A great thing about living abroad is the opportunity to learn that your own way may not always be the right–or only right–way to do something. Once you’ve supplanted yourself into a whole new culture, these educational opportunities are endless. One such lesson pertains to the idea of promptness that has been seriously imprinted on many countries in the world. I come from a land of “If you’re right on time, you’re late.” By living in another people’s land, I’ve found myself adjusting to the idea of “Tico Time,” which is a phrase often grumbled under the breath of Expats.
“My tutor didn’t show up,” I mention. ”Of course they didn’t!” they laugh back, “It’s Saturday and nice out, they went to the beach, Pura Vida!”
“She told me the seat cushions would be done on Monday, but when I went to pick them up, she said to come back the following Sunday,” I perplexedly complain. ”Why not? You’re on Tico Time…she probably didn’t feel like making them this week,” they reason.
“The internet company said they’d send someone out yesterday, but no one showed up?”
You get my gist…
These people mostly likely didn’t forget their responsibility to me, they just decided to do something else instead. My customer service-based upbringing causes me to take these slights personally. But, I’ve finally learned that I shouldn’t.
Letting my own view mingle with the idea of “Tico Time” has given me a huge gift–it has removed a natural anxiety to get things done now. Before I moved here, I had to get the laundry done now, get the kids to bed now, and go to the grocery store now. I was always in a rush, when really there was no need for haste. My business of getting things done quickly caused each day to be filled with stress over the trivial. And I was missing out on the good stuff.
Now, I let my three year old toss every article of wet clothing to me, as I hang it on the line. ”One, two, three, WHOOP,” we shout. Now, bed time takes just as long, but I let myself giggle along with the kids instead of sternly repeating to no avail, “Go to sleep.” Now, I might make it to the store for much needed leche or huevos (milk or eggs)… or, I’ll just not go and serve up what I do have in the house. I’ve learned that these things are not really a big deal, and so why not actually enjoy each moment?
I felt the switch from rush-rush-rush to tranquilo physically, as if the daily stress lifted off my chest. I could see the genuine happiness in my children’s eyes as I agreed to hug and tickle and sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider twenty times before they finally closed their heavy lids. I missed the bus and realized it was a great day for a walk anyways. The internet guy gave me a few days of healthy silence from the interwebs and more time to exercise, read and have a real conversation with my husband.. and so on.
“Tico Time” really means to slow down and go with your own flow, to me. It gives me a quiet acceptance of the well-meaning people around me, and that they have their own priorities. It clearly lets me know that I am not the Queen of Costa Rica. It adds hours to my day, my week, my life.
Friends, if you are living in the land of “Tico Time,” and have justified reasons for disliking it, take this advice: Go kick back on your outdoor furniture, take a swig of [insert favorite drink here] and open your eyes–you’re tapping your foot in paradise, you might as well enjoy the wait!