Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ten Days till Xmas - Costa Rican Traditions and other things you need to know - Our Life in Costa Rica

Luis must be photographed alone as Lily & Lola still do not like him!

Since my plan is to post a holiday picture every day through the end of the month, I decided it might be nice (and helpful) to also include some of what I call, "interesting" facts and/or oddities about adjusting to life here.

Many people are thinking of making a move to Costa Rica in the near future
and well...
just thought you might want to know.

 It's 6:30 am on Thursday in Costa Rica 
Today is housekeeping day, garbage day and Spanish lesson day (for us)

I never get tired of this view!

December marks the beginning of the Christmas traditions and holiday season in Costa Rica with its crispier air, cool winds blowing during what are usually sunny cool days, clear and starry nights. Unfortunately the change in seasons has not yet come to pass and the rains continue, although it appears that the "Christmas Winds" are beginning.  As a matter of fact the other night we had a "tormenta" (storm) with thunder and lightening that took out our TV. Hoping it can be repaired. 
During the holiday season almost all Costa Ricans:
  • crave for tamales with coffee or agua dulce, baked pork legs, and refreshing eggnog

This is Costa Rican eggnog. I have not tasted it yet but understand that it isn't as "rich" tasting as the eggnog back in the states and is a bit watery. I will let you know.

Every Tica (female Costa Rican) knows how to make tamales. Today, Erla our housekeeper will make some for us. Costa Rican tamales are very different from Mexican tamales. Do not get the 2 confused! To start with, Mexican tamales are wrapped in corn husk and Costa Rican tamales are wrapped in banana leaf and it goes on from there (table for another discussion). 

  • get their deserved Christmas bonus to buy presents and Christmas decorations

Christmas Bonus Pay Day: No later than December 5th. (this is a law)

Over $1 billion dollars of Christmas bonuses are paid to the 1.5 million employees in the country to boost up the holiday season. The bonus is equal to a person’s one month salary and generally it is used to pay debts, save for the next year, and shop for manger scenes and decorations, toys for children, presents, imported apples and green or black grapes – a special Christmas treat for many - at street vendors.
*Important note
This also applies to expats and people in your employ (Erla is our housekeeper). We paid her bonus last Thursday and I wish I had a picture of the look of joy on her face! She was singing and humming for the entire time she was here working. I'm not sure if she was expecting it from us since she has only been working for us for 6 months  -- but she was elated. The average family's salary in Costa Rica is $500/mo. 

We also paid the garbage collectors (not a law) but they put an envelope on your garbage "can" and you should put money in it and tie it to the fence. They come by on the week preceding the 15th and pick it up.  These guys are amazing, you should see them work! BTW- this is our garbage "can". We have about 3 normal garbage cans beside our house but you only take the garbage out to the street on garbage pick up day -- for us Mon & Thurs. Each house has it's own garbage can creation. You will see some very interesting creations as you drive down the streets. If you don't have a garbage can you simply tie your garbage bag to your gate, fence or tree. I think the metal garbage bin concept is to keep the dogs (and other little varmints out) as all are raised up from the ground.

Which brings to mind a few other interesting tidbits

Eggs - most are brown here and you will not find them in the dairy section. Look for them stacked somewhere in the store. Who knows exactly where - varies form store to store. Since Costa Rican's do not wash their eggs they do not need to be refrigerated in the store. In the US eggs are refrigerated (the US is one of the few countries that does this) and it is because, the eggs are washed.  Eggs come out of the chicken with their own protective coating. Washing destroys this coating, which is the 1st line of defense against Salmonella. Once you get them home its fine to refrigerate them to keep them fresh.  You can also get organic duck eggs here. I tried them once, but did not like them. Probably an acquired taste.

Milk - You will also find this product in the aisle, unrefrigerated. Shelf stable packaging is achieved by pasteurizing the milk at a much higher temperature than normal and immediately packing it into an aseptic (sterile) vacuum box. The shelf stable milk can be stored at room temperature for several months, but once opened (and the vacuum is gone), it must be refrigerated.

Think outside the box

Pouch packaging - You will find just about any and every product in the store sold in a pouch (although you can still purchase bottles and cans, pouches are the norm). While pouches have been prominent in Europe and Central and South America for five years or more, they're just beginning to gain traction in the United States, which is notoriously slow in adapting to packaging trends.

Locks - Doors have inward locks. In the West we have outward locks.

Rum (Ron) - Some of the best rums in the world are produced in Central America. I have not traditionally been a rum drinker but -- boy oh boy -- I love me some Ron Centenario Veinte A├▒os  It has a very mellow, refined taste. So smooth going down I can even drink it straight. However, it is a bit pricey at $60 a bottle for the 20 yr variety. Less for the other years. I just purchased this bottle for the holidays. 

and in closing....Here are 2 more pics from of our holiday portfolio

see you tomorrow!

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