A hot temper gets you the door in Costa Rica. If you lose your temper with a Costa Rican at a Costa Rican business, you may find yourself being asked to leave.
That is in contrast to an article Tuesday that pointed out cultural differences between Chinese and North American customer service workers. North American service workers are more likely to sabotage rude customers, while Chinese react by disengaging from customer service altogether, said the study.
Living in Costa Rica for more than 20 years, I have had the opportunity to view our North American culture objectively from a Costa Rican point of view. Coming from a long heritage of screamers in my North American family line, I have often been asked by my Costa Rican daughters not to get angry when their friends are visiting because that is considered very abnormal and unacceptable behavior in Costa Rica and their friends will think I have a mental disorder.
Working with many North American clients over the years, I have seen this numerous times. Being a bully and threatening employees when things do not go well is not uncommon in our culture, and North American employees are trained to deal with hostile customers. Costa Ricans are not. Their first response, if you lose your temper, is they will often ask you to leave the establishment or they will simply walk away and not return to deal with your complaint. If you are dealing with government employees here, multiply this response by ten. They absolutely will not tolerate anything short of a completely polite and calm conversation about your problem.
My two oldest girls have worked in call centers in Costa Rica offering customer service to North American customers. They found it amusing to report to me how crazy some North Americans are when complaining about a service or product on the phone. This is something they are not used to at all in Costa Rica. Ironically, they both learned how to sometimes get the customer to laugh at their own hostile behavior by responding in a completely polite and normal tone to often ridiculous complaints. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons American companies prefer opening call centers here. So if you want to get great service here, never raise your voice, even a little bit, when dealing with a Costa Rican employee. Keep in mind, in most cases the employee was not personally responsible for the complained about activity or action.
I remember a Costa Rican business associate pointing out a common difference between our countries. In Costa Rica when your phone call is answered by the secretary, Costa Ricans will often spend a minute or so greeting the secretary with social pleasantries like “How are you today, Jessica, etc.” In the U.S.A., such an approach will often irritate a busy secretary who just wants to put your call through and get back to work.
If you promptly ask a Costa Rican secretary to connect your call, this will often be regarded as rude, but they will comply. Or they may just tell you he is out of the office, when he is really there.
* Mr. Bridges of Desamparados has lived in Costa Rica for 20 years.