A lot of times when I am touring people around the area looking at some great properties and all the conveniences that the area has to offer, I tell this to folks in my car all the time. Just this past week Alfredo and Audrey, a great couple from Maui Hawaii, yes that’s right Hawaii. See they decided to make the move to Costa Rica. Over a year ago they had contacted me asking lots of questions about Costa Rica. I told them straight out. “Look you live in Hawaii, a tropical paradise, the best way to describe Costa Rica, and I am a bit biased, is to get on a plane come for a month and travel the whole country. See all the beauty that this small country has to offer. I told them to think about what Hawaii was 30 years ago and you have Costa Rica, except with the exception, IT IS BETTER! Low and behold they took my advice and came for a month, they traveled almost the entire country looking at areas they would consider to relocate to and basically said to me, Well you were right Joe, while many parts of Costa Rica reminds us of Hawaii, we do not want to be off the grid that much. This area you live in would be where we want to live as well there are just so many advantages and services. DUH!! Sometimes no matter how much you tell people the truth they need to find out for themselves.
So Audrey and Alfredo made the decision to make the move to Costa Rica. They sold both their homes in Hawaii moved all their stuff by container to California as a holding location until they find their dream property in Costa Rica.
Anyway back to the grocery store. Last Friday I had some other folks, Darren and Jacqueline from Canada, closing on an grand ocean front penthouse condo, one just to die for and I wanted to present them with a bottle of champagne to celebrate their new purchase. So I headed in to town to the grocery store. Yes you can buy liquor in the grocery store even at 8am in the morning; got to love Costa Rica! Bet you can’t do that in Hawaii. Any way I walk in and made my way to the aisle with all the booze. I grabbed a bottle Moet Chandon and as I turned I see this woman further down the aisle, she looked really familiar but I am only seeing the back of her. So I casually walk that way to try to get a look at her face. Low and behold with was Audrey. She Alfredo and Bella, their beautiful Rottweiler, had arrived on a red eye from Los Angeles that morning which got in at 6:30 am. We Hugged and I asked her “where is Alfredo?” “Oh he is out in the car with Bella waiting for me. I just wanted to get some things and go back to the condo you helped us rent and crash for the day.” Then Audrey proceeds to tell me that she is surprised that she thought things in the grocery store would be much cheaper then Hawaii.
So I took a look in her basket and what do I see? A six pack of Heineken, IMPORTED! A bag of Snyders pretzels, IMPORTED! A container of Middle Eastern hummus, IMPORTED! A box of Nabisco Wheat thins, IMPORTED! The list goes on and a bunch of cosmetics. I looked her straight in the eyes and said “Audrey we are going shopping together when you get rested and settled in” She laughed at me said “I know how to shop do you think I made it this far in life with going to the grocery at least once a week.” I was thinking, yes you may have but you do not know how to shop like a Tico.
This scenario happens often; North Americans come here on vacation, go grocery shopping and then freak out when they get to the cash register. Reason being, they usually purchase item that they know, brands that are familiar and a good many of them are imported. Hence the higher price and sticker shock. The other thing is they are drawn to the fancy big box grocery stores with the bright lights, rotisserie ovens, Sushi station, well displayed produce and deli and eat counters.
I ended up taking Audrey out shopping once they settled in. I took her to the farmers market in Liberia, a short and easy drive from Playa Hermosa. She was totally blown away by the quality and the supper low prices of produce. See nothing Imported. Then I took her to the Mercado central, what a neat experience this place is, butcher shops, little soda restaurants, shoe stores, flower shop and the list goes on. Again Audrey was pleasantly pleased at the prices. When we headed back toward Hermosa, I stopped at great butcher shop that specializes in beef. Have you ever had the beef from the grocery stores here? You might as well chew your sandals or braise it for hours in a crock pot. We purchased a whole tenderloin of beef, this where the filet mignon comes from. All cleaned up and ready to cut into steaks for a whopping $29.00 USD. She was blown away, she said on Maui that same cut of beef would have been over a hundred dollars. THERE YOU GO!
Then once back in the area I took her to the full blow grocery store and taught her how to shop locally, Meaning at least for me and it works, reading the labels on the back see where it is made and if made in the US, Canada or anyplace else outside of central America, you can be well assured you are spending more.
So to help my friends and clients get acclimated, I like to take them to the grocery store even before they ask. It is a lot easier to explain when standing there in the aisle comparing products made in Central America and those that are imported verses them asking me while I am driving why things are so expensive.
Most people do not like going to the grocery store, it is a necessity and for most men it is a chore that they don’t like, me on the other hand I like it, as being a retired chef all things related to food interest me, again hence why I like grocery shopping and getting to really experience the Costa Rica way of life.