Costa Rica – Panama – Nicaragua: 5 Differences

In a recent trip to Nicaragua – a long weekend getaway and part of my Living La Pure Vida beyond the borders of my Costa Rica home, I was struck by a number of things that reminded me of my former expat life in Panama. This sparked this post: Costa Rica – Panama – Nicaragua: 5 Differences…and this is just the beginning. Read on. Perhaps this will whet your whistle for traveling between these three countries – so close – but with cultures a world away from one to the next.

Variety is the Spice of Life…isn’t it?

JuliAnne Murphy; bestselling author JuliAnne Murphy; La Pure Vida Costa Rica blog; new book Dream Job NY Times 2018 bestseller list
When you celebrate differences between cultures, travel (and expat living) becomes much more interesting…and much more fun!

A resounding YES, and thus, I thought it might be fun for my fellow expats who travel the Central American region like I do, and anyone else who may be sojourning through same, or even considering a move to Panama, Costa Rica or Nicaragua to take a look at my recent observations.

Difference #1: “You’re Welcome”

Costa Rica - Panama - Nicaragua: 5 Differences; La Pura Vida Costa Rica; JuliAnne Murphy; Dream Job Book 2018 launch
Say “Thank You” in Spanish in any of these countries the same, but the response will be quite different in each one…

In all three countries, you’ll use “Gracias” to say thanks. But how the locals respond….well, therein lies the subtle differences which reflect the nuances of the three cultures.

Panama: “De Nada” which literally means “You are welcome” (English Pronunciation: Day NAH-Dah). Panamanians also respond with “Claro”, which simply means “Sure”.

Costa Rica: “Con Gusto” which translates to “With Pleasure” (English Pronunciation: Cone GOOSE-toe). In Spanish, this is considered a more polished or sophisticated response than Panama’s more straightforward ones. (And in Costa Rica, you’ll also probably get a smile….not so often in Panama.)

Nicaragua: “A La Orden” which translates to “At Your Service” (English pronunciation: A Law ORD-N). Again, the Nicaraguan response is more polite generally than Panama’s, but equal with the Tico one.

Difference #2: The Nationals’ Nickname

Natives from Panama are called Panameños (in Spanish). (English pronunciation: Pan-a-MAIN-yos)

The formal name for Costa Rican natives is Costariccenses, but few people use that word unless you’re in a more formal setting. The nickname for those native-born in Costa Rica is Ticos (pronounced TEA-kos).

You’ll notice that the words Panameños and Ticos ends in O, which is correct in the Spanish language for a group of people that includes both genders.

Herein lies the difference: Nicaragua. Using that same rule in Spanish, one would think that the nickname for national citizens would be “Nicos”. But it’s not. It’s “Nicas” ending in A, which would normally indicate that the described group is female or that the word (like citizens) is feminine. But citizen in Spanish is “ciudadano”, clearly masculine. And quite obviously, the entire Nicaraguan population is NOT feminine either. (In fact, Nicaragua is one of the most machismo cultures in Central America!)

I turned to my Tico husband for an explanation to this query; his answer was a shrug. Sometimes you just gotta love Spanish…

Difference #3: Money

Pura Vida Costa Rica blog post about Nicaragua travel; JuliAnne Murphy; Costa Rica - Panama - Nicaragua: 5 Differences
Nicaraguan currency is referred to as Cordobas, pictured here.

Panamanians have the Balboa, which only includes their coinage. Otherwise, Panama uses the U.S. Dollar. (A major convenience for U.S. expats that choose to move to Panama.) Short answer: no exchange rate and no need to fool around with different bills when you visit.

In Costa Rica, the U.S. bills are accepted pretty much everywhere; U.S. coins, however, are not. But the Costa Rican national currency is called the Colon, and in multiples, Colones. Current exchange rate (as of August 2017): 570 Colones to one U.S. Dollar.

Nicaragua’s currency is the Cordoba; current exchange is 30 to one U.S. Dollar. Have no fear in carrying and using U.S. Dollars (not including coinage, once again) all over the country though, but expect to get Cordobas back as change.

Difference #4: Religious Leanings

Having lived in Panama for eight years, I personally witnessed how devout the local population is – to a grand extent – to the Catholic faith. I would deem to say that the average in the country is around 70% Catholic. Yes, other churches exist, but Catholicism is the main one, which Christianity far behind. Drive by a big Cathedral or church on Sunday morning in Panama – no matter where you are in the country – and you’ll find it packed with people. Religious holidays are strictly observed by ordinary citizens and a driving reason for extended families to congregate on a regular basis.

Costa Rica - Panama - Nicaragua: 5 Differences; JuliAnne Murphy; bestselling author JuliAnne Murphy; JuliAnne Murphy new book Dream Job; La Pura Vida Costa Rica; expats in Costa Rica
The Catholic Basilica in Cartago, Costa Rica is the most photographed in the country.

Costa Rica is at the other end of the spectrum, which surprised me, because their conquistadors hailed from Spain, just as some of Panama’s did. Perhaps it has something to do with Costa Rica’s commitment to education (which they started investing in mightily since 1949 when they disbanded their military). It’s historically relevant that as the level of education increases, the commitment to planned religious systems normally decreases. (I’m sure someone will argue with that, but that’s how I see it). Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, only boasts one large, central Catholic Cathedral, versus Panama’s multiple ones. And, church attendance in Costa Rica – even in the country along the coast in more rural areas – has dropped to an estimated 30% of what it was twenty years ago.

Nicaragua falls somewhere in between; again, another surprise, at least to me, given that Nica’s level of poverty is much higher than either of the forenamed countries. Nica’s people are devout – yes – but in some areas of Nicaragua, it’s not the “expected” Catholicism; instead the church goers attend some sect of the Evangelical Church. But, again, even so, the churches we observed this past weekend on a Sunday morning drive were only about half full. So, more devout than Costa Rica, but far from Panama levels. Interesting.

Difference #5: Cleanliness

This is a favorite topic of mine, and one I wrote about significantly when I lived in Panama. Cleanliness – in my family of origin – was akin to Godliness. It’s something I notice, no matter where I go.

Costa rica - panama - nicaragua: 5 differences; la pura vida costa rica; julianne murphy; bestselling author julianne murphy; julianne murphy new book dream job; costa rica expats; expats in costa rica
Trash along the shores of the Panama Canal in Panama.

Panama gets a bad rap for cleanliness across the nation, but it’s justified, because the country as a whole cares little for picking up after themselves. The never-ending trash on the streets and the lack of care even in the bathrooms at the airports are one of the things most expats in Panama dislike the most. Unfortunately, it’s part of Panama’s culture. (Yes, the past two governments and some community influencers have begun campaigns to turn this unsavory trend around, but those things usually take quite some time to take hold.)

Costa Rica, on the other hand, educates their children – and has for years – about the need for recycling and putting trash in the right places. Is it a perfect system? No. But the country’s attention to detail when it comes to pollution is admirable on all fronts.

Nicaragua, surprisingly, parallels Costa Rica when it comes to trash on the streets. The prior First Lady evidently pushed a campaign for National Clean Up across the country, and it worked: today, even in rural  areas where the poorest of natives reside, the streetscapes are remarkably clean. At a mall in Managua on a recent trip, the tile floors actually sparkled when I crossed them. Needless to say, for such a poor country, I’m impressed!

Three Neighboring Countries But the Similarities Stop There

Hope you enjoyed this little sojourn into my travels as a Central American expat. It’s fun to peek into other countries’ cultures and observe what makes them tick (from an outside perspective, of course). Variety truly is the spice that makes travel so much fun!

For more on expat life in Costa Rica, click elsewhere within this website. (If you’re interested in buying real estate in South Pacific Costa Rica where we live, I can help you with that too.)

For more on expat living in Panama, visit the Panama Gringo Guide website here.

And, if you’re interested in my writing – and my new book Dream Job – scheduled to hit the shelves (and the NY Times Bestseller list!) in 2018, take a look here.

Until next time, Pura Vida!

Costa Rica Expat Interview: Meet Enzo from Italy

One of my favorite things about living and writing in Costa Rica is the new friends I meet. That’s where this Costa Rica Expat Interview comes in! A good number of those new friends and colleagues are expats from other countries, not just the U.S. and Canada, but from all over the world. In every conversation I have, I learn something new – about where people are from and what brought them to Costa Rica (or Panama) and often, I glimpse my world and this country through their eyes.

It’s a lot of fun.

Expat interviews are something I’ve done now for many years on my Panama blog. With today’s post, I’m starting to do expat interviews here on La Pura Vida Costa Rica, too! Why? Because the stories you hear from other expats in Costa Rica will inform you, educate you, and help you. And sometimes, even entertain you. 🙂

So, without further ado: Meet Enzo from Italy

Meet Enzo: An Italian Expat in Costa Rica

julianne-murphy-interviews-ojochal-costa-rica-expat
Enzo and his wife Gineth live in Ojochal, Costa Rica. Enzo hails from Italy originally, though he spent some time in England before he relocated to Costa Rica. I met Enzo and Gineth here in our community at a social engagement and at the gym, in addition to visiting their authentic Italian restaurant, Mamma e Papa, here in Ojochal a few weeks ago.

Enzo Loreto started out like so many new expats do – he came to Costa Rica on vacation 13 years ago. A friend of his had come back to Italy after enjoying his own vacation, and on his friend’s recommendation, Enzo returned by himself and in a short time – just two months – he caught the Costa Rica bug.

He came – again, like many visiting this tropical paradise and many of those same people that become Costa Rica expats – speaking no Spanish. Nor did he know anyone in the country. But, he loved the Tico lifestyle so much that he stayed.

Finding Work in Costa Rica as an Expat

During Enzo’s first year in Costa Rica, he worked virtually via his computer for a company back in Italy. Enzo had previously worked in Italy as a speleologist. (What the heck is a ‘speleologist’? Good question. I had to look it up too. A speleologist is like a geologist or someone who makes maps of the earth, but does it underground, for caves.) So, essentially, Enzo was developing a map for a cave in Italy, though he was living in Costa Rica.

Don’t you love technology? It makes the world so small! I also telecommute – both with my writing and with any consulting I do – and can work from anywhere in the world. I choose to live here in Costa Rica, but let me not get side tracked.

Post that first year, Enzo worked in food and restaurant supplies and also started a t-shirt stand in the beach town of Jaco with a partner. These experiences helped him get a feel for Costa Rica and the business climate, as well as to become familiar with the various communities along the Pacific coast. Soon after, he started his own Italian pizzeria in Santa Ana, which is a suburb to the capitol city of San Jose.

Why did he return to San Jose after living on the beach? “I didn’t like San Jose, but I had to start out there to figure that out,” Enzo said. “I had to see how Costa Rica worked without investing a lot. That’s why I started my pizzeria. Through it, I met a lot of people and I also learned that San Jose was similar to many other cities around the world.”

One of the people he met during his four-year stint of owning the pizzeria is his wife Gineth, who is a Costa Rican native. “She was one of my clients,” Enzo told me with a slight smile. (This falls right in line with statistics I’ve read that a good percentage of us in the developed world meet our significant others and spouses at work. And, yes, it happens abroad too.)

Discovering the Ballena Coast in Costa Rica

“How did you find this area?” I asked. Again, Enzo smiled. “A client of mine at the pizzeria told me about this area. He had some property down here for sale and kept talking about it. So, one day, I drove a motorcycle down from Santa Ana, checked it out, and drove back.”

It was no small feat eight or nine years ago when Enzo made this epic one-day round-trip. First of all, the most direct route between the Ballena Coast and San Jose was yet to be completely paved – at that time, it was lacking a pretty significant strip between the beach towns of Dominical and Quepos/Manuel Antonio. That means that Enzo had to take the famed “Hill of Death” road between San Jose and San Isidro, which is windy and in some places seems to hang off the side of a mountain. It probably made for one heck of a trip to do that here and there all in one day.

So what happened?

“I told my friend I’d take it,” Enzo said.

“The property we’re sitting on?” I asked. Buying a property on your first visit is not normally something I’d recommend, but Enzo had lived in Costa Rica by that time for almost five years.

“Yes!” he replied. “This very property.”

expat-julianne-murphy-interviews-costa-rica-entrepreneurThe photos that accompany this interview are of that Mamma e Papa property, which measures 1.5 hectares (more than 15,000 square meters). That property is also the site where Enzo and Gineth built a cozy cluster of bungalows facing a tranquil river in Ojochal, and the location of their TripAdvisor award-winning authentic Italian restaurant overlooking the jungled hillsides.

It’s safe to say that Enzo’s impetuous purchase of this land has paid off in spades for the Costa Ballena community – especially for those tourists who choose to stay in this lovely setting when they visit Costa Rica – and for those of locals who can go around the corner to enjoy Enzo’s homemade pasta and pizza.

For Enzo and Gineth, that gamble has paid off in success, though it has come with a somewhat hectic lifestyle. While they make it look easy, running a small hotel as entrepreneurs always comes with its set of challenges, especially when you consider that staff and vendors are often on their own brand of “Tico Time”. (I say this after having worked as an executive in an office setting for almost six years in Panama.)

Enjoying the Costa Rica Pura Vida Lifestyle

When I posed the question, “What do you enjoy about Costa Rica?”, Enzo described what sounds to most like a tropical dream.

julianne-murphy-interview-enzo-lorenzo-ojochal-costa-rica“I get up when the sun rises, when the birds start singing every morning,” He waved his hand at the lush landscape of trees all around where we sat. “Here, we live among real nature – not a world of concrete – and we listen to the sounds of the river.” When he paused and I tuned into the bubbling of the water below us, my whole body relaxed. “The sensation of living here in this paradise – the silence I find – the quiet – the tranquility – is like nothing else, nowhere else in the world,” Enzo finished. “Costa Rica is another world.”

Indeed, living here in the jungle in the tropics of Costa Rica is something most people only dream of; Enzo (and his family) are fortunate enough to actually call it home.

The Challenges of Living in Costa Rica

“It’s kind of like asking who do you think the most beautiful woman in the world is?” Enzo replied, when I asked him the question I ask almost everyone: What do you find most challenging about living in Costa Rica?

Enzo did not miss a beat as he replied. “Everyone has a different opinion. The most complicated thing I have found about living in Costa Rica is that growing up Italian – in Italy – has impacted my viewpoint.”

When asked him to explain further, Enzo continued, “Here in Costa Rica, you have the opportunity to do anything you want – however you want. There are all kinds of potential and possibilities. Here, you can find tons of space wherever you want, and do with it whatever you have the money to do. In Italy, there’s less space, more people and less opportunity because there’s more competition.”

His unusual answer caused me to look up from my laptop where I was taking notes. He went on. “The easy thing is that if you want to come here, you can, but it’s different. Here in Costa Rica, you have the opportunity to change – learn a new language, learn a new trade, eat different food. It’s different and it’s an adventure but the change – that many people think may be difficult – is not. The difficult part is only in your mind. But that change,” Here he shook his head. “It never daunted me. For many foreigners, it does.”

“How did you know you’d be successful?” I asked, waving a hand around at the spotless restaurant facilities in which we sat. Enzo shook his head again. “I didn’t come with a marketing plan for “if this business would work”.” He said. “It does. I built it with a dream to have my home here, with this gorgeous lifestyle and with four rooms and we did it. And it’s amazing and it’s been successful and it’s kept us very busy.”

Enzo’s Advice for New Costa Rica Expats

What three things does Enzo recommend to a new expat considering moving to Costa Rica?

  1. Come to Costa Rica for an extended vacation. Do six months if you can. “Not everyone can do it, but my two-month vacation cost me less than living in Italy for those two months,” Enzo added.

(I’m pretty sure I raised an eyebrow when Enzo said this as Costa Rica is not cheap.)

He clarified, “If you have the opportunity, you can do this. You may have to bring a backpack and stay in simple places and take the bus, but an extended stay will give you a real picture of the lifestyle in Costa Rica.”

  1. Don’t buy anything immediately. Rent something. If it works and you like it, then you can buy it later. Many people make this mistake.
  1. Before you make any long-term decisions about relocating to Costa Rica, come here and check it out. Make sure you like the climate, the people, the animals, the environment. Make sure you “get” the real Costa Rica. (My addition: It’s different from the tourist version, believe me.)

Enzo had one final piece of advice, which I really liked. And that was, “If you can’t live spontaneously, this is not your country. If you come with a critical mind, you will have an unhappy life.”

Well said.

As we wrapped up our conversation, Enzo made an interesting observation, which struck me as important to share.

“Many people that live in Italy get to the edge of the ocean – because we have beautiful beaches too – and when the reach the edge, they exclaim “Wow!” he said. “In Costa Rica, the reverse happens. People get to one of the gorgeous beaches – (there are many of them here) – and they wade out into the water, walk 100 meters out, turn around and look back at the land and exclaim, “Wow!” Because here, they are not just seeing the beautiful beaches – those exist in many places around the world. Here in Costa Rica, you see the beauty of the land, the animals, the endless green, the waterfalls, the rivers; these things you do not have in many other places around the world, not like you find here.”

All I could do was nod.

Discover Mamma e Papa Hotel and Italian Restaurant in Ojochal, Costa Rica

For award-winning, delicious, handmade pasta, make sure you make a point to visit Mamma e Papa when you are next in Costa Rica’s culinary capitol, Ojochal de Osa. (They also have pizza, though I have not tried it.) Enzo and Gineth’s cozy bungalows are also perfect for those visiting the Ballena Coast. They sleep two to five people, depending on availability and features a beautiful pool, a shared social area with TV and pool table and the sound of the Ojochal River to lull you to sleep. Rooms start at $115 for two including breakfast.

author-julianne-murphy-costa-rica-expat-interview-in-ojochal

Interested in buying a property in Ojochal, Costa Rica?

Mamma e Papa is currently listed for sale. The asking price of $890,000 is for the bungalows and the restaurant (including a private home above the restaurant) in this beautiful riverside setting of 1.5 hectares. See the listing here.

Special thanks to Enzo for his time and for sharing his Costa Rica expat story with me and La Pura Vida Costa Rica dot com. I so enjoyed our conversation. How about you?

Other Expat Interviews

If you’re interested in reading expat interviews from neighboring country Panama, you can get my second book, The Gringo Guide to Panama II: More to Know Before You Go , which includes four interviews from people coming from four very different life situations. For more on expat life in Panama, visit my Panama blog here.

Three Hard Lessons Learned for Costa Rica Vacationers

While traveling to Panama earlier this month, I witnessed a 60-something Gringo couple stumble out of a taxi in front of the international airport in San Jose pinned on a map of Costa RicaCosta Rica, yelling “Help!”

The couple had arrived an hour earlier and taken a cab off the street (we call them ‘red’ or public taxis) from the airport to their hotel nearby. When they reached the hotel, they realized they did not have lower-denomination bills to pay the cab driver. They both walked inside to the hotel counter but when they returned to the cab, the cab driver and all their belongings were gone.

They had returned to the airport in hopes that the airport cameras would have captured something about the taxi they had hailed.

How unfortunate and sad!

But three hard lessons learned for you, Costa Rica vacationers:

1. When you leave the international airport, take an orange cab (who have an alliance with the airport and are lined up to your left when you walk out of Customs).

San Jose Costa Rica - May 20 : Pick up area outside of the International Airport with Taxis and families waiting for passengers. May 20 2016 San Jose Costa Rica.
San Jose, Costa Rica : Orange Taxis at the Pick-Up area outside of the International Airport

Their official name is Taxis Unidos. Otherwise, take Uber.

2. Never, EVER leave your belongings with someone you do not know, out of your sight. It amazes me that anyone still does this.

3. It’s smart to break down the larger bills that come out of the ATM into smaller bills or coins to have before you leave the airport. Maybe buy a pack of gum or a bottle of water or something. This is something that is smart whether you are here in Costa Rica or any country. Often, taxi drivers who intend to scam you will pull this kind of a trick and tell you they don’t have change.

A sobering lesson for all those who #travel but remember it’s your responsibility to take your own safety precautions.

This is paradise, but it isn’t perfect!

JuliAnne Murphy Pura Vida Costa Rica paradise beach

Interested in Moving to Costa Rica & Becoming an Expat?

I can help. My hubby and I opened our own boutique real estate firm in beautiful, coastal South Pacific Costa Rica recently. We are a legal, licensed real estate brokerage; many are not, so be forewarned. We’d be happy to chat with you about your Costa Rica Property needs. Click here for our website.

Rainforest Remedies for Costa Rica & Central America

Rainforest Remedies for Costa Rica & Central America

When bites and stings interfere with your Costa Rica experience, try these natural solutions – rainforest remedies that have worked for me!

When you move to Costa Rica as an expat, you don’t always anticipate some of the things you might need in the jungle. One of them is medical solutions for all the bug bites, bee stings, wasp stings, scorpion stings and so on.

And, yes, let me say upfront! – a trip to the ER is probably the best solution for a scorpion sting, especially if you’ve never had one and you’re not sure if you’re allergic.

But what happens when you know that a sting is just a sting and it’s uncomfortable?  As in, really uncomfortable? So much so that you can’t sleep and you can’t stop itching. Here’s the reality: I’ve had bug bites and bee stings and spider bites that hurt so bad that I scratched them until they bled…no fun.

Natural Remedies to Bring With You to the Rainforest (or the Beach) When You Move to Costa Rica

Along the way – in the past 18 months – I’ve discovered some really handy natural solutions for when a pest or two gets to you. I didn’t even know about these when I lived in Panama, so this was new information to me. And if I can save you some pain and maybe even a little blood by sharing this, well, then you’ll be better off.

These remedies applies whether you are already enjoying full-time expat living in Costa Rica, considering a move to the tropics or whether you are just visiting. And especially if you are on vacation! But if you are vacationing in Costa Rica, you’ll need to prepare your To-Go medical kit in advance. Your average pharmacy does NOT carry this stuff down here.

My wonderful little secret when it comes to all these pesky bug bites is using essential oils. Hey, the three wise men did it. Why can’t we?

The Best Kept Secret: The Essential Oil that resolves scorpion stings

First off, as I said above, if you’ve never been stung by a scorpion and you don’t know if you are allergic and there’s any chance you are – you probably should be checked out in the emergency room. That does not mean you can’t use this remedy – you definitely can! But do both – put on the oil and then also go to the ER, just in case.

If it’s your second time to be stung by a scorpion (yes, I know, I hate to even say that, but here you are in the tropics, so we have to be realistic), and you are not allergic to the local scorpion venom, then this essential oil remedy will work for you.

It’s simple. Two drops of pure Frankincense oil. It has to be pure, not mixed with anything. And, yes, it’s pricey. But here’s the best thing about it! Two drops and within 30 minutes or less, your swelling will be mostly gone. WOW! You read that right. That is correct! Yes, I didn’t believe it at first but when my significant other stepped on one of these little buggers on the way to the beach, his foot swelled up like no tomorrow and was incredibly painful to the touch.

Two drops directly on the site of the sting and 20 minutes later, the swelling was almost gone.

Two more drops and the pain dissipated, as well. For him, that took another 20 minutes.

So, Frankincense is your ticket for scorpion stings here in the jungle. And, no, it’s very difficult to find pharmaceutical grade essential oils here along the Pacific coast. As an expat, you’ll need to get some in your home country – I recommend either Young Living or doTerra oils. (If you live in Costa Rica and need some, shoot me a line and I can hook you up. This does not apply to visitors however, as it has to be shipped.)

Let me warn you, however – Frankincense is pricey – it’s about $50 for a small bottle. But when you are using it here and there, a small bottle will last you for a very long time.

How does it get any better than that?


Essential Oil Remedies for Spider Bites

The reference book I use from Young Living Essential Oils has recommendations specific to being bitten by a black widow or a brown recluse. We don’t have either of those – that I am aware of – here in Costa Rica, though we do have plenty of other spiders. For more of my personal spider photos, see this post on how to avoid getting bitten by one.

Essential Oils JuliAnne Murphy Costa Rica Expat and Best-selling author Pura Vida

I recently had two bites on my stomach which were clearly something other than a mosquito but not a bee. So I assumed it was from a not-to-friendly spider. She chewed on me, because they were really red and painful and swollen for some time. I tried Lavender with no luck. Then I tried Thieves and it worked well. I treated the bites three times over a 24-hour period but even so, within 24 hours, I was itch-free again.

Thank goodness!

Essential Oil Remedy for Mosquito Bites

Some mosquito bites are worse than others down here. I’m not sure why, but sometimes that’s the case. So, when you get one that really irks you, there’s a number of essential oils that may work for you. I believe it may have to do with your skin pH as to what’s most effective, but it’s worth the trial and effort to figure it out if you want a truly natural remedy.

I have personally tried Peppermint oil, Thieves (this is a blend sold by Young Living) and The Gift (another blend by Young Living).

So far, Thieves and The Gift were the best remedies for my skin. The Gift worked the fastest.

Essential Oils JuliAnne Murphy Costa Rica Expat and Best-selling author Pura Vida Essential Oils JuliAnne Murphy Costa Rica Expat and Best-selling author Pura Vida

Others recommended by Young Living’s reference book on oils: Melaleuca, Lavender, Rosemary, Myrrh, Frankincense, Idaho Balsam Fir, Idaho Tansy, Purification, Melrose, R.C.

Keeping Mosquitos at Bay with Essential Oils

Essential Oils JuliAnne Murphy Costa Rica Expat and Best-selling author Pura VidaRemedy One:

While there are many recipes for homemade oil blends to use as insect repellant, I have to say that I have not bothered to make one. Why? A) There are a million organic and natural insect repellants for sale in Costa Rica – almost everywhere, and B) I’m not a very good mixer. I need something when I need it and I need it fast.

However, we live right on a river. Even though the water is moving, there does seem to be a lot more mosquitos in our house and on our patio than normal. (Yes, it is rainy season!) Unfortunately, that means we’re sleeping with a lot more of them. Ugh.

So, one thing I’ve been doing that seems to help is I’m using my DoTerra essential oil diffuser and using Citronella oil in it every night for about two hours before I go to bed. It’s pretty simple. You just pour the water in to the limit (which may vary with each diffuser) and then add 10 drops of Citronella oil.

NOTE: This does need to be the type of Citronella oil that works with diffusers. If you try and use the Citronella oil for torches, you will clog your diffuser and be very sad. I’ve included a photo here of the one I got last time I was in Denver at Whole Foods (see above). I feel certain you can pick them up at any natural food store or wherever oils are sold in the U.S. This one was less than $10, if memory serves me correctly.

Remedy Two: My experience is that when I use the toilet in the middle of the night – always in the dark, of course – that I get bitten frequently on the booty. Nothing stinks worse than a mosquito bite anywhere around the booty area!

So, to take care of that problem, I started putting five drops of Citronella oil in the commode before we go to bed. It hasn’t been a perfect solution, but it HAS helped cut these little incidents down.

How to get access to Essential Oils in Costa Rica

Well, first off, in closing, good luck to you! Whether you’re visiting Costa Rica or live here full-time as an expat, certainly some of these natural remedies for bites and stings may be of use to you.

Again, if you would like to order from me to get your own DoTerra oils, shoot me a line.

For Young Living oils, please visit my social media manager’s web page – she also reps them which is how I learned about them, originally – and that company can ship your products straight to your door, even if you live in Costa Rica!

Essential Oils JuliAnne Murphy Costa Rica Expat and Best-selling author Pura Vida

 

How to Protect Yourself from Costa Rica’s Creepy Crawly Wildlife

How to Protect Yourself from Costa Rica’s Creepy Crawly Wildlife

We’re gonna shake, rattle and roll! I can hear the famous song by Elvis when I say those words, but in the case of your new life in Costa Rica, we’re talking more about your protection from Costa Rica’s creepy crawly wildlife than about having a good time.

Though, the types of precautions I’ll outline for you here will ensure your time here continues on without a hitch, whether you live in Costa Rica or are simply on vacation. It’s July – the rainy season here – and as such, while this is low tourist season, it’s definitely high season for Costa Rica’s creepy crawly wildlife. Let’s face it – when the rain comes, the plants and the wildlife get happy and reproduce at a crazy rate.

Welcome to the jungle.

Costa Rica Spider by JuliAnne Murphy La Pura Vida Costa Rica Costa Rica Spider by JuliAnne Murphy Spider in Costa Rica by JuliAnne Murphy

So, let’s jump right in. How do you protect yourself from intersecting in a negative way with the wildlife in Costa Rica? Today, we’ll cover scorpions, spiders and snakes. These tips are some I’ve figured out on my own since I’ve lived here in the tropics – both in Panama (for eight years) and Costa Rica. Since the climate in these two countries is similar – hot and hotter – many of the bug species are the same.

Tip One: Shake, shake, shake!

This is a good one for spiders, scorpions and probably even snakes. But it’s something I do each and every night before I go to bed and I recommend you do it too: lift each layer of your sheets and blankets and shake them out before you get in them. Not the bottom one, no. Just the top sheet and whatever comforter or blanket(s) you have atop.

Did you know that the majority of scorpion stings happen when you are sleeping? That’s because scorpions adore cool, dry places – like your sheets. So, believe me when I say this, a quick shake, shake, shake and fluff of your sheets and pillows vale la pena (is worth it). Having tangled with a scorpion some years ago, I can tell you it’s definitely not something you want to experience.

This shaking method is best accompanied by a thorough visual inspection, as well. While scorpions will usually take off, sometimes spiders like to crawl deeper into your covers. Eek! So be sure you’re lifting every edge of that sheet, pillow or blanket and giving it a good shake or two in addition to eyeballing it.

And, don’t forget to turn the lights on! Or at the minimum, use a strong flashlight.

Tip Two: Rattle

This is a two-part tip.

Rattle, part one: for anytime you’ve left anything on the floor – even if it’s in an airtight air-conditioned hotel room – rattle it with your foot – or slide it across the floor a bit, if need be. This will encourage any creepy crawlies to get a move on.

The bottom of duffel bags, boxes, bags, pet beds, cushions, pillows, etc. is an ideal hiding place for Costa Rica’s critters. Even when they’ve only been there overnight. ☺

Yes, there is a higher probability that if the item has been sitting for a longer period of time, that it’s more likely to have a new resident clinging to the bottom or sides of your belongings.

Scorpion on lampshade by JuliAnne Murphy
Scorpion on a lampshade in Costa Rica. Photo by JuliAnne Murphy

Did I mention that the scorpion’s favorite hiding place is the bottom of anything – again, cool and dry?

Rattle, part two: When you are out hiking, walking or enjoying Costa Rica’s spectacular scenery, or even in your garden, do a bit of stomping along the way. Snakes sense movement versus hearing you, and when they do, their first instinct is to get out of your way.

So, a little stomping your feet here and there is always a good safeguard against snakes.

An Arboreal snake
An Arboreal snake
Green vine Snake / Flatbread snake in Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Green Vine Snake in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If for some reason, you stop along your walk and encounter a fallen tree or a log in your path, it’s a great idea to hit it with your shoes a couple of times before you scramble over. Snakes often hide in the cool, damp shade of such obstacles. A visual inspection here – before you jump over – is always a good idea, as well.

Tip three: Roll

For this tip, I’m talking about your toilet paper roll. Many homes and hotel rooms in Costa Rica have free standing toilet paper rolls next to the toilet. I can’t tell you why. But they do. And, guess what? The inside of that toilet paper roll – the vacant hole where the roll usually hangs onto something? A great hideaway for spiders.

Spider in Costa Rica by JuliAnne Murphy

Yes, it has happened to me. And, there’s nothing more disconcerting than sitting down in the middle of the night, reaching for the toilet paper and having something crawl onto your hand. Much less, bite you.

And, of course, it happens at night because spiders love the quiet and the dark. Can you blame them?

Spider in Costa Rica by JuliAnne Murphy

So, in this case, the best precaution is to a) get a nightlight, and b) take a quick peek in the hole before you take a seat.

Yes, it sounds pedestrian to even write this, but trust me, someday you will thank me.

So, whether you live in Costa Rica, are considering a move to Costa Rica, or are planning a vacation in Costa Rica, these little tips can help you plan accordingly.

Next time: Natural Remedies for when you DO get bit and/or stung in the jungle.

Sign up here to get notified of my upcoming posts about expat living in Costa Rica. And, if you have other questions in between, shoot me a line here or catch me on Facebook. I’m also pretty active on Twitter when I’m not nose down in my computer working on the final chapters of my third book!

See you soon.

3 Things I love about my expat life in Costa Rica

3 Things I love about my expat life in Costa Rica

Yes, that’s what this post is about in counter balance to the 3 Luxuries You’ll Miss that I did a few days ago….I do have more than 3 things I love about my expat life in Costa Rica! But, well, I only have so much time to write blog posts and you only have so much time to read them.

Before I go further, let me set aside your preconceived notions that I will be talking about the same stuff in this post that everyone else does on their Costa Rica blogs: the sun, the sand, the beaches, the tropical weather, how nice the locals are, the slower pace, etc.

Um, no.

Yes, of COURSE, all of that is here and it’s a big part of the reason you want to move to Costa Rica, yes? But, everyone else talks about that, so you have plenty of other places to do your homework on those fine aspects of life in Costa Rica.

This blog is about REAL expat life in Costa Rica, so I’ll be going down a rabbit trail here and there. Past the fancy hotel rooms and the days laying in the sand without a care in the world. That part is called vacation.

So, since I’ve already done my Three Things today – which included a TRX class at my local gym (yes! even on the South Pacific coast, we have a gym!), a trip to the local farmer’s market, and a stop at the hardware story – I still have time to write. Plus, it’s raining and I don’t need internet to write. (See more on consistent internet service in the 3 Luxuries You’ll Miss here.)

Entonces… (which is my favorite Spanish word, which means: Then…)


3 Things I Love about My Expat Life in Costa Rica:

Car refueling on a petrol station closeup
Full-service gas stations still in Costa Rica

     1. We still enjoy full-service at the gas station!

If you have not had full service at the gas station in a while, let me tell you!
For me, it was like a blast to the past. Before I moved to Panama
in early 2008, it had been a good 12 years since I had seen full service
at the pumps, and that was way back when I lived in Arkansas! And,
these days, it’s pretty rare to find it there. So, essentially, this is a
throw-back to at least 20 years ago from my past life in the U.S.

And, I LOVE it.


2. I no longer wake up to an alarm clock, because I no longer need one!

Now, let me clear. It’s not that I don’t have an alarm clock – these days, who doesn’t just use their phone for that anyway? – it’s that I don’t need one. Why? Because I wake up with daybreak now, which is usually just before or after 5 a.m. (Sunrise is a little later, like 5:15-5:20 a.m.)

Morning Mist Over Osa Peninsula Rainforest Drake Bay Costa Rica - Pura Vida expat life Costa Rica
Morning mist in Costa Rica

No one told me this would happen to me when I moved here. But I heard tales of it from other expats in Costa Rica soon after. Here’s the thing: I’ve always been an early bird, but living on the South Pacific coast where I do, my body has adapted to the natural rhythms of the earth. Meaning, usually by 8-ish in the evening, I’m starting to feel ready to wrap up the day. And, because there’s very little to do (other than eat out, occasionally) here along the coast, you’ll find you make your way to slumber much earlier than you’d ever expect to, in your prior life.

“Go to bed at 8 p.m.?” I scoffed, when I had been here just a few days. “Really?”

Yes, really. Except for me, it’s more like 9 or 10, on most nights. Still early for many of us North Americans who are used to watching the Late Show, huh?

And, as for the morning, well, the reason you start going to bed so early is because you wake up so early! Even if you don’t want to, the birds, the monkeys and the sun will do it for you. So, eventually, you just stop fighting it and you go with the flow.

Mornings here are beautiful, by the way. There’s nothing like watching a Costa Rica coastal sunrise.

Psychology Tidbit: Research shows that people with mood disorders fare best in a tropical environment, like Costa Rica, where sunrise and sunset are relatively consistent year-round.

Don’t ask me where I heard that, but I find it very interesting. And, it’s very true that the natural rhythm of nature has a soothing impact on your daily life around here in Costa Rica – your schedule and your lifestyle. At least, it has for me.

     3. I love how much space I have in my life here.

By space, I mean breathability. Life here in Costa Rica – at least here on the coast – is so very relaxed. Even if you have an online career. Even if you get up and go to work every day. People here are relaxed. Part of expat life here is getting used
woman skypingto that – at first, it can really drive you crazy. But, with time, the space around your schedule, and those little extra moments where you can do things like take a nap
in the middle of the day, or Skype with your sister,
 
those things are precious.

I saw a video on YouTube earlier today that someone put together by Robin Williams, posthumously. It essentially says, life is precious. Enjoy it. Breathe it in.

And, here in Costa Rica, I am doing just that. And, it is making me a much nicer person, overall. I have to say, I like who I am now – much more than even a year ago. And a lot of that has to do with this new-found space in my life, which I’ve discovered to large extent in Costa Rica.

Yay!

So, that’s it, folks!

Yep. I could write about 20 more posts about Things I Love About my Expat Life in Costa Rica. But, I will probably need to title them other things.

Pura Vida, y’all. From one very happy chick originally from Arkansas, who has transplanted herself here and loves it.