You Know You're a Local When
Moving to another country is an exciting adventure. There are so many new experiences and customs that require adaptation. For a new arrival, Costa Rica has its quirks, many of them endearing and others bewildering. But after a few months, all those cultural eccentricities don’t seem so strange anymore; in fact, they feel downright normal. And that’s when you’ll know you’re a local.
1) You’re not surprised that a new SUV costs as much as a house.
In many Costa Rican towns real estate is still inexpensive, starting at $50,000 for a simple three-bedroom home. New cars, on the other hand, are costly since they’re subject to steep import taxes. The good thing is that they depreciate very slowly, so you can sell a late-model vehicle in Costa Rica for about double its Blue Book value.
2) You’ve gotten used to “Tico time.”
Life moves a little slower in Costa Rica and sometimes this means appointments are broken or people show up late. You know that “ahora” doesn’t actually mean now, but “later.” When you’re a local, you acclimate: if you want someone to arrive at 8 p.m., you tell him 6 p.m.
3) You think January is the best month of the year.
Forgotten are blustering winds and snow-covered streets since blue skies and warm temperatures characterize Costa Rica’s dry season, which runs from December through April. The new year brings cooling breezes and a bright sun, but the landscape still retains its rainy season greenery, making January the favorite month of many.
4) You know better than to ask for someone’s house number and street name.
Costa Rican addresses are relative to neighborhood landmarks. A typical address reads, “From the church, 100 meters north, 25 meters east. The blue house on the right.” Once you’ve adjusted, not only do these directions make sense, but you can find the blue house.
5) You pepper your sentences with the phrase “pura vida!”
Costa Rica’s unofficial motto translates to “pure life” and, more than anything, it's a way of life. It symbolizes the Costa Rican idea of letting things go and taking it slow. You’ll use it as an answer to "How are you?" or to say "Thank you" or "You're welcome."
6) You kiss your friends.
In Costa Rica, it is customary to greet friends and acquaintances with a kiss on the right cheek. In practice, this is often an air kiss and is usually accompanied by a light hug. After you get used to it, this may be one of your favorite Costa Rican customs.
7) You love your “suicide shower.”
Many homes in Costa Rica use electric showerheads that heat water on demand. Though people often refer to them as “suicide showers,” the truth is that a properly wired shower is very safe. They also save you money on your electric bill, since a hot water tank is unnecessary.
8) You dance in the streets.
Costa Rica is a vibrant country, and it’s not uncommon for stores to have giant, street-front speakers blaring cumbia, merengue, or salsa music. Even when you’ve had a bad day, these upbeat rhythms will put a smile on your face and, maybe, a dance in your step.
9) Bugs don’t bug you.
This can be a difficult hurdle to surmount, but Costa Rica’s insects don’t always respect closed doors or your personal space. Locals deal with these tiny intruders in different ways, and none of them includes hiding or climbing on top of the table. If you’ve really gone local, you may even let the spiders stay on the walls – after all, they’re nature’s pest control!
10) Stress? What’s that?
Almost every expat I talk to says that Costa Rica is good for the soul. After an adjustment period, residents learn to take life slower, be more patient, and relax. It’s hard to be stressed when swaying palm trees, tropical breezes, and beautiful views surround you.