I was talking with my North American friend, Connie, the other day, and as usual our frustrations over living in Costa Rica came out. We generalized Tico (Costa Rican) behavior and asked ourselves once again, Why are we here?
Living in a foreign country is hard. Yes, it can be exotic and cool, but there are days when the romance wears thin, and I long for the comfort of home.
When purchasing things, for example, I am charged higher prices because foreigners are perceived as rich. The other day my Tico boyfriend was enraged when he found out how much a locksmith charged me to change some locks. If I had known the going rate, I could have avoided getting ripped off. But then I think, why can’t people just be honest?
I also recently dealt once again with the aggravating policy that most stores have here regarding returns. They won’t do them. It reminded me of an experience I had in San Jose a few years ago when I tried to return some sheets that didn’t fit my mattress. I was told sweetly by a store clerk that if I really wanted my money back, I could try selling the product on the street. And she pointed outside.
As women in Costa Rica, Connie and I have experienced sexist behavior in many forms. The most obvious is on the streets as men employ a range of catcalls from sweet to vulgar. In relationships, men tend to expect things to be on their terms, so women need to be fairly traditional and accommodating. Men also think that Gringas (North American women) are easy to get in bed, so that can be a problem. We think we’re being nice by talking with a guy, and he thinks we’re giving him the green light to go home together.
Keeping up friendships can be tricky too since Ticos tend to be on the unreliable side. When determining a meeting, they always say, “Okay, so I’ll see you tomorrow at 7pm si Dios quiere,” (God willing) which I interpret as, “If I feel like it.” They will flake at the last minute, sometimes without calling.
Ah, but why focus on the negative aspects of living here? Why not remember that the weather is gorgeous year-round (well, except for the ungodly amount of rain in the wet season), the landscape is breathtaking, and the people are genuine? Why not remember that we’re learning Spanish and experiencing a different way of life? Pura Vida! It’s liberating to cancel when I don’t feel like doing something! There are never any hard feelings!
So we stay.