Since all of us arrived for our Raleigh expedition, we’ve all been walking around wide-eyed and trying to absorb and blend into the way of life around here in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Or have we?
Before we headed out to see the projects we will be working on, the visitors amongst us we had a fairly blinkered experience of the culture of the countries – observing the people of San Jose and Turrialba, tipping our cap and saying ‘Hola’ to the local farmers, speaking with our fellow Costa Rican and Nicaraguan PMs and chatting with Don Martin, our substitute padre.
When we had our session during induction regarding cultural awareness, and the differences in gender roles, time perception, importance of family, appearance and the like, we took away a lot of what was said and tried to relate it to our experiences, but without fully grasping or understanding how we tend to measure people against ourselves, and how actually there is no right way or wrong way - things just are as they are.
After going out into the big wide world, visiting the local communities we will be working with, chatting to project partners and the locals of the area(s), the differences between our cultures were much more obvious but as they say (sorry to use a cliche), it's all part of life's rich tapestry. Language was a bit of a barrier for me but I found that a huge smile, a willingness to listen and learn, and a bit of hard work mean the same thing in every language.
We have to accept and let be what will be, even if it isn’t done ‘our way’. In the process we will all learn a little about the others’ culture, which can only be a brilliant thing!