Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cultural Observations

Different cultures are different. When you cross cultures, some things are better, some are worse, some are just different. Many things that we think are obvious to everyone, or clearly based in reality are simply cultural / supersticious.

Of course the food is different. The fruits are cheaper, more available and tastier. Greater variety, too. We have discovered a new (to us) citrus fruit called cas. It´s great. Costa Rica is not really known for its food, and the food is pretty generically Latin, in my opinion. But it is good. Typical breakfast includes gallo pinto (literally, painted rooster). It is mostly beans and rice, with onions and other spices. You can get gallo pinto at McDonald´s during breakfast, but not for any other meal.

Every afternoon about 4:00, we have a small meal, cafecito. Coffee (or other drink), bread (or biscuits, or cookies, or cake) and butter. So, most everyone eats 4 meals a day. I like it.

The concept of health in Costa Rica is quite different than my own. For example, everyone must wear shoes inside the house. Katherine tried to step out of our bedroom without shoes or socks and she was immediately repremanded. Why? The floors are cold, and if your feet get cold, you will get sick. The floors are only slightly cold, not uncomfortable, really. But later we learned that no part of your skin should ever touch the floor because it is cold, and you might get sick. On the other hand, used toilet paper never goes in the toilet. It must be placed in a trash can near the toilet. The can may get changed once or twice a week. For me, this is a more significant health issue. But, that may be a cultural preferance after all.

Another interesting concept of the culture. About a third (I am guessing) of the homes in the neighborhoods stock certain disposable items and those families sell that item to whoever wants it. For example, if you want to get some ice cream, you just walk 4 houses down the street to the family that stocks ice cream, and you buy it. Or the next house that sells soda. Or one house sells notebook paper. Then, one family will have a whole bunch of stuff, and that will be their job. Like a 7-11, but only family members run the store, and it is connected to their house.

One more. Security. When we come home, we need to unlock the padlock on the gate to the completly enclosed patio. Then, we unlock the dead bolt on the same gate. After we pass through, we lock both locks again. Then, we go to the front door and unlock the outer door´s deadbolt, and then the inner door´s deadbolt. When we get inside, we lock both doors back. Four different locks to go inside. The garage has three different locks. The front door has 4 different locks. The bedrooms have deadbolt locks. The same is true for everyone in the country. Is this really more secure? I don´t know. I get the impression it is similar to the silliness of gated communities in the United States. The appearance of security without any actual increase in security.

Well, I could write a lot more on other cultural things -- maybe another time.


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