We have nothing to fear except fear itself and bugs

This snake came acalling at the downtown offices of A.M. Costa Rica in August 2004. Editors have no idea how it got there. The Policia Municipal took away the serpent

Those who live in Costa Rica often hear from friends and relatives who want to know about the bugs and sometimes the snakes.

Their vision of the country is a bit skewed by Indiana Jones movies and television. This is one topic that turns gray the hair of tourism operators. So it might be comforting to know that a recent survey showed that only 32 percent of the Costa Rican population admitted to any type of phobia, including snakes and bugs.

Of course, there is a big difference between an irrational fear or phobia and the legitimate fear of,
say, spiders when the plate-size critter being
confronted looks like she could carry a refrigerator.

The same holds true with snakes. A fear is not abstract when the object of your displeasure is slithering across the floor or hanging on your front gate.

As it turned out the 2010 survey by UNIMER Centroamérica found that 11 percent of the sample said they had a spider phobia and just 10 percent said they had a phobia about snakes. In both cases more men admitted to these fears than women. The marketing research company said that the 2010 results showed 8 percent fewer persons with phobias than a similar survey in 2005. The 2010 study involved 300 persons between 18 and 45. The 2005 study used results from 500 persons.

UNIMER has posted the results to its Web site and invited persons to use the results for free. Another study posted there said that 17 percent of Costa Ricans admitted being paralyzed by earthquakes. That study shows the variability of survey research because only 5.7 percent admitted to this phobia in 2010.

However, the later survey with the higher percentage was taken not long after the May 13 Puriscal earthquake, and paralyzed is not the same as fearing.

UNIMER also provided the words for some phobias in Spanish that might help expats add to their vocabularies:

• ligofobia: fear of the dark;
• hiperglofobia: fear of responsibility;
• hobofobia: fear of bums;
• hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: fear
of long words (honest),
• aerofobia: fear of flying.

Expats might be interested to know that 2 percent of the survey population admitted to having a fear of older persons, while only 1.1 percent said they had a phobia about rats.

The abejones or june bugs that fly in through the window and bounce off the walls, windows, ceiling and floor every year were identified as generating a phobia by 2.2 percent of the survey population. Some 3.3 percent said they felt the same way about cockroaches.

Some 4.1 percent confessed an irrational fear of the sea. Rational fear of the sea is justified, no matter what tourism operators might say. The rip tides on many Costa Rican beaches take lives every year, so tourists better stick to lifeguard-protected beaches or sound out local opinion before going in over the ankles.

Curiously, more persons admitted a phobia about toads than rats.

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