[OP-ED] Costa Rica Pura Vida Seduction!

Openly, I have no evidence except “intuition” to justify my position. However, I believe that most American and Canadian expats who live and invest in Costa Rica are seduced and logical thinking is mostly absent until they run out of money or patience.

The 90 day perpetual tourist or semi-resident is a risk taker and if the truth be known adds little to the society in the sense of economics and community. They are tourists by definition, on a limited budget and need to hide from authorities as they take on burger flipping jobs and surfboard rentals at the beach. That is not to say they lack value, only that they take away rather than contribute income. This is nothing new; most nations are faced with the same dilemma, especially Mexico.

The 90 day wonders, so to speak, take jobs away from the locals but attract tourists which in turn provide more jobs. After all it is difficult to employ a Tico with dreadlocks, sun bleached hair who is a surfer that speaks English, right?

Then, on the other hand the less romantic life of a 90 day tourist is a job in customer service, a sales organization that walks on the dark side of illegal employment which hurts Costa Ricans who need jobs.

Sport books are prime examples but so are the most familiar names in so called “customer service” which advertise on Craigslist which promise fame and fortune to sell everything from gold futures to erectile dysfunction pills at ½ price directly imported from India.

A young person who is bilingual tends to head for these jobs because they pay more than the minimum wage and are “cool”, in a social sense. It is almost like a fraternity of one person passing along a better work deal to the other while all lack any sort of employee loyalty.

How many young people are sucked out of the critical bi-lingual job market remains an unknown. But enough to scare off EVERY political party. Customer service and even sales is one thing, but non-tax paying sport books are mid-term losers no matter how much money they might contribute to Costa Rican political parties.

Consider, all of these customer service organizations, be they sales or actually focused on customer satisfaction do not pay Costa Rican taxes. Central America’s largest office complex is Forum 1 closely followed by SARET in or near Heredia. They are each celebrated guests of the government and do not pay corporate, real estate nor income taxes. They are exempt and that is what attracted them here in the first place. Fortunately the better ones pay the employee portion into the public health care system (Caja); some do not.

Not to mention these firms are paying deeply discounted prices on utilities such as electricity while avoiding our national telephone company humongous bills, ICE, because they employ VoIP or (Voice over Internet Protocol.)

While the government would very much like to impose some sort of tax on casinos, call centers and the infamous sport book operations, these companies (a) provide the most non-agricultural employment in Costa Rica and (b) are heavy contributors to politicians, their causes and campaigns.

We have a large bilingual (English-Spanish) population, mostly made up of youth in their twenties. They win their first job in customer service and/or sports book, get paid every other week a sum greater than what might be provided by national enterprise, are grind into the ground with calls and metrics but most of all they lack the valuable, the most valuable education which will pull CR up to a respectable level, if not a developed country status.

In short, the tools and the ingredients are there to improve tourism experiences, to work in travel, to be a part of larger companies such as Walmart, Intel, HP, etc., but the educational level is being prostituted to quick no brain and no future money.

As to the future: very limited except jumping from center to center which now seems without end, but also without future. These young people are being left behind for lack of education, lack of specific skills and yielding to the temptation of the “now” instead of tomorrow.

About Juan Sebastian Campos

Juan Sebastian Campos An expat from the U.S., educator and writer in English and Spanish since 1978 with a doctorate in business administrations (DBA) from the United States and Germany. A feature writer for ABC News, Copley Press and the Tribune Group with emphasis on Central America.

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6 Responses to "[OP-ED] Costa Rica Pura Vida Seduction!"

  1. Kathleen Noah  14 March 2014 at 11:18 am

    We own our home, are spending every dime we have on remodeling and do not yet have residency. We do not work outside the home, nor do we plan to. Yes, we are on a limited income, and yes, more money would be nice,but we understand that we have neither the time nor legal status to take a job from a citizen. I feel we DO add value to both the economics and our community in general, by spending our limited income here and exploring volunteer opportunities to enrich the lives of those less fortunate. I know many “perpetual tourists” in the same situation. I find your generalization slightly offensive.

  2. Big Dog  14 March 2014 at 11:55 am

    Slightly offensive? How about just plain offensive. First – what a poorly written article. You are an editor and writer? Did you forget how to edit and maybe did you also forget how to construct a piece that flows rather than contradicts and jumps from theme to theme. First you write about the “illogical Americans and Canadians” than the 90 day tourists – are they one in the same? Can’t tell according to your verbiage and writing “style?” Then you go on to complain that sport book jobs are taken up by PT’s but then you write that sport book jobs are junk jobs anyways… so why the complaint – seems contradictory. The rest is so poorly written I can’t understand your point(s). I find nothing in Google that associates you with ABC news. Can you verify your credential for us Juan? You know those that prosper here have a motto: trust but verify… Also you are writing to an English speaking audience so why don’t you “write” about useful subject such as how to coexist with Tico ethnocentrism? Stuff expat English/Spanish speakers trying to assimilate can use, rather than this ill rhymed pseudo-intellectual dribble… Less quantity more quality Juanito and how about some honesty as well regarding your credentials.

  3. Likk Mei  14 March 2014 at 12:52 pm

    What is this guy , a Miami Cuban ?
    How about a “perpetual tourist” that[‘s been here (in and out) for 31 years and employs 15 plus in the tourism sector and twice that in the ag sector and even set up a boat building taller with a Tico. Pays all aginaldo, seguros, INS-on premises housing-free food. Surely he doesn’t benefit the local economy like some meathead “writer” tossing money at Dominican chix at the Rey..lol Go hug a republican or something wouldja /

  4. Big Dog  15 March 2014 at 1:50 pm

    “Likk Mei” – hahahahaha “good handle” (that was a word play as well) – I have read two bloggers here so far and they are both anemic – the guy with the dog (photo) talking about Ticas (wonder why he has his photo with a dog – rather than a Tica? Shouldn’t we know better to take advice about women from him!) and this guy whose photo looks like a French aristocrat from the Bonaparte era! These guys ain’t no Garland Baker that is for sure…

  5. Fernando Gerdano  19 March 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Juan Sebastian, need you learn write to lessons take.

  6. USA  27 March 2014 at 6:36 am

    What a horrible article. I’m surprised you continue to have employment with this website. I could write better drivel than that. Nothing but an attack on PTs who employ thousands of Ticos. This borders on racism.

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