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ONE OF THE MAIN CULTURAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE
U.S. & COSTA RICA:
Angry attack is the quickest way to get thrown out of an office
By Edward Bridges* Special to A.M. Costa Rica
A hot temper gets you the door in Costa Rica. If you lose your temper with a Costa Rican at a Costa Rican business, you may find yourself being asked to leave.
That is in contrast to an article Tuesday that pointed out cultural differences between Chinese and North American customer service workers. North American service workers are more likely to sabotage rude customers, while Chinese react by disengaging from customer service altogether, said the study.
Living in Costa Rica for more than 20 years, I have had the opportunity to view our North American culture objectively from a Costa Rican point of view. Coming from a long heritage of screamers in my North American family line, I have often been asked by my Costa Rican daughters not to get angry when their friends are visiting because that is considered very abnormal and unacceptable behavior in Costa Rica and their friends will think I have a mental disorder.
Working with many North American clients over the years, I have seen this numerous times. Being a bully and threatening employees when things do not go well is not uncommon in our culture, and North American employees are trained to deal with hostile customers. Costa Ricans are not. Their first response, if you lose your temper, is they will often ask you to leave the establishment or they will simply walk away and not return to deal with your complaint. If you are dealing with government employees here, multiply this response by ten. They absolutely will not tolerate anything short of a completely polite and calm conversation about your problem.
My two oldest girls have worked in call centers in Costa Rica offering customer service to North American customers. They found it amusing to report to me how crazy some North Americans are when complaining about a service or product on the phone. This is something they are not used to at all in Costa Rica. Ironically, they both learned how to sometimes get the customer to laugh at their own hostile behavior by responding in a completely polite and normal tone to often ridiculous complaints. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons American companies prefer opening call centers here.
So if you want to get great service here, never raise your voice, even a little bit, when dealing with a Costa Rican employee. Keep in mind, in most cases the employee was not personally responsible for the complained about activity or action.
I remember a Costa Rican business associate pointing out a common difference between our countries. In Costa Rica when your phone call is answered by the secretary, Costa Ricans will often spend a minute or so greeting the secretary with social pleasantries like "How are you today, Jessica, etc." In the U.S.A., such an approach will often irritate a busy secretary who just wants to put your call through and get back to work.
If you promptly ask a Costa Rican secretary to connect your call, this will often be regarded as rude, but they will comply. Or they may just tell you he is out of the office, when he is really there.
* Mr. Bridges of Desamparados has lived in Costa Rica for 20 years.
Why Retire in Latin America? By Rosemary Rein (Jeff will offer his opinion after each category!)
That was a headline on AOL News that caught our attention with this description of Costa Rica:
"It's got the good weather of Florida, but a much cheaper cost of living. And it's a lot more adventurous than Daytona. Politically stable, Costa Rica has a thriving industry of recruiting American retirees. Thousands of Americans are spread throughout Mexico, Panama and the rest of the region."
As residents of Costa Rica for 10 years, we are often asked the reason why we moved here in the first place .. so here's our Top 10 list for those of you contemplating your own adventure, living, working and or retiring in paradise.
10), Climate, Climate, Climate.. You can almost pick your preferred temperature in Costa Rica and we selected 72 degrees year round at our home in the Central ValleyMountains. But what about the Rainy/Green Season? Sure, we have about 2 hours of rain during our "winter" months each day, but most mornings are beautiful and sunny. That sure beats Fargo in Winter and Phoenix in Summer! We also happen to delight in that expected afternoon rain in green season for a few hours. In fact if you haven't experienced the sound of rain falling on a tin roof, with a good book, frankly, you haven't lived.
Jeff: Here in Jaco Beach we experience daily averages of about 78 degrees with only a few days yearly over 90. What I love about this area is that I am able to go with short sleeve shirt, sandles and shorts, ALL year-round. And at home, day and night, I keep all the windows open. At night it cools down to 65. The rains keep Jaco green year-round and begin in May generally with about 2 hours of sporadic rain until October. That's the rainiest time of year in this area and when most Ex-pats like to go visit the States. October 2009 had the least amount of rain in years, but things are still green!
9) Nature Lover's Paradise: From rain forest to crisp mountains to experiencing the "Gifts from the Sea', Costa Rica is a Nature Lover's Paradise. Each morning Barry and I hike out our front door to the countryside where following a cow on the road is as common and much more delightful than interstate traffic.
Jeff: I love living at the beach, where I can leave my house unlocked, walk-out barefoot to the sand, and enjoy the peacefulness that Playa Hermosa offers. Obviously Costa Rica is a nature lovers paradise and you will discover the joys of the beach, the forest, the mountains, and rivers all in a single day if you so choose. The quality of surfing and fishing is of course world renowned. The most popular national park, Manuel Antonio is only one hour away, and our favorite volcano, Arenal, is only 3.5 hours. Want to be in a tropical forest? Go 10 minutes north of Jaco for Carara national park. White sandy beach? Check out Punta Leona!
8) Health Care: As Business Owners in the United States faced with staggering insurance costs, we sought out a location for retirement that would provide, quality, affordable health care. Costa Rica has U.S. Trained Dr
's with state of the ArtHospitals and Medical Facilities. It also has a thriving medical tourism industry. When we first moved to Costa Rica, private insurance cost $1400 annually for the two of us covering most of our medical costs and prescriptions. What this meant was state of the art care when hospitalized. Third World? I don't know about that. In my private hospital room, I had a flat screen t.v. dining menu options and a companion bed for my husband to stay with me. While our insurance has increased slightly as we have aged, I believe the care in Costa Rica unbeatable.
Jeff: When we hear all the horrors of the U.S.-Canadian medical system we smile, especially regarding the costs! Of course one must have the private insurance to insure care with respect!
Overall Costa Rica is a medical-dental destination for U.S.-Canadian residents due to the highly professional services offered here from 50% to 75% off the costs of similar treatments at home! Some Costa Rican hospitals are now working with U.S. medical plans-ask your provider! Another great advantage here is being able to go to a pharmacist without a prescription, and 90% of the time receiving what you need. And you can even buy just a couple of pills, not the entire box!!! As a 58 year young man, I pay $1650 annual for my international medical policy and recently my friend, his wife, and child were quoted $3100!
7) Adventure: We probably saw too many Raiders of the Lost Ark movies, but we wanted the next chapter in our life after the rat race to be a "True Learning Adventure!" Flying through the Forest Canopy, White Water Rafting are just two examples and we have a long list of adventures still on the list. Every day, daily living in Costa Rica is an adventure from exploring exotic fruits to rescuing a sloth. I have to say it beats going to Wal-Mart.
Jeff: Whether being a couch potato, surfer, boatsman, golfer or an extreme adventurer, the Jaco area offers more options than almost any other area in Costa Rica! Driving for many in Costa Rica is also an adventure and we love the fact that the Jaco area has no traffic signals! Drunk driving laws are now strictly enforced, and are no longer a joke.....
6) Social Community: We could keep ourselves entertained 7 days and nights a week with Costa Rica's busy and diverse ex pat community. There's a club for every interest (Birding, Hiking, Bridge, Gourmet Food and Wine, Volunteer Opportunities) just name it and it's here. Foreign residents find each other at social centers and hubs and groups like the Newcomers Organization that help with the transition of moving to a foreign country.
Jeff: Jaco has a great community of Expats from the States and Canada and there is no reason to be bored with all the groups and events going on. Don't believe me, just check www.cenpac.net or the Costa Rica Living group, or the Tico Times groups announcements.
5) Safety: While we now look back to the good old days when there was virtually little crime when we came to Costa Rica. Sadly we are not immune to the increasing crime rates that you find almost everywhere in the world, much linked to the growing drug problem. Still crime tends to be more property related than violent and so we have added precautions like a home security system. What should be noted is there is more violent crime in most major U.S. Cities in one day, yet the media will spotlight any violent crime against U.S Citizens that occurs outside of her borders. Costa Rica, it should be noted, is also a peace-loving and stable country with no Army, often referred to as the Switzerland of the Americas.
Jeff: The world has gotten to be a more violent place, but I still feel safer here than I did in California. You just gotta be smart, and know that robberies occur more often here against Gringos because they know-believe that we will immediately replace all the stolen goods (whether we can afford them or not!) Years ago guns were never used, now unfortunately they are a little more common.
HOWEVER, I feel extremely fortunate that in my 16 years of living here, I have never been robbed nor burglarized! (yes I am knocking on wood!). Jaco has increased dramatically the presence of police so now in their new cars and trucks you will see the Municipal force, the Transit police, Tourist police and the OIJ,(FBI wannabees). It ain't perfect but its getting better all the time!
4) Cost of Living: Indeed there are financial benefits of being a U.S. citizen living in Costa Rica. One of the attractions for us in selecting and moving to Costa Rica was the (tax-free foreign earned income benefit --currently $82,400 for each person) Another? property taxes on our new contemporary home in Escazu, Costa Rica were a whopping $100.00 a year. That sure beat $6,000 a year property taxes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We indeed would pay more for better infrastructure and suppport to the people of our host country. There was also no heating or air-conditioning expenses to contend with and the real kicker indulgence for me was massages were $10.00 an hour. I remember saying "I'm so there" There is no doubt, that we could not afford our current lifestyle in the United States and while Costa Rica is unfortunately being increasingly discovered and developed, there are still affordable options for creating a quality lifestyle at a fraction of U.S. prices.
Jeff: Yes Costa Rica is the most expensive place to live in Central America. Yes gas costs almost double here compared to the States. However-how much do you pay for a maid or an electrician or plumber or mechanic or secretary? Maids average $3.00 an hour part-time or $250 MONTHLY for a live-in. An electrician, plumber, or car mechanic will generally charge $10-$18 an hour for small jobs, and a bilingual secretary in Jaco will cost between $600 to $1000 monthly.
Regarding utilities: cell phones are incredibly cheap here-no charge for incoming calls; regular land-home phones are much less than the States; electric has just gone up tremendously, water is very cheap, and gas is 50% more expensive than the States (although still cheaper than Europe!)
Food costs: "As a foodie" I have always been aware of what we have and don't have here in Costa Rica. A huge difference of imported goods has occurred over the past 16 years, to satisfy the most discriminating palate: from organic granola and soy milk to imported "hot links" or New Zealand rack of lamb or Alaskan King Crab.
Fruits and vegetables are of course "dirt" cheap with great fresh picked flavors; the basics of rice, beans, breads, milk, chicken, eggs are similar to the States, and yes we do pay more for imported goods. Fish is widely available at almost half the U.S. price, although lobster and shrimp are not. Quality beef is not readily available, except to the discriminating shopper. The newly passed free trade agreement with the U.S. should reduce all imported food costs-soon!
The really big savings is in the unbelievably low property taxes for your home, and the fact that there still are no capital gains taxes in Costa Rica!!!
3) Warm and Hospitable Costa Rican People. Pura Vida! "That's a Costa Rican expression that means "pure life". Sunday morning is our favorite day for walking in the barrio...Mothers and Fathers walking hand in hand with their children to church reminding us of our own childhood. "It's like the United States in the 1950's" . There is tranquility and a commitment to family.
Jeff: Ah, this is one of the great benefits of living here. There is NO overt "Gringo" resentment and the Ticos are genuinely friendly! The ones in the countryside will offer you all kinds of assistance when you are in need. "Salt of the earth kind of folks." The ones from the city will look you in the eye, as the "fear" factor is so much less than the States! Smiles are easy to come by and the Ticos take great pride in their teeth, and in their clothes. In the tourist areas Ticos are generally eager to demonstrate they know some English.
The Costa Ricans know that they are the "land of peace", the nation without an army, and they are fiercely proud of this fact. They are also incredibly patriotic although always distrustful of their government, and they resent any Gringo that comes down here thinking that Costa Rica is a territory of the U.S. They know they have something special going on, especially compared to their neighbors!
2) Connected: Today's Ability to Work and Live Anywhere. Yes, we have wireless Internet and low-cost phone service in Costa Rica that enables us to work from home on the deck with parrots flying overhead. It's not everywhere in the country and certainly not deep in the rain forest, but technology has enabled us to work and stay connected with our offices and families and friends. Just 2.5 hour flight from Miami and 3 .5 hour flight from Houston, we are closer to many relatives and clients than they are with others living within U.S. borders.
Jeff: At my beachfront place in Hermosa, I have a phone, cable t.v., high speed internet, and a Satellite dish. The picture quality is generally better than the States, (OK, this probably changed for the U.S. with the digital switch) and there are plenty of channels in English, and one in French, Italian, German, Chinese, and jibberish!
1) The Mangos, The Monkeys, The Magic: I love to watch visitors in our learning retreats discover their own magic here while staying amidst the jewels of the Costa Rican rain forest. Forever changed from their journey to paradise, their discovery is almost child-like. I developed the brand for my speaking and retreat business from the voices of those who have discovered their own passion here. On seeing lava flow from an active volcano, a child-like WOW would be uttered competing only slightly with the volcanic rumble.
Jeff: I drive along the beach to get to work, with beautiful greenery all around me. The mountains serve as a beautiful backdrop to the entire Jaco area and the Sunsets are Spectacular. Monkeys can be seen with the naked eye from my balcony, as well as 20 species of beautiful birds.
Is this paradise? For some it is, and for others like me, its close enough!!!. C'mon down.............................
Rosemary Rein is the author of "Go Wild! Survival Skills for Business and Life" and a new book to be published in January 08 with Dr. Stephen Covey and Ken Blanchard entitled "The Blueprint for Success and Survival". Rosemary speaks internationally on Leadership, Customer Service and Creativity and sponsors personal growth and discovery retreats of Costa Rica. For additional information write Rosemary at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated June 15, 2010 from Inside Costa Rica;
We moved to Costa Rica in early 2000, after having visited a couple times a year since 1993. We knew from our first visit that we liked it here, but did not have the ability to retire at that time. I suppose my biggest complaint about the country would be that they have made the pensionado et al process so difficult and time-consuming, as well as expensive, including renewals, but I suppose that is true of all bureaucracies everywhere. The absolute worst was their requirement that my US car not only pass a smog-check, with the MECHANIC's signature notarized, then notarized again at the CR consulate in the United States, but then the very first thing that has to happen when the car enters Costa Rica is pass THEIR version of the smog check inspection!
(Jeff sez: this is why I recommend you buy your car in Costa Rica. It’s easier and your cash these days can enable you to sometimes get such a great deal that its like the taxes-duties are not included.)
At any rate, we moved here because we liked the weather, the people, and the cost of living. The first two are still fine. I also liked their laid-back way of life, though, and have emulated it, so I don't have a lot of patience with gringos who keep thinking that somehow the people HERE are supposed to change. I have a gringo friend who is always complaining about the way Tico's drive, especially the way they will stop in the middle of the street to chat with friends on the side of the road. Hey, I get to do it, too, then, and where am I going in such a hurry, anyhow? I don't care much for their habit of passing on blind curves, true, but if you passed only where it was legal you'd stay behind the same sugar-cane truck all the way from La Fortuna to San Ramon, just about. Considering the nature of the roads and the amount of driver training they get, I think Tico drivers are rather successful, on the whole. There are always the exceptions who drive too fast, or drunk, or pass dangerously, but every driving population I've ever encountered in quite a large number of the United States contains about the same percentage, seems to me.
Actually, I sometimes wonder where these complainers are driving, since my experience has been that Ticos are rather courteous in yielding right of way.
Even in congested San Jose traffic I've seen people manage to squeeze in off of a side street when they'd still be sitting there waiting for midnight in some US cities.
My wife once described Tico drivers as "intent"...you can have the right of way when it's your turn, but you have to be ready and waiting to take it, they're not going to sit there while you make up your mind. Strike while the iron is hot seems to be their motto. In rural areas, like where we live in La Fortuna, the other driver is as likely as not to graciously wave you ahead.
In more situations than you might imagine, I've been given what seems to me to be extra consideration in situations where I didn't understand enough Spanish to figure out what to do next. I don't think I've ever been refused help doing anything, and often offered it when I didn't need it. I'm 75 and my hair is, er, very very light blond, shall we say, and I make almost daily walks to the grocery store for exercise as well as necessities, and often when I'm walking home, puffing, some younger person--total strangers--will offer to carry a bag. I thank them, since I'm purposefully engaged in weight-bearing exercise for my health's sake, but they offer.
If fact, in general I have been so well treated in Costa Rica by Ticos that it has made me feel guilty about how little courtesy I unthinkingly missed offering to Spanish-speakers in my native California much of my life.
Frankly, sometimes I wonder how they manage to have such a friendly attitude toward gringos, since we sort of view a lot of them with some suspicion, ourselves.
If there's a perfect country then I haven't lived in it yet, and while there are a few things I could wish different about Costa Rica, perhaps, that's also true of the others, as well...just different things.
I like the “Pura Vida” attitude, the “si Dios quiere” philosophy, the fact that everyone you encounter, even strangers for the first time, shakes hands, from the kid who pumps your gas to the kids who stock the super market shelves, the bank guard as well as the bank manager, taxi drivers, waiters who unfailingly greet me by name and come by to say hello even not expecting more than the tip on the bill and many of them not even involved at my table. I enjoy their compliments on my disgraceful Spanish even while I feel ashamed it's not much better than it is.
Our 7-year-old is in the first grade and we're struggling learning Spanish while helping him with homework, while he tells us his teachers often call on him to help with their English, and on the whole we think the school system is pretty good, we're trying to help when we can to improve things.
So I can't be too sympathetic with the gringos I hear complaining when it seems to me there is so little to complain about compared with what is going on back in much of the United States, from what I read.
Pura vida, indeed!
No we don't take "siestas" like in Mexico!
Most Banks are open from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and do not close for lunch. Some Banks in tourist areas are open 9-6 everyday and saturdays 9-1, however this varies greatly with the bank and branch.
Steps away from our office is a very good bank, Banco BAC for changing money. The rates are great, the hours 9 to 6 plus Saturdays and it is MANDATORY you bring your passport. Don't bother arguing because even the recommended plasticized passport copies (available at the Jaco copiers across from our office) won't work. Also, sorry to say, Traveler's Checks are not that convenient here. Credit-debit cards are widely used with many tellers near our office. (Yes it seems many things are near our office-since we are in the center of Jaco!)
Government offices are open from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. usually. Most commercial businesses open from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m, (malls not found in Jaco are open 10-8), but in tourist towns 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. until 7 or 10 p.m.
Most restaurants open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm but closed between 3-5.
However most Costa Ricans eat early breakfasts with "Gallo Pinto", lunches between 12-3 usually are "casados"- beans, rice, salad, vegies, drink, and choice of chicken, or overcooked meat or fish for only $4 *gourmands need to say "termino medio" for fish, lobster, shrimp or meat at EVERY restaurant-because most
Ticos prefer "bien cocido". Ticos often have dinner after 7:00 and rarely are there early bird specials. However both sushi bars in Jaco have "happy hours" with reduced prices and great fish!
There is a 13% general sales tax applied everywhere but grocery stores, and most restaurants do add a 10% service tax. It has been brought to our attention that the entire 10% may not go to your waiter or waitress. So be aware of this when you see the propina line on your credit card slip. If you had great service, please tip generously (because great service isn't common here). Oh another tip: you have to ask for the check! The culture here feels it is rude to ask the Client if they want the check- so if you are in a hurry, ask for "la cuenta por favor."
Communication & Language: National or official languages:
1st Spanish spoken clearly
2nd Spanish slang “pachuco” 3rd Gringos butchering Spanish
4th Ticos butchering English 5th many Chinese dialects
6th Italian 7th German 8th French
Literacy rate (2009): HIGHEST LEVEL IN CENTRAL AMERICA!
96% can at least read stop signs however 95% ignore them.
50% go to Colegio. (colegio is called high school here, when they graduate they receive a “bachillerato”)
Land lines with direct-dial telephone services, fax, telex, radio (119 commercial and 17 public service institutions):
Approx. 90 TV Stations including Cable and Satellite
Bilingual operator assistance for international calls dial:116
Local information dial: 113
Long distance information dial: 124
Emergency dial: 911
Internet cafes are available in most towns and hotels, high speed available in many locations.
The Ten Things I Have Learned As an Ex-Pat in Costa Rica (There are many more but these are the highlights): By Alexandra L.
1) Patience is more than a virtue here. It is necessary in order to be happy here.
2) Resourcefulness: because I love it here I have found ways to "make do", to "create", and to substitute (while working in the kitchen,) that I never would have learned had I not moved here 13 years ago.
3) Awareness: because life moves slower here I have learned to look at the faces of people, at the roadside stand of flowers, at the landscape, and find new perception.
4) Through frustration and hardship, at times, I have learned to stick things out. The borders are close together here and I have learned to confront life because it is closer to me than any other place I have lived.
5)Listening. Spanish is not my native language. Therefore I have trained my inner ear, the one that not only listens to words, but listens to the meaning behind words...the hearing "eye". Thus communication for me has changed and deepened.
6) Affection: In the States, where my life was more hurried and more anonymous, I drew back from people more. The Costa Ricans have taught me it is ok to pause, to hug, to touch with kindness in a way I would have feared doing in the States. This affection is a tonic for me in my village, San Isidro de Heredia...that I crave when I am feeling down. Go buy a cucumber and get a hug and a quick joke from the vendors.
7) Letting go: A few years ago I stopped harping about things like Potholes, long lines, a lack of things I thought I needed to have here in order to be happy: Now I try to focus on what I can change and I leave the potholes alone and stare at the small houses, people walking, the far mountains with endless varieties of green.
8) Mystery: The occult and peculiar nature of a culture that I will never fully understand: I have come to more or less (!) realize that it is this very mysterious quality that gives the country its charm. I believe I will never come to grips with some of the attitudes here and I no longer try.
9) Humor. The Costa Ricans have great humour and wit, which is accessed of course through their language, so I don't catch it all. But I try to understand with my heart and thus I laugh with them and sometimes we are laughing about the same thing. Except for when they drive, they carry the "pura vida" attitude.
10) My priorities. When I visited for two months in the States recently, and observed how life has become there, I came back to Costa Rica and saw what has become important to me here: Clean air, love in its myriad manifestations, a lifestyle less spent on pursuing money, family life (my employees on the finca, I came to realize, are my nuclear family, good health (which the U.S. cannot give me since I am one of the great Un-insurables in the U.S), quiet time apart from the bustle that one becomes acustomed to in a society like the U.S. where upper class people barely even raise their own children. Every Ex-Pat here will have his or her own list. Hopefully, there is something to be gleaned from all.
Written in Escazu, Costa Rica 2007
ADOPT A TICO ATTITUDE AND ADAPT TO THEIR CULTURE Posted by: "Tom" Tue Apr 10, 2007
People spend hours on the internet learning about real estate, healthcare, transportation, and restaurants, but they often fail to invest in learning about the culture. This is a grave error because the majority of people who decide to go back home, don't do it because they couldn't find their favorite beverage or a suitable appliance. They leave because they couldn't adjust to the culture.
Those planning to live permanently in Costa Rica need to learn how to adopt a new attitude and adapt to the culture. The term "Culture Shock" has been used to describe the anxiety and feelings of disorientation experienced when people have to operate in a different cultural environment. That's when a person finds that the ways that things always have been done no longer work in a new culture. For example, the currency exchange, language, traffic and even the sense of humor change when a person enters another country.
Visitors to Costa Rica are often struck with how familiar things appear on the surface, and upon this assumption many make plans to stay permanently. However, the unexpected trials and wide differences in cultural understanding often make the transition much more difficult than expected. As North Americans, we have become accustomed to things such as promptness, efficiency and courteous drivers. That's our baggage from up north.
The expectation that these things exist in Costa Rica is our problem not the Tico's. I you're expecting things to be the same as in your home country in another then you're bound to get disappointed. A move to another country allows you to start over with a new life and experience a new culture in a new environment. That's why people move to Costa Rica.
A good percentage of North Americans planning to stay in Costa Rica go back. They cannot deal with the inefficiency. Obtaining residency usually takes much longer than expected. You need to hire a consultant to get a drivers license. The list of frustrations goes on and on. The bottom line is they are not able to slow down and adapt to the culture.
Culture shock affects people differently according to the coping strategies each individual employs in order to successfully adapt. After 15 years, I still have to 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'm at, whom I'm dealing with and why I'm here. Then the situation at hand doesn't seem so irritating. Expats who do manage to stay for a long time in Costa Rica do so because they possess patience and flexibility.
Years ago I noticed several cultural differences that used to make my life in Costa Rica frustrating. Concept of time, expectations of efficiency and understanding the local language. North Americans are continually bothered by what we view as a lack of punctuality on the part of Costa Ricans. Costa Rican's will say, "I'll come over tomorrow", but they usually don't. Often they are not hours late, but days late, with no excuse, no phone calls, no apology. This used to bother me, and sometimes it still does. But I get over it much more quickly after living here 15 years.
For North Americans, a person is considered late if he/she arrives 10 to 15 minutes after the scheduled time. For Latin Americans, a person is considered late if he/she arrives 30 minutes after the scheduled time. North Americans often begin to feel tension if a person arrives 15 minutes late, while Latin Americans begin to feel tension if a person arrives 30 minutes after the deadline. These differences in concepts of time often cause misunderstandings between Costa Ricans and North Americans.
The cultural differences in comprehending time can be attributed to the fact that Costa Ricans and North Americans place different value on time. In the U.S., people live to work and time is money. Here in Costa Rica, time is gold. Tico's live for the moment and occasionally during the week take the time to accomplish some work. In Costa Rica, if you run into a friend, you stop and talk and ask "how's the family". Time is for you and not for you to be bound by it. Expats who can slow down and adjust to Tico time, have a much better chance of successfully acculturating.
For new expats arriving to Costa Rica, one of the most frustrating obstacles is dealing with what they view to be a lack of efficiency. In North America there is more efficiency, primarily in the services sector. This makes it particularly hard for North Americans to adapt to life in Costa Rica because they have grown accustomed to the speed and efficiency of services in their home country. If you have the financial ability to hire a consultant to complete these frustrating tasks for you, then you won't have to go through it and will probably be happier for it.
Culture is embedded in the language, and misunderstandings often arise due to the ways in which people of distinct cultures express and understand language content. North Americans are more direct.
In Costa Rica, the Tico's don't say things up front. It's part of their culture and is considered bad manners. Therefore if you don't understand the culture you get frustrated and some folks become angry and this offends the Tico's. Misinterpretations therefore arise because Costa Ricans view their North American counterparts as "rude" while North Americans find Costa Ricans to be "indirect" or even "dishonest."
Many expats feel that they have had to learn to decode what their Costa Rican associates and friends are really trying to say. It is not that Costa Rican's lie more, it is that they are trying to save face. Costa Ricans don't want to disappoint you. If they don't know the answer, they say to themselves 'I don't know but I want to give my best guess.' You have to learn to listen carefully and read between the lines. A simple word like "Ya" can mean "it's already done", "I'm doing it right now", or "I'll get to it soon.
Despite the numerous challenges and obstacles which expats face in Costa Rica, those who have stuck it out here are convinced that the benefits outweigh the hassles. The country's strong democratic tradition, innovative environmental programs, museums and cultural activities, and cheaper living costs continue to make Costa Rica a popular destination spot, particularly for tourists and retirees. And the option to live a lifestyle similar to that in a large North American city is here if you want it. Check out the selection and pricing in any of the major malls or at Super Saretto or Auto Mercado supermarkets. Most products that are imported here from another country incur duties. These duties are built into the price you pay at the cashier. If you want to live and consume the same products available in North America, they are available here. But in many cases those same products are less expensive in Florida. Perhaps if the new free trade agreement becomes a reality, this will change.
I prefer the old days before there were malls and Hooters. I don't miss any of what these new franchises have to offer. I patronize typical Costa Rican businesses and my budget is much more affordable. It's nice to have options and that's my new philosophy. Plans tie a guy down. Options offer freedom. You don't irritate someone because you exercised an option. But there are many times when plans did not materialize as expected and someone gets irritated. Keep your options open and your plans to a minimum.
Live like the Tico's, adopt their attitude and adapt to their culture. You'll probably live longer and happier! Pura Vida!
You know you’ve become Tico (Costa Rican) when:
- You point with your lips.
- You snap your index finger against your second (bird) finger when you think something’s funny or incredible.
- You miss the chaos when you leave the country.
- You miss the way black beans in restaurants used to be whole and had a different flavor.
- Diay and puta come out of your mouth like you were born to them.
- You watch a Spanish language movie and you understand the body language that gives another layer of nuance to the acting.
- You start to prevaricate so somebody else can save face.
- You answer bien por dicha even when the other person doesn’t ask you how you were, but you were expecting them to, so you say it automatically.
- The sound of a gringo accent in Spanish makes your ears bleed.
- You get pissed off when your friend slams the door to your car.
- You go to an English speaking country and when you want to ask for a glass of water the first thing out of your mouth to a waiter in a restaurant is “mae, regalame….” and you don’t get why he’s looking at you funny.
- You are in shock and awe when someone shows up “on time”.
- You are in shock and awe when YOU show up on time. You haven’t looked at your wrist in years to see what time it is.
- You forgot that there used to be a watch there…You haven’t had a tan line where the watch used to be in years….You don’t own a watch.
- You can even travel in other countries without a watch.
- You whip out the debit card for amounts less than a thousand colones…
- You call everyone “mi amor” or “cielito“.
- You know that 3 oçlock means 4, four oclock means 5 etc….
thanks to: Christopher Howard M.A, Author of The Guide to Costa Rican Spanish²*
The law was adopted unanimously by the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday and is expected to go into effect as soon as February 2010.
Important Points From the Newly Approved Immigration Law:
1. Foreign visitors on tourist visas may stay in the country for up to 90 days, provided they prove they have adequate means of subsistence.
2. Foreigners who stay in the country beyond the time period granted by immigration authorities will be fined the equivalent of $100 for each month of residence in the country.
3. Foreigners will have to pay an additional $25 in order to renew residency in the country.
4. Retirees looking to gain permanent residency in Costa Rica must show they receive a monthly pension of no less than $1,000.
5. Rentistas (self-employed businessmen or foreign investors) must prove a monthly income of no less than $2,500 to gain residency. Currently, the minimum income is $1,000.
6. Hotels and other hospitality sites must create a registry of people who stay at their establishments, which can be made available to immigration officials at any time.
7. Individuals who provide work to undocumented foreigners risk being fined from two to 12 times the employee's base salary.
8. To obtain residency through marriage, a couple must be able to prove cohabitation. This must also be demonstrated on an annual bases for a period of three years, if the foreigner wants to renew his or her residency.
9. Foreigners may apply for residency from within Costa Rica.
10. Police may not detain immigrants with questionable residency status for more than 24 hours.
How Can I Get Residency In Costa Rica?
There are several ways to get a residency here, with different types, such as Pensionado, Rentista or Inversionista. It depends on your individual situation; we recommend consulting a lawyer regarding residency.
For all residency requirements and updates we highly recommend: such as: www.arcr.net or www.residencyincostarica.com.
The easiest? way is to fall in love and marry a Costa Rican. They recently have changed the divorce laws, so now, it no longer 3 years before one can file for the divorce. The government has NOW (Nov. 15, 2009) cracked down HEAVILY on obvious "fake" marriages-where husband and wife didn't even know their spouses name!
If you are serious about falling in love with a Costa Rican, we suggest meeting your "soul mate" thru the very few reputable and legit Costa Rican "introductory services" (our favorite: www.spanisheyescostarica.com).
What Do I Need to Open a Bank Account here?
Nov 3, 2009 By Explroe Costa Rica.com
With a handful of state-owned banks and around 19 private commercial banks, there is no lack of options if you’re looking to open an account in Costa Rica.
All of these banks offer services to foreigners, whether residents, students or workers. The majority offer accounts in colones or dollars, and in some cases, euros.
The first decision you must make is whether to open an account with a private
or a Costa Rica state bank.
State-owned banks guarantee all deposits and have the most branch and ATM locations. For example, Banco Nacional or Banco Costa Rica (BCR) offers the most ATM locations all around Costa Rica.
While there are a number of advantages to state banks, there is one very important downside to keep in mind: long lines.
Patience is the first requirement when doing business with state-run banks in Costa Rica. If you simply do not have the time or patience to wait, consider one of the private banks, such as the Canadian-owned Scotiabank. In addition to much shorter wait times, many of the private banks are more likely to have a banker or teller that can assist you in English if your Spanish is limited.
What do you need to open an account?
Whether you’ve chosen a state-run or private bank to open a savings account, there are a number of guidelines:
1) Identification - All banks will require your passport if you’re not a Costa Rica resident, and may ask for an additional form of identification, such as a driver’s license (from country of origin is acceptable).
2) Utility Bill - You’ll also need to obtain a copy of a utility bill that confirms the address where you reside in Costa Rica.
3) Purpose in Costa Rica - This requirement varies bank to bank, but if you’re a retired Costa Rica resident, you’ll want to bring your residency card or some document from immigration or your lawyer that shows you’re in the process of obtaining it. Students should provide a letter from the institution where they study stating their purpose in Costa Rica, and any foreign workers should provide their orden patronal – a small document that reports income and proves payment into social security, or La Caja.
4) Initial Deposit - This amount varies widely, ranging from 3,000 - 25,000 colones, or $10 - $500 for accounts in dollars.
5) Letters of Reference - Most Costa Rica banks will require an average of two reference letters. They can be as simple as letters from your lawyer, or friends who have accounts in the bank where you are applying; stating your relationship and their confidence in your reliability. There is some variation in what is expected, but in general, letters from other banks where you have made deposits before is most helpful
In fact, you can help facilitate the process if they can accompany you to the bank.
When doing your banking, remember to try to avoid going to the bank the day before a holiday; the middle of the month payday period; and the end of each month’s pay period. The last friday of the month payday is the worst.
As long as you’re not rushed and have all your required documents, you will find most Costa Rica bankers and tellers to be very friendly and helpful;
however you must ALWAYS have your passport or cedula available.
Colones, por favor!
COSTA RICA QUICK FACTS:
Capital:(and largest city) San José
9°55′N 84°4′W / 9.917°N 84.067°W / 9.917; -84.067
Official languages: Spanish
Demonym OR Common Nickname: Costa Rican; Tico-men or all, Tica-women.
Government Constitutional democracy
- President: Solis until Feb 2018
Independence from Spain (via Guatemala)
- Declared September 15, 1821
- Recognized by Spain May 10, 1850
- Total 51,100 km2 (128th) 19,652 sq mi
- Water (%) 0.7
- May 2009 estimate 4,509,290 (119th)
- Density 85/km2 (107th) 220/sq mi
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
- Total $29.664 billion
- Per capita $6,543
Gini (2001) 49.9 (high)
HDI (2007) ▲ 0.854 (high) (54th)
Currency Costa Rican colón (CRC)
Time zone (UTC-6)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD: .cr
Calling code +506
Please Pronounce the name of your new country correctly: