When stepping foot onto the Costa Rican soil, I knew that I made the right decision to study abroad here. I noticed that the some of the people here were different, to say the least. I kept hearing and seeing these two words everywhere form billboards, stickers, buttons, and t-shirts. In the streets people would say “pura vida” as a greeting, response, and as a way to say goodbye. I did not know the underlying message behind those two words until it was explained to me. From this, I then knew what it was that made "Ticos," or Costa Ricans, different.
The “Pura Vida” (purrah-vee-dah) lifestyle caught my attention immediately. Pura Vida, or pure life, means more than the English translation. In every culture there are saying/philosophies that reflect the ideas of those people. One of my instructors described the saying as being similar to "hakuna matata", which means no worries in Swahili. Ticos believe in enjoying life to the fullest and relaxation is second nature to them and things are done in a non-confrontational and laidback way.
I remembered that my tour guide kept telling us to take it easy as we walked all over downtown San Jose. He was an older man and described himself as a “happy, short Tico.” I am accustomed to a more rapid way to do things. The American way to do things is in a quick and sometimes easy fashion. We are heavily focused on time (a later post will made on Tico Time). We were trying to walk fast and move quickly to the next thing to see, but he wanted to walk slowly and give details about the different attractions. It made me question something about my own daily life: what really is the rush for?
Sitting in my seat at orientation, another instructor added that this national symbol and slogan means no preservatives or additives are needed. At first I was a tad bit confused about the slogan from this point of view. I was thinking in literal terms because my host mom buys and makes everything from scratch. Even the juice is freshly squeezed. I noticed this after seeing lifeless limes and lemons bought from a local supermarket on the counter. After a minute, the light bulb went off. This idea is not only associated with food, but with everything in life. When it comes to living a fulfilling life, there is no need to add unnecessary ingredients. I personally believe that all of the essential components of having a satisfying life are already embedded. Back home in the states, we are so focused on taking matters into their own hands and making things happen on our own accounts. We add so many additives that in the long run mean us no good or any type of benefit.
All in all, Costa Rica is known as one of the happiest places in the world. Here everyone is smiling and going about their daily lives in an easygoing manner. I am sure this comes from the pura vida way of thinking.