Living in Costa Rica – Having taken the journey to Costa Rica 6 years ago, there are some cultural nuances that I have come to identify that are very common when it comes to day to day living in the land of “Pura Vida”. One of the biggest things I have noticed is that 90% of Costa Ricans have a hidden agenda in pretty much everything they do.I look back and realize that in almost every interaction I have had with a Costa Rican, if they are not getting something out of it they will not be involved. Now I know this exists around the world but in Costa Rica it is taken to the extreme.
If there was something I did not really want to do but either told someone I would do or was to help someone else, like helping them move or fixing a flat tire, I would do it for respect of the other person. In Costa Rica, it would not be uncommon to hear a person tell a person yes I will come but can you pay me, or flat out lie and say they have something else they are doing when they do not. They will even say that they are coming and that they want to be involved and then just not show up.
One thing that you should put in the back of your mind is this little piece of information as I heard it from a Costa Rican business partner I once had, Costa Ricans are just automatically rude to you until they get to know you.
If a Costa Rican approaches you with a smile and is nice to you, there is a reason, they want to sell you something or they want you to give them something. Always remember this when you are interacting with others in Costa Rica. This not only applies to Costa Ricans it also applies to most gringos that have lived in Costa Rica for a long period of time and have adjusted to this part of the Costa Rica culture.
Guys, those girls that approach you at a bar in downtown San Jose are not attracted to your personality. Remember to keep one hand on your wallet.
I will give the example of the Christmas Party that The Costa Rican Times had for the disabled children at the orphanage. Over a 3 month period we asked for donations of money, supplies and gifts for the children. I went out to talk to people about being involved in some way even if it was just to come to the party to show the children they were loved. I myself had about 25 to 30 Costa Ricans say they wanted to help of which 3 of them I considered friends. The ones thatshowed up and actually helped were my 3 friends the rest were all talk and did nothing. Those 3 friends brought about 2 friends each.
You might be thinking to yourself well this is just interactions between gringos and Costa Ricans and that Costa Ricans just do not trust someone of a different culture, unfortunately it applies to everyone. One of my Costa Rican friends that came to the orphanage had between 20 and 25 people that said they were going to bring gifts, if which 1 or 2 actually did.
Here is some advice to seeing if there is a hidden agenda in your interactions:
- Learn to read body language. It is easy for manipulative people to control themselves and not speak their thoughts aloud, but it’s not so easy for them to hide their true feelings in their gestures and facial expressions
- Watch people carefully over time to detect patterns in their behavior
- Anticipate all possible consequences whenever someone manipulative makes a suggestion. Ask yourself, “Who is really going to benefit?”
- Be suspicious whenever something sounds too good to be true.
- Ask lots of questions when you suspect someone of having a hidden agenda. Even if they do not answer your questions truthfully, your questions will make them uncomfortable and defensive