And another thing……….
I am tired of gringos who come here for whatever reason, for whatever length of time, under whatever circumstances, and get themselves into trouble with a so-called* realtor, or a lawyer, or a bank, or the government itself because of their inability to communicate. I don't care if it is because they feel they cannot learn a new language, or refuse to learn a new language, or whatever. The least they could do is either find a person to translate for them, or retain an attorney to provide both translation and legal services.
Here's a partly redacted letter that a gringa recently posted on a forum. Someone else had started a thread that appeared to be an attempt to get some reaction to the fact that he had initiated a wire transfer from his U. S. Bank to a Costa Rican bank, and it was now the eighth day and he was kind of wondering if this was going to take much longer. This gringa added her story to the thread that it took a long time for her to get access to her money via a similar transaction, as follows:
"It took me seven weeks to get my own money after it was wire transferred. First they wanted to now where the money came from Then they wanted to know what my SA does (nothing) then they failed to enter my documents into their computer for two weeks. Their mission statement is to improve the quality of life for its customers. Follows is the response I got from customer service to my letter detailing my problems...."
From her stated complaint, and the letter that she wrote to them, it is not clear who wanted to know about where the money came from, but I think that has to do with Costa Rica's recent agreement to cooperate with the U. S. in regards to tax laws, etc. Her reference to her "SA" probably means that she is one of those gringos who was told that they needed to form a corporation in Costa Rica in order to own anything, and for a bunch of other BS reasons (more about this concept is covered below).
So, as part of her efforts to clear up the matter with her CR bank, she had written them this letter:
I got xxxxxxx surgery and took a vacation xxxxxxxxxxxx. I was planning to use
my xxxxx XXXX card, but the account was still closed. You may remember from past
emails that I had some difficulty with the xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx branch of
Two weeks ago, I was there in person with all my documents and the account was
open. The staff DID NOT ENTER IT INTO the Computer and the account was locked
See how much I charged on the xxxx card? SEE all the international charges I
had to pay to do it.
These same folks told me to go to xxxxxxx and just present my cedula to affiliate
with my company. BAD information again. One needs a notary to write a letter!
These are the same folks who do not know that social security can not go into a
I am sixty three years old. My last job was budget manager for the xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx of the State of xxxxxxxxxxxx Department of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx. Maybe
you would like to hire me to fix your xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx Office? Something should be
Basically, what I have done here (took information out of her letter; redacted it) was X-out information describing what branches of this bank in Cost Rica she had named, the type of credit card she was referring to, and whatever state it was she had worked for. Now, this letter indicates a whole myriad of problems from my perspective. She is writing a letter in English to a bank located in Costa Rica, where the language is Spanish. She hasn't even made an effort to use formal or proper English ("Hi There"????). She claims one needs a notary to write a letter (Lord knows she could have used some help with her letter to the bank itself, but maybe she meant that she needed a notary who could write her a letter in Spanish, I don't know. It is not at all clear), but that is after she complained that she was supposed to present her cedula to somebody, somewhere. What that presentation has to do with writing a letter, I haven't a clue (and, I will bet you that whoever received this letter felt about the same way, if they understood any part of her letter).
Then, she complained that "these are the same folks who don't know that social security can not[sic] go into a business account." I have no idea what that statement could possibly mean. Is she saying that her account in the Costa Rican bank is a business account? So, what difference does it make where social security money goes – especially to a bank in Costa Rica?
Then, she insults them by saying that she has the ability to 'fix' their office! How could that happen? She doesn't have any knowledge of Spanish, nor does she have any demonstrated knowledge of business, especially as it is done in Costa Rica!
Who knows what her real problem was, or what efforts she made to communicate with these people? As for her purpose in posting this information on an English language forum for expats, I am not sure about that, either. Actually, she just pretty much threw this out in the middle of a thread started by the guy who was on his eighth day of waiting. So, she was probably just trying to one-up that person. She did not get much in the way of responses (God knows what she would have done with them, if she did), but she did pique my curiosity.
One thing a number of gringos has been told before moving here is that they should form a legal corporation (in Spanish, a Sociedad Anónima, commonly referred to as SA), with a Tico lawyer, and of those who have been here for some time, I have learned they usually did this before their actual move. So, they shelled out the necessary coinage to have that happen. This is because they were told that they could not open a bank account, or own a cell phone, or have a land line, or get hooked up to electricity in their own name, unless they are legal residents, but they can do all of this if they have a legal corporation. Another reason for the corporation, they've been told, and they believe, is that in the event – God forbid – that they might be involved in a motor vehicle accident, or a worker is injured on their property, or they somehow find themselves in a situation where they might be sued, they could lose everything unless they own nothing. So, they were told to put everything they might have owned in the name of their corporation so as to protect their [non]assets.
Now, I'm not saying that this is a sneaky thing to do, or a bad thing to do. It is just a common practice. Of course, the same people who advised them to open the corporation never told them that the legal process in this country is in such disarray and so slow that, should they be sued the odds are the suit would never get to court. Nor do they stop to think that it is all a crap shoot anyway, just as it is in the states. Say you're in an accident. What are the odds that you will be at fault? Are you a bad driver? Have a history of dui's or something? Then, maybe you should consider something like this corporation idea. But, if you're a reasonably safe driver, and are reasonably safe in other aspects of your life, why should you be this concerned about your real property?
So, this gringa evidently did set up her corporation, and I would bet that - like a good portion of those gringos who get themselves in these fixes - she is/was actually a perpetual tourist, which is a whole 'nother story. So, she can go down as gringa #1.
Then, there is gringo #2. This is the person who posts something along the lines of: "Who can tell me the name of/where to find/how to find an English speaking doctor/dentist/whatever for my……….???Or, I need a doctor on the Caja who speaks English.... Now, if I haven't mentioned it before, under the Caja, it is much like military health care, or free clinics, or a VA setup in the states. You get whatever doctor happens to be on duty at the time of your visit. You have no choice. You may be referred to a specialist, but there will be no effort to make sure you get an English-speaking one. What do you want, for crying out loud, egg in your beer? This is a Spanish speaking country! Why did you decide to move here if you don't have adequate Spanish? Why don't you find someone you can pay to go with you to your appointments and translate for you?
Next, we have gringo #3. These are gringos who post inquiries on an internet forum listing all of their prescriptions, and wanting to know what each one will cost them, if they decide to move to Costa Rica……..no effort to do any other research, like find Tico pharmacies online, or find out if they can even live here legally, and no sign of any thought to whether or not they can qualify for Caja, or whatever………what they also fail to understand is that this is a small country, and even in San Jose, the biggest city, you cannot be sure that any given store will ever have in stock everything that you might want. You have to learn to adjust to a supply system that is very slow, and not at all reliable, and that, ultimately is driven by demand, just as in the states, but where the demand is never that great for any one thing. What you have to do, very often, is schlep around to more than one pharmacy to find all of your needs. Like I'm going to go out and do that for some idiot who is just thinking of maybe moving down here?!
And, that reminds me of another thing. We take it for granted when shopping in the states, at places like Wally World, that OTC pain things, such as Ibuprofen are cheap in quantity, and readily available. We have learned that here we can't usually buy in quantity, and that we can't hope to get things like that at a regular store (super). We have to go to a pharmacy, and hope they have enough Ibuprofen to fill a box. That's because they sell things like this by ones and twos, and half dozen. Want one cigarette? You can buy just one of just about anything, especially at the smaller stores (Pulperias). And, there is no such thing as a discount for quantity. If one beer costs ¢456 (just under a dollar), then six, or twelve, or 24 beers cost ¢456 X 6, or 12, or 24**. Now, that's simple economics.
Ultimately, I guess it is amazing to see the lengths to which some folks will go to avoid having to do any sort of research on their own. What's worse, though, is to contemplate what kind of mind is so willing to accept recommendations, suggestions, and directions from perfect strangers, on an internet forum? I mean, it is one thing to ask questions for general knowledge, but to make a life decision based on the bull$hit thrown around these forums is mind-boggling. Of course, being the natural skeptic that I am, I tend to take a long time before I will think of trusting the responses I see posted by some of these folks, and I have had outright clashes with some whose lies I have tried (always politely, you understand) to expose.
*I say so-called because there is no such thing as a licensed realtor here, nor is there any sort of government agency overseeing this profession; as a matter of fact, anyone who wants to call themselves a realtor may do so, and there are many such out there, busily fleecing the flock.
**I obviously started this piece/post/entry/essay some time ago as the current cost of one beer is now over ¢600, fast approaching ¢700.