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20 Things I Do Living in Costa Rica That I’d Never Do in the USA

After more than three decades living in Costa Rica, I still think back to my life stateside, and how it would have compared to now had I never left. There are pluses and minuses; Financially I probably would have been better off staying up there. But in terms of mental and physical health and well-being, I am fine just where I am, thank you. Still, there are changes to be made when moving to another country and adapting to a different culture.

Here are 20 things that I do or have done here, that I never would have done there:

1. Eat rice and beans for breakfast

The only time I recall eating rice and beans anytime was when dining in a Mexican restaurant, and they came as a side dish. Now, I can’t get enough Gallo Pinto!

2. Eat fresh bananas daily

Here they are a staple of my diet. My favorite snack. Especially the ones grown the old-fashioned way, without all the crap used in the big banana growing corporate plantations. Up there, that is all you will find. And never fresh.

3. Eat unaged cheese– ie Farmer’s cheese.

Not as good as real cheddar or Swiss, but I will take it over the individual plastic wrapped slices that seem to have been made in a lab.

4. Never eat at a fast-food chain

Where I live, we have McDonald’s, Subway and Pizza Hut, but we also have dozens of local restaurants that get my business instead. Up there, I ate at the fast food places at least a few times a month.

5. Drink unaged rum (guaro)

When in Rome…

6. Pay thousands for a 12-year-old car

Cars are a luxury here, up there, everybody’s got one.

7. Drive that same car another 12 years

8. Yield constantly to pedestrians when driving

Up there, outside of central city areas, there are few pedestrians, and they walk on sidewalks and cross the street on the walk light. Down here, they are everywhere, crossing the street in front of traffic at a green light, walking 4 abreast, backs to traffic on a narrow street, human beings who seemingly identify as vehicles, and the road is theirs as well.

9. Watch soccer and know what I am watching

Up there I rarely watched, and it was with no understanding of the rules or strategies. Down here I watch and scream at the refs with the loudest of them.

10. Ride the bus to go to the city

Up there– do Greyhound and Trailways even exist anymore? Down here – Less than 8 dollars to get me over the mountain and into the city. And over time, they have even brought in buses with more legroom than thirty years ago, when every bus ride meant making sure I got an aisle seat so I could sit with my legs angled in the aisle and not smashed up against the seat ahead of me.

11. Live fully without AC

Up there, the temps hit the high 70s and everybody closes doors and windows and cranks the AC. Down here, a small percentage of expat wimps need the promise of cold manufactured air, but I live with my fans and open windows, even on the hottest of days. By nighttime it is cool enough to sleep with the help of a fan, even on the coasts (unless you are a wimp).

12. Shower daily

Sometimes more than once. Up there, some days a shower, but on lazy days, a quick triangle wash (armpits and crotch) would suffice.

13. Use sunscreen

The intensity of the sunshine here has to be experienced to be believed. Up there, I only used sunscreen on long beach days. Down here, if I am spending any serious time in the mid-day sun, the sunblock is my friend.

14. Go to bed before 9pm

Early to bed…

15. Get up before 5am

Early to rise…

16. Speak Spanish daily, sometimes all day long

There are areas of the US where this is possible, but English remains the most widely spoken language. Down here, I live in a non-tourist area, and can go days without speaking a word of English. When in Madrid…

17. Wear plain white t shirts almost every day–

My favorite attire for the tropics: Cool, reflects the sun, camoflages sweat, and if I forget what I had for breakfast I can just look down at my shirt.

18. Wear shorts to work

I own 1 pair of long pants, only used when I travel to the San Jose area or am flying out of the country. I have worked jobs for over 20 years where shorts were acceptable work garb.

19. Been awakened by howler monkeys

I can think of a lot worse things to be awakened by.

20. Have sloths and monkeys and/or toucans and scarlet macaws in my yard–

Truly a privilege!

Feel free to add your own to my list. Pura Vida!

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