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Samantha Wei, Playas del Coco

Who are you?

My name is Samantha Wei and I’m a mid 20’s Asian-American from Olympia, Washington, USA.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved abroad August 2012 to Costa Rica. I moved purely for love. My boyfriend is Costa Rican and we had been long distance for two years and since at that time he didn’t have a US visa, I decided to move down to be with him.What challenges did you face during the move?

The biggest challenge I faced was leaving my friends and family behind. I had never lived abroad before, in fact the longest time I’ve ever been away from home was a month so this was a gigantic change for me. I was ready to move onto another stage of my life and to finally be with my boyfriend, but at the same time I love being with my family and spending time with them so to fly 4000 miles away was incredibly difficult.

How did you find somewhere to live?

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My boyfriend is Costa Rican so he took care of that aspect for us. I had visited a few months before our move to look at apartments, we found one we liked and he secured it for us. We initially planned on living in the mountains outside Heredia but an opportunity came up so a week later, I was packing my bags again to move to the beach. We were able to secure housing through our new job as live in hotel managers.

Are there many other expats in your area?

Yes, so many. Playas del Coco (the beach town we live at) is filled with expats, retired ones in particular.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Great! I’m lucky because I have an easy connection to the locals since my boyfriend is Tico. We were both new to the Coco area but my boyfriend’s brother is the local doctor in town so for us, it was easy to meet locals and meet other Costa Ricans.

What do you like about life where you are?

The nature. I love walking outside and hearing 15 different birds at the same time plus a monkey or two sometimes, seeing beautiful tropical flowers and watching the sunset on the beach.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

How hard it is to find and make friends. Most of the expats in Coco are retired and many of the women, local and foreigners are at the stage of their life where they’re married and have kids. I’m not at that stage yet so it is hard to find girlfriends who are also in the same place as I am.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Probably the pace of life. It’s great to take things slow and be more pura vida, which is what Costa Rica is known for but sometimes, it is a bit too pura vida. And I mean when it comes to getting things done and the service. I never used to dislike going to the bank but now it’s one of the errands I dread the most here.

How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?

It is much more expensive here in Coco than the rest of the country and prices are the same, if not more as the US for certain items. We have a couple of clothing stores here but surprisingly clothes are kind of expensive too. The nice thing about Costa Rica is that you can bargain and my boyfriend taught me a few bargaining techniques I’ve used a few times.

What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

Costa Rican food isn’t exactly known for being the most diverse or flavorful and I grew up eating Asian food, particularly Taiwanese since that is what my mom cooked at home. I went from eating all sorts of diverse and delicious Asian food to rice and beans with Salsa Lizano. Plus everything Taiwanese people like, Costa Ricans don’t such as bones in the meat or eating fish with the head still on. For me that’s completely normal but the locals here give me horrified looks! I do like gallo pinto and I love patacones, olla de carne and their coffee. Some of their dishes are a bit bland so I like to put a lot of Siracha on top to spice it up!

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Don’t go into it with a naive mindset. Yes it’s going to be an amazing experience but it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. There will be challenges but every experience is a learning experience. You have to see it from a positive point of view or the challenges can build up and you’ll feel overwhelmed. You also have to put yourself out there whether it’s meeting new people, practicing Spanish or whatever. Don’t be afraid! Yes you may feel silly saying some words in Spanish or worry that your accent is bad, but don’t let that prevent you from talking to locals.

What are your plans for the future?

We’ve been working on our blog, www.mytanfeet.com very hard the past couple years and that is our main project so we’ll be in Costa Rica for awhile.

We’re moving to Jaco next week and as for long term, we’re still talking about where we want to settle down. We know for sure we want to buy a house in Costa Rica in the Arenal area though!

Readers can contact me at mytanfeet@gmail.com

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