you been living in Costa Rica?

A: Six years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with friends and my dog. They all love the expat lifestyle.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I have never found myself pining for the location I called home. I do miss friends and family, though. I visit them quite often.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Pura vida mae.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Costa Rica? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: It’s easy to make a few really close friends. It’s also easy to be repeatedly heartbroken as these friends move away. I mainly socialize with other expats because I have more in common with them than the Ticos. My expat friends and I all have the same struggles and interests – we moved here from somewhere else, have dealt or are dealing with assimilating into a new culture, and chose to stay for similar reasons.


Q: How does the cost of living in Costa Rica compared to your home?

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Small cheap cup = $1. Starbucks is in Costa Rica, so you know how high it can go from there…

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: About $6 for a casado – a typical dish with rice, beans, salad, and meat.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: About $50.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine from the store is like $12 a bottle minimum. It’s all imported. Local beer is $3. Craft beer is like $5-$7. Costa Rica is not cheap unless you change your lifestyle from that of a typical US lifestyle. 


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Costa Rica?

A: Ugh. Don’t do it unless you have to. You have to be vigilant over your money because sometimes it disappears or is calculated incorrectly and it is not insured or guaranteed by the bank.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: A tedious bureaucratic mess. You have to get all the paperwork completed and apostilled in a certain amount of time, and if the papers expire for any reason, you have to start over. The reason could be that immigration was backed up and just didn’t get to your paperwork in time. That being said, Costa Rica has been moving towards computerized data since I moved here, so efficiency could be changing as I type this. 


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Costa Rica is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: In my experience, the doctors only use drugs as a last resort and in quantities much smaller than what we are accustomed to in The States.

The private doctors are more affordable and accessible, too. I can walk in or get an appointment the same day. Sometimes I don’t even need to go to a doctor’s office – I can see a doctor that works in a pharmacy.

The CAJA, public health care, is another story. The quality totally depends on where you live, and most people I know have had to balance that with private health care.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Costa Rica? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: LOL I did not have a mover. I had two suitcases and a big dog. I say downsize – lose that material baggage and really enjoy your new lighter, happier life in Costa Rica.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: As a new expat… I think it was probably getting around. I didn’t have GPS, and it wasn’t very reliable in Costa Rica back then anyway. Costa Rica doesn’t have addresses like we are used to in the US. They use landmarks, cardinal directions, and odd things like the color of the house or gate to distinguish it from its neighbors instead of a number. Many of the addresses include landmarks that are no longer there – like 150 meters south of the old mango tree (which is now a car dealership lot) or 350 east of the Mercedes Tower (which is now a hotel).

And the bus system is another disaster. There is no central bus system. There are many private bus companies, and they all operate in different areas with different schedules that are not posted and can change at the whim of the driver.

Oh my goodness, and then everything gets complicated because Ticos do not like to say no or I don’t know, so they might say they know where something is when they actually don’t. I came up with a rule of thumb for this – I always ask for directions until I get the same answer three times. Then I feel confident I have good directions.  


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Costa Rica?

A: Positive: abundance of nature, healthy food, smiling faces, beautiful places, lots of water, green everywhere, less stress

Negative: Traffic in the Central Valley. Waze even voted San José as one of the worst cities in the world to drive in.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Get outside and explore!


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Nope. I tried moving back last year; it was literally a disaster - A FEMA disaster.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Costa Rica has a huge product offering now compared to when I first moved, but there are still some things I recommend bringing from your home country if you can. 

If you get Dengue or Chikungunya, you can cure it with the juice of a papaya leaf.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Costa Rica?

A: I’m partial to my website of course. I tell stories about my adventures and misadventures in Costa Rica and really delve into some harsh truths about expat life Dela Pura Vida.

A good source for news in English is The Tico Times. I’ve worked for several Costa Rica publications and The Tico Times is the best and most reliable because they publish fact-checked articles and the team is made up of real journalists.