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Living in Costa Rica Stories: Disregarding the 10 Commandments (Part 2)

The Costa Rican Times has decided to add a column where both our readers as well as our staff can share stories about living in Costa Rica. If you go outside your house, apartment, or condo in Costa Rica, things will happen to you each and everyday that will both annoy you and have you say in your mind “Are you kidding me?”. This happens in your day to day activities each day if you are living in Costa Rica. Read and share your stories today! (Submission info is at the bottom of each article in this section)

Living in Costa Rica Stories: Disregarding the 10 Commandments (Part 2)

Yesterday we approached the 7th commandment, thou shalt not commit adultery. If you would like to read it click the link found here. We are going to be approaching the 8th commandment today.

Commandment 8 – Thou Shalt Not Steal

Again this article is going to infuriate some people as they are going to say this is not true for all people in Costa Rica.  I am not saying it is true for all people, but you cannot say that these things do not happen in Costa Rica.

This is a joke in Costa Rica.  If you steal items that are $1000 or less in value it is considered petty theft and in about 98% of the cases there are absolutely no consequences for these actions.  The motto in Costa Rica is “it is not stealing unless you get caught.”

If you look at the Costa Rican government they do not set a very good example for the public.  We all know that money is being skimmed at pretty much every level. Police officers are soliciting bribes, ICE is refusing an audit, Conavi is being investigated on the border trail, ex-public officials are being prosecuted, and the national parties’ campaign financing is being questioned. Almost every day you hear of another part of the Costa Rican government admitting or resigning because of an inquiry.

This goes for both Costa Ricans and a lot of people living here.  Look at the Hacienda Matapalo project and Paragon.  They stole millions of dollars from investors from the USA and Canada and most of the people got away with it.  Let’s throw in the sweepstakes scam where you have people calling innocent vulnerable seniors with promises of lottery winnings and the commodity scams where they call people to get them to invest in fake gold or oil investments.  I had a guy tell me one time that if they are stupid enough to fall for it then it is their fault not his.  I grew up knowing that this was stealing and it was wrong… is like an innate sense that they can block out that it is wrong, like a serial killer not even seeing that what they are doing is wrong.

The biggest reason that this is so prominent is the fact that the legal system is so inefficient and it is built around a system of “chorizo”. “Chorizo” is another name for money can get most lawyers or legal officials to say or do whatever you want.  This is why so many people get screwed when it comes to land investments in Costa Rica.  This developments in most cases use their own lawyer, who I getting a piece of the action.  For every lot or condo that closes they are getting a percentage of the sale or a set fee on each closing.  Most people think that if you are speaking to a lawyer they are required to tell you the truth, this is not the case in Costa Rica. Make sure you use your own lawyer and someone that you have met and have a relationship with.  If not you can lose a lot of money in Costa Rica.

If you are going to Costa Rica to retire and have a lot of cash and do not need to work anymore, it is a great place to live and relax.  If you are going to Costa Rica to start a business or to work it is very hard to support yourself and keep your ethics.  I was told in Costa Rica that if you want to make a million dollars in Costa Rica, you should bring $2 million with you.  A lot of people come to Costa Rica with good morals but after they are there a while they realize that  the jobs that pay well and in order to live nicely in Costa Rica (about $3,000 of income or more a month), you will not be able to do this in most cases with a legitimate job.

Most native English speakers can be expected to make about $1000 to $1,500 a month; teaching pays about $800 a month, sportsbooks about $1,500 a month, IT jobs $1,000 a month.  Although everyone says that the cost of living is so much less in Central America, this is not really the case in Costa Rica.  If you want a 1 bedroom apartment in a decent area expect to pay about $800 to $1000 a month with utilities.  Food cost, if you do not go out much, about $75 a week. Normal monthly expenses expect to be $400 a month; Internet, transportation (gas is $5 a gallon), and other daily expenses. Add that up and you are already at about $1,500 a month and that is just the basics. Yes you can live less expensive than that but then you are not really living very comfortably.  This is why people that decide to stay here are tempted by the scams and other forms of stealing.  A lot of people you meet are doing that and getting away with it. There are 3 options when you get to this point:

  1. Continue working your current legitimate job and living pay check to pay check, but keep your morals and ethics intact
  2. Go back to your home country and get paid 4 times as much for the same effort you were giving in Costa Rica, this only applies to those with a strong work ethic
  3. Fall into the Darkside and start making more money at a non-ethical job; commodity scam, drug dealing, sweepstakes scam, investment scam, or a plethora of other non-ethical money making opportunities in Costa Rica

Stealing is something that happens on a daily basis in Costa Rica both from foreigners sending money to CR as well as to locals and visitors. When you go to Costa Rica on vacation or if you are living there, make sure that you lock up and keep an eye on your belongings. Always lock and put your valuables in the truck of your car if you are going to be away from the vehicle more than 10 minutes.  Never leave anything you want to keep on your towel at the beach if you go in the water. Keep your things in the safe in your hotel room if you are leaving for the day.

Tomorrow……Commandment 9 – Thou Shalt Not Lie

Share Your living in Costa Rica Stories by submitting them to [email protected].  Stories should be no more than a page and a half in Microsoft Word.  You can submit your name if you want, if not that is fine as well.  Some people come to CR and experience culture shock and leave, lets tell the truth about day to day life in Costa Rica.

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