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Culture Shock 2.0

Catalyst for shock: sidewalks

For walking in Costa Rica you have two options; you can pick up your feet, or you can eat dirt. Many of us ate dirt our first week. Some of us still do.

The holes and fissures sported on sidewalks are comically referred to as gringo traps. Ticos are accustomed to carrying their feet like show-horses to avoid tripping. Gringos take a while to train. We are so used to perfectly level, uniformly even sidewalks. In Costa Rica, there is no such thing. Some sidewalks are more dirt with random chunks of cement sticking up than actual sidewalk. Water drainage traps can either be non-existent or be gaping three foot deep moats. Handicapped ramps are always questionable. Probably, it is the city’s effort to train people in wheelchairs for the Olympics.

Although I have not been specifically told, I believe there to be two reasons that the sidewalks are in such pitiable condition.

1)      Costa Rica regularly experiences tremors and earthquakes. Obviously, this isn’t good for rigid structures. If anybody is in doubt, concrete is rigid. It feels especially rigid when your face falls into it.

2)      Home and business owners are required to maintain their own sidewalks. I am making this assumption based on my own observations. My evidence is that banks always have amazing sidewalks and I frequently see businesses fixing their own sidewalks. Also, there is no uniformity in sidewalk design. At the least, I can enjoy variety when I am watching where I am stepping.

There are so many idiosyncrasies that Americans take for granted. I never thought that showers and sidewalks could cause such frustration. Hopefully, I will soon experience culture shock more profoundly related to culture than to American luxuries.


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