One of my favorite parts about studying abroad is staying with a host family. I am so blessed to be living in a beautiful home with a mom, two Costa Rican fashion design students, and two other girls in my program studying at VERITAS. Altogether, there are six females living in a house together. It’s a blast! We basically have a slumber party every night! Not really…but, with so many girls here, we definitely have spent many nights painting nails, cutting each other’s hair, and of course, having late-night pillow talks.
Though I have only been living in Costa Rica for a little over a month now, my host family has taught me a lot about Costa Rican culture and what it’s like to be a women here. Here are my favorite things they have taught me so far:
- Go with the flow
One big difference in Costa Rican culture is that Tico’s are much more spontaneous. They go with the flow and they change their plans based off what events arise. At first that was hard for me to adjust to. I am the type of person who likes to have my days planned, and get things accomplished. But I’ve found that when I have things scheduled out, I miss out on the moments when family randomly decides to visit our home or when we play twister together. It’s in the moments when there’s not much going on that you can just sit down and enjoy the company of others.
- Be generous
My host mom has guests over to her house almost every day. Whether it is the security guards who patrol the streets outside our house, church friends, the gardener, or the house maid–she cooks for all of these different people. She welcomes both family and strangers into her house, and always finds a way to multiply the food so there’s more than enough for everyone. Not only does she cook for them, but she sits down to enjoy the time together. This is especially fun for my roommates and I, as we get to meet new people and build relationships with locals.
- Love your dog
We have a little Nauser Dog, named Muñeca. Muñeca means “doll”, but she doesn’t look much like one. With her bald back and her hairy bottom, she looks more the like an overgrown rat. Muñeca wears a ribbon around her neck and barks at whatever strangers pass by. But despite her scrappy haircut and her barks, she is the pride and joy of our Mama Tica. Muñeca has been with her for years, and she is part of the family. When Muñeca got sick with a cyst on her stomach, and started scratching at it, Mama Tica spent $1000 US Dollars to get her the surgery she needed. And, for a Costa Rican, that’s a lot of money to spend on your pet. But it demonstrates that she really cares for her dog. It makes me miss my own dog, and realize that the animal is part of the family, too.
- Cherish your family
My Costa Rican family is one of the most close-knit I know. Both of our Mama Tica’s daughters live in the same neighborhood, within walking distance of our house. Kimberly, the youngest daughter, comes over to have breakfast with us every morning. And the oldest daughter Ingrid, comes over for dinner with her daughter, Camila, every night. Sometimes I help Camila with her English homework, or we play Cosechas (which is Twister), or soccer at the park.
Then, as usual, we all come together for a meal. We sit together around the dinner table and share about our days. We laugh about the differences between the states and Costa Rica. Besides eating together at our host-home, we also have been invited over to their homes to hang out with their families. I don’t just feel like I’m an outsider here, but rather welcomed into a family. They have invited us in to their lives.
- Dance like there’s no tomorrow
This past weekend we went to Ingrid and Camila’s house to spend time with their family. Camila invited us to play her Wii. We played Mario Party and laughed as I lost over and over again to the protégée video game player, Camila. Then, when it came time to play the Dance Party Game, our Mama Tica was the one who showed us how it’s done.
Written by Abby Reese, Social Media Journalist