More Inherent Aspects of the Costa Ricans
The culture of the pobrecito (poor little one) has always been well ingrained in the nature of the Tico. This is evident when wrongdoers get off easily, petty thievery is overlooked, or judges are lenient with criminals in giving them short sentences. The feeling of being sorry for the perpetrators is so prevalent and has spawned so much robbery and crime that citizens are now demanding stiffer penalties and sentences for the wrongdoers. The pobrecito principle, however, is generally not applied evenly. While a poor man can get a jail sentence for stealing a pig or chicken, an influential politician or banker, who has siphoned off thousands, perhaps millions from public funds, might get off with a very light sentence. Such is life. But not all is bad. The virtues found in the people of Costa Rica far outnumber their weaknesses and that should be comforting.
In 1976, Donald Lundberg, professor of the University of Massachusetts, in his book Costa Rica noted that "the common man will often extend himself in a real way further than the higher income groups. The shopkeeper is likely to take an active, fatherly attitude toward the American housewife shopper in her selection of the right merchandise.
Ask a working man his name and the reply is 'Juan José', invariably followed by a 'a sus órdenes' (at your service). Costa Ricans seems to enjoy the handshake, the abrazo (shoulder embrace), and the physical contact with friends. Handshaking is constant, expressive and seems to be reassuring to most Costa Ricans." Kissing a man, woman or child is done on one cheek alone, not on both as in Spain. The abrazo paid-off beautifully for presidential candidate Abel Pacheco who used the abrazo very skilfully as the main theme of his 2002 campaign. Needless to say, he won the presidency of the republic by an overwhelming majority.
The Rorstads, whom I mentioned previously, said that in spite of their not knowing Spanish, when you ask in English a Spanish speaker for directions to a bus stop, he walks you about one mile to the correct bus stop, shakes your hand and walks away. And he does it smilingly. They also remarked that the "ticos are friendly and polite (except while driving). We have walked many miles and met many people. Perhaps one in twenty has not responded in a polite and friendly way. We doubt that there is a country in the world where this would be experienced.
'We were taken by the long-term experience of observing school children. It took perhaps six months before we saw an altercation between children. The same was true of adults. How do you describe a culture where people tolerate other people without resulting to violence --- pretty unusual and pretty pleasant. We recognize that there is a dark side to family relations --- abuse of women and children, but the problem is in every liveable environment.