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

One Month

One month down

Cultural differences

Language barrier

On Friday, my first month in Costa Rica ended and marked the beginning of my second month here. Over the course of this month, I have noticed a lot of differences between Costa Rican culture and U.S. culture, although there are probably more that I have not noticed because I have not thought about them. Personal space and your personal bubble do not exist in the way they do in the U.S. It is common to hug and kiss people on the cheek as a sign of greeting and farewell, which as someone who likes their personal bubble, is taking a bit of time to get used to. It is very common for men to catcall, whistle, honk their horns, and stare at women walking, although every time that I have seen it, that’s all it was. It makes me think that instead of men just lacking in all forms of self control, it is more of a cultural norm to do it and it would be out of place for men not to do it. Although, it still makes my female friends from the U.S. very uncomfortable for obvious reasons. Rules of the road really just seem like suggestions and it seems that drivers make up their own rules as they go, including motorcycles and scooters that always pass cars, buses, trucks, SUVs, etc… when they shouldn’t. Most classes at the university are only once a week and there is a lot less busy work and a lot more group work. It is acceptable for people to show up late for classes and events (tico time), however, it does not apply to my science classes.

By far, my biggest struggle has been the language barrier. Looking back at a month ago, I can tell that there has been at least a subtle increase in my proficiency with Spanish. I try to listen and follow my professors, my parents, and other people that I encounter, but at times I can’t understand what they are saying, although my listening skills are still a lot better than my speaking skills. I try to talk as much as possible but my problems are when I don’t a word I need and cannot get around (although today I had a conversation about my opinion genetic modification with classmates for fun and it went really well) and if I don’t have anything to say, I usually don’t say anything. To mediate this, I’ve tried to force myself to talk more with mixed success. But I have learned that even if I understand 95% of what everyone says, the only way my speaking will improve is if I speak as much as I possibly can, knowing that I will make a lot of mistakes in the beginning.

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