This comes from my friend Nikki Little. Nikki just recently got married (Congratulations to you!) and took her honeymoon in Costa Rica. During her trip she experienced a way of life that touched her tremendously and she decided to share it. When I read the post, I felt it fit perfectly with the theme to my blog and asked her if I could repost it. She was happy to oblige. Enjoy!

Pura vida (pure life) – The signature Costa Rican phrase

I just returned from seven blissful days of honeymooning in Costa Rica. I had never been to Costa Rica before, and I quickly learned why people rave about this country. The scenery is breathtaking, the activities are limitless and the people are beyond kind. Costa Ricans have done an incredible job of using tourism as an economical driving force while still preserving the country’s beauty and natural resources.

Aside from loving that I had the opportunity to speak Spanish for an entire week, there are several other aspects of the country and its people that I love. As I started reflecting on all those things, I realized there are several ways people can apply the Costa Rican way of life to their own lives and businesses. So, here are some suggestions based on what I learned during my time in Costa Rica:

1. Be kind and helpful. This seems like such a no-brainer, yet too many people lack these simple attributes. Simple isn’t always easy, but as Chris Brogan states in his Salt and Pepper Simplicity post, “The more places in our life and our business where we can season with salt and pepper, the better life becomes.”

The natives we met in Costa Rica were some of the nicest and most helpful people I have ever met. Everyone greeted us with a smile and was willing and happy to answer any questions we had. Our trip was amazing from the second we set foot in Costa Rica until we left seven days later, largely because the people we encountered and interacted with were so pleasant. It set the bar high for trips to other countries.

Key takeaway – Whether you’re interacting with friends, coworkers, family, strangers or clients/customers, be kind and helpful. You always end up benefiting in the end when your intentions are genuine and meant to provide help to others.

2. Go above and beyond with customer service – The customer service talk has centered on the opportunities that social media creates for quite some time now, but nothing can trump excellent in-person customer service. A few examples from Costa Rica:

  1. A few minutes after we checked into the room at the first resort we stayed at, the manager at the front desk called our room to make sure we were happy with everything. Completely unexpected, yet very much appreciated.
  2. The restaurant servers were excellent. They didn’t hover or constantly interrupt conversations, but our coffee cups and water glasses were never empty and plates were promptly removed once we were done eating. Servers were always smiling. If you’ve ever had a horrible experience with a server at a restaurant (or, if you’re like me and spent several years as a restaurant server), you appreciate top-notch service at restaurants because it makes the overall dining experience that much better.
  3. When we checked into the hotel we were staying at the night before we left to fly back home, someone called from our travel agency to ask how our trip had been and if there was anything else they could do for us. Again, a pleasant surprise.

Key takeaway – In business, it’s all about making your customers and clients happy. Sure, people will still buy from companies who don’t provide the best customer service, but it’s very likely they’ll share their disappointment in how they were treated. I will highly recommend Costa Rica as a place to visit to anyone I know because the people there treated us so well and genuinely cared about us having a great experience in their country.

3. Care about the environment and make efforts to sustain it – I was really impressed with how much Costa Ricans cared about the environment and preserving their country’s resources. Many hotels worldwide now encourage people to not get new sheets and towels every day unless absolutely necessary. But the hotels we stayed at during our trip (Hotel Parador, Arenal Kioro and The Marriott in San Jose) have implemented several initiatives related to improving and sustaining the environment. They also do a great job of marketing their eco-friendly initiatives through signs around the hotel, brochures in the rooms and their websites.

We took two different hiking tours through the rainforest, and both our guides talked about how Costa Ricans value the wildlife, plants and trees that live in the rainforest. We were allowed to take pictures of the animals they pointed out, but they insisted upon not using flash on the camera and not getting close to the animals in order to not disrupt or bother them (more for the sake of not interrupting their daily lives than the risk of us getting hurt, although they of course warned about the dangers of getting too close to animals like snakes and poisonous frogs!). It was obvious that while tourism is important to this country and it’s what pays the tour guides’ bills, they cared most about preserving Costa Rica’s natural resources.

Key takeaway – Care about the environment and make efforts to sustain it. Simple efforts like turning off lights, recycling paper at your office and recycling unwanted household items versus throwing them in the trash can go a long way. Here’s a good article about surprising ways to recycle everyday items.

4. Show a genuine interest when having conversations with others – As with number one, this seems like common sense. But, since so many people are addicted to their phones and constantly check email and social networks, it’s not as easy as it used to be to get someone’s full attention when talking to them. I have been guilty of looking at my phone while talking to someone (MAL loves to call me out on this, as he should), and I’m very conscious about not doing that anymore because I hate when it happens to me. It’s not too much to ask someone you’re talking with to pay attention, ask questions and show an interest in the conversation, now is it?

Once they realized I spoke Spanish beyond the typical phrases most non-fluent speakers know, every single native person asked me where I learned Spanish. They inquired about my time spent studying abroad in Chile and complimented me on how well I spoke. I could tell they were genuinely interested in knowing how I learned their language, and it was great to have such interesting conversations with taxi drivers, tour guides and hotel personnel.

Key takeaway – Don’t act like you’re off in “I’d rather be somewhere else” land or totally bored when you’re having a conversation with someone else. Even if the topic doesn’t completely intrigue you or you don’t agree with what the person is saying, show respect and at least pay attention to what he/she is saying.

This is really crucial when it comes to having a positive relationship with coworkers and clients/customers. Think about it from a business perspective – Would you do business with someone who acts like they could care less about what you have to say, or someone who is constantly distracted and can’t even focus on a brief conversation? Those red flags would definitely make me think twice if I were in a new business meeting with someone who acted like that.

Also, make sure you ask about others’ lives more than you talk about your own.

If you’d like to learn more about Nikki, feel free to check out her blog “Essential Elements.” Hope you enjoyed the read!

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