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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Guácima, Costa Rica

One expat in Costa Rica appreciates the "laidbackness" and friendly people, the great climate and green nature.

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


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

13 years as an expat in Chile prior to the move to Costa Rica.

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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. Learned Spanish in Chile while on a long term contract.

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


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

Chile being my first expat experience, where the traffic situation and cool welcoming from Chileans was a bit annoying, and surprising. Therefore my friends were other expats. Costa Ricans were friendly from day one, but the bureaucracy being worse than Chile.

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?

In Chile it was constantly up and downs during 13 years. In Costa Rica I felt like in paradise when arriving 15 months ago, but now the bureaucracy is getting on my nerves. I hope I can get over it, or I'll have to move to a more developed country.

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.

Anger, frustration, asking myself why they need to invent a square shaped wheel when the round, working, wheel is already invented. It's not really rocket science to make highways, give all information to people avoiding them to make three or four visits just to get a local driving license or "carné" for the social security. Just to mention a few annoying "tramites".

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

For Costa Rica, the "laidbackness" and friendly people, the great climate and green nature.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The centralamerican kitchen is not a hit... Unless you love beans and rice and corn tortillas of course.

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

I did use the word "caliente" (hot) in a way that I rather not explain. It was awkward. In Chilean Spanish caliente means one thing and one thing only.

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