Who are you?
My name is Nadine Hays Pisani, the author of the best-selling series Happier Than A Billionaire. I used to be a chiropractor but decided that working ten hours in an office was not a whole lot of fun.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?“Two plane tickets, no plan, one dream,” is often what I tell people. My husband and I really took a risk and sold everything (rather quickly) and moved to Costa Rica in 2007 with just a few suitcases and two pets. When I look back on that, I realize that doing it that way was probably the smartest thing we did. If we thought too much about it, we would probably have talked ourselves out of it!
The reasons we moved were simple: we wanted a happier life. Our life consisted of work, and more work, and sometimes even more work positioned on top of that. As a healthcare provider, I treated people in pain all day and it was very apparent to me that you can’t bank time. Time is a thief and it will rob you of your healthy back and good knees. I didn’t want to make this move when I was too old to enjoy it, so we bolted at thirty-seven years of age. My parents really let me have it. It was brutal.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Learning a new language was the hardest. My husband, Rob, picked it up so much more quickly than I did. The good news is I make the Costa Ricans laugh when I speak to them in Spanish. Heaven only knows what I’m saying.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We simply went down a month before the big move for a couple days and asked around. We knew we wanted to start out in Grecia because they have a lot of car lots and we needed to purchase a car. We ended up loving it there and stayed three years before moving to the beach. Car lots… probably the most unromantic reason to move to a town, but we quickly learned Grecia is one of the most special places in the country.
Anytime you look up rentals on Internet sites, they are wildly more expensive than when you come down and look for yourself. I would suggest people do what we did if they are looking to save money.
Are there many other expats in your area?
There are plenty of expats here. No one ever has to wonder if it will be hard to make friends. But if you are in the witness protection program, don’t worry, the rainforest is deep and you can easily find a quiet place and be left alone.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Not sure. I think they like me. I like them. I’ve never had a problem with the Costa Rican culture. But I can assure you, if you come across brass and unfriendly, I doubt anyone in the world will like you. I would never worry whether locals like or unlike you. Continue your life, try to be a good person, and you’d be surprised how nicely things work out for you.
People often ask me if the locals are unfriendly, or for that matter, if the expats are happy here. It’s a weird question to answer because I’m walking around happy, and I just assume others are too. My friends are happy people as well. It’s one of the most important lessons I learned here: stay focused on your own attitude, and try to make other people feel good in your presence. The more I apply that lesson, the better things work out for me.
What do you like about life where you are?
So much slowwwweeeerrr. Did I say that slow enough? There is an entirely different rhythm here. If you like having your heart beat out of your chest from anxiety, then don’t move here. If you want to wear a suit and tie and sit in a cubicle all day, then don’t move here. This is a fun and relaxing country. If you still need to work, then you may be doing it with a monkey over your head. And that’s pretty cool.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
What I’ve learned from living here is to appreciate what you have. If you constantly compare your life back to your home country, you will be miserable. You will find hundreds of things that you miss. But if you just appreciate this journey, and look forward to all the new things it brings, then you will be incredibly happy. Now scratch what I just said and someone please ship me down an everything bagel with cream cheese. Heavens, what I would do for one of those.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
People will stop in the middle of the street, or in the middle of a busy aisle in a grocery story (subsequently blocking the people behind them) and talk with their friends or neighbors. This always makes me laugh since if you did that in the United States it would be chaos.
How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?
Anything imported is double the cost. So some things that you enjoy eating, like Froot Loops, will be much more expensive. Thinking about buying a crockpot? Then take out a mortgage. You learn to have your friends stash these things in their suitcases on their way down. And trust me, once they find out you are living in Costa Rica, everyone is coming to visit you. So you might has well have them stash a car alternator or kitchen sink in there.
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
Food is simple, fresh, and mostly low calorie. My husband lost forty pounds in less than a year just by eating healthier. The produce is also cheap so if you are on a budget, this is the way to eat that will save you money.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
In my last book, Happier Than A Billionaire: The Escape Manual, I make a joke that “results may vary.” Your move will not resemble mine, or anyone else that you meet. Some things may be easier for you, while others are harder. Don’t compare just go with the flow. Attitude is everything, and if you have a good one it will attract other like-minded people into your life.
What are your plans for the future?
The future is looking bright! We just broke ground on our bed and breakfast in Flamingo, Costa Rica and are looking forward to having it open next year. I’m sure I’ll be writing another book about the process, since building in a foreign country, in a different language, and in a different measurement system appears to be the kind of fodder that will make a funny story.