Ten Ways To Experience Rural Costa Rica Like A Local

Think Costa Rica is a place you want to live? Then you need to get out of the luxury resort areas and hit a small rural town. Unless you’re very rich and will be locating in the posh suburb of Escazu near San Jose, you will no doubt be in or close to a small town. Aside from doing the normal “due diligence” of looking at health care and housing, there are cultural differences that make living in Costa Rica much different. Think Mayberry.

1. Slow down your pace - walk


Want to know why Ticos are so slim and in shape? They walk - a lot - uphill! Get on your walking shoes and walk a couple kilometers. You’ll be amazed at what you see once you slow down your pace to a walk. You’ll see and hear things you would miss riding in a car or bus.

2. Take a bus


If a Tico has to travel more than they can walk, the first preferred method of transportation is the bus. No matter how small a town - even just a few dozen people living together - you will find public transportation. It may be a recycled school bus with bad shock absorbers, but it will be on a schedule and very reasonably priced.

3. Eat at a soda


When a Tico is eating away from home, they head to the small - some are standup only - food stands called “sodas.” Food will be prepared on a gas fired burner fresh as you wait. But it will be a simple “casada” of rice, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and usually chicken - sometimes pork. It will be plentiful and cheap (equivalent of USD $2-$3)

4. Have a natural fruit drink


Skip the bottled drinks. Ask for a “naturale.” It may be made on site from pineapple, blackberries, strawberries, mango, cas, watermelon and other local fruits. It also may be made from a pre-made concentrate. But it’s what the local enjoy with their casada.

5. Gossip


You know why it seems Ticos never pass each other without stopping to chat? They are gossiping. In small towns, this is the way news is passed. A tico will find out who died, when the water will be shut off, who’s “doing” who, and other important information. Ticos really take “what’s up” or “how’s it going” seriously.

6. Talk loudly into your cell phone


Yes, cell phone. 50% of the population has a cell phone and it’s growing raplidly. But talking on the phone can be difficult because of the spotty service and the bus belching it’s way past you. Ticos don’t mind that you can hear them a block away yelling their business or personal information into a phone.

7. Stop when you get a cell call


Whether in a car or on foot, people stop immediately when they get a cell call. First, if you are driving, it’s the law that you stop. The law doesn’t tell you to pull out of the lane of traffic, just don’t drive and talk. Ticos will stop and let traffic go around while they chat. If walking it’s wise to stop because just a few steps more may mean the call will drop.

8. Look down when you walk - but also look up


Walking on the sidewalk in a small town in Costa Rica is an art. You have to be aware of the pothole, giant curb, drainage ditch, dog, pipe, or whatever in your immediate path. But you will also want to look ahead to see who you are meeting so you can greet them with a nice smile and a “buenos” (Hi!) or “buenos dias” (good morning) or whatever. If you see something you need to study for a while, stop. Because as sure as you try to walk and gawk you will suffer the painful consequences.

9. Early to bed and early to rise


Costa Rica has 12 hours of sunshine year around. The sun sets about 5:00 and it’s pitch dark by 6:00. Ticos go to bed early during the week because they are up early. You won’t be able to sleep in anyway because the local rooster or motorcyclist or truck driver will sound off.

10. Never ask “why?”


Suspend all logic. Things are what they are. Ticos don’t question “why?” because they have generations of experience knowing that it doesn’t matter. They live for the moment. If the ATM is out of cash mid-day on a Wednesday… or the gas station closes because they are out of fuel, or your favorite brand of coffee suddenly disappears from the pulperia shelf, don’t ask “why?”

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