Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Some more things to get off my chest:

"Get all the fools on your side and you can be elected to anything".

Frank Dane


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:

"Hi there

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
business account.

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…… 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.


  1. I have to disagree with you on the SA with respect to holding title on property.

    Although her mistake is that she an SA to control an active bank account. She should have setup a personal account for the money, and kept the bulk of her cash in the United States. There would have been paperwork requirements, but less complex.

    Otherwise, I agree there are not many good reasons for having an SA unless you operate an actual business.

    Using one to hold title to your property makes it easier to sell, much easier to pass onto heirs and can shelter it from a law suit.

  2. Transferring money to BCR is not difficult. You simply must give proof of where the money came from in order to have it released. Such as proof that it came from sold stock or whatever. I have found BCR to be on the ball, my letter was written in English, no problem, the person responding to me spoke perfect English and via email we took care of their request.

    We bank 2 hours away from San Jose, but it is in San Jose where the approval takes place. So your branch has nothing to do with the process.

    Be kind and understanding please, I find that most people here really do want to help you. They have rules, and regulations they must go by. Yes some could stand to be updated, but they are what they are. Be kind and patient, if you intend to live here, these same folks can be of great service in your future. ;)

  3. I guess I am just not intelligent enough to discern what the author of the main blog article (Some more things to get off my chest:) is trying to get across to the reader. There are stupid people all over, that also includes here in Costa Rica. I have a son with a 140 degree IQ (and then some), complete with a degree in Classical Latin and Greek who often can't find his own butt. He lives in NYC too! If you are just out to call this person "stupid" have at it. Why all the fuss and bother when a simple word/term will do? Remember, a Costa Rican lawyer formed her corporation (SA). At the risk of being trite, most people who live in glass houses should at least pull down the shades.
    Cy Bolinger,
    Published journalist and Spanish speaker

  4. I enjoyed reading "Some more things to get off my chest," and the excellent comments.
    You've helped reaffirm that our check-list of priorities to possibly live in Costa Rica are in the proper order; namely, becoming fluent in Spanish and the CR culture. For us this means melding with the area we love the most FIRST before we make the move. We are retired, tired of the U.S.and enjoy slowing down in Paradise.
    After reading the impatience of gr#1, I was reminded of why I want to live here and it makes me cringe thinking that CR is being infiltrated with this type of personality. This is why we are tired of the U.S.A, and the "all about me" crowd. I have never been apart of the "get all I can get and get out," generation, and the people I love in CR put
    God and family before anything else. I pray that anyone moving to CR will take their lessons in Pura Vida gracefully and if they are moving here for yet another investment opportunity, that they reap what they sow. I give credit to the Ticas who are gracious in accommodating the Type A's, and think that the bank staff who did not play along with the "man eater did right." Vaya Con Dios and remember that in CR, God and family trumps everything ...anyone thinking of moving here, had best better remember that because in most areas, CR is one big happy family....don't mess with Pura Vida, Babeee!

  5. B.T.W...the area we love is the Central Valley...<><

  6. For Mr. Bolinger: I wish I knew what the point of your comment is. My point, maybe a bit overdone, but simply taken from what another person had said, was to show the lengths to which some folks will go to show off their bad manners, ignorance, and unwillingness to learn new ways. I do not have an SA, nor see any need for one. I have never gotten upset to this point with anyone at my bank, or, for that matter, anyone else I have come into contact with here in CR (other than the guy who ripped me off). So what's the glass house/pull down the shades got to do with the anything?

  7. You still seem to have a need to refer to stupid and ill mannered people in Costa Rica. How about the rest of the world? I have been here for years and once in a while get very tired of coping with the repetition of Costa Rican stupidity. Then, I think about many other countries where I have lived. After all, it's their country whether Spanish or Esperanto is spoken, reasons for owning a Costa Rican corporation (SA) and banking problems notwithstanding.
    Cy Bolinger

  8. Correction:

    "...stupid and ill mannered EXPATS..."

  9. I hate to break the news to you Mr. Bolinger, but this is my Blog, and I write what I want to write. Right now, that happens to be rants. If you don't care for what I have to say, please feel free to go read somebody else's Blog.

  10. What you claim is less than a rant, it memorializes many blog-sites who foster misinformation and innuendo about Costa Rica.
    Cy Bolinger

  11. I am not even going to pretend to understand what the hell you're talking about, and frankly, I don't give a damn.

  12. You must give a damn or your ego is bigger than you appear. Either way, you, John Dungan, love to leave your own caustic replies to other blogs (on their sites) and, yet, can't stand a little heat on your own... Turnabout is fair play, I believe!
    Cy Bolinger

  13. To Anonymous: I allow anonymous comments here to generate some kind of feedback. But, if you choose to avail yourself of the opportunity, why don't you explain what you mean? Faciles Tigres??? Easy tigers? What the hell is that? Are you trying to say something like paper tiger? At/to whom is this directed? If you have something to say, please feel free to come and speak up!