Welcome to Costa Rica … pura vida. Now, let us wake up to the realities that exist not only here but around the world when you leave your borders and attempt to start up a new life abroad.

First, those of us visiting or living here are guests in this country. Even if you came from abroad and are now a permanent resident of Costa Rica, you are still a guest. We have a duty to abide by the laws of the land, which includes respecting the environment. The old adage “leave no footprint“ really applies here. Make this place better than it was when you arrived.

It continually shocks me when people say things like, “We could do that better; back home we do it this way,” and on and on. Well, wake up — you are not HOME. You chose this place as a sort of paradise, so now accept it and live it.

Typical relocation challenges and adjustments in Costa Rica range from quite funny to very concerning. Bashed dreams are not uncommon. Some seemingly helpful people pop up and tout themselves as the honest ones, or your protectors. The reality, people: you have to protect yourselves. Relying on your guts’ first instinct is a great first line of defense.

Many of us who moved here were lured by marketing and sales inducements. Some have been duped by developers offering amenities that don’t exist or false promises they fail to fulfill. Do your homework. Google as many people who may be connected to a development as you possibly can. Ask for references and check them out.

An amusing instance comes to mind, taking me back to a casual conversation around the table at our poolside palapa. While discussing our property developer, a friend told us about her decision to purchase and move here. My off-the-cuff response was to ask, “Did the developer offer to make you a realtor once you bought here?”

She looked at me in shock and said, “Why yes!”

It seems that this sales angle has been taken all too often as an added incentive to unwitting buyers. “Hey, you’re retiring in Costa Rica. As a buyer, why not sign up to sell properties once you get settled in. You can be a realtor here.”

Reality: NO, it’s not that simple. Becoming a realtor in Costa Rica LEGALLY is neither a quick nor straightforward process. According to the Costa Rica Immigration Law (Ley General De Migracion Y De Extranjeria, No. 8764), a foreign real estate agent is only qualified to work for a salary, wages, or a commission income, who holds Permanent Residency immigration status, free of conditions.

Awareness of the ethical standards and governing bodies for professions in Costa Rica — including real estate — is also vitally important. Please be familiar with what is taught. Ethics and morals are often used interchangeably in everyday language. However, in a professional context, ethics are the rules set by appropriate sources as codes of conduct. Morals refer to the individual’s principles regarding right and wrong, which can extend to the use or misuse of ethics codes.

Look for future Howler articles about the realities of dealing with people who cannot or will not do things right. Some believe they can get away with anything or that pitfalls can be fixed with a bribe later. Bribes might still be accepted but they are never acceptable. Those who give them and those who take them risk exposure. Both actions are crimes.

I am living in paradise now. Many people contend that Costa Rica is the wild west and a third-world country. Wake up! It is neither. Costa Rica is emerging. Along with that growth come realities that people doing things wrong can ignore at their peril. Beware, oversight is not a new word. Doing things right means you don’t have to justify yourself.