Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Ugly American Rears Her Extremely Irritating Head

Today we had lunch over in Escazu at a little Chinese restaurant called Tzu Jan. They are 100% vegetarian, and perhaps are the first Asian restaurant in the country that is all vegetarian (mostly vegan, too, which is great!).Esposo and I love Tzu Jan because we can eat like pigs, not feel guilty, and generally not spend more than $10-12. For example, today we had three green tea shakes (sooooo good!), a plate of 12 potstickers, sweet and sour tofu and veggies, a plate of 6 vegetarian "jumbo shrimp," and lettuce wraps to take home. All of this cost about $12. And it's delicious to boot!

Halfway through lunch, three Americans come into the cafe. The rather obnoxious woman starts asking for water with lemon on the side. The (extremely nice) Chinese waitress explains that they don't have lemons, but they do have frescos and can make her a lemonade (all of this conversation takes place in Spanish). She then contemplates this, and agrees to a fresco. Perhaps she is thinking of Fresca, who knows, but when she is brought a lemonade, she proceeds to make a fuss about it, saying "I can't drink this, I wanted water with lemon on the side." Extremely nice Chinese waitress then has kitchen boy run to the store half a block away because THEY HAVE NO LEMONS!

Then Ugly American asks extremely nice Chinese waitress IN ENGLISH if the shrimp is vegetarian (duh, yes, it's a vegetarian restaurant) and if it tastes like shrimp (I would say that it does not, but it's damn good nonetheless). ENCW proceeds to attempt to answer her in English (and does a fine job, I might add, considering how obvious it is that Spanish is her SECOND language). Ugly American proceeds to mutter something about how expensive the shrimp is (all of 2,000 colones, or less than $4 -- cheap in my book and anyone else's who's eaten out in Costa Rica, and particularly in Escazu). Then Ugly American orders the shrimp and a plate of potstickers. After ENCW leaves, UA is heard to mutter something derrogatory about Chinese people and Chinese food in general (I have been to said cafe on several occasions and have had nothing but excellent service and friendly attention from the staff). What a freakin' byatch.

Her dining companions, fwiw, ordered burgers, fries, and pizza. At a Chinese vegetarian restaurant! Honestly, I didn't even know they HAD burgers, fries and pizza, because -- DUH! -- I go there to eat CHINESE FOOD! I guess my brain simply skipped over that page on the menu. And then some Americans wonder why they are despised abroad. Go figure. Idiots like this give us all a bad name.

I remember once, when I was in school at UC Santa Cruz, a surfer girl asking me about Costa Rica. "But doesn't everyone speak English?" was one of her questions (she obviously did not speak a lick of Spanish). "No," was my reply, "but they certainly all speak Spanish!" Why, I ask you, humble reader, why oh why do so many Americans expect everyone to speak their language? Why would Ugly American ASSUME that ENCW spoke English, when she had never met her before, never heard her speak English? I have had this conversation with a friend of mine who moderates a board for people living in CR or wanting to move here. She is equally appalled at the number of Gringos who want to find a tropical version of the United States here.

So I will say it once, for all those who may believe otherwise: Costa Rica is not the United States. If you are thinking about moving here, you will experience culture shock. Yes, we have some American television stations and products and there are even enclaves of Americans you can socialize with. But this is not the US, and you'd better damn well speak Spanish if you expect to enjoy, let alone get along with, Costa Rica and its people. No one wants to hear you bitch and moan about how Costa Rica is not like the US. We know it's different. We know a lot of things are WAAAY behind the times (I do enough bitching and moaning myself on such topics). And seriously, most Costa Ricans know what is wrong with their country. They don't need to be reminded by you. In general, you have more money and more opportunities in your life than they ever will have. As an indicator, a recent article noted that if you have a car, more than one television, and internet access, you are considered in the upper class. Hot water and washing machines were not even mentioned. Think about that before you start your whining. Please, we have enough Ugly Americans here. If you are one of those, stay at home.

Getting off my soabox now. And I'm going to go eat those lettuce wraps that I took home for munching later!

1 comment:

  1. There's another Vegetarian restaurant in Moravia In front of Pali Novacentro, I just can't recall it's name..
    They serve there an exquisite recipe with mushroom stems.
    I taste that dish and it was delicious..
    There's a new recipe called like "Vegetarian Chicken Leg". so.. Give it a try.