Getting Used to the Norm in San José

Kelsi Brooks is a student at Georgia College & State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Kelsi is currently studying abroad with ISA in San José, Costa Rica.

Estatua en la ciudad de San Jose
Statue in San José

Ticos (Costa Ricans) are a very amiable people. They love to talk, enjoy sports and get involved in their communities and in the lives of their children. Throughout my initial exploration of San José, I’ve picked up on a few key things that have really helped me to integrate and become more familiar with my surroundings. Below are my words of advice to help get used to the norm in San José.

Get out of your comfort zone

Know your way around your city, town and neighborhood.  Explore it during the day with your friends, your Tico friends, or your host family.

Know what’s happening in Costa Rica

Keep up on the local news:

Eat at a local soda (family-run restaurant)

My favorite places to eat normally are not always pleasing to the eye. My goal is to eat cheap and well (the typical life of a college student). Eating a casado at a soda is a great way to start off your adventure in Costa Rica. If rice and beans are not your thing, then I would try fish (pescado) or an empanada.

My advice when eating out is don’t just order your food without knowing what you’re ordering. Talk to the waiter or hostess. Ask them what the best dish to eat is. Pick their brain, ask them about the area, about the nearest grocery store, about their favorite place to visit within the country that you are exploring. This is one of the best ways to adapt to the culture, as well as a way to think like a local. A local who is honest and truly interested in sharing their culture will continue talking to you. And they might even give you insight into how Ticos perceive their surroundings, their customs and their ways of living life.

Struggling for something to say?

One thing that my mom always tells me is that people love talking about themselves. Talking about oneself is natural and easy, and it allows the person asking the questions to get to know the person that they are talking to much better.

So think about something that you love expounding upon: your college, your family, your best friend, your church life, your favorite sports team, your favorite genres of music.

Even if you are scared, if your Spanish doesn’t come out correctly, the person that you are talking to will appreciate the efforts you are making to get to know them and their culture.

Bible Reading in Downtown San Jose
Bible Reading in Downtown San José

3 thoughts

  1. Hi kelsi! I studied with ISA last spring in San Jose. I was at U Latina in San Pedro. Not sure if you’re at veritas or heredia or U Latina but if you need any help or advice I’m here!! You definitely have to take a weekend trip to Manuel Antonio. It was my groups favorite place. Bring a soccer ball or basketball with you when you go to monte verde bc they have this mini soccer rink field that we played on for hours at night and at the very top of the place there is a basketball court that we played on while the sunset. Literally felt like we were playing bball on top of the world. And in tamarindo the catamaran is the best and the sea turtle night walk is soooo magical! We saw so many sea turtles! If there is a grass field by up and you like getting exercise or playing soccer, just kick a ball around with your friends and the you’ll meet a lot of TICOS that would like to play with you and you become good friends with them. But bottom line, enjoy every single minute of it. You’ll have an amazing time!

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