Costa Rica Retirement News - The answer is yes and no. One of the many pluses that come with relocating to Costa Rica is its friendly people who generally like Americans. Costa Ricans are fun loving and rate very high on the World Happiness Index despite any personal problems they may have.
I have a few really good Costa Rican friends. Two of my tico friends have demonstrated repeatedly that they really know the meaning of friendship by helping me during very difficult times like when my wife passed away.
To define friendship in Costa Rica one has to move away from the traditional “gringo viewpoint” and look at this term within the parameters of Costa Rican society and culture.
The majority of the ticos you come into contact with here are struggling to make ends meet every single day. Consequently, they don’t have the time or means to socialize, wine and dine let alone cultivate friendships like we do in the U.S. Americans work hard but usually do find the time to develop friendships. What this basically boils down to is that most of the people here are too busy trying to make a living and can’t really have much of a social life. On top of that, most foreigners tend to only meet working class people and those with lower income levels which makes forming friendships difficult.
Furthermore, most Costa Ricans who belong to the upper middle or upper classes tend to have their own clicks made up of friends they grew up with and business associates, thus making it almost impossible for foreigners to break into their social circle. Latinos tend to be traditionalists, nationalistic and somewhat class conscious (clasistas) which isolates those at the top from the masses and foreigners. I do know gringos who belong to country clubs and have Costa Rican friends and acquaintances from this strata of society but they also find it hard to form close friendships.
The inner workings of Costa Rican families also tend to pose an obstacle to making good friends. In Costa Rica as in most Latin countries the family is the center of social life. Basically everything revolves around family activities. You always hear the term “En familia” which refers to the family doing everything together especially during their free time. The family always come first and children even come before the family. Costa Rican women live for there children. So, with the family ties and children being the first priority friendships are put on the back burner.
Another factor is that expats tend to gravitate towards each other when living abroad which kind of isolates them from the locals. Most gringos I know hang out and socialize primarily with other gringos.
Spanish can pose another barrier in forming friendships. If you don’t speak the language, How the heck can you have a deep friendship? I do not know many foreigners who speak the Spanish language well enough to have the same level of communication with Costa Ricans as they do with English speakers. However, I do have a friend in Grecia who is the exception to the rule, speaks very little Spanish but appears to have a special talent for meeting the locals. However, I think most of his acquaintances speak some English and I don’t really know how deep of a relationship my friend really develops with the people.
I know another American who says he would get involved romantically with a Costa Rican woman only if she was an orphan and had no children for the reasons stated above. I find his statement funny but in a way true in order to ensure that he would receive more attention and time from his companion.
Really what it comes down to is that cultivating a friendship or any relationship depends on what you put into it and if the other party reciprocates, but cultural differences and language barriers can make this process more difficult when living abroad.
By Christopher Howard
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Parts of this article was originally published in Christopher Howard’s blog at www.liveincostarica.com/blog