Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lies, lies, lies, yeah

Have you ever watched House Hunters International on HGTV? We get HGTV down here on the cable channels, and it's one of my favorite channels, beside BBC Entertainment. So I tend to see House Hunters International on a somewhat-regular basis, and lately it seems they've been doing Costa Rica a lot. Esposo and I both think that someone there has an interest in selling Costa Rican real estate, due to all the shows they've been doing down here.

One of the things that really irritates me is the tendency by real estate agents to gloss over all the negatives about Costa Rica just because they want to make a dollar or two. For example, a recent show had a couple looking at a house in Jacó (I think it was a couple, anyway, or it may have been a single guy. whatever). The couple or guy was buying property in Costa Rica without ever having even visited the country. I mean, seriously, how stupid can you be? I guess you must just be rolling in the Benjamins to buy property in a foreign country without ever having lived there. Or you're really, really stupid. Either way, he gets down here, looks at a few places, and on one of the houses there are bars all over the windows. He asks the real estate agent about this, and the guy flat-out lies to his face, saying basically they're a holdover from Spain and really just for decorative purposes. Ha! Are you kidding me? They're a vain attempt to keep theives out of your house (it doesn't work most of the time anyway, so I say forgo the stupid bars altogether). The dumb Gringo didn't even question that. Wow.

Yesterday I picked up a real estate magazine, one of those freebies they pass out all over the place. In it was a list of common household expenses and what things cost here. One of them had a live-in maid, with Sundays off, as costing $200 a month. If you paid a live-in maid that paltry amount, you'd be committing a crime. The minimum wage here is (according to esposo) 167,000 colones a month, or about $300. That's not including insurance through the caja, mandatory if you have a full-time employee (a friend of mine, in fact, pays her part-time employee's caja because the woman's other employer refuses to pay it at all). This is going to cost around another $200 or so, perhaps a little less. But let's just say for the sake of argument, a full-time live-in maid will cost you about $500 a month. That's still really cheap, people. $500 a month means you a paying someone $125 a week to clean your house, wash your dishes and clothes, scub your floors, dust, straighten up, all that stuff maids do. (In my opinion, it's still not enough.) So why lie about it and say it costs $200? So you encourage the Gringos to rip people off, thereby creating even more resentment in the locals towards us? Yeah, great idea. And people wonder why their maids steal from them. Pay a decent, living wage, treat people with respect, and if you can't do that, don't have a maid at all. I personally cannot afford to pay a maid what I believe a maid should be paid, plus I just don't like the whole inherent class thing that goes on, plus my last maid stole my wedding ring (and yes, we actually did pay her well), so I don't have a maid.

I receive on a bi-weekly or so basis a newsletter that is full of real estate info for Costa Rica. I really don't know why I'm still subscribed to the newsletter, as I find most of it bullshit and nothing I really care about. It's obvious the lies and half-truths told in order to sell real estate, and truly, it just pisses me off. For example, the writer of the newsletter once stated that there was no water problem in Escazu. What? Surely you don't mean this Escazu, here in Costa Rica? Cause I beg to differ. Ask anyone who lives there how often their water goes out during the summertime. Ugh.

Look, I live here, I even like living here, most of the time. But it doesn't do anyone any good to tell people they're going to find all the ameneties and infrastructure and this and that like they'd find back home; if you want to go live in the middle of the rainforest all by yourself somewhere, then maybe you'll find paradise, otherwise this country is a lot like any other country: it's got its good points and its drawbacks. Some of the reasons I live here are because my son can grow up without fear of being shot at school or arrested for bringing an aspirin to class, no one really bothers me about the fact that I have 9 dogs (other than our idiotic neighbor who complains about everything), the weather is good, and I have great friends. Some of the things I don't like are the always-increasing crime and the government's refusal to do anything about it (sticking their collective heads in the sand doesn't count), the way Costa Rica positions itself as so very eco-friendly when it is anything but, and the way Costa Ricans are so self-centered (along with their poor treatment of animals). I bet my neighbor has different things he likes and dislikes about living here (e.g., pros: legal prostitution, cons: cows in the lot next door).

So all I can say is, if you have any thoughts of coming down here to live or stay for an extended period of time, do your homework. Don't be that dumbass on House Hunters who bought a house without ever having lived in Jaco. Hell, we moved around the tiny town of Ciudad Colon five times! Even within one small town you'll have a whole bunch of different neighborhoods. By the time we finally figured out which part of town we liked best, esposo got a job offer and we moved to Grecia. Hmpf. Rent, walk around town, get to know some people (evne if they aren't Costa Ricans, try to get to know some other Gringos who have lived here long-term).

And, I will now take this opportunity to plug Michael Alan's blog, Do'in Costa Rica. My regular readers know that I rarely plug anyone's blog, but I think this one is great. He sometimes comments here, and I have to say, his blog is really, really funny and he always tells it like it is. And he swears a lot, like me, so what's not to like? :-D So go over there and check it out, especially if you're thinking of moving here!


  1. hehe....i was just reading..... and WOW- is it too early in our relationship to say I officially LOVE you (in a how a gay guy could love a lady that is married kinda way?)

    and yeah, you're totally spot on in this post. Do your homework, do your homework, do your homework............. and then do it again.

  2. As always an excellent posting.The
    way you write is awesome.Thanks. Adding more information will be more useful.


  3. Thank you, both! (Michael, did I never say thank you? I'm horrible!)
    I'm trying to blog as much as I can, but I have a "real" job now (meaning I go into an office), plus a family, animals, etc. etc. so I really don't do as much as I used to. But whenever I find something interesting to blog about, you'll hear it here! Which reminds me, I do need to post about Not-So-QuickPass... ;-)

  4. As someone who was recently asked to be on that show, and asked to LIE about actually buying a house and so on...I wouldn't believe any of it. The couple may not have even been a real couple, the real estate agent could have been any old average joe off the street, and they may or maynot have even lived there. They wanted us to lie about buying someone else's house because even though we are moving to another country, we weren't planning on buying a house! So the show may be good entertainment, but don't count on it as being "reality"

  5. mrsk, thank you for that info! I had read somewhere recently that you had to be in escrow to be on the show (making the whole "which house will they buy?" business bullshit), and now it seems as though you don't even need to buy a house at all! does not surprise me in the least, though, sadly. "Reality" doesn't even seem to come into play!