The quality of life in Costa Rica far outweighs any culture shock that you may experience when you move here, especially for retirees. Pension plans and Social Security are often insufficient to accommodate a happy retirement lifestyle in the United States; however, the same dividends can provide a substantially better standard of living at the costs in Costa Rica.
There is much to do in Costa Rica, especially if you enjoy nature. The tropical environment lends itself to adventures in rainforest hikes, mountain climbing, and more.
Rural areas make great places to relax and enjoy a small farm or ranch. The coast is full of beautiful beaches and exciting social activities, as is San Jose. Best of all, there is a great deal of Americanization due to a heavy population of retiring expatriates in the country.
Specialized activities like bird watching, horseback riding, and scuba diving are quite popular for residents to take up, and you can join the tourists from time to time for ecological tours and trips to volcanoes or national parks. There are an endless number of eateries, restaurants, plays, movies, and other events to attend as well, especially if you are in or near San Jose.
However, there are some customs with which many American citizens will come into contact and for which they may be unprepared. For example, in the U.S., if you invite a couple over for dinner at 7:00pm, you expect them to arrive sometime between 6:45 and 7:15. Punctuality is a theme in the United States. You’ll find that life in Costa Rica is rarely ever on time. In fact, it can be considered rude if you do not arrive at least an hour late.
This custom seems totally baffling to me, but it’s something that comes up time and time again in the research I’ve done. I guess you just have to set appointments one hour earlier than you plan to complete them to make up the difference!
Also, there is a severe lack of efficiency in organization of scheduling. While public transportation is highly effective, efficient, and inexpensive, don’t always count on the time schedules to be perfectly accurate and on time.
Another thing to remember is that life in Costa Rica tends to follow a schedule similar to that of European nations with regards to mealtimes. For example, lunch falls around 1:30 or 2:00pm, while dinner is rarely sat down for until at least 9:00pm, and some do follow the tradition of siesta after lunch, with a hiatus from activity between 2:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon in some areas.
There are lots of investment opportunities to be had in Costa Rica, especially in the tourist industry. Plants and flowers, livestock, and real estate are also major sources of investment. Keep in mind that, as a foreign national, you must have a minimum income of $600 a month to qualify as a pensionado, or retiree, or $1000 a month for at least 5 years to qualify as a rentista or renter. In either case, cards will have to be renewed every 2 years at the cost of $100.