Cultural adjustments

When you move to a new country, where nothing is known and familiar, your routines get mightily disrupted. Suddenly, nothing is routine. The loss of routine means the time and energy that were available for higher order, more sophisticated tasks now goes to basic coping and survival functions. With the minutiae of everday life now demanding much of your conscious attention (these higher order functions) either get put aside or take much longer to accomplish.

The loss of routine hits you at your core. You expect to have to learn how to do new things overseas and even new ways of doing familiar things, but you may be suprised to discover that you have to learn to do things you normally do without thinking.

The problem with routines is that until you’ve reestablished them, you can have a very low opinion of yourself. If something this simple can be so difficult, then what am I going to do about somthing that’s genuinely difficult?

As you face the difficulties of your early months abroad, you will need the kind of unconditional acceptance and support only close friends and family members can provide; you need people who will listen to your tirades about the country and the natives without judging, people with whom you can fall apart without being embarrassed or worrying about what they might think. Your spouse may be available for this purpose, of course, but he or she may be looking to you for the same support. Whenever possible, you should plan to fall apart on different days from your spouse.


How it began

I entered Costa Rica as an Expatriate along with my husband John, 3 children, 3 dogs, 3 cats and 2 birds. Upon arriving in Costa Rica, we were given the name of a realtor and basically left up to our own survival skills to handle everything else on our own in a country referred to as Paradise by everyone we knew. What could possibly go wrong in a country call “Paradise”? EVERYTHING!!!

The first week were were in Costa /Rica, we lost one of our dogs and spent a week searching (not knowing any Spanish) for the disappearing dog. Being rather fanatic about this dog, I passed out over 2000 flyers all over my part of Costa Rica and spoke to every day laborer I could find looking for information. Fortunately after placing many ads in newspapers, a kind-hearted Costa Rican brought Julie home and that problem was resolved.

I found that everything was a challenge unlike anything I’d ever encountered in the United States. Taking the children to school everyday was the easiest part of my day, and then I had to go out and face the real world. With no language skills, I had to buy groceries for my family, go to the bank, shop for school supplies and so many other things that seemed totally overwhelming at the time because of the great difference in the way things are handled in Costa Rica.

As children often do get sick at the most inopportune times, all 3 of my children had to be taken to the hospital for different reasons within the first few months of our arrival. Since we had been given no references of referrals for medical care, we went to the closest emergency room even though none of the incidents would have been considered an emergency. What else were we to do with no help in sight?

This among all the other little things that occurred caused John and I to argue like cats and dogs because we didn’t know the language or our way around Costa Rica leaving me feeling helpless and alone in this strange new country.

Grocery shopping, where once was an easy task, had become a grand adventure not knowing what was what or where to find anything familiar to me. No processed foods in Costa Rica!!! Even finding clothes or school supplies for the kids became a confusing hassle. The list goes on. Everything that was taken for granted living in the US was yanked out from under us upon arriving in Costa Rica. The onset of ‘Culture Shock’ had begun.

After 6 months or so things began to settle down a bit and we began adjusting to the new culture, making friends and started enjoying our new lives. Being very active in the kids school, I found that our family was not the only one experiencing such difficulty upon arriving in Costa Rica.

I took to heart the expression to learn from my experiences and not make the same mistake twice. I knew that no one could do this on their own without support from someone that had been through the experiences themselves. This is when the idea of Guardian Angels CR Relocation Specialists (GACR) was born. I though that if I could help one person through the transition of moving to a new country I could help more, and make it less painful and confusing for soneone put in my position when I arrived.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to help many people with anything from moving their family and pets to finding an attorney for assistance with residency. I answer questions on a daily basis via email or telephone working to make the transition less difficult for the next family coming in.

After going through all of the experiences both good and bad, my family and I have fallen in love with Costa Rica and now finally understand why Costa Rica is called ‘Paradise’. Costa Rica is a beautiful country with wonderful people and customs that we have taken as our own. Because of this love of Costa Rica, it spreads to each client that GACR services and we hope that sharing our experiences will make someone else’s transition less stressful and confusing.