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TEFL Training In Costa Rica | 03/22/2016

5 Tips Every Woman Should Know about Living in Latin America

Written by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica


 "Approximately 60% of the 250,000 English teachers abroad are women, and while you may depart for your adventure teaching English abroad as a “single” woman, you will soon find that you are not alone as you begin your new life."

-International TEFL Academy

As always recommended, research the part of the world you are going to.  Here are our five tips for women coming to Latin America.

1 - Pay attention to what you wear.

As foreigners in Latin America, we stand out, especially if you can't pass for being latina. So to avoid unnecessary or dangerous attention, choose to dress appropriately.  Take your cue from what the local women wear. If they aren't wearing shorts, try to avoid wearing shorts. If they only wear short dresses when dancing, don't wear short dresses when shopping during the day. 

Research the country and even region within the country before packing for your time abroad.  For example, here in Costa Rica, most of the local women only wear shorts when working out or at the beach.  If you are moving to Heredia or San Jose, don't expect to see many ticas wearing shorts.  And if you choose to wear them, be ready for more attention, whistles, catcalls and horn honking.  Which brings me to my next point.

2 - Prepare yourself for catcalls.

Depending on where you are originally from, this might be something you are not used to. Most men in Latin America are not afraid or ashamed to let you know how they think you look, even in public. Even with their girlfriend or wife on their arm. They will look you up and down and even turn around to watch you walk in the other direction. Did I mention even if their wife is right next to them?

Having discussed this with women from Costa Rica, they say they've grown up with it and have come to expect it. Some have even honestly told me that if they go a day without any catcalls or comments, they think they look really bad.

It's your choice how you choose to react.  Some foreign women choose to completely ignore it and keep walking. Others enjoy it and smile or give a flirty look back, while others get angry. To be honest, I haven't seen anything productive come out of this type of reaction.

3 - Dating probably isn't going to be the same.

Unfortunately, foreigner women, especially North Americans, have gained a bad reputation in some parts of Latin America for being big "partiers" and for being "easy." So if that is not who you are and you have no intentions of living that lifestyle while here, take precautions. 

If you're arranging to meet a guy you met in a bar, on a dating app or even a student, choose to meet him in a public place.  If possible, take a friend with you the first time to be on the safe side. 

Make sure expectations are clear.  Looking for something serious or not, I recommend clarifying what you both want. Like already mentioned, some latino men think we are only here for fun and games. 

Most young people in Latin America live with their families until they get married, so you can imagine how this how affects a dating relationship.  Plan on meeting his family very early in your relationship.  They will probably be very involved in your relationship as well, and you might be expected to go to weekly dinners or "cafecitos" at the very least. Also anticipate him wanting to spend a lot of time at your place.   Can't blame him!  

Buying a car in Latin America is quite expensive and is often considered a luxury.  You might be using more public transportation on dates than you are used to.  Not that this is a problem, just may be different. 

Obviously you come from different cultures and are probably communicating with each other in a second language or multiple languages, so you will learn a lot about yourself and the importance of communication. 

Speaking as a foreign woman married to a Costa Rican man, I say go for it! Have fun but be safe! 

4 - Looking foreign is often perceived as being wealthy.

Many people here look at us and see dollar signs, regardless if we actually come from money or even if we are taking the public buses just like them.  And being women, we are seen as an easier target when it comes to theft and pick pocketing.  So play it safe.  Do your best to protect yourself and your belongings. 

We don't recommend carrying more than you are willing to lose.  If you are terrified of losing your nice camera or your smart phone, avoid taking them with you, especially when you go out at night. 

Most criminals are never alone, so we don't recommend fighting.  You may be in over your head. 

They also look for women who are distracted: on their cell phone, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking, because they are off guard and can be overpowered. 


Read more tips and concerns about CRIME IN COSTA RICA. 


5- Make smart choices and use your common sense.

Unless you're fluent in the language of the culture you are living in, accept that you won't always know what's going on.  So stay alert.  Pay attention to your surroundings and educate yourself about where you are going.  Research the bus routes and stops.  Most hostel and hotel workers are very informed and can tell you what services are offered and what the area is like.  If you find yourself in a place that makes you feel uncomfortable, take a taxi or ask a police officer for help.  We recommend carrying a small amount of emergency taxi cash.

When riding a bus, try to sit near the driver.  Use common sense when talking to people you don't know, especially if they make you feel uncomfortable.  Don't give them too many details about where live and work or where you are going. 

Be aware of what your body language is saying.  Keep your head up.  Act confident.  Walk with purpose.  Panicky, lost, confused or timid foreigners tend to be susceptible to criminal acts. 

As you travel, you will see you are not alone.  You will become fast-friends with women and men from around the world that are like-minded.  You will work, live and travel together and enjoy experiencing the beauty of Latin America.  So sign up today for your TESOL course!  

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