Time Differences in Costa Rica & how they will affect you as an expat
I’m having a war path day – anyone who’s ever been married know what that looks like when the woman of the house is on the war path, right? 🙂 But what does this have to do with the time differences in Costa Rica that I’m going to post about today?
First, when you move to Costa Rica – and sometimes even when you visit Costa Rica as a tourist – you may find yourself surprised about some of the things that you ‘thought’ would be different, that are not. On the flip side, you may find yourself equally surprised when the things you thought would be the same, are definitely NOT.
I am having one of those days. The ones where everything seems to piss me off about living on the coast of Costa Rica. And, yes, I live close to the beach and in the rainforest, and as such, have NO reason to do a whole lot of griping. But as today is – what I used to term a “bad Panama day” when I lived in Panama – …well, I’m gonna turn my bitching into a post instead and let you see the inside scoop of how time differences in Costa Rica can both benefit you and plague you, when you live here. Read on, if you please.
Cultural Difference #1 in Costa Rica: Time
Yes, you’ve heard about it. After all, this is Ticolandia, the land of “Pura Vida“, and complete relaxation. That’s right. There’s a definite Yin and Yang related to the concept of time (and especially time management) here in the tropics, and along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.
When The Concept of Time in Costa Rica is to your benefit
One example, on the Yang side, we had an appointment with the mechanic this morning and were asked to drop off the truck for some work between 9 and 10 a.m.
Side note: Few places here on the coast do anything before 9 a.m. unless they serve breakfast or sell products for farmers who are up at the crack of dawn. Another aspect of Pura Vida!
Back to the truck repair – the guy asked us to drop it off between 9 and 10 a.m. So, we scuttled out of bed early and left the house at around 8:30 a.m. (it’s an hour and a half drive) only to get on the road and realize, “Hmm. We’re hungry.”
“No worries,” said my Tico partner. “Let’s stop for breakfast.” So, we did. Meanwhile, while we munched, he texted the shop to tell them we were enroute with an anticipated later arrival. An hour later (still enroute, behind a huge truck on a two-lane road through the mountains), we realized his phone had been on Airplane mode and the text had not gone through. Ugh.
The good news: when we arrived (only 20 minutes past the original scheduled appointment slot at 10:20 a.m.), the mechanic not only had not received the text, he was non-plussed, happy to see us and promised, “It will be done within an hour.”
(In Costa Rica, please take note – when someone says “it will be ready in an hour”, you auto-assume it means 2-3 hours.)
So, that’s the Yang side – you can stop to have breakfast on the way to the mechanic and it won’t screw up your entire time table for getting your fixed car back…on the same day. 🙂
When the Concept of Time in Costa Rica bites you…
On the Yin side (and I may have Yang and Yin mixed up here, feel free to correct me), we left the mechanic and took a taxi 10 minutes down the road to our next appointment. This one was a “loose” appointment, and we had called from the road earlier to say, “Hey! We won’t be there at 10, as planned, but probably will be by 10:30.”
“No worries,” said the guy. “I’ll be there in ten minutes myself.” (As the call originated at 10:07 a.m., that should have meant he’d be there by 10:17 a.m., more or less.)
Good news, we arrived at 10:37 a.m. (Not bad, since we had been more delayed than we had planned because of our own Pura Vida breakfast.)
Bad news, the guy left us waiting…until 11:17 a.m. And, here we are, more than an hour later, and the appointment still hasn’t started. It’s 11:52 a.m. I have to be honest. Now, I’m pissed.
Time Considerations the Pura Vida Costa Rica way
This is the definite downside of Pura Vida; when the concept of time management (or time consideration) has been either forgotten or pushed back because of the other person’s own Pura Vida relaxed journey, and well, you are simply S.O.L. or at their mercy.
Sometimes, dealing with people related to the concept of time in Costa Rica simply sucks, let’s be honest. Today, for us, has been a mixed bag.
Time Considerations between Panama & Costa Rica – do they differ?
Great question! I’m so glad you asked. 🙂 Yes, they do.
Living as an expat in Costa Rica now for almost two years, and having lived in Panama for eight years prior to that, I’d say that time considerations in Panama are actually worse. (I’m ducking now because my Panamanian friends may be throwing rotten apples at me for saying that.) But, it’s true.
Because Panama has a concentrated dose of Caribbean integrated into the mezcla of culture in the country, you can expect that time considerations in Panama are indeed more pronounced. I covered that topic – with many other examples – in my books about Panama, if you’re interested.
In fact, I did a recent expat interview with an executive in Panama, who commented on her struggles related to time considerations there. Here’s a link to that part of that recent conversation.
In Costa Rica, time is less important in the coastal areas. People are watching the tides for when to go surf or paddle board, after all. In San Jose, the capitol of Costa Rica, people are much more attuned to schedules, perhaps because of the education levels are higher.
So, that’s it for today, kids! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about time considerations in Costa Rica. It’s now 12:07 and my husband has just been called in…only an hour and a half late…so, I’ll be here for a while longer.