Living As An Expat

While we were in The States for Christmas I mentioned being an “expat” to my mom and she looked at me funny. I realized that she didn’t know what I meant. And 3 years ago I had no idea what that word meant either. In fact, when I realized that it stood for ex-patriot I thought it was a bad thing. The actual definition of expat, from the google dictionary, is “someone living outside their native country.”

*I will state now that I will in no way try to relate to anyone who has done long term mission work in foreign countries. I think it is very important that people realize that this is very different. And we are not trying to in any way say that what we have done here is in any way similar to making that kind of sacrifice. 

Growing up the only people I knew that ever moved out of the country were missionaries and I honestly never even pictured myself moving out of state! In fact, when we moved to Memphis from Little Rock my mom told people we were moving to another country. I remember telling her, “mom, there are people at your church whose children have actually moved to other countries to be missionaries. I can’t believe you are telling people that!” 

So you can imagine when we told our parents we were moving to Costa Rica it was quite the shock. Nathan had already been traveling back-and-forth for about five months so it made sense but it just seemed so crazy! I mean we had both lived within three hours of both of our parents for all of our marriage. I have mentioned it on here before but I will say it again… We were just in a place in our lives that was so comfortable that when the opportunity arose we just felt like we would regret it if we did not accept the opportunity and almost 3 years (and a global pandemic) later I can say we are grateful that we did. I will also say that the pandemic has made the last year seem more like two.

Recently I’ve been thinking about some things that are challenging as an expat that I didn’t necessarily have to think about before. One thing that has really been on my mind lately is how you feel like you are mentally divided into two places, but can obviously only be in one. You are kind of always looking forward to the next time you get to go home. Not to say that we don’t really enjoy our time in Costa Rica but it’s usually especially hard right after we get back. For example, we had a really good visit at Christmas seeing all the kids cousins on both sides. We love how they are able to pick up where they left off no matter how long it’s been, so now we are already looking forward to the next time they all get to be together. 

Also, this is obvious, but missing birthdays and holidays and even simple things like nieces and nephews ball games and special events and just feeling like you’re missing them growing up is hard. 

I always hate to complain about the language thing but since I’m always trying to be honest on here…….. our Spanish isn’t great. We’ve been here almost 3 years and we are nowhere close to being fluent. It is our fault and I will blame no one except for us. We live in an area where a lot of English is spoken, we go to a school where English is spoken and most of our friends speak English. Even our Costa Rican friends speak English to us. Looking back, we could have chosen a much more authentic environment and immersed ourselves in the Spanish language but we chose a more comfortable environment and here we are. The pandemic has not helped because we basically have just been with each other. Our Spanish has stalled but we do still practice. All that being said, when we do go places where we need to know Spanish it is frustrating but a good challenge for us to use what we DO know and the kids can usually translate for us :-)

I would say that is probably pretty typical at least with the ex-pats that we are around. Most of them move every couple of years and mostly hang out with other ex-pats and don’t get too immersed in the culture and language because they know that they will be moving again soon.

We have enjoyed getting to know a mixture of local people and ex-pats from all over the world. We know that after this experience we will have connections all over the world and that is really cool.

I would say that is my favorite thing about this experience. Knowing that after this is said and done that we will have friends that have become like family, and places to visit everywhere.

List of other random stuff that I will probably add to:

Paying in Colones

Paying $1,000,000 for gas, clothes, groceries (pretty much anything imported) you just have to decide what you’re willing to pay a lot for and learn to love other local things (like beans and rice here)

Paying for parking EVERYWHERE

No mail or Amazon

no parking spots

The highway reversing every other Sunday to allow the people coming home from the beach to get home faster which means everybody else has to find alternate routes

Really kind people willing to help me out

Forgetting about time changes when making a call

People openly urinating on the side of the road 😳

Gas attendants pump my gas

Tolls everywhere

Trying to take in all the beauty around me and focus on the positive! Hiking with friends. This is one of our favorite things to do here. The beautiful splash pad in our neighborhood at night. Blake and her best friend, Miles. The first part of the school day is over at noon for them so a couple of days a week I pick them up and bring them to the pool for their lunch. Then they finish the second half of the school day at my house. It doesn’t get any better than that!


3 thoughts on “Living As An Expat

  1. I love reading about your adventures, but I know at times, it’s really hard. Do y’all get to move back this year?


    Beth Cassell


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