Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Culture Shock

Merriam-Webster defines ¨culture shock¨ as the following:

a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation

Relating to me and the rest of the IFSA-Butler crew, this is the equation:


Now, let us put culture shock into action. Unexpectedly, my first “shock” in Costa Rica wasn´t the language, pollution, salutation customs, or hunting down a taxi. May I direct your attention to Exhibit 1 – El Baño.


Tico baños and baño customs, to put it bluntly, are different. Here´s the lowdown…

  • Cold water, only cold water
  • No hot water
  • No tepid water
  • Cold water
  • Toilet paper goes in the trash can, not the toilet. (They should call it trash paper)
  • People shower in the morning
  • If you don´t shower in the morning, you are regarded as strange and unhygienic
  • The above statement is a lie, but morning showers are definitely the norm

My host-family in Liberia didn´t have hot water. The climate there is like wearing a soggy sleeping bag in a Texas July, so I didn´t mind taking cold showers. Heredia, on the other hand, has a very temperate climate. Luckily for me, my host-family in Heredia DOES have hot water. The trick was figuring out how to use it. Most families here don´t have water heaters. Instead, the water is heated by an apparatus connected to the shower-head.

To turn on the hot water, click the switch to the right. Although there are three settings, left, center, and right, switching it to the left doesn´t do anything. Maybe mine is broken… Also, don´t touch the shower head. It will shock you. I know from experience. 225 There isn´t a direct control of how hot you can make the water. Rather, you lower to water pressure so that the water spends more time in the shower-head to make the water hotter. For colder water, vice-versa. My host-mom told me to never run the hot water for more than 5 minutes, or I will bust a fuse. I´m not proud to admit it, but I have broken her rule on a daily basis. ¡Qué vergüenza! (What shame!)

226 My shower has two shower heads, the main one that will shock you, and a dangly one. On a side note, the drying rack in my shower is for my “bloomers,” which is the only article of clothing I am required to wash myself.

227 It took me a week to figure out the dangly shower-head. I feel like a dolt, because it is actually really obvious. Pull out the stubby thing to stop the water and push it in to let the water run. ¡Qué mensa! (How stupid!)





One Response to “Culture Shock”

  1. Michelle Says:

    Hilarious! I studied abroad in Costa Rica more than 10 years ago and it was exactly the same! (and to this day I think hot water heaters are incredibly wasteful. But, awesome).

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