Tico People & Me or Am I Being Too Sensitive? Pura Vida?

October 11, 2014  •  1 Comment

Nature's beauty is not the only thing that I have found different between living here in Costa Rica and in NYC. Getting to know the ways of the "World's Happiest" people has been interesting, and by interesting I mean confusing.

First off, happy does not necessarily mean enthusiastic. Ticos are very, shall we say, cordial. There are always smiles and greetings. When I am sitting in a soda (small typical tico restaurant) and somebody walks in they will most often say "saludos" or "buen provecho" which is greetings or enjoy your meal. Everyone at the local EBAIS (clinic) is friendly and willing to engage in small conversation.  I have seen no overt hatred or anger towards me or any other gringos. Tourists all love visiting and the workers at the adventure tours and restaurants all are very nice to them. I have heard no complaints.

However, living here for just under 2 years has made me aware of the difference between cordial friendly and I want to be your friend friendly.

Sometimes when having a conversation with a group of the workers where I live everyone is all smiles but as soon as we take leave of each other their smiles quickly disappear. I mean as soon as we turn away from each other. Without an acknowledgement that the conversation has ended. It makes me feel as if the good feelings are only superficial and not from the heart. I am used to having people at least say "OK, talk to you later" or at least say "Hasta Luego".  

It's not just towards me that I am feeling this. I have been on a local Tico bus and have seen Ticos getting on the bus and not reacting to the bus driver or other Ticos. Not even a greeting or a smile. If they are happy they are not showing it.

I've been to a local bar/restaurant to see a Tico friend's reggae group perform. As they played they never smiled or showed any enthusiasm for their music or for the people they were playing for. The music was very good and I was glad that I was invited to experience it.

We were invited to the home of some of the workers here way up in the mountains. They are are always friendly with us here but when we got there they went off on their own leaving us to talk with their parents and younger siblings. They never came over to us to see if we were comfortable. Never offered to show us around the grounds. We did get to see the farm, but with the parents and younger kids. We all shared a great meal together but we were disappointed at the lack of attention during our visit.

I went to a local Tico horse show. As the horses and riders did their thing the people politely applauded but there was no loud cheering or shouting.

I have accepted friend requests from Ticos here in the area. Most times they do not comment on my photography or life events. They do not greet me to say a quick hello.  I have asked a few of them "do you consider us friends?" They say yes and then I say "how can you say yes when you don't communicate it?" Nobody can give me a response. It's as if they don't like to be confronted by it.

Now when a Tico want to be friends with me on Facebook I ask "why?". "What is your idea of friendship?" Often it's because someone enjoys my photography, which I take as a compliment. But it is not my idea of friendship so I tell them that they could just as easily view my photography website. To me a friend, even on Facebook, is someone who is interested in my life and my interests and feels the need to communicate it.

I am also finding that people say things and just don't follow through. This is especially true with respect to keeping appointments. It's not unusual to not have somebody show up for an appointment, and then not even call to say they can't make it, and then show up unannounced a few days later....and then not even mention or apologize for not keeping the original appointment. Here in Costa Rica things will get done but just not within the same time continuum that I am used to.

I went to a local futbol game and I took some photos. At the end of the game I asked one of the players if he would like a photo of the entire team? He said yes and the coach gathered everyone together and posed them. Not once did the coach come up to me to thank me or speak to me about the game that was just played. A few of the players did thank me for taking the photo which I was able to send to them via Facebook.

I have asked a few Ticos how do you and your fellow Ticos view people from other countries that come to live here? A few have not answered and others have said they have no problems with us. I was hoping for a more in depth answer.

When it comes to work some Ticos misinterpret asking questions to mean that they are not doing a good job. They want to do a good job and take pride in it, but do not like being questioned about it. Even if the reason is to give me a better understanding of that job that they are doing.

There is a woman who I do business with who asked me to return to her for money she owed me, 3 times. The second time I asked her if she knew that she couldn't pay me why couldn't she call to tell me not to take the 10 minute drive out to see her?  She became annoyed and angrily told me that she is a very responsible person. Could I come back next week?  I said if you are so responsible you would have called me. We have since made up but now I know to receive the money up front.

As much as I have tried to know the people in our area I still feel that I am viewed as an outsider. It could be from all of the years of having gringos living here and not having many make the effort to know them, and they have given up really wanting to know me. We know some Expats who have become involved with the community. But there are many more that come here and just live their lives isolated, not wanting to speak Spanish, or interact with their communities.

There has been no enthusiasm for sincere friendship. Maybe it is a small sample size as we do live in the countryside?  Maybe it's because of the relatively short time that we've lived here but it has made me a bit sad. 

Am I being too sensitive or is it just a matter of getting a better understanding of the people and their ways?

Just to be clear I do speak Spanish so communication is not the problem. I have also had the opportunity to travel to and spend time with the people of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico which has given me some insight into life in Latin America. 

Should "Pura Vida" just mean living a relaxed life in nature's beauty or should there be more? 



Very interesting topic. Hard to understand what makes people tick. Maybe it takes a lot longer to be able to understand those little nuances that make a culture. Hang in there Paul, Wish you luck!
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