Sunday, February 8, 2009

Comments about San José and customs

San José, the capital of Costa Rica also shares the name with the central province of the country.
I sometimes hear comments from expats, other blogs and websites as well as visitors talking about San José, distorting or misinterpreting the city.
San José is a small city compared to cities in the USA or Canada, like most of those cities you will also see that the crime rate increases, it is not as clean, has smog from cars and factories and has a faster pace in lifestyle than most other places outside of the capital.
You will see some narrow streets, more cars and people than in Heredia, Alajuela, Puntarenas, Santa Cruz, Liberia or Golfito.
Costa Rica values tradition very much and although there is a lot of American and European influence, it still keeps some customs which are a mixture of the influence of it´s roots, it´s inhabitants and it´s traditions, which by the way are very unique and different than other latin american countries.
Their is a party attitude among the general population specially among people in San José, many young adults, older adults, university students are always going out dancing, drinking beer, whiskey or wine, singing karaoke, eating bocas /finger foods), this goes on all week long, mondays included.
Bull fights: Costarrican Bull fights are similar to the Mexican and Spanish bull fights where a bull is let loose inside a closed ring, the difference is that in Costa Rica the bull is not hurt or killed, approximately 50-100 improvised bull fighters run, jump and tease the bull, until the animal starts chasing someone and many times catches them and throws them in the air, some are seriously hurt but most are just seriously scared after a close call, on rare occasions the bulls kills someone.
Sometimes to make the bull fights more exciting and as an incentive for the bull fighters, they put a bill between the bulls horns.
San José has many very modern malls, theaters, bars, fancy restaurants, museums, live music, movie theatres, parks, stores, internet cafes, hotels, art shows etc.
One thing you will notice all over the country and not just in San José are the houses with bars on the windows, this is basically for two reasons, 1- decorative purposes and 2- security.
It has been a tradition for many years even before the security issues that have risen in the past 10- 15 years or so started, most people when buying a new house choose what type of iron decorations they will have made for their windows and gates, through the years these bars are now used for security also since in recent years there have been break ins to homes and in the last 5 - 10 years or so there have also been some home assaults in some areas.
Luckily this is not even close to being near as dangerous or as common as it is in most cities in the USA, Canada, Europe.
Friendliness is a trait that most costarricans have in San José as well as every other corner of the country, people are friendly and like to make foreigners feel at home, it is a place where you can make friends very easily, however also beware that there are also people who prey on innocent people, natives and foreigners who are cons or people of bad reputation, use common sense and precaution at all times no matter who you are with or where in the world you are located when meeting someone for the first time.
Avoid going to dark allies, streets, whore houses, bars with prostitutes and the red light zone, if you are looking for illegal activities you will most likely find trouble more soner than later, although prostitution among adults is not legal it isn´t illegal either, it´s more or less tolerated in certain areas.
Central avenue is the main street that runs from east to west and divides the downtown area, it begins at the bottome of the hill below the Legislative Assembly (Congress) known as Cuesta de Moras and goes a few miles and turns into Paseo Colon until it gets to La Sabana Park where the statue of Leon Cortes is located.
Directions in Costa Rica not just San José are given by landmarks, even though the streets and avenues have been numbered for many years, nobody uses them to give directions, the only exceptions are central avenue and second avenue.
Avenues south of central avenue are even numbers, north of central avenue are odd numers, the streets are also divided the same way with a central street, however not many people are sure of which street that actually is .
A common address in San José as well as anywhere else in the country is ¨Del Teatro Nacional 100 varas o metros al este y 25 varas o metros al norte, casa de verjas blancas ¨, translation is ¨From the National Theatre 100 meters(1 block) east and a quarter of a block north, house with white bars¨.