Costa RicaCosta Rica

Making Friends in Costa Rica

Local soccer gameOn the afternoon of my arrival in Costa Rica, I had three priorities: hail a taxi to my apartment, unpack my bags, and find some food. The next morning, a new priority topped my list: make friends. I was excited for this new adventure, but knew that a few good friendships would be essential to enjoying my new home.

During my pre-move research, I had read that Costa Ricans are famous for being friendly. I was prepared for big smiles and helpful directions, but I had no idea how genuinely sociable Costa Ricans could be. About a year before the “Big Move,” I had used a free website to find two Costa Rican penpals. We corresponded a few times weekly and they were both a wealth of information, helping me identify the best neighborhoods, prepping me on what to expect, and giving me tips on how to obtain a cell phone. After my arrival, we met in person and became good friends – one even introduced me to my husband!

As wonderful as my penpals were, I couldn’t rely on them to find friends for me. I knew I had to expand my social network, but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I had no family in Costa Rica, no office job with coworkers as potential friends, and I wasn’t part of any student or alumni group. It was time to get creative.

As a member of Generation Y – also called the Net Generation – I grew up in a world dominated by the Internet and online social networks. So naturally, I decided to peruse the World Wide Web in search of groups and organizations that would introduce me to future friends. Three years later, I can happily report mission accomplished.

  • Costa Rican homeBlogs: There is a huge network of English-language blogs written by expats in Costa Rica. Start by reading a handful, and seeing whose writing personality best fits your own. Leave a few comments. Send the author an email to introduce yourself and see where it goes. You won’t make friends with every blogger you contact, but if you make just one acquaintance, your time will be well spent.

  • Yahoo! Groups: There are several Yahoo groups populated by foreigners living in Costa Rica. Some, like Costa Rica Living, are general interest groups with thousands of members, while others, such as crgardening, cater to specific niches. Get a feel for which users seem like potential friends, and then email a few off-list.

  • Couchsurfing: Couchsurfing is an international hospitality community, and many members use the site as a social gateway. Couchsurfing’s Costa Rica network is very active and hosts regular get-togethers for all sorts of activities like potluck dinners, restaurant meals, and games. The community is on the young side – 20 to 35 is the median age – but there are some younger and older members, too.

  • Local Groups: What are your hobbies? Niche and interest groups are a great way to meet interesting people. An online search will reveal many Costa Rica-based groups; for example, the Little Theatre Group (Escazu) is ideal for live entertainment aficionados, while international communities like Ravelry (knitting & crochet) or Flickr (photography) have forums to find members near you. If you’re searching for a particular interest, try asking a blogger or posting on a Yahoo group – you’ll likely find that a group has already been established, or that there are other members interested in joining you in whatever activities you’ve suggested.

Costa Rican churchThese methods can take time, and you can even begin before the move. Once you’re in Costa Rica, you’ll have an even easier time making friends – just step outside and meet your neighbors!

  • Smile: A smile on your face lets people know you’re approachable. You’d be surprised how many first meetings start with a smile and a friendly “hola.”

  • Learn Spanish: You don’t need to be an expert linguist to make Spanish-speaking friends. Learn the basics online, from a book, in a class, or from an audio lesson, and then get practicing. Costa Ricans are generally patient and kind to language learners, so even basic Spanish skills will be enough to get the friendship ball rolling.

  • Buy a soccer ball: Costa Ricans love soccer and every town has a soccer field. Take a ball to the main park and start a pickup game; by the end of the day, you’ll have a whole team of new friends.

  • Be neighborly: Ring your neighbors’ bells and introduce yourself. If you like to cook, take over something typical of your hometown or country. I’ve made cupcakes, banana bread, and even jelly for my neighbors, and they’ve reciprocated with fresh fruits from the backyard, typical sweets, and baked goods.

  • Read the paper: Local newspapers like La Nacion (Spanish language) and The Tico Times (English language) feature weekend sections full of upcoming activities. Look for something you enjoy, and while you’re there you’ll meet plenty of other attendees with similar interests.

  • Go to church, temple, or mosque: Join your local religious organization. You’ll discover welcoming locals and an established social network.

Making Friends in Costa Rica in Pictures