Nuria, our regional Pocket Cultures contributor from Costa Rica, shares why she joined the Pocket Cultures team. “It is simply wonderful to be able to share my culture because I learn more about it and become more aware of it, which makes me value it even more.” Such an excellent way to describe why we on the Pocket Cultures team are enjoying writing about our cultures (or the cultures we live in)!

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Nuria Villalobos and I am a professor of English as a Foreign Language. I work at Universidad Nacional and currently study a Master’s in the Teaching of Spanish as a Second Language. I speak Spanish, English and Portuguese and would like to learn many more languages. I am from Costa Rica and I have always lived here, except for two years when I was an exchange student in the United States. That has been the best experience of my life because I learned a lot about myself, my culture and the world. Since I made so many international friends, I got really interested in cultures, and that’s when I discovered the passion I have for them.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why.

I describe myself as a 100% Costa Rican, which makes me very proud of myself, but at the same time, a 100% multicultural because I love learning about other cultures and my interest grows deeper each day. I might not have lived in many countries or traveled extensively, but we all know that this is not essential if we want to learn about cultures. The knowledge is right there, available for all of us anytime, through the Internet, books, friends, other people’s experiences and so on.

Why did you decide to become a Pocket Cultures contributor?

Pocket Cultures is an open door to the world, and that is why I became a contributor. It is simply wonderful to be able to share my culture because I learn more about it and become more aware of it, which makes me value it even more. Then, I don’t think there is a better way to learn about other cultures than through contributors like me who are passionate about the world. Being part of the Pocket Cultures team makes me feel very proud and happy because I am surrounded by people who share my biggest interest.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

I don’t really have a typical day! I am a university professor, which means that my schedule, courses and students change every semester. This is one of the reasons why I love my job! I have a routine for four months, but then everything changes. So, basically I wake up early every day, go to work, teach either the whole day or only a few hours, go to my graduate classes at night three days a week; the other days I go to the gym, watch my Brazilian Portuguese soap opera, check my e-mail, plan my classes, check assignments and then go to bed…usually very late. Yes, I am always pretty busy but I love what I do, and I try to have energy to do a little bit of everything…from doing the regular professor’s tasks to spending time with my family; from writing posts, articles and presenting at conferences to studying and keeping in touch with friends. That’s life, isn’t it? We should try to enjoy it as much as we can!

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

There are many “best parts” of living in Costa Rica: having peace, freedom, friendly people, great weather all year long, nature, volcanoes, beaches, fantastic sunsets, family, parties, good food, being a small country, being laid-back, not needing that much to be happy and enjoying “la pura vida”!! I would say the worst is the lack of safety in the streets, which has been increasing lately and it’s a real shame. Also, the inefficiency, bureaucracy and the fact that many people think that everything in other countries is better, especially if it is from the United States. That’s why we have so many fast-food chains of the US, some people celebrate Halloween and the English language is considered, by some, much “cooler” than Spanish. We should all learn to appreciate our own cultures and not feel ashamed of who we are and what we have or don’t have.

What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

There are many great books, a few I would mention are:  Juan Varela (Adolfo García), Mamita Yunai (Carlos Luis Fallas), Asalto al Paraíso (Tatiana Lobo), Mo (Floria Jiménez), El Árbol Enfermo (Carlos Gagini) and Cuentos de mi Tía Panchita (Carmen Lyra). These books reflect various topics such as the reality farmers experience, people’s lives while working for the United Fruit Company in the province of Limón many years ago, the indigenous population of Costa Rica, the common attitude of praising the United States and some popular stories in Costa Rican Spanish. Some nice Costa Rican films are Gestación, El Regreso, El Compromiso, A Ojos Cerrados and Caribe. These are relatively new movies that represent our culture in different aspects, and they are all really good!

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

I would say the diversity of people and the fact that we don’t look very alike to one another. In Costa Rica you can find people with different skin, hair and eyes color, and our features vary a lot as well. This surprises many people because of the stereotype that “all Latins look the same”, which is wrong of course. Other interesting facts: Costa Rica doesn’t have an army, the literacy rate is 95.8%, people speak a traditional Jamaican dialect of English in the province of Limón and even if its territory is merely 0.03% of the earth’s surface, it is home to about 4% of the species on Earth.  Amazing, huh?

About the author

Carrie is an American who just moved from Bali to Mendoza, Argentina. Carrie caught the wanderlust bug early on from her parents, who raised her in Mexico City. Carrie and her husband David have lived in New York, London, Barcelona, Costa Rica, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, and Bali before moving to Mendoza. They are actively working to pass on the travel bug to their young son Timmy, who has already been to twelve countries.