A Muddle of Mentalities

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I suppose culture shock only exists if you have enough of a handle on the culture concerned to realise that it differs from your own…..and that culture doesn’t have to be foreign.

I remember being on holiday in Luxor years ago where my husband taught me to swim….well, to keep afloat…in the pool at the hotel.
There were not many guests in the hotel, but those around the pool seemed all to be British….middle aged couples and a few families with children, most of whom were in the pool, throwing balls about and enjoying splashing as much as swimming.
We were reading in the shade when we became aware that a little girl was parading round the surrounds of the pool and that in her wake people were gathering up their belongings and heading for the hotel.
Our turn came and we too skedaddled.
The little girl was pulling forward her swimsuit bottom and asking if we wanted to see her willy.

Whatever was going on there, it was certainly culture shock and we wanted no part of it!

Running recently between Costa Rica, France, Spain and England I had an exposure to different cultures – so brief in the case of Spain that I hardly had time to register more than that the cleaners all seemed to be of Arab appearance and the ticket clerks laughed and said ‘Pura Vida’ when I booked my train journey using my best Costa Rican Spanish.

In France friends told me of their troubles with their bank…..who did not take out the standing order which paid their mortgage and promptly took them to court for non payment.
They were lucky enough to have a tough minded retired Belgian lawyer friend to stand up for them as it was clear that the court was minded to ignore the fact that the bank had not taken the money in order to concentrate on the non payment……

How French!

And I have just read the latest episode in the dreadful saga of the Hobos in France blog…apologies, but I cannot get a link to work…which bears out my own and others’ experience of the French legal system…if in doubt lose the papers and if all else fails…lie.

Coming from a background of English law, it shocks me…but I have a nasty suspicion that the English legal system has now gone so far to the dogs in terms of accessibility that it is emerging at the nether end.

The Costa Rican legal system has…so far…been good to me and I do like the attempts made by the judge to reconcile the parties…..as far as possible from the English mindset where it is thought that if the parties have come to court it is because no reconciliation was possible and the court is there to try the matter.

But there is a general reluctance in Costa Rica to have an open disagreement….it is seen as impolite and uneducated to brawl and shout the odds.
You express your disagreement non verbally…by not doing whatever it is that the other party wants.

So I followed the Costa Rican cultural norm when considering what to do after a conversation with another immigrant who lives up on the mountain between us and the town.

He is an American, or, as I have now learned to say, North American, and is a lawyer.
He bought his finca from another North American, and became distinctly disgruntled when he became aware of the difference between the price he paid and the sum his seller originally handed over. In consequence he has become somewhat of a dog in the manger where his property is concerned.

I met him on the back road to town and, amazingly, he stopped his car and got out. He does not usually speak…I suppose as he isn’t being paid to do so he spares himself the effort.

Bypassing the usual courtesies he informed me that the poles bearing the ‘phone line which passes over his property belonged to him. A man had offered him a good price for these poles….but he would give me the chance to buy them, in order to be able to keep the ‘phone line.
Unimaginable…that he thinks I’m stupid enough to come up for that, and that anyone would even contemplate threatening to remove someone’s ‘phone access.
Not to mention that there are several others on this line…among them men with machetes…

My first instinct was to tell him to stuff the poles where the monkey stuffed the nuts…..but, being in Costa Rica, I smiled and said I would think it over.

Up in town I dropped into the ICE offices (electricity and telecommunications) and recounted my tale to Don Carlos on the desk. He telephoned someone in the back office who emerged, print out in hand, to demonstrate that the poles belonged to ICE and that any attempt to meddle with them would meet with disapproval.
He then attempted to sell me a mobile ‘phone to be able to contact them should any such thing occur.

So, sure in my rights, I did nothing.

But if he comes the old acid again I shall encourage Don Antonio to remove the copper cable whch runs over his land, carrying the power for the North American’s water pump.

Pura vida!


18 thoughts on “A Muddle of Mentalities”

  1. It sounds to me like your new neighbour has been taking lessons from your other Neighbour, Helen. How to win friends and influence people, I don’t think.

    Never having created a new post in WP, only edited transferred ones, I’m not sure why your link-making facility doesn’t work. I’ll have a think…..

    1. Oddly enough, there is a connection between the two….

      I’d be delighted if you can sort the link problem…it’s probably something I’m not doing properly but it’s not evident…well, it never is , to me!

  2. Clearly your neighbor is getting a lesson in the ‘servidumbre’ laws of Costa Rica. Ha! Believe me, I have a story to tell on that score. It will have to wait, though, for the sluggish, dare I say indolent, court system to resolve it before I post much about it. Glad to find your blog home.

    1. I think I too would find the court system indolent…had I not had experience of French courts. They make Costa Rican courts look like models of speed and efficiency.
      i look forward to the story in due course…..

  3. Hi Helen,

    I always enjoy reading your posts. I live a very sheltered life. LOL! Seriously, I have never had the opportunity to travel further than the U.S. from my hometown of Montreal, Canada. I am always fascinated to read how things are in other parts of the world, and your posts enable me to do this, so I appreciate your blog so much. I have been to Ontario, New Brunswick and New England, which goes to show how little travel experience I have in my 56 years. I have to say that I am seeing similar attitudes in some people right here in my hometown. I guess that never changes no matter where you are. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I think you’re right, Linda…people are people wherever, nice or nasty, but the nice or nasty comes out in different ways due to the local culture.
      I’ll try to put up a few more photographs in later posts to give you more of an idea of the place.

  4. Just been catching up on all your blog posts. Your trip to the UK sounded absolutely horrendous on Eurolines. I must say, I had to use it back in the 90s because it was so cheap, but never again.

    As for this post, the arrogant American is up against a system he doesn’t understand (and probably despises), and I don’t reckon his chances. Ha!

    1. He can’t speak enough Spanish to try that stunt on any of the other neighbours….luckily for him.
      Eurolines was entirely my own fault….but when I saw how much Ryanair was charging for my luggage I nearly dropped from shock…I’d only ever travelled with a carry on bag ( and a coat with plenty of pockets) before.

  5. Americans (North) don’t ya just love them!
    Of course I had to learn all the cultural differences when I left the free world of Edinburgh for London. I will understand it soon I expect….

      1. I’ve promised myself i’ll avoid our legal system this time around. It takes 5 years to get a case decided then 5 years to have it reversed in appeal and by that time you’ve spent all your money on legal costs.

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