“When in Rome do as the Romans”, is one of my most used sayings. Why? Because to successfully live somewhere other than the country, region, etc. you were born in, you must learn to do things as the natives. If you are not flexible enough to adapt to this, you´re going to have problems.
Social etiquette is different all over the world, what might be polite in one country is impolite in another. I have often observed my fellow Americans blunder through situations, in which, if they had observed what Costa Rican etiquette called for, they would had been better off. I´m not free of guilt in this sense myself, introductions being one of them. I have often tried to back track to correct my blunder.
In Costa Rica it is important to acknowledge a person before you get into a conversation with them. As I stated in an earlier post, it is customary to say “Buenas” (Good Day) to anybody you are going to address, be it a storekeeper or someone your going to ask for directions. When I walk my dogs in my neighborhood, I will often pass guards, people walking for exercise. etc. who will say “Buenas, even though I have never had a conversation with them. I in return say “Buenas” back.
If you see a person fairly regularly but are not socially connected a “Que tal?” ( how is it going?) is said, to which the other person answers “bien y usted” (good and you). An example of one of the people I say this to, is the guy that stamps my parking ticket every Saturday when I go to the farmer´s market.
Running into a person that you know is more complicated. If you both are in a hurry a “Hola, como esta?” (Hi, how are you?) is called for, to which a “Muy bien, gracias. Y usted?” (Very good and you?) is answered. If you have time you can answer “Bien, gracias” (Good, thanks). If you stop to talk, be prepared to ask about any family member you know of that person, especially older parents or someone that is sick.
I could probably write a book on this, because there are many subtle changes in many of these introductions, depending on the degree to which you know someone. This is just a rough outline. My point is, acknowledging a person is important in Costa Rican society and will open people if done.
I´ve included some pictures we took at a farm we went to see with my husband. When we entered, there were some workers cutting a sick tree and tall grass. Upon leaving we noticed the dead Fer-de-Lances, killed with the workers machetes. The Fer-de-Lance is an aggressive snake. It will bite cattle (which they had in that pasture) and is often killed because of this. I had my doubts as to if these were False Fer-de Lances, which aren´t venomous, or the real Fer-de-Lance. Unfortunately, the False is often killed because it is confused with the Fer-de-Lance.
Food is always offered when visiting someone, especially in the country, Costa Rican etiquette again. The tortillas were made by the farm´s caretaker´s wife. The corn was grown by them and the sour cream that we poured on top of the tortillas was from a neighbor´s cow. Something very simple but very good, due to the quality of its ingredients.