Lost in thoughts on my way to work, my drive was halted by a local policeman conducting a routine check along the road between Flamingo and Huacas. After rolling down the window, I was greeted by a friendly, older policeman who had checked on me a few times in the past. After throwing a look at my Costa Rican driver’s license and a short conversation, he waved me away with a genuine and well meant: “Que tengas buen día, mi amor” (Have a nice day, my love). An impromptu smile came to my face, and there was my idea for the newsletter.
This policeman’s spontaneous words and warm nature reminded me of one of the two main reasons why, ever since my first one-year stay in Costa Rica, I made it my life goal to come back and live here – the endless, effortless and genuine kindness of its people.
In how many countries is one greeted and treated like this? Not only by policemen, but by neighbors, colleagues, strangers waiting for the bus together or simply someone who walks past you on the street.
In Costa Rica it is the normal way of treating people. Ticos greet the ones that cross their path and ask how you are or how your day is going and rarely do you hear a negative answer. Most of the time everything is “Pura Vida” (Pure Life), meaning: Just Great! No matter their living conditions or emotional state, they keep their mood positive and pass on those vibes. In the years I’ve had the privilege to live here, I have not met a Tico in a bad mood. Moreover, “NO” is a non-existent word in Costa Rican vocabulary.
Whereas in other parts of the world, people are becoming grimmer and grimmer or forget to enjoy life in its little moments by avoiding strangers, keeping their heads down or sitting on the train without speaking one word to the person sharing the same bench, Ticos engage in the friendly greeting ritual with anyone who is open to it.
Happiness seems difficult to measure in numbers, but the World Happiness Index and the Satisfaction with Life Index rank the Ticos among the top 15 happiest populations in the world, and no doubt they are right.
And now that we are talking numbers, I can combine my first reason for choosing Costa Rica as my new resident country with the second reason – its abundant nature and the country’s efforts to protect it. The Happy Planet Index, which tells how well nations are achieving long, happy, sustainable lives, ranks Costa Rica number 1 out of 140 countries, with a substantial lead.
My personal conclusion based on one-year living in Costa Rica years ago, is amazingly well reflected in these indices and surveys. I wish the same “happy” experience to anyone who is up for it. Arm yourself with a smile and a good mouthful of Spanish, and you will be welcomed into the positive daily way of Tico life. They are the key to successful integration into this content society.
Of course, there is no such thing as the perfect place, but being surrounded by happy, content people and by protected nature every day makes Costa Rica very close to being that!
Let’s all work together to keep it that way!