Hi, and welcome to a few deep dives into the life of a kulturstudier-student in San Isidro, Costa Rica! I have been here for about a month now, and though I ́d tell you a bit about the town and the main culture shocks I’ve experienced so far.

I had previously travelled to Cuba and Brazil in this part of the world, and even though a lot is similar, it is not the same. Despite having experienced a bit of the continent before, nothing prepares you for the intense experience it is to actually live in a new country. Costa Rica is absolutely the nature paradise that it is perceived as, but it is also a lot more. It is a lot of rice and beans (at least once a day) and it is a new way of eating bananas (or plantains). This season, Costa Rica is also planning your days after the rain, since running 10 seconds in cloud-burst means getting soaked as if you were in the shower. It is cockroaches, waterfalls and adventures. But mostly, Costa Rica is its people, always greeting everyone, easily
bursting into song and dance and always happy. The Swedish way of not sitting next to anyone on the bus seems alien here. Anyone you meet is happy to help you or talk to you about whatever. Us trying to get by with our (still) limited Spanish is always met with encouragement and appreciation.

Here follows some things I’ve learned so far about living here:

  • Ubers, the easiest way to get around, is actually illegal. Therefore you may always sit in the front seat to make it look more as if you know each other and therefore might avoid being stopped by the police. A big tip is also to learn how to close the doors gently, since drivers despise Scandinavians slamming their doors. (Why do we even
    do that?). There are buses around most of the town. Even though they are cheaper than an Uber, the timetable can be kind of tricky. Only the departure from the “origin station” will show, and therefore you need to appreciate how long it will be before the bus reaches your station. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite easy though.
  • Stress is a European concept. I actually learned this in Tanzania many years ago. In the same way they go by “Africa time”, Costa Rica seems to have their own “Costa Rica Time”. Meaning that if someone tells you a drive will be 40 minutes, you can easily count on an hour and a half. One of my new friends here said that you have to take whatever time is said and multiply it with Pi. I find that quite funny and almost true. Even though you might get frustrated in the beginning of always having to wait, soon you get into the groove of it. I realised that I don’t really have anything to hurry to. This attitude towards time can also be to your benefit, like when the sign says the restaurant closes at 8pm, but you’re still there eating desserts at 10pm! The diurnal rhythm is also generally different here. People get up early before the heat strikes and go to bed early, when it gets dark. It actually fits perfectly with the jet lag coming from Sweden or Norway, so take advantage of that!
  • Shopping for food is different. Both since you are sharing kitchen space with 8 others (or less depending on what kind of house you’re in) but also since you buy things fresh and eat it right away. You can’t store food for long, and therefore you eat what you have and then buy some more. The farmer’s market “La Feria” is my favourite place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. However it’s just open 3 days a week and it’s always a struggle not to buy too much!

Moving to a new place alone is very exciting, but of course also very hard. The tremendous distance and time difference is hard at times. It is important to remember that being homesick is a part of growing, and that everyone here probably feels the same way. The time moves really fast and so much is happening all the time, before you know it you’re on a plane home again. I try my best to keep that in mind.

Until next time, ¡Hasta Luego!
//Maja Glysing