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... Working in Costa Rica ...
by Infocostarica Staff

Jenny thought that it was going to be the most unforgettable teaching experience in her life. Coming to Costa Rica to teach was going to top off four years of hard work at college, and it was going to enrich her cultural and language horizons incredibly. Well, the experience was certainly unforgettable, and it certainly expanded her horizons, but it did so in an unexpected way. You see, Jenny didn't think about the catcalls from men that she was going to receive on her 1-mile walk to the bus station every morning, or on having to take her dirty clothes to a laundry on a cab, or on having to watch her expenses because of a meager salary. Finally, Jenny decided that she had had enough "enrichment" for a while, so she went home six-months before expected.

Bob came down to Costa Rica to surf. He thought that it was going to be just another memory of great surf points, parties at local bars and traveling in a beautiful country. He did surf at great points, party hard and traveled plenty, but he had no idea about what was going to happen. When he started running out of money and still didn't feel like going home, Bob met another American tourist who mentioned the possibility of settling down in Costa Rica an opening a surf shop in Jacó, a popular beach town in the Pacific coast. They did, and four years later, Bob and his buddy run a successful business where they sell, rent and fix boards and other sport's gear.

Both cases are real and common, and they reflect the difference between expectations and outcomes of a plan to work in Costa Rica. Many foreigners choose Costa Rica as an exotic possibility for working overseas. Some, like Bob the surfer, stumble into it. There are several things that a foreigner must consider before deciding to work in this country. The three main considerations are: common jobs for foreigners, salaries and last but not least, cost of living.

Foreigners must do one of two things to be able to work here: get a work permit through the employer or apply for residency, preferably through a lawyer. The work permit must be renewed every year. The most common jobs for young foreigners are: teaching English, at $300- $500 a month (sometimes more in an American bilingual school), being tourist guides or working as receptionists in hotels. However, some people with a larger resume might be able to find jobs through multinational companies that operate here, such as Standard Fruit, Intel, Motorola, etc. Upper management positions usually demand good or excellent knowledge of Spanish and offer salaries starting at $2000, which is good for Costa Rica. Other jobs might be found simply by looking in the local English-language newspaper, The Tico Times, the main Spanish-language newspapers, or even while browsing through the yellow pages. Apart from salaried jobs, foreigners might prefer to settle down and open up a business of their own. If the business proves to be relatively successful, the earnings will probably be much greater than normal salaries. Business opportunities include: real estate, the hotel and tourist sector, the food franchise business, etc…

After considering possible jobs and salaries, it's important to consider the cost of living in Costa Rica. Rent for one person at an average tico apartment might cost $250 to $400. Groceries might cost from $150 to $200 a month, while entertainment (going out at least once a week) might end up costing $140 a month. Some expenses are much more reasonable than in other countries, like utility bills; water, electricity and local phone bills for one person might be as cheap as $ 25 a month (the cheapest is water, followed by electricity).

There are also legal and cultural considerations involved in working in Costa Rica It's important to have a realistic view of the whole picture, before making a commitment. Unless you acquire a job with a multinational company, which can guide you through the excitement and confusion of moving to another country, it's probably a good idea to visit Costa Rica on a scouting mission before deciding to get a job here. Look through newspaper ads, ask other foreigners, visit some companies, and you'll see that when moving here later, things will be much easier and more enjoyable.



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