Pura Vida: Living in Costa Rica Pros and Cons

I have been living in this wonderful country for two years now. I have come to understand the culture and way of life on a deep level. The way of life here is very PURA VIDA! Which is kind of like Hakuna Matata. It means no worries. Really… no worries.

These are some off the most friendly and grateful people I have ever met. If anything goes wrong, someone is there to help out, whether it is a flat tire or giving directions. The beaches are beautiful and a stunning sight to see, so everyone is happy. This is the beginning of the PURA VIDA lifestyle.

There are pros and cons to living in Costa Rica that I have figured out along the way.

Cons of Living in Costa Rica:

Little or no prevention.

People don’t fix things until after something happens. Every year during the rainy season, the dirt roads get washed away in some areas causing huge dips between the asphalt of the main road and the dirt road. If you have a low car, the bottom of your car hits the asphalt as you go over causing damage.

They are constantly dealing with flooding during storms. Instead of trying to solve the issues of flooding and PREVENT it from happening the best they can, they do nothing. We have deep trenches next to the roads that aren’t enough especially during the month of October. (in certain cases, there is no way to prevent flooding)

There are so many stray dogs in Costa Rica because people don’t castrate their dogs. They roam the streets and get pregnant. Near Heredia, there is a dog shelter with many acres and over a thousand dogs. I see puppies for adoption almost every day on Facebook. Rescue centers need donations because they don’t have the funds to pay for the treatments of the abandoned and hurt dogs. All could be prevented with the castration of their dogs. Nina and her brother were the results of one of those cases.

The Pura Vida lifestyle is a relaxed one so they don’t worry about the future and what could happen. They focus on the present and what’s important now. So, they put off what they could do today, for tomorrow.

Not always the most sufficient way of doing things.

When I got my work visa, they asked for a bunch of information that I thought was all. After 90 days of waiting, I got the news they needed more information. I could have been done my work visa in 90 days if they had given me all the information in the first place.

It was very similar to the motorcycle being taken away. They didn’t have the motorcycle in the system so we couldn’t schedule an appointment to pick it up.

They make certain situations harder than they should be.

People run late often.

If someone tells you they will be there in 15 minutes, it can equal 45 minutes. This can be because people just run late from taking their time getting ready. Other times it is because they are at the bank or another place similar that has a wait time of 1-3 hours. (seriously, I have waited at the bank for 2 hours before.) This comes with the PURA VIDA lifestyle, I will get there when I get their mindset.

Now, this doesn’t apply to everywhere. If you are going on tour, they tend to run on time as they know tourist doesn’t want to be late. They can lose customers and money by being late, so it doesn’t happen as often in the tourist industry.  

They always say YES even if they don’t mean it.

They will say “Let’s go jetskiing tomorrow. Meet me in Brasilito.” Tomorrow comes and no one shows up. It either happens because something else comes up or they don’t want to hurt your feelings. They are very people pleasing here which can be a good thing in certain situations and a bad thing in others.

Pros of Living in Costa Rica:

Calm, relaxed, and positive.

It really is one of the most relaxed places I have ever been too. People aren’t rushed to get places (hence being late often). People don’t get bothered by life as much. They will happily wait in line at the bank for two hours without getting upset. They close most of the government down for A WEEK at Christmas and Easter. The culture allows for plenty of time to be with family and relax.  

This calm and relaxed way of life allows them always to be smiling. And they always say “Hello, how are you?” (Hola, Como estas?) They talk like they have known you for years. You feel right at home, immediately.

They find different ways to do things.

The bus is not always reliable and the taxies are expensive. So, they created colectivos for people to get around easier in my town. These are unofficial (illegal) taxies. (There is one official taxi in Brasilito) The cost for me to get to work is 500 colones (less than a dollar) one way. They are on the corner or driving by and run pretty much all the time during the day. They are more reliable than the bus and cheaper than a taxi. The drivers have a WhatsApp group they use to communicate when and where the police are present so no one gets in trouble.

This allows for two things to happen. The drivers make money to support their families and the people get to work quicker and more efficient than the buses.

I have seen how they create an easier way of doing things if they don’t have the money to fix something. Sometimes it is not necessarily safe… but they do what they need. I once saw a lady driving around with her gas in a plastic milk carton on the top of her car with a tube going directly to the engine.

They enjoy nature.

Pura Vida is derived from (what I think) nature. Most people are the happiest when they are outside enjoying a nice bike ride, a walk in the park, or the beach. I think this is due to the amount of Vitamin D they get. And here in Costa Rica, they get A LOT of it.

People and kids are rarely inside. On the weekends, they pack a massive pot of food, a blowup mattress, and head to the beach. They will stay on the beach all day long. During the week, you always see kids playing at the local playground or town square.

There is always time for everything.

They tend not to be as materialistic here. So they have more time to do the things they enjoy. (This isn’t always the case.) The Ticos don’t want to have the next iPhone or the next new video game. They are content with playing soccer, going to the beach, and spending time with family. Family is a huge thing here so they will do what they can to support the family.

They will always help you out, even if it means being late to an appointment. Back when people could drive on Brasilito Beach, people used to get stuck in the river. EVERY TIME, a handful or more of people would be there to help get the car unstuck. It was always a community effort to make it happen.

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