Friday, December 19, 2008

Costa Rican Culture Shock

I realize what I’m about to say will ‘unfortunately’ resonate with some, while others won't have the foggiest...


A certain degree of Culture Shock is a fact of life when moving to another country and should be expected. Relocating can often be a difficult transition and some people are better prepared than others. I understood, and was prepared for the reality of relocating, or so I thought. Unfortunately for me, somewhere in the vast expanses of my brain; I wasn't relocating- I was about to be drinking never-ending Margaritas, watching sunsets, and having lurid sex on the beach. My brain frequently gets a 'little' over dramatic, but you get the picture.

Honestly, when we (D’Angelo) first moved to Costa Rica, the reality of the relocation hadn’t really set in. It felt more like the beginnings of one long-ass vacation. You realize you made the ultimate move- but everything around you 'Screams' vacation, which in the beginning, wreaks havoc on your common sense. Older and wiser expats say this is a normal feeling.

*BTW- San José doesn’t count. San José is ‘ANY’ city, ‘ANY’ where. Moving there is like re-locating to Detroit, except I’ll be damned, in San José they speak a little more Spanish.

Naturally we went about the business of beginning ‘our’ new life. Moving in, finding the best places to shop, setting up bank accounts, phone lines, internet service etc. Those things can be exhausting……

….but nothing a frosty beverage wouldn’t cure. It didn’t take long to find a local hang-out, where other expats and tourists alike yap about the day. Before I realize it, we’re 5 beers in; discussing politics (gringos love conspiracy theories), living the simple life, and the pros and cons of Costa Rica in general. Impressed tourists will ask a ton of questions, and of course buy a couple shots for providing ‘inside’ information on the best place to spot the Resplendent Quetzal. Then, “Hey, it’s dinner time, you guys want to join us?” I say this in jest, but who are we to deny the chance of having dinner with a ‘real-to- life’ expats. Personally, it’s nice not to go home and heat up left over beans and rice for the third night in a row.

And so it begins- beers at ‘Gringo Petes,’ margaritas at the ‘Screaming Monkey,’ tequila shots at the ‘Drunk Iguana,’- if you know where you’re drinking, you know the day of the week. Of course local gringos always have their local hangout, and in all actuality, it doesn’t have to be a hotspot- cold beer (without the gringo pricing) and English conversation are the only prerequisites.

It’s all so exciting and new, plus, you wouldn’t want to miss anything by actually working in the afternoon, for a gringo in Costa Rica- that’s almost sacrilegious.

Personally, I like the fact that faces are forever changing in the bar, each one doe-eyed and impressed you actually had the ‘balls’ to make the move- a very nice shot of self esteem I must say (a false sense, but nice nonetheless). Sure you have the regular gringos, but you can tell the same story to a different tourist every day, and it’s always appreciated. Hell, Harry and Martha from Kansas, six beers in, are chatting away, inquiring about land for sale around Lake Arenal. FYI- the thought of selling land is an expats wet dream, since even a recommendation can net some serious cash- while drinking no less. I don’t do this, just say’in.

Overnight, one day blends into the next; Monday is suddenly Wednesday, which quickly segues into Friday. Of course Saturday is a party night. And don’t waste Sunday- as it’s back to work on Monday. Lunch has become a 3-hour affair, and why leave, it’s almost dinner time, and after that, it’s too late to do anything productive anyway.
You’ll speak your best Spanish when you’re able to slur, “Uno más por favor.”

The problem is - in Costa Rica, at any given time, there’s always a ‘reason’ to have a frosty beverage. Reasons to drink are as diverse as Costa Rica itself: a new friend, a new conversation, a social gathering of resident gringos, a meeting, the numerous holidays, the humidity, the second Tuesday of the month, a birthday or anniversary, someone is leaving back to the states, someone returned from the states, it’s raining, it’s sunny, surfs up, surfs down, the monkeys are out…………what day is this? Every day is Saturday? When did that happen?

I think most, including me, know that the vacation MUST end. I also know that some never wake up, and to be honest, I’m still shaking the cobwebs off.

It’s noon right now and the gringos are beginning to belly up to the bar- jockeying for ‘their’ stool. At this moment, Walt is telling Jim ‘the tourist’ he knows where he can purchase a really nice ‘lot’ for dirt cheap. Jim ‘the tourist’ will ask Walt which tequila he prefers; after all, they’re on vacation aren’t they?

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