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  • Writer's pictureJose Arrieta

Winnie-the-Pooh is Pura Vida

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Costa Ricans see their country as the land of Pura Vida. This notion follows the old Kirkegaardian notion of "life is not a problem to solved, but a reality to be experienced".This notion is great at the individual-level and it makes a comeback to the world's Zeitgeist every couple of years (e.g. YOLO).

But there was a speck of truth on the knee-jerk annoyance that the YOLO culture brought to the Boomer generation. It is ok to live your life but society has bigger responsibilities than filling their people's life with varied experiences. Sure, Adam Smith talked about the invisible hand of the market. But history tells us that the freer the market the more unequal the society. And inequality is bad for society. <- Period

Coming from the country that birthed and took to heart Kant's categorical imperative and the centrality of Verantwortung, the arrival to the birthplace of Pura Vida is a journey full of discoveries. In Germany uncovering a problem is seen as an important activity. Indeed, Germans are happiest whilst complaining (404 error). Here instead when one uncovers a problem, one will hear a "calladito más bonito" (you look cuter with your mouth shut).

Interestingly, the niceness of the people relates to these two doctrines. In Costa Rica a doctrine of subservience dominates the land, not so in Germany. A Costa Rican looking for a beer will say: Me regalas una birra? (Could you GIFT me a beer?). In contrast, a German will say: Ich bekomme ein Bier (I RECEIVE a beer.). Where the Costa Rican is self conscious about asking to buy something, the German simply tells the employee what they will get, whether the other person likes it or not.

Generally, it seems that Pura Vida comes with a mindful problem avoidance or the view that "life is a journey to be lived, not a problem to be solved" as Winnie-the-Pooh would say. That said, it's the perfect motto for a people in a great tourist destination.

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