21 November 2017

Joachim Schneider - Expat in Costa Rica

Joachim Schneider - Expat in Costa Rica

We’ve had the chance to talk to Joachim Schneider, 54, a German expat who has moved to Costa Rica with his girlfriend. Mr Schneider, who has been living there for three and a half years, now works as an Orange and Coffee farmer. Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?
A: Frankfurt, Germany


Q: What made you move out of Germany?
A: I needed something new, changing my daily life. I didn’t want to go on sitting in boring meetings, discussing things over and over to no avail.
Besides, I always had been fascinated by the tropics. After having worked in Singapore in the 90ies, I returned to Germany. But I never forgot how beautiful and different life in the tropics can be.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?
A: I live on the western coast of Costa Rica, on the Peninsula of Nicoya.
My girlfriend and I thought about moving to one of the “classical” immigration countries like Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Canada and NZ were no real alternative due to the weather; Australia because of my age (I had just turned 50 when the decision had to be taken). So we just looked at the map and brain-stormed the potential countries. Costa Rica was very convincing because of nature, wildlife, climate and way of living.


Q: How long have you been living in Costa Rica?
A: I have been living here for three and a half years now


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?
A: I live here with my girlfriend. We both have no difficulty adjusting, however, not to an “Expat” lifestyle, but to rural living opposed to living in a Western European city.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?
A: I hardly miss family and friends. They are visiting us from time to time, combining this with a great holiday in Costa Rica.
Actually, I never really understood the concept of “homesickness” ;-]


Q: What do you think about the locals?
A: Costa Rican (“Ticos”) are very friendly and welcoming people, religious and proud of their traditions. They guarantee a perfect contrast to the rapid, stressful life style in most 1st world countries.


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 was very easy making friends. We are part of an Expat circle, where we meet every one or two months. Besides, we have a lot of Costa Rican friends. Meeting people is easy. We live in a rather remote, rural area, where social contacts are important. At weekends we go to a bar in the nearest village to have a few beers with the locals, or we go to one of the Karaoke bars with another Tico couple


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

Q: How much is a cup of coffee?
A: same price, but on the other hand: we consume our own coffee from our finca, so we don’t buy coffee

Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?
A: there are no expensive restaurant in our area ;-]

Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?
A: 25 USD upwards

Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?
A: 10 USD for a regular bottle of wine. No idea about cigarettes. Few people are smokers here


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Costa Rica?
A: Opening a bank account is fairly easy. Either a person or for a company you need IDs and information on your monthly income and the origins of the money. Banks here are quite alert when it comes to money laundering.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?
A: Government paperwork was mainly handled by our lawyers at the beginning. Now I’m taking care of that, and it’s not much worse than in most other countries. Especially getting residence permit is surprisingly straightforward.
In my experience, state-owned companies or monopolists require more paperwork than government agencies.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Costa Rica is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?
A: In Costa Rica, you have mandatory public healthcare, which covers the basics (as seen from a European standard). However, special treatments and dental care are not included. Most expats have additional, private healthcare plans, which are quite expensive.
Sorry, no advice for that. I’d be glad if I had a solution myself ;-]


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in Germany or Costa Rica? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?
A: I am fine with public healthcare in Costa Rica. I have no general advice for expats. Some are probably fine with my solution: public health care plus paying visits to private doctors (which is altogether cheaper than a private health care plan).
For other expats with known diseases or chronical problems, there’s no other choice than paying 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: We took our cat with us from Germany to Costa Rica. That’s why we booked separate flights on separate days. I was on the first flight with the cat. My girl friend then arranged all the packing and moving, which would have been a nightmare with the cat still around.
We chose Brauns International as movers because they had a partner company in Costa Rica and could guarantee us professional handling in the target country, too.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?
A: No real big challenge. The biggest, however, is adjusting to the Spanish dialect in this zone


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Costa Rica?
A: Positive: slowing down, living in a beautiful paradise-like setting
Negative: commerce, customer service, availability of goods are decades behind of what you are normally used to


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?
A: The Peninsula of Nicoya has the most deserted and beautiful beaches, almost no tourists, very natural. Besides, you have a magnificent mountain range with orange and coffee plantations, steep roads, waterfalls etc.
A must for every nature lover


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?
A: No, not at all. However, I don’t plan for more than a few years ahead, if at all.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?
A: Take it easy according to the Costa Rican motto “Pura vida”. Try to relax and do not expect the same amenities as in the first world.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Costa Rica?
A: A blog: https://fincascostarica.wordpress.com/
and a real estate website http://www.costarica-immo.com which I am hosting