“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.“
Health, finances, relationships and just plain fatigue of living in an uncertain world are difficulties I clearly see ex-pats doing battle with here.
I also see how facing those issues have formed outstanding character and dignity amongst the clients I have gotten to know over the years. They are all very welcome additions to Costa Rica’s cultural fabric.
But with many other expats, (men in particular) I see self-defeating choices that could so easily be changed for better outcomes.
Like all countries, the journey to solid immersion takes them to the front line staffs of bureaucracies…not only at the Immigration Centre, but also at restaurants, banks, medical centers, and various other government offices.
A recent humorous characterization comes to mind…
I heard a disgruntled ex-pat entrepreneur often refer to Costa Rica as the country of “No!” But there is also the point of view from those whose service and cooperation is sought.
I once acted as mediator to arrange a meeting with MOPT (transportation ministry) and a private firm selling construction products. A meeting was agreed to but with this terse warning: “Don’t anyone show up here in shorts and t-shirts… or it will be a very brief meeting!”
Too many ex-pat men refuse to make the distinction between the place of needed financial, medical or administrative service … and the beach or jungle.
The more fashion adventurous among them seems woefully unaware of fashion faux pas of a different sort. Here’s some astounding history I learned from my husband who was once immersed in the fashion industry.
Back in the early 90’s, a prominent Toronto fashion designer friend of my husband’s pushed back against his (my husband’s) critique of weird trends in fashion with this prophesy: “Hey my friend…if you think what you see is getting really goofy now… give us 25 more years. Just wait till you see what we talk all you macho types into wearing!”
Fast forward to 2016. Androgynous buzz cuts, earrings, piercings, tattoos, skinny jeans, tasseled knee length shorts, sockless running shoes, and worst of all: neon.
The net effect of a man in skinny jeans sporting more than 4″ of excess weight around his waistline is an undeniably feminine curved shape. Depending on the material, long shorts dropping from a rotund waistline with those large leg openings can make a man look like Charlie Brown in a dress.
Most men would take great pause if they ever personally met the polymorphous gender benders from whom all this crazy stuff originates.
Let’s consider something very basic: There are five stages of any transaction.
I am only focusing on stage one: Establishing trust & cooperation.
Before you speak your first word to any airport official, waiter, security guard, administrator, police officer etc., they have already formed a strong opinion of you.
How? Visual clues that they filter through their Tico frame of reference. And that sets the tone of the whole transaction.
Stick with me men and reap the rewards. (Most of you ladies are doing just fine. Some of you might be cheering right now.)
The majority of Tico men and women in business here are well groomed and properly dressed. Neat clothing and shoes, brushed teeth, deodorant, cologne, tidy hair.
Quite the contrast to many ex-pat men here dressed in what I refer to as the “the uniform.” Cheap grey or powder blue t-shirt (some with unsolicited messages) and large, wrinkled cargo pants with Mephistos or worse: sock-less, dirty running shoes.
Guys… leave it for the beach and jungle.
When you want service from the above-mentioned sources, always wear appropriately colored socks, lace up shoes and a collared shirt with sleeves. In other words, age-appropriate, smart, multi-tasking separates.
Always smile, be polite, patient and respectful in your speech and body language, especially in the moments of deep frustration. Get the person’s name if you can. Try to repeat it at least three times within the first five minutes of conversation. Tico’s idea of conflict resolution is to talk over you. So let them talk and wait respectfully for your opportunity to once again gently put forth your point of view.
Obviously Spanish is ideal, but I realize that comes very hard to some and takes time. Those smiles go a long way to make up for it.
If you are going to CAJA once your Costa Rica residency is approved, and your Spanish is not up to par, spend $25 to $50 and bring a well-groomed interpreter. I guarantee you things are far more likely to go your way.
In my next blogs, I will get into each phase of the residency process and immunize you from the frequently erroneous website, coffee shop and barstool misinformation.
Written by Laura B. Gutiérrez who specializes in getting your residency approved in Costa Rica quicker and more efficiently than any attorney.
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