San Jose: a first impression of a modern Latin American city

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    There’s a gap that is found somewhere between Tijuana and the Amazon rain forest that doesn’t receive a great deal of coverage.

    We don’t know a huge amount about Costa Rica in Britain. In truth, while doing some research I didn’t come across an awful lot of positive things to be said about San Jose, set in the heart of a country with wildlife and stunning scenery in abundance. I read that it wasn’t safe and the backdrop of ugly concrete structures, fast food chains, relentless car horns and shoe shops blasting out reggaeton failed to inspire.

    First Steps

    Stepping off the airport bus in the center of downtown San Jose and I started to see what they were talking about. Lugging around a heavy backpack in a much warmer and more humid climate than home and trying to find my guesthouse in a place without addresses was exhausting. I thought the people I daske directions from were having a joke at my expense when they sent me different ways each time I asked and they might have been, or they might just not know which seems to be the norm.

    Use a little imagination though and you see a bustling and progressive Latin American city with more than one or two attractive landmarks. The old colonial houses now used as museums, schools and hospitals among other things have a distinctly Latin American and charming feel to them and some of the squares and parks are peaceful and interesting.

    San Jose is Changing

    It is when you get to know the place and the people that live here though that you start to understand it better. Driven by the educated, culturally aware and savvy younger generation, it feels that San Jose is changing. My new flatmates represent my point well; skilled programmers, developers and professionals working for multinational companies, nationally renowned DJ’s, experiences of living in Europe and fluent in 2 or more languages. They and their friends have taken me to the growing number of trendy coffee shops, modern bistros and bustling bars with the sort of energy found in hip areas of Barcelona, London or Portland.

    North Americans in particular have known for a while now about la pura vida and how Costa Rica makes a great place to kick back and enjoy a simpler life. Are we soon to see though the rise of San Jose into wider international awareness? With a direct flight from London to San Jose set to start next spring, legitimate universities and bustling city life set in the middle of a stunning country, there might be more and more young people like me trying out San Jose.

    [quote_box_center]Tim is 27 years old and from England. He has spent the last 5 years working with food & drink, running bars and restaurants as well as reviewing them. Having spent time in a few different European countries, he is now living in San Jose and exploring Latin America while writing for TCRN’s The Great Escape.

    Are you an expat or a traveler interested in sharing your story on The Great Escape? Email a sample article to [email protected] to apply.[/quote_box_center]

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