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Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Importance of Networking

Even if one moves to a foreign country where the language spoken is the same as one's mother tongue, there are still challenges finding goods and services. It is even harder, of course, if you speak little or none of the country's language.

In our case, for example, moving to a Spanish speaking country provided challenges because our Spanish on arrival was virtually nil. We had taken a six week basic Spanish class just before arriving but that was hardly adequate. We have taken some classes here and are also learning by osmosis. We do not have a vehicle so we were immediately thrust into using taxis, a great way to start communicating in Spanish, and the taxi drivers here are really helpful. I remember one in San José who patiently showed us how to decipher colones when we first arrived.

One vitally important thing you must do is to create a network with other expats and also with the locals. For instance, my husband needed new glasses and Jorge our taxi driver took us right to the door of an optomistrist in Atenas. We now go to Optica Centro Visual for our eye needs, telephone 2446-4581, in the Romacentro on the first floor, near Soda Tío Mano and Gollo.

Do not isolate yourself from your community. Make friends with your neighbours. Here in Atenas we have a Facebook page where we can ask questions and get answers. Somebody always knows where something can be found. We share all kinds of useful information - upcoming events, where to have your vehicle repaired, the places to find certain kinds of foods, and so on. There is also another Facebook page where we can advertise goods wanted or for sale. I have a friend who knows where just about everything is in Alajuela and Atenas. We have fun shopping in the same stores the Ticos shop in. Every day it seems I learn something new, even if it is just a new word.

The North American style big box stores are okay for some things but you really miss out on what Costa Rica is all about if you limit yourself to shopping in them exclusively. By getting to know the Ticos, if you live in Costa Rica, you will unlock a wealth of knowledge - it is their country after all and who knows it better.