Being that AM volunteer Nicole and her husband John have traveled extensively outside the United States, we asked Nicole to offer her observations on the culture here in Potrero in comparison with other communities in which they have been immersed. Nicole chose to compare Potrero to the French countryside, as France is the only other country besides Costa Rica and the U.S. where she has “lived both with locals and like a local for an extended period of time.” She acknowledges that her “observations are just that—observations,” and that her conclusions of course do not necessarily apply to all residents of either location.
As a child in France, my cousin taught me to say hello to everyone we met in the street as was the custom. This has come in handy in Potrero, as the same custom exists here. In Potrero, family members tend to live near one another and I have noticed the same to be true with my relatives in France.
Then there are things I’ve observed here that I have never seen in France. For example, in the morning there are men fishing at the beach using only rolls of fishing line and no poles, and I’ve seen a woman digging for clams on many occasions. From what I have experienced, Ticos don’t spend as long as the French at the table, but their food is just as fresh. The French do love their food and it’s a huge part of their culture, considering they spend at least two hours eating it at lunch time, but they don’t have to work as hard to get it. Though we can get any type of food at any time in the U.S., the freshness and therefore the taste certainly suffer. In both France and Costa Rica I have marveled over how tasty the strawberries are and how big and yummy the eggs are.
In terms of socializing, I have found the people of Costa Rica to be very open and friendly: from the store-owner putting alcohol on my scorpion wound and taking revenge on the bugger, to our landlords inviting us for dinner and offering their washing machine. And I can’t forget the doctor who gave John his crutches after an ankle injury. Ticos, to me, seem to be more content overall than the French, despite the economic disparity between the countries. More wealth certainly doesn’t mean more happiness.
Another comparison I find fascinating is the willingness that people here have to learn a foreign language. In Potrero, learning English can mean better jobs in the future. In France, like the U.S., most people do not learn a second language fluently. This makes the non French-speaking tourist feel a bit out of sorts when visiting, while an English speaker in Costa Rica may feel very much at ease.
Finally, I have noticed that the people of Costa Rica have made caring for the environment a hallmark of their culture. When I attended a Bandera Azul flag-raising to commemorate the cleanliness of the beach, many of the speakers commented on the importance of passing on the knowledge of environmental stewardship to the next generation. I have not witnessed such a large commitment towards protecting the environment in any other country I have visited thus far.
Thank you for sharing, Nicole! What about you? How do you think Potrero life compares to other places you’ve been around the world?