In an interview with Nicole Gilbert who has traveled through Costa Rica, the U.S.A., Italy, and Spain she had experienced some huge culture shocks. I was able to take the chance to sit down with her for a Q-and-A session to get a bigger sense of the cultural nuances she has experienced.
Q: As an American who hasn’t visited Costa Rica, what would you say would be the biggest culture shocks they would experience if they were to visit?
A: Well obviously the language differences. There are English speakers but there are a lot more languages you might hear. As far as politics, I find that Costa Rica gives more acceptance towards women’s autonomy. There really isn’t much of a debate there like there is here in America. Like a thin girl in America, people call you desirable and perfect but no one expects that in Costa Rica. A lot of signage is common on American roads. But in Costa Rica, there aren’t as many street signs to tell you your exact location. People in America are really strict to time. In Costa Rica, it isn’t considered rude to be late or not even show up somewhere. All my friends and family members greet each other with cheek kisses and in Italy, we did that too. But in America, it isn’t quite normal to do that. I also think Costa Rica is a little better at progressing socially and making that progress.
Q: What was the biggest culture shock you faced when you moved to the U.S.A. for the first time?
A: I really didn’t get the weather and it took me time to adapt to that. I also found the education system to be really one-sided with their teachings. I think there was a lot of commercialism that I hadn’t really seen before. It surprised me how many people my age (16 at the time) were into guns. The number of school shootings that happened and the number of stores you could get them shocked me. I still don’t understand the hype. With every place I go there were slang words I had to adjust to and American slang really confused me. Also, the grocery stores seemed to have an absurd number of products for the same stuff like butter. It was really cool though to see the number of resources the public schools give you.
Q: Do you get homesick often? Can you explain how that has shaped your mobility as a young adult?
A: I used to get homesick every day. I think I am finally in a place where I’ve adapted to American culture so it’s not as an intense feeling. I have found a new life here and I’m content being here. It’s nice to be independent of my parents and having full control of where I go now. But moving around as a kid and teenager really sucked. I felt like I couldn’t connect with anyone for more than a couple of months and maybe a year. Social media is good but its not the same. It is easy to be distant online, but I also didn’t have social media at a younger age either. The challenging part was knowing what I was homesick for.
Q: Touching on your experience with dance, snowboarding, and your studies – how has that been helpful to you?
A: Well with each of those experiences I was able to connect with people of all ages. I ultimately could speak their languages and teach or learn from them. With all the experiences combined, I feel much more well-rounded. Snowboarding is such a huge thing here in Colorado, so it’s helped me make some friends. It’s kind of crazy how many people haven’t explored more languages here. I feel as though I can help certain communities speak up because of my Spanish speaking though. I’ve learned that there are handfuls of Latino/a speaking families who don’t always learn English. In some cases, I have been able to so sometimes I can help translate. It’s also a really beneficial resume skill to have apparently.
Q: What is your plan now that you’re living independently? Do you see yourself living anywhere else?
A: For now, nope. I love my family back home and my family in America. But with a pandemic and different access to the vaccination, I feel it is safest for me to stay here. I plan on enrolling at a Colorado-based college soon so I can finally finish my degree. But right now, I’m just focusing on making a home for myself and working full time to pay for college. Maybe someday I’ll go visit Europe again and polish my language even further. But for now, I’m happy and feeling quite stable where I am.
(For the full transcript contact Sarah Neff at email@example.com.)