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Thread: Pura Vida vs. Paisa Vida

  1. #1
    Administrator Jonesie's Avatar
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    Pura Vida vs. Paisa Vida

    Having lived and spent time in both Costa Rica and Medellin, I feel qualified to make an observation.

    Like the locals in Costa Rica, the gringos living in Costa Rica fall into two categories. Those who wish there were in Colombia, and those upset at the observation that Medellin is a better city than San Jose.

    The two glaring differences are that Paisas work and generally tell the truth. Of course there dishonest paisas, just like there are honest ticos, but the percentages overwhelmingly favor the paisas. And that's what we're doing today, speaking in general percentages.

    I noticed it today when I called the Hotel Cocal to make a reservation for a member. A lady answered, I asked for Edel, the reservations manager, and the girl hung up. I called back, the lady answered again, after again asking for Edel, I was again hung up on. I called back and asked in Spanish "Is there anyone I can make a reservation with"? And she said the lady that handles that was at lunch. I asked her why she hung up on me twice, and she said simply "She wasn't here".

    This isn't an exception to the rule of Costa Rican business, it's a very common way of doing things. Not too long ago, I asked for a taxi at a local hotel. The lady called, and I went out front to wait. After about 20 minutes, I went back inside and asked the girl "How long did they say it would be"?. To which she replied, "The line was busy". The reason she gave me as to why she didn't try them again, is that I'd only asked her once.

    You don't get this in Medellin. Jobs are important, and service is the difference between the winners and losers in business. "I didn't want to" isn't a reason people hear from their employees as to why something didn't get done. In Colombian society, laziness is viewed as a character defect.

    Yes, if you stay long enough in Medellin, you will find the warts in Colombian society as well. But it's the effort that makes all the difference...

  2. #2
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    I have enjoyed Medellin every time that I have visited (4 times). I like some other places in Colombia better than Medellin. I like Costa Rica in general more than any of them. Every person has what fits him best, and it's different for each person. You are spot on about the honesty and hard-working factor. This is an issue in San Jose, Jaco, and other spots in CR. I have also visited many places in CR where the people are genuinely nice and honest and work as hard as I would expect anyone else to work. I often wonder if this is OUR fault. By that I mean one too many loudmouth, crass gringos pissing off one too many working girls or working Ticos and Ticas.

    I'm stuck on CR, and I'm stuck on San Jose as a permanent home. It has its faults, I don't go to the gulch every day, but I like it. I know many locals who are genuinely good people, and I get good honest service and good prices where I shop.

    You're right. As a whole, Colombian culture is more appealing in these respects than CR culture. However, I also have to say that Jaco and San Jose often give the rest of CR a bad rap, at least from the point-of-view of a gringo.

  3. #3
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    I'm revisiting this topic after a long period of dormancy. A few observations about the Colombia vs. Costa Rica debate:

    Most REAL travelers who have visited both Costa Rica and Colombia favor Colombia. Garden-variety tourists or guys that only leave the USA for a "Sex-cation" tend to prefer CR because it is more Comfortable for them, and is closer to the USA, which means less travel time.

    Why are these folks more comfortable in CR? Because it feels more like home than Colombia. This is the point that most visitors and tourists fail to grasp. Both CR and Colombia are wonderful places to visit, each with its own culture. But is Colombia really "Better" than CR? Is Medellin really "Better" than San Jose? There are two things that must be understood before you consider this question:

    1) First of all, never worry about anyone's opinion that something is Better or Worse than another thing. That's completely subjective. That's a person's opinion. With that said, I do agree with Jonesie that Medellin is "Better" than San Jose. That's why I live out in the 'burbs instead of in downtown San Jose. But all that means is that Jonesie and I just have the same opinion. If Jonesie said that San Jose was "Better" than Medellin, I would just say, "I don't agree." My opinion is based on my own experience in both cities, not on anyone else's opinion.

    2) This is the Big One: You arrive at SJO. You get in an orange taxi or have a driver pick you up. He takes you straight to your hotel in the Gulch. You spend most of your time bar-hopping, walking, or mongering in the Gulch or in Jaco. Other than the ride to and from the airport, you never venture outside the "Ring" that restricts automobile traffic by license plate number on weekdays. If you do leave the "Ring", it's to go to San Pedro, Escazu, Cartago, Heredia, or along Pistas 27 or 1 to all of the fancy malls. If you do venture out of San Jose, you go to Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Arenal, or Poas. After a week or two, you return to the USA.

    Here's the Kicker for #2 -- You, my friend, have NEVER BEEN TO COSTA RICA. You might THINK you've been to CR, but it's just an illusion. CR is a country so inundated with Tourists and Expats, mostly from the USA, that for all practical purposes, the big cities and major tourist attractions have been 100% "Gringo-fied." You can walk downtown or along Paseo Colon all you like and admire the 100 or 200-year old Spanish-Victorian architecture. The culture that built those homes and buildings left CR a long time ago. San Jose and those other areas that I mentioned are filled with Ticos and Ticas that shop at Walmart and wear Nike sneakers. They eat at McDonald's for lunch and listen to rap music from Los Angeles.

    There's nothing wrong with CR and real Ticos and Ticas. It's just that you're not going visit CR and meet any real Ticos or Ticas. They have been exposed to so much Gringo culture that they were powerless to resist adopting it. I do business with several Ticos that give me a dirty look when I give them Colones. They only want dollars.

    Colombia, on the other hand, has not yet been flooded with Gringos or Gringo culture. In a little twist of irony, Colombia's reputation for being a drug-infested country where thousands of people are murdered by drug lords and gangsters on a daily basis, has actually helped Colombia to preserve its identity and its culture, even in the big cities like Medellin.
    Last edited by Speedy1; 08-12-2014 at 10:56 PM.

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