A move to Costa Rica will allow you to start over with a new life and experience a new culture in a healthy environment. You will be able to enjoy the benefits of living in an amazing country with strong democratic traditions, innovative environmental programs, family-oriented cultural activities, an ideal climate and an affordable cost of living.
If you are considering a move to Costa Rica, you should leave your old baggage behind, and then you’ll be able to adapt to the local culture much easier.
Foreigners who do manage to stay for a long time in Costa Rica do so because they possess patience and flexibility. People who become frustrated here and decide to go back home do not do so because they could not find suitable housing or a car. They leave because they could not adapt to the local culture
If you are expecting things to be the same as in your home country then you are bound to get disappointed. Most folks from larger countries have become accustomed to things such as promptness and efficiency. That’s their baggage from the industrial and technology-driven world.
Even after living here for decades, I occasionally find that some tasks can become challenging. When this occurs, I simply remind myself; “If you don’t expect much, you won’t get disappointed.” Then I step back, take a second look at the situation that is beginning to frustrate me and remind myself where I am, who I’m dealing with and why I’m here. Then the situation at hand doesn’t seem so irritating.
Sometimes unexpected trials and differences in cultural understandings make the transition more difficult than expected.
Years ago, I noticed several cultural differences that used to make my life in Costa Rica frustrating:
- The concept of time that I brought with me from North America
- Expectations of efficiency that I had become accustomed to
- Misunderstandings with the local language that I needed to learn
Cultural differences in comprehending time can be attributed to the fact that Costa Ricans, (aka Tico’s.) place different values on time than folks from other countries. People in traditional cultures tend to have similar attitudes toward time, and Costa Rica is still a more traditional culture. Industrialized cultures tend to think of time as money.
Tico’s live for the pleasure of ‘now’ and when necessary, they take the time to exchange a little work for enough money to get by on.
Some folks are continually bothered by what they view as a lack of punctuality on the part of the Ticos. Some Ticos will tell you, “I’ll be there manana”, but they usually don’t show up. Often they are not hours late, but days late, with no excuse, no phone call, no apology. This is referred to as Tico Time. Things get done here in their own time, not in the time you want to impose.
New residents who can slow down and adjust to Tico Time, have a much better chance of making a success of their new lifestyles.
For example, obtaining residency or a driver’s license here can take longer than expected. The list of frustrations for some goes on and on. The bottom line is, if you are not able to slow down and adapt to the Tico culture you are probably going to end up back where you came from.
If you do not understand the culture, you get frustrated and some folks become angry, and this offends the Ticos. Fortunately, Ticos tend not to follow verbal aggression with physical aggression, creating in reality, a live and let live culture.
Misinterpretations sometimes arise because Costa Ricans view pushy foreigners as rude, while some foreigners find Ticos to be indirect or even dishonest. Many foreigners feel that they have had to learn to decode what Ticos are really trying to say. It’s not that Ticos are deceptive; it’s that they don’t want to disappoint you. If they don’t know the correct answer, they think; “I don’t know, but I want to offer my best guess.” You have to learn to listen carefully and read between the lines here. For instance, a simple word in Spanish like “ya” can mean “it’s already done”, I’m doing it right now”, or “I’ll get to it soon”
The option to live a lifestyle similar to that in a large North American city is here if you want it.
If you check out the selection and pricing in any of the major shopping malls or at the local supermarkets you’ll find that most imported products are pricey and that’s because products from other countries incur import duties. These duties are built into the price you pay. If you want to live and consume the same products available from overseas, they are available here, but more expensive than those produced locally.
I personally prefer the old days, before there were shopping malls filled with international retailers and restaurants. I do not miss any of what these international franchises have to offer. I patronize typical Costa Rican businesses, and as a result, my budget is much more affordable.
It’s nice to have options and that’s a philosophy I recommend. Plans tie you down. Options offer freedom. You don’t irritate someone because you exercised an option. But there are times when plans do not materialize as expected and some folks get irritated. If you keep your options open and your plans to a minimum, your life will become simpler.
If you learn to live like the Tico’s, adopt their attitude and adapt to their culture, you’ll probably live longer and happier!
The writer, Tom Rosenberger has lived and worked in Costa Rica since 1992 and from his travels throughout the country and years of residing and working here, he has acquired a wealth of knowledge about living and doing business in Costa Rica.
If you have questions and would like to contact Tom, click here.