Atenas is currently going through a terrible water outage due to Mother Nature. The hurricane level winds and rains that blew through the community caused a tree to fall on one of the main water lines that delivers water from Grecia to the central areas of Atenas. The town is now going on the fourth day of gathering water in buckets from the large trucks which are bringing water through the town. As I saw the reactions of the Costa Ricans, I appreciate even more this culture. This is a very frustrating situation as they have no water for anything, not for toilets, drinking, cleaning, or showering, but the majority is gathered at the street in groups, hanging out and making the best of it. You would think you were watching tailgating parties rather than such a dire situation. No wonder this is considered one of the happiest places on Earth. It’s not that everything is perfect; it’s that they make the best out of terrible situations.
What are some other traits that seem to be distinctly Costa Rican (or “Tico”)? Here are a few that I have found amazing, frustrating, and downright baffling at times.
1) An acceptance of bad things. Even though Ticos will complain until the sun goes down (and after), there is a general acceptance that bad things happen. Unlike many of us from North America who feel like we have to and should “fix” everything, there is more of an acceptance and an allowance of bad things. It’s not common to show initiative to come up with ways to change things and there is more reliance on the government to fix it for them.
2) Ticos tend to just avoid rules they don’t like. They know that they government is always inventing new rules and so, for the most part, they ignore them or figure out ways to get around them. Often the rules are soon changed or become so commonly ignored that they are not enforced anyway.
3) Ticos don’t like to say “no”. It’s too direct. If a Tico tells you it is “dificil” or difficult, he is saying that it isn’t going to happen. “Maybe” is also usually “no”. Even “yes”, often has the added “si Dios quiere” meaning literally if God wants it to be that way, which gives a way out if things don’t line up just right.
4) When will it be ready? “Mañana” is often the answer. Tomorrow (which doesn’t necessarily mean the very next day). It could be any time in the future, since tomorrow is never today.
5) Saprissa or la Liga? One of the things I really like about the Costa Rican culture is that people can discuss politics or soccer (the second often being of higher importance) without being hateful. Among families and friends, it’s often common to be on opposite sides and that’s okay. There is a lighthearted “ribbing” that occurs, but it doesn’t get mean and nasty. Wish we could incorporate this in our culture at the moment.
What do these have in common? Avoidance of conflict. Ticos are peaceful people in a peaceful country and those who want to make changes are sometimes seen as instigators of problems and it’s not seen as a positive thing. As frustrating as that can be for an outside culture that feels the need to jump in and fix everything, we also have to learn to take a deep breath and feel the “pura vida”. There is a reason why Costa Ricans really are less stressed about life. I fully accept that these are generalizations and there are many Costa Ricans that don’t fall into these characteristics, but even most of those will laugh and admit that they aren’t very “Tico”, no arguments even there. Pura Vida.
For more information on living in Costa Rica or to answer any questions you might have, please send an email to Tina Newton at Tristan & Newton Real Estate and check out the website and Facebook page. Whether it is finding the home of your dreams, making an investment, or just helping you feel at home, we are here for you.