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Learning To Communicate With The Locals In Costa Rica – Some Tips For Expats

Communication is invariably a problem when moving to a new country, and this is especially true for most Latin American countries because of the huge cultural differences that shape and dictate the norms of socially acceptable behavior and communication. Costa Rica’s history has left it with a population demographic that may make it seem more European than South American, but the country is as Latino as it gets! Communication isn’t an insurmountable barrier that an expat needs to be too worried about, but don’t take for granted that it’s going to be easy simply because of the primarily European-descent population and because the English language is widely understood.While these factors may help you converse and communicate with the locals, there are, at the same time, many cultural barriers to communication. Here are a few tips on learning to communicate effectively in Costa Rica.

Understand the Local Culture: Don’t sabotage your dealings and business interactions with Costa Ricans by measuring their behavior against the standards in your home country. Costa Rican attitudes towards business and work are very different. English is the traditional business language, so it shouldn’t be hard to communicate, but Ticos (as Costa Ricans are called) take a very informal and almost casual approach to business meetings. Business meetings are usually conducted over a meal like lunch or dinner. Keep in mind that local culture is very laid-back and easy-going, a trait that also reflects in business. Punctuality is not a characteristic that Ticos are known for. Another odd feature of most business meetings here is that they usually begin with casual conversation that has nothing to do with business. Always make it a point to be courteous however, and when presented with the opportunity, make your requirements and expectations very clear.

Yes Often Means No: The word ‘yes’ does not necessarily mean ‘yes’ and in some cases it can mean quite the opposite. The locals hate to be negative, and will generally evade responses that require a negative response. Instead they will reply in the affirmative to questions in conversations; it’s just that their response or affirmation doesn’t really pertain to the question! For example, if you were to invite a colleague over to your place for dinner, he will assure you that he will be there. This of course does not mean he has any intention of showing up! You may call to find out if someone is on their way and will receive the response, “Yes, I’m on my way,” but no one will show up. As rude as this may seem, it isn’t done to be insulting or hurtful. Most Ticos in fact reply in the affirmative because they believe it’s what you want to hear. This is regarded as culturally acceptable behavior in Costa Rica, and it is thought of as the polite thing to do.

Don’t get help from a friend. Ask a Costa Rican: Never ask another expat or foreigner to interpret communications with a local for you. A Costa Rican would be the best judge when it comes to interpreting any kind of communication, as unlike most North American and European cultures that rely more heavily on direct communications that leave no room for ambiguity, most South American cultures like Costa Rica’s rely primarily on indirect communication that one is expected to understand.

Be careful about your nonverbal cues and gestures, because Costa Ricans read a lot into them. As is the case in most cultures, eye contact is given a great deal of importance and is especially important in business meetings. Make sure that you never form a fist with the thumb protruding between the index and middle fingers, as it’s regarded as extremely rude and impolite. Try not to keep adjusting your hands and feet when communicating, as it can be misconstrued as being rude. Costa Ricans are very physical and physically expressive, so don’t be surprised if men greet you with a warm hug or embrace as if you’re long lost friends. Women exchange greetings with a kiss on the cheek, and by and large, physical contact is an integral part of communication, and is completely acceptable.


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In this short video, we dive into the significant health care updates and changes happening globally in 2024. From Germany's insurance cost adjustments to Cyprus's renewed COVID-19 precautions, we cover the essential news you need to know.

Germany's Health Insurance Update:

Starting in 2024, residents in Germany will see a slight increase in their health insurance costs, with a 0.1% rise to a maximum of 1.7%. This adjustment aims to expand coverage for medical care not currently included in statutory health insurance, such as select dental treatments, IVF, and early cancer screenings.

COVID-19 Measures Reintroduced in Cyprus:

With over 3000 new COVID-19 cases, Cyprus is stepping up its game by reintroducing health measures. Requirements now include proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry into various facilities, emphasizing the importance of vaccination, especially for the elderly, to combat the evolving virus strains.

Free Health Trials in Trieste, Italy:

Trieste launches an initiative for free health screenings, including echocardiograms and blood tests, focusing on preventive care against non-communicable diseases. This move underscores the city's commitment to improving public health through early detection and prevention.

Spain's New Health Advice App:

Madrid introduces a groundbreaking app offering reliable health advice to counteract the widespread misinformation online. This app, part of the 'Madrid Te Cuida' initiative, will guide users to accurate information, from diet tips to medical queries, ensuring the advice is vetted by health professionals.

Expat Satisfaction with Healthcare in Mexico:

A study reveals that expat retirees in Mexico are largely content with the healthcare quality and costs, with many citing significant savings compared to the United States without compromising on care quality. This insight sheds light on the growing trend of healthcare tourism and relocation for medical reasons.

Stay tuned as we unpack these updates, providing you with the insights and implications of these healthcare changes. Whether it's the impact on your wallet or the quality of care you can expect, we've got you covered in this comprehensive overview of health care in 2024. Don't forget to like, share, and subscribe for more health news around the globe!

YouTube Video UCB21b-C4O2aXm7H18_GsXMQ_nC_Fs6gU22U

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update January 2024

Expat Focus 31 January 2024 10:36 am

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