Finding a Close-Knit Expat Community in the Central Valley, Costa Rica
By Riley Jackson, costaricachillin.com
After my wife, Cely, passed away in 2018, I was faced with some major changes in my life. It was at this time that I began to consider different places and countries where I could relocate. I had heard some wonderful things about Costa Rica for many years and was always curious to learn more. In February of 2019, I started researching all things Costa Rica and came across the International Living website and its section devoted to the country. After reading through the information, it was pretty much a done deal. That was what I needed to help me make a very important decision in my life.
I was looking for a place to retire and had a specific list of requirements, which included beautiful beaches, a tropical climate, a great healthcare system, and a lower cost of living compared to the U.S. and not very far from California, where I am from. I was burned out and stressed from living in the Golden State. Things weren’t so “Golden” for me anymore, with the rising cost of living, property taxes, through-the-roof real estate prices, uncontrolled healthcare costs, neighborhood drug activity, homelessness—not to mention the political climate.
My late wife was from the Philippines so I had considered Batangas as a good place to live, as well as Mexico and Costa Rica. All good choices in my opinion but it was a retirement tour in Costa Rica that helped make my mind up. The tour took us to the Southern Pacific side of Costa Rica first, including Uvita, Dominical, Quepos, Manuel Antonio, Jaco, and all of the gorgeous beaches and small towns in between. We also visited Escazú (the Beverly Hills of Costa Rica), Santa Ana, Heredia, Atenas, and Grecia. I had heard some great things about Grecia in particular, which is located in the Central Valley about an hour from San Jose and thirty-five minutes from the airport. Known as the cleanest city in Costa Rica, Grecia has a small-town atmosphere with its population of about 17,000 people. I arrived there on a beautiful clear Sunday morning, and it truly felt like I had found home.
You can’t buy happiness, but you can always come to Costa Rica.
Grecia has a large expat community, so you run into expats everywhere in town. Although there are currently not many Black expats here in Grecia, we are a very tight-knit group, and most of us know each other. I had no problem adjusting to my new country, and I’ve never felt any discrimination for being Black in Costa Rica. Even my Black friends here share the same sentiment. They’re treated better here and with more respect than in the U.S. I find that the people here are happy and very welcoming people who will go out of their way to help you if you’re lost or having a problem with the language.
Living here in Costa Rica is vastly different from living in the U.S., at least for me. Of course, there are some things in the U.S. that you cannot get here, but life here in Costa Rica makes up for that. What I’ve noticed most since living here in Costa Rica is the fact that people here greet you with a smile and buenos días every morning—even the bus drivers. One of my pet peeves about living in California was that I rarely received any kind of greeting, especially from young folks. It seems that a lot of people in the U.S. are uptight, stressed, and angry with the world. You can’t buy happiness, but you can always come to Costa Rica.