Opening Eyes and Building Confidence

Getting out of your comfort zone, going to another country, another culture, is incredibly important.  Having just returned from taking a group of 50 people to Europe, 19 of whom were 13 years old, I got to see eyes opened, confidence given, and understanding granted.  Every child of this age (and really of every age) should be exposed to different cultures.  Here is what I witnessed:

1)      A junior soccer team from Costa Rica went to Barcelona and played in one of the top international tournaments in the world.  They got their booties kicked in the first game which gave them a respect for other teams and styles of play.  Then they came back and won 5 games in a row, winning 2nd place in the consolation bracket, and giving them the confidence that just because they are not a major European team, not only can they compete, that they have the ability to win against some of the best.  Think about how this relates to their day to day lives in the future.

2)      This group learned how to manage the public transportation system in Madrid, Paris, and London.  They figured out the metro system so they can get from place to place in some of the major cities of the world.  The fear of the unknown was conquered.  They began to understand that they can figure these things out and don’t have to be afraid to try and to ask for help.

3)      Learning to communicate with others without knowing the language.  First, many recognized the importance of English as the international language of communication but even without that, they figured out ways to get the answers they needed.  Whether they used technology, a friend, or hand signals, they ordered meals, found locations, and made new friends.

4)      Seeing how other cultures react to rules.  The group discovered that rules are very important to the British and these must be followed.  If you cross the street, it must be in the crosswalks and with the light.  If you do so, the world stops for you to cross the road, if not, you are risking your life.  Lines are not to be cut.  Rules are there for a reason and must be obeyed.  It was a very obvious contradiction with the Costa Rican culture that opened their eyes to other differences in cultures and helped them to understand that not everyone sees things the same way.

I know that for many of these families, this was a very difficult expense and a sacrifice to send these kids overseas, but it has had more impact than only a soccer tournament or just seeing the Eiffel Tower.  This was life-changing for these kids whether they realize it yet or not.  For those parents who bring their children to Costa Rica and immerse them here, the same happens.  Anytime that children (and adults) can be exposed to another culture is a positive thing.  I am so glad to have seen it in this group and hope that other kids will have this experience which will absolutely shape their lives in ways unimaginable. 

Tina Newton is a Realtor and part-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate, located in Atenas, Costa Rica.  For information on homes in Costa Rica or just to answer your questions about living there, contact her at her email, check out the listings on the homepage or follow on Facebook.

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Anxiety about Moving or Traveling Abroad

As I get excited and yet nervous about my upcoming trip to Europe, I was reminded of my fears when I first moved to Costa Rica.  It’s exciting because you are going to a new place with new experiences, but at the same time, it’s mixed with an anxiety and nervousness of the unknown.   What can you expect?  Will it be difficult?  What if something happens?  How will you react?  And I think this final question is the most important.  Your reaction.  It’s all about attitude.

1)      Language differences.  Moving or visiting a place that doesn’t speak your language is scary.  How do you communicate?  First of all, take a deep breath.  There is usually someone who speaks your language and hand signals work wonders.  Find a common language or a language that is semi understandable by both sides.  I don’t speak Italian or French, but have found that my Spanish works wonders there.  I can decipher most written French because of the Latin communalities with Spanish although the spoken language is impossible for me.  In Italy, again the similarities between Spanish and Italian were amazing.  Having the patience and letting go of frustrations will make the difference.  Laugh and try.  Trying to communicate rather than just getting angry because no one speaks English, can often get you what you need.  I did have an issue once in Italy when I was trying to find an ATM and all of the banks were closed.  For some reason, I couldn’t find a word in Italian or a way to fully describe what an ATM was and in the end, the lady that was trying to help me gave me her sandwich so that my children wouldn’t starve.  From now on, I will always make sure to know how to ask for an ATM in any language.  But it’s all in the attitude.  Go with the flow.

2)      Living conditions.  No hot water?  Shared bathrooms? Hamburgers that are terrible?  No air conditioning?  I won’t go then.  Nope, not for me.  Oh, come on.  If you go to a foreign country hoping for exactly the same experiences that you have in your home country, don’t go!  Open your eyes and hearts to new experiences.  I admit, there are a few things that I’ve never quite gotten used to in my foreign home, but that’s okay.  Learn to take the best of both worlds and live without the things that really are not so necessary.  When I travelled to India, I insisted on going to the bathroom with a real Western toilet rather than a hole in the ground.  After seeing the filth of the toilet, I was very happy to pee over the hole and I could see the benefits of wearing a skirt rather than pants.  There is a reason that everyone uses the hole in the ground.  And seriously, who goes to Latin America for a good hamburger?  Try the patacones or arroz con pollo instead.  Attitude.  Go with the flow.

3)      Cultural differences.  Kisses on the cheeks?  1 or 2? Wimpy handshakes?  Eye contact?  Space between people when speaking?  Take off your shoes?  Cross your legs?  Don’t?  Observe and practice.  Obviously, there might be some cultural differences that you just can’t get used to or can’t accept.  But many are just not a big deal and showing that you are trying to adapt goes a LONG way.  After 18 years in Costa Rica, I still forget to greet everyone in the room with a kiss on the cheek both on arrival and departure, but I am working on it.  Does it kill me to do it?  NO.  When I was younger, I felt angry at having to cover my head when walking into a Russian Orthodox church.  American females just did NOT cover our heads.  What a young, naïve, and conceited 20 year old I was.  Did it kill me to respect the culture?  No.  Luckily I was older when I went to Dubai and India and decided to have the Indian style pants and tunics made for travel so that I would not insult the people around me.  When the ladies, often in full burkas, looked at me and nodded their heads in appreciation, I knew I had made the right decision.  I had found the right compromise between covering myself completely and wearing shorts even though other Americans who had been there told me I could wear anything I wanted.  And to be honest, the pants were the most comfortable things I have ever worn.  Again, attitude.  You won’t be a local, but at least you can try to respect and try things that come up.  Go with the flow.

Perhaps moving somewhere permanently requires a bit more adaptation than just a trip, but attitude goes a long way in either case.  Be open to trying new things.  Sometimes you will reject certain cultural practices (I will never be able to function on “Tico Time”) but other practices you might actually find enjoyable and adapt them into your everyday life (I’m still working on the greetings, but I think it is a fabulous thing).  I’m still nervous about my upcoming trip, but I have learned a lot over the years about acceptance of other cultures and I’m really excited to add to my experiences.  The right attitude will allow you to enjoy your experience way more.

To answer your questions on living in Costa Rica or look for a home, contact Tina Newton with Tristan & Newton Real Estate through email , on Facebook or the website.  She tries to put home buying and cultural living experiences on the blog as often as possible.