Feeling a Little Comfortable
Costa Rica is so small that you will constantly run into classmates, friends, or coworkers. That is one of the interesting things that I love about this place. Everyone knows everyone.
When I first arrived, I observed how all Ticos (the name of Costa Ricans) would constantly be running into someone they knew. On the bus, in the street, in the grocery store; everywhere Ticos were greeting one another.
But it all makes sense– the country is small and has a relational culture.
One of my favorite things is how Costa Ricans greet. It’s not a wave or a simple handshake. Even if it’s for the first time, Ticos greet one another with a touch of the cheek to the other person’s cheek while making a “kiss” sound. This breaks the barrier of our personal bubble and starts a friendship the way it should be: friendly and real. When I greet a person the Tico way, I automatically feel closer to the stranger.
I have begun to feel more comfortable here. Since I’ve been here for about 3 months, I have established amazing friendships, a routine, and I understand the culture a little better. The Ticos have helped me accomplish this…
For example, yesterday we had a rain storm in the late afternoon, and it started raining buckets the moment I stepped out of class. I was standing at the bus stop– with no umbrella– like a pitiful puppy without a doghouse. This one kind guy standing next to me, took one step closer to me so his umbrella would cover my head. I couldn’t get over it. He stayed with me until my bus came. Through the barrier of the language, the age, and the culture, this man took one little step of kindness; an act that I will never forget. This helpful man missed his bus to keep me out of the rain. I told him how I was worried that he missed his bus, and he responded with “It’s ok, tranquila!” Basically meaning, don’t worry, relax! Unlike the ways of the American culture, it’s not about time. It about the people.
Costa Rica has taught me a lot of new things, and one thing that I have learned is that this relational culture isn’t just a place for a study abroad program or a vacation spot for me; it’s becoming a second home.