Having never been out of the United States, I had no idea what to expect from my journey to Costa Rica. Of course I read books, looked at pictures, and asked friends who had been there prior. Some had told me it was similar to the U.S. because of all of the Americans who had moved there recently to retire. According to them, most of Costa Rica spoke English and the majority of businesses were the same.
Don’t get me wrong there are some similarities, but there are plenty of things that I did not expect. Envisioning Costa Rica to be like any other state, I was caught off guard first when I stepped out of the airport doors. Part of me wishes I had taken a picture just, because I’m not sure I have ever seen that many people in that small of an area. No one had warned me of sidewalk traffic at the airport!
Speaking of sidewalks, I had not anticipated that bringing two large rolling bags would be such a pain! Not all of the sidewalks and driveways have large cracks and dips, but anyone who comes here should make sure they can carry their baggage with ease over uneven paths. My first week alone I saw quite a few people trip, and I will admit to losing my footing once or twice. Definitely no texting and walking here!
I was quite disappointed after learning that it is not advised to walk with phone in hand around town. Coming into a new country, all I wanted to do was take pictures of this extremely fascinating place, but snapshots should only be taken in secure areas.
The high security of houses and buildings also amazed me. Two or three locks on the house gate, with a front door after that seemed to give off an unwelcome, dangerous kind of vibe. Large fences and barbed wire are most definately in abundance here.
Despite the struggle of entering the house, I was pleasantly surprised to learn how loving and accepting my Tico family is. I expected them to be nice, but it shocked me when my Tico dad told me that I was now part of their family on my first day of being in Costa Rica.
I definitely have had some culture shock, and that is normal coming into an entirely different country. These things that I had not anticipated are not all bad, just different than what I am used to. I think it’s important for people immersing themselves into a new culture to understand that there is little room for judgement on their part, but plenty of room for adjustment. I have learned to walk with more care, pay attention to my surroundings, accept the high security instead of seeing it as unsafe, and embrace the love that my Tico family shows me. I do wish I would’ve known some of these things before I came to Costa Rica, but I am adapting well just the same.
Written By Rachel Illias, Social Media Journalist