1 August 2016

Jason Mueller - Expatriate in Costa Rica

Jason Mueller - Expatriate in Costa Rica

We’ve had the chance to talk to Jason Mueller, 32, a Canadian expat who has moved to Costa Rica.

The wanderlust in Mr. Mueller took him to Costa Rica, where he had great vacations before. The friendly locals and abundance of activities to do have captured his heart so much that he has started a tour company to show others the beauties of the country.

However, the laid-back lifestyle has its downsides too. He cautioned about the unreliability of the locals in honesty and efficiency. On processes such as applying for a Visa, Mr. Mueller said, “Be prepared for them to tell you it will take one month and in reality, it will be four or more. Costa Ricans are notorious for overpromising and under-delivering.

The entrepreneur, who have lived in Costa Rica for two years now, continues to learn Spanish and socialise at the pubs. He recommends expats to do the same to make more new friends. Read more about Mr. Mueller’s experiences as an expat in Costa Rica, in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I was born in a small town named Smithers in Canada and lived in an even smaller town named Houston until I was about five. Then, I moved to Williams Lake and lived there most of my life but I had a business in Vancouver for three years. In short, British Columbia, Canada.

Q: What made you move out of Canada?

A: I was looking for a change because I’m not the type of person that likes to be in the same place for too long. I was living back in my hometown and just didn’t see a future there for me. I couldn’t take it anymore so I decided I was going to sell my house and get the hell out of there.

Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Costa Rica. I was originally thinking to move to another location in B.C to start up a wakeboarding business but a friend put Costa Rica in my ear because he was planning on moving there. I had taken a vacation to Costa Rica about eight years prior and loved it, so I was pretty much in from the get-go. My friend and I took a prospecting vacation for the business we planned and we both decided that this is where we wanted to live. I think it was the laid-back atmosphere and the pura vida (translated: pure life) lifestyle.

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

A: Two years living full-time. Before I moved here, I had two vacations, where I stayed for just over a month each visit.

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

A: I am living alone and all my family is still in Canada. Though, I do have a roommate currently.

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

A: Yes, I miss Canada very much and especially my family. I use Facebook, Skype and Whatsapp to stay in contact and some of my friends come to visit once in a while. My dad came to visit about two months ago. That was really nice but I haven’t seen my mom in two years so I plan to make a trip back home soon.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Ticos is what they call themselves in Costa Rica and they are very nice people but I do think they are horrible people to rely on, especially when they tell you that they will be somewhere or have something finished by a certain time. I also think that they take advantage of gringos (translated: foreigners). For example, there is a tico price and a gringo price – not everywhere, but usually they want to soak gringos for everything they have.


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: Yes, it was fairly easy for me because I live in Jaco where there are lots of expats and most of the locals speak English. I have a mix of expat friends and locals. I have met lots of people from having a business because I have to go out and interact with people. Jaco has a good nightlife so if you are looking to mingle, it is good for that.  

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

A: The cost of rent is a little cheaper, I can find a nice furnished apartment for around $1100 but food at the grocery store is more expensive. You can find fruits and vegetables for much cheaper and higher quality. 

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: $1 I think, I don’t drink coffee.

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

A: $5-$6.

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

A:  $10 and up, pretty much the same as Canada.

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

A: $10 and up, depending on where it was imported from.  I don’t smoke but I think it is around $5, which is much cheaper than Canada.


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

A: Be patient. I do believe the only way to open an account here is to have your residency or own a business. I had a business and the process was pretty easy through Scotiabank but I know the other banks take forever. It is easy to open a business through any lawyer and you don’t have to operate that business so this is a good loophole.

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

A: Very slow like everything in Costa Rica. Be prepared for them to tell you it will take one month and in reality, it will be four or more. Costa Ricans are notorious for overpromising and under-delivering.  

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

A: Yes, I do believe the healthcare system here is pretty good. If you have an emergency, then the hospital has to treat you by law. I have heard very good things about Cima Hospital in San Jose but fortunately, I do not have any first-hand experiences.

Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or host country? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: When I first moved here, I secured health insurance locally and it is always good to have coverage. I would say to do your research and find out what your home country covers you for. If you are working here, then you legally have to contribute to the Caja, which is a healthcare and pension plan here.

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: I sold most my belongings before I came here and only packed my stuff into duffle bags and brought them down on the plane. The only thing I kept in Canada was my truck and now that I am working for A-1 Auto Transport, I can get it there at a discounted rate.

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

A: The language barrier for sure. I am learning Spanish everyday but it hasn’t been easy. It is very hard having to rely on someone to communicate for you and not knowing what people are saying about you.


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

A: Positives: endless summer, healthy lifestyle, organic fruits and veggies, people are friendly and pura vida. Negatives: Everything takes forever (requires patience), people can be flaky, the cost of living is not as cheap as other Latin American countries, and the heat may bother some people (those people should move to the mountains, the climate is perfect).

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

A: The fishing is really good where I live. Surfing, check out Miro Mountain lookout in Jaco. There are so many great tours in the area and obviously, come check out my company, Jaco Ropes! For bachelor or all-guys party planning, you will be in good hands with Costa Rica Guy’s Trip.

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

A: I want to make Costa Rica my permanent home but I would love to have a 2nd or 3rd/4th homes in different countries. Yes, I would like to be able to have a home back in Canada – I actually miss the snow.

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

A: Be patient and learn Spanish. Remember this is not your country and you’re the one that has to adapt. It really bothers me when I hear expats complaining about people not being able to speak English or about bad service.

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

A: Tripadvisor is always good for finding reviews and honest opinions about locations and tours.