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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in San Jose, Costa Rica

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

San Jose

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

Yes, twenty years of business and social experience throughout Latin America

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

Yes, I learned Spanish twenty years before my move.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

No, I was not worried because of extensive Latin American exposure.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?


Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Yes, definitely and I am now in the permanent rejection phase.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Certainly anxiety, frustration and considerable anger.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

A certain sense of freedom born out of being surrounded by disorder and a complete lack of caring about most things.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Duplicity, lack of frankness, uncaring attitude, failure to confront any issue and passing off all problems as "God's will".

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

I don't think so.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

In comparison to the rest of Latin America, this country has very little that it can claim to be culture.

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Comments about this Report

Feb 13, 2013 10:16

I had, many, many moons ago, a French professor who often observed that "culture" is what is remembered when all else has been forgotten. I know that Goebels said that everytime he heard someone mention culture that it provoked him into unholstering his side arm! Two very different perspectives; I like the first, better. Nontheless it is true that Costa Rica has very little to offer in the way of culture, distinctive, when compared with other Latin Nations; but then again, and thinking of the U.S., what would be the definition of culture? I think that we are pretty light in that regard as well. So I think, with very little information to go on, that "permanent rejection phase" might benefit from the following observations from someone who has lived in a fair share of the countries here during 22 years. 1) Never tell people that you are "good", you must alwys be so-so; even if, and particularly if, you hit the lottery! Más o menos, Mae... 2) Never ever be obstentacious, Ticos are not, in thorough juxtaposition with other Latins, and they will not understand it; they will think that you are rubbing their noses in it. 3) It is not all about you, defintely an American Cultural Trait, listen to them about them, your details will fall into place on their own. 4) Never ever say that something is cheap! Cry about the prices that you are paying! Wheel and deal with all and everyone- never accept a price for a job or service, cry and cry about it, knock the price down. They love this and you will be more readily accepted. I find this to be their most disconcerting and disagreeable characteritic, but when in Rome... 5) You are, in spite of its facade, in the 3rd World- be sensitive to this fact and aware of to whom you are addressing yourself. 6) In their favor: Ticos by far, with all of the Latin countries in which I have lived, get the best bang for their very limited buck on govermental services, and that is why there is a sembalance of social stability and inclusion, I find that to be worth more than all of the "culture" in the World. 7) Ticos will not, contrary to many Nations in this part of the World, kiss your ass for a dollar; ain't going to happen. They are proud, God bless them, and even though they may be hungry and undergoing adverse circumstances, they will just walk away. 8) Never ever, unless there is no way to avoid it, scream at or be openly rude to people, I find this to be the most difficult condition, if you live in a small town you will be marked for life as a "malcriadillo", once that moniker has been attached to your wagon, your only option is to move on elsewhere. Just one man's thoughts from Sarchi, Costa Rica- I could be wrong, but then again once I thought myself wrong only to discover later, that I had been mistaken! Atentos Saludos....

Mar 5, 2013 20:27

i have been here 10 years and i agree with pretty much everything you have said. many expats and the population in general have no idea how restricting this gov. actually is. i recently order a few things on line and after months was could not receive the things i bought and paid for, such as a bloods zapper, empty jel caps and dmso among other things. this after three different trips tp san jose and being sent to different gov. offices, out right lied to. if my wife would permit it i would sell my property here and leave. shes tica. enough said. i am trying now to sell about half my property and give her he other half and get out. hope to get this much done. keith e.

Apr 14, 2013 09:32

This report is truthful, and he has written it, when not wearing 'Rose-tinted glasses'

Mar 1, 2014 21:35

Resided in CR and experienced most things reported. To me Ticos have very little motivation especially the Gov't when different political parties cannot agree on a damn thing. In my opinion if you are a gringo you are automatically wealthy. Non CR's now have pay for CAJA (hospitals run by the state) whether you utilize the facilty or not. Payments are calculated by your income and you must sign up or else. Also, to the best of my knowlegde there are not water treatment facilities in the country so you can figure out where the solid wastes wind up (do you eat fish)..........BTW I have no desire to even visit that country,

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