Patricia Richer, expatriate chef-restaurateur in Costa Rica

Mondassur met Patricia Richer, an expatriate in Costa Rica who has opened a French restaurant in Costa Rica. She talks to us about her expatriation experience and her experience of the healthcare system in South America and specifically in Costa Rica.

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Why did you choose to move to Costa Rica?

It’s a question I’m often asked: why Costa Rica and why did you leave such a beautiful country as France to settle here?

As an entrepreneur, I found that the situation in France was becoming increasingly restrictive, both from a social and economic point of view, and was making my attempts at entrepreneurship more complex. Costa Ricans are astonished by this move, as France represents a model of achievement, success and the future. They are very respectful of our choice.

They are very admiring. For them, it’s a form of courage, of deep respect, to leave one’s roots, friends and family behind, to launch out into the unknown in order to realize one’s own dreams.

Could you tell us about your restaurant in Costa Rica?

Through my French gastronomy company La Terrasse, I wanted to bring abroad a modern, democratized style of cuisine that was my own, driven by a passion that had remained unchanged for many years with my restaurants in the Var region. My own business in Costa Rica was a breath of fresh air. To offer Costa Rican customers a special approach to French cuisine, where the aesthetics and quality of each product are paramount. A far cry from the race for volume of cutlery, for quantity.

Singularity is a requirement. Here, every ingredient is of the highest quality. I always like to remind people that we are free to create, to constantly imagine, to invent on a daily basis and to push our limits with every ingredient. Unexpected combinations of spices and flavors. Nothing is impossible; each person embodies his or her own philosophy.

What do you like about Costa Rica?

I was seduced by the historic district of San José where I live, off the beaten tourist track. I felt that my life here matched my desires. Sometimes we’re looking for a place to land, and we know that’s where we have to put down our suitcases. It’s as simple as that. This is where my husband and I embark on projects that are as exciting as they are daring.

It was while walking around town that I discovered this pretty house built in 1927. Creative to the core, we turn this place into a little corner of France. I’ve learned so much here in Costa Rica, received so much that I wanted to give back a little of what it’s given me. Opening my home is a habit for me, as my friends know. So welcoming Costa Ricans and sharing our experience and traditions with them is wonderful!

Tell us about an experience in Costa Rica

Travel opens us up to diversity and seems useful for our development and fulfillment. Moving to a foreign country means putting our knowledge into practice, giving new life to our certainties and discovering a new experience.

Knowing how to get involved, finding a new joie de vivre in a different culture.

Initially, we’re in a period of curiosity and interest in the new country: discovery, enthusiasm, fascination. Then you’re really confronted with the realities of daily life and the difficulties of the country: you feel an emptiness and very often nostalgia. Gradually, after 2 years, we distance ourselves by accepting our new lifestyle and adapting our habits to the new culture. We’re reassured, finally replacing our old habits with new ones. We are more objective in managing situations and able to function freely.

The support of Costa Ricans in the acceptance of the country is primordial and necessary to find its own balance. We therefore need to successfully organize this process in order to build ambitious projects. Because we can’t change our country or our culture without taking this step. Today, we’re more objective and thoughtful. We look back on the things we missed so much, the things that shocked us. And so, open-mindedness creates great Franco-Costa Rican relations.

What was your experience of the Costa Rican healthcare system?

When it comes to healthcare, consultations and medicines are poorly reimbursed and overpriced, even if you join the country’s social security system. It is true that private medical insurance should be considered for people living abroad. But annual fees are very high. For my part, I try to stay healthy! For an emergency at the hospital, the treatment is free, as I’ve experienced: a cut on my finger and a few stitches.

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