If there is one thing we are lacking, it’s community. Poco a poco, we are building one. The truth is, we aren’t that far from our old community. We still visit, Vonage and Skype make constant contact affordable and fun. Friends come here to visit. Plenty of Key Westers own property here. They LOVE Costa Rica: it reminds us of Key West in the old days, only hilly.
The first thing you realize about expats is that they are odd. Sorry to my new expat friends… did I just insult you? Wait a minute: you’re expats. You gotta know you’re odd. Bottom line, only odd people would move lock, stock and barrel (often with young families) and set up shop in a completely different culture. Period.
Some expats try to warn you away from making friends with other expats because, not only are we odd, we are transient. Reputable sources estimate that 40% of expats go home after one year, two max. Mostly because coming to terms with culture shock is such a bitch. It takes a LONG TIME and you are immersed in DIFFERENT every minute of your pitiful first months of expat life. E V E R Y THING is so so SO different. Overcoming culture shock takes determination. And community.
I would love to have tica girlfriends, but language is a barrier. My Spanish is just not friend-quality yet. Conversations are a struggle. On top of that, there’s history, culture, expectations… a world of difference to overcome. What will we talk about? I’ll find out as soon as my Spanish is acceptable. Till then, I’m wooing expats. Even if they desert me. Like the Bortmans did.
To date, I’ve discovered at least four distinct expat types: three Old-School and a New Breed. The most prevalent is your true old school expat: people who actually retired from a job and moved here to make their pension and/or social security checks go the distance. Lots of military in this crowd: they are used to making a go of it in a foreign country.
Next, there are the here-for-now expats. This group includes those stationed here in the military or diplomatic corps. It also includes the Hiatus Expats: those of us here for an adventure, a break from reality with plans to return. Like the Bortmans did. Like us when we first landed. Obviously, sometimes "for now" becomes forever. Particularly if one falls in love with a tico/a… that happens a lot, right TicoG? Tico spouse or no, coming for now most certainly changes you forever. Costa Rica gets under your skin in the nicest possible way.
Finally, still in the old school, there are the Professionally Private Expats who moved here running from The Service or some other unfriendly government agency. Running from The Service ("The Service" has gotta be an oxymoron) happens less these days as the Tax Honesty movement has gained momentum. God bless Aaron Russo and Pete Hendrickson. Out and out criminals are not on my would-love-to-get-to-know you list. Just as well: they probably don’t want to be on it.
Today’s New Breed expat, which includes us, is younger than retirement age, mostly not retired; some needing to work, some not. Definitely still running away, but from a disquieting feeling that there’s more and looking to find it while young enough to enjoy it.
Becoming expats was never our intention. We were running away for a year after the job quit on me, PTSD from Hurricane Wilma… you are sick of this story.
Innocents, we had no idea how last year would change us and our
priorities. I still can’t say I’m ready to give up Key West for good.
But we have a three-year lease on our home here and no desire to live there. For now. At least not while Spirit Air has $350 rt tix to FLL!
It’s funny: dropping out of the rat race is nothing new. Key West is chock FULL of drop-outs. In the 70’s and 80’s, people who were successful in their real world lives moved in droves to Key West to escape reality. These days, dropping out in Key West is too expensive and there’s too much, um, oversight. Back in the day, live and let live had real meaning in Key West, right up to the mayor. Dropping out there will come back around. For now, boomers dropping out before pensions and SS checks start rolling in are dropping out in developing nations. I mean, who wants to drop out to Toledo even if it is affordable?