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The Costa Rican Attitude Towards Authority

by rpetersen

The word Pura Vida is entrenched in Costa Rican culture.   It means “pure life” but it is actually and attitude towards life that it must be enjoyed to the maximum.   As such Costa Ricans tend to focus more on the enjoyment of life in general and spending time with their family then prioritizing over work and leng term career planning.

That is why in Costa Rica the attitude towards authority is very different from that in North America for example.   They generally do not have much respect for governmental authority which they view as inefficient and corrupt.  Costa Rica has developed over the years into an overly bureacratic system which the population grew accustomed to.   As such the tendency for the Costa Rican is to try and get around the system because they know that going through generally does not work.  All this perception affects the way the Costa Ricans view and interpret the law.  Since they perceive the law and authorities to be the source of delay, buracracy and something to be avoided that is how the local population responds as well.  Since a very young age Costa Ricans learn the word “NO”  whenever they approach a governmental institution.

As such on issues like taxation the perception is that “they are stealing the money anyway” so why should I pay.   Therefore no surprise that the amount of tax evasion in Costa Rica is a national passtime.  Why apply for a building permit if they are going to tell me “no” anyway after burying me in paper.    All this attitude breeds a culture of avoidance and corruption because everybody wants to jump out of the line and cut ahead.   If that means I call a cousin who works in the local planning office then so be it – if I have to bride an inspector then so be it –  The younger generation is changing attitudes with the advent of technology and social media so there is hope that in the future accountability and efficiency become the norm.

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