When I first moved to the “rich coast,” I had no idea of the changes that I would be making in my lifestyle. These are the ways that my life has changed.
1. Learning to Say “The United States,” Instead of “America”
Costa Rica is in Central America, so people are somewhat offended when I say, “I am American.” This kind of insinuates that they are not somehow, so it is best to say, “I am from the United States.” Then just leave it at that. I mean, it’s not like the United States is the only country in the Americas. Even though I learned that I was an American (in terms of nationality) in my history classes, it doesn’t make people from North, Central or South America any less American.
2. Understanding the Lingo
It’s not just that I need to learn Spanish, but I also have to learn Costa Rican Spanish. Take the word for work for instance; trabajo. Trabajo in Costa Rican Spanish is brete. The word for great in international Spanish might be genial, but in Costa Rican Spanish it is Tuanis. Tuanis also carries with it the connotation of a higher meaning than simply great, and is often applied in the same manner as the phrase pura vida which means “pure life.” The nuances of Costa Rican Spanish are complex, and it takes some getting used to.
3. Making a Fresh Pot of Joe
Coffee is a way of life in Costa Rica, and when you visit a house it will inevitably turn into a round table-esque gathering of any and every one that happens to be in the house (or the neighborhood for that matter). The coffee devices are not complicated espresso, latte, mocha Frappuccino concocting machines of the future. They are essentially a wooden board with a hole in it for the filter, and the coffee is simply some of the best that you will ever have. It is completely understandable that it would result in an event.
4. It’s “Futbol,” not Football
I have never been much of a sports fan in the traditional sense, but soccer in Costa Rica is really too important for what my preferences are. Everyone in Costa Rica not only watches the premier league, but they also have a favorite team. Most people pick their team, but it is often based on their family and where they are from. I have a friend who recently explained it to me as such. “If you think about it, there is no reason for going so crazy about the sports team you like, or even why you like them in the first place. I know that, but it still hurts me when my team loses for at least an hour afterwards.”
5. Getting Around in Costa Rica can be a Challenge
I would recommend patience to anyone travelling to a foreign country for the first time, and Costa Rica is no different in that respect. Costa Rica had 49 earthquakes in 2011 alone, so the roads have some potholes to say the least. Traffic in San Jose can get a little hectic, too. Getting angry and telling all your woes in this regard to the taxi, private shuttle or bus driver isn’t going to fix the situation, and you might just find yourself taking a long walk as opposed to a long ride.
6. Hanging Clothes to Dry
In the states, the ease of a drying machine comes with just about every home or apartment. In Costa Rica, hanging clothes to dry is the norm. The only time this could become a problem is in the rainy season from May to November, but many of the spaces for hanging clothes in Costa Rica homes and apartments are covered.
7. No Extreme Changes in the Weather!
It doesn’t freeze in the winter, and I don’t melt in the summer. The average temp is about 65°F to 85°F all year round. If you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a world of perpetually nice days, then I can tell you that it is a quite becoming situation for me. It does get a little hotter at the beach, but you have the ocean right there to jump in and cool down.
8. Tips are Included
I can pretty much assume that there is a service charge that will be included on my tab, so I don’t have to worry about factoring out a tip. If I sit at the bar, the service charge isn’t applied. The service charge is pretty much negligible anyway (unless I am in an upscale restaurant), so I don’t worry about it too much.
9. Waiting for the Bus and the Untrustworthy Gringo
Every morning I stand in line waiting for the bus to take me to work. The bus stops are unmarked, and attendants direct the buses and people. This often leads to people asking each other if they are standing in the right line. On the off chance that a Costa Rican does see my face, and they proceed to ask me whether they are at the right bus stop or not. I usually reply with the information they ask me for as best I can. Then I watch as they smile, turn and walk away to ask someone else who they can trust the same question.
10. Coins are Important and Useful
I hardly ever use my card to pay for things in Costa Rica, and I cannot use it to get on the bus. The coins are denominated as ¢500, ¢100, ¢50, ¢25, ¢10 and ¢5 (¢=colones), and they are all useful in contrast to the relatively useless and worthless penny. They don’t use the decimal system in Costa Rica, and it is a wonder why it is still applied to the US monetary system.