by Kenneth Justice
~ “They hire illegal U.S. workers because they show up to work on time” he said
Last week on my trip to Costa Rica I talked with a number of different U.S. men and women who own businesses in Costa Rica and asked them why so many restaurants and hotels in Costa Rica employ young adults from the States; despite the fact that it is illegal to do so.
One restaurant owner told me it comes down to work ethic, “The law says that we have to hire local Costa Rican’s to work for us….but the locals are on Pura Vida time; they show up to work hours and hours late, but if I hire a 19 year old from the States he will show up right at 8 oclock as he is supposed to” he said
In college I had to write numerous essays on the famous sociological book, “The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” by Max Weber. The fundamental principle Weber points out is that the (then) Protestant United States exuded a strong work ethic which involved punctuality, hard labor, and no complaining…….many believe that it was the work ethic that Weber observed that made the United States into the country it became.
And it is that type of work ethic which leads many business owners in Costa Rica to break the law and hire illegal employees from back home in the States.
For many of us; it might drive us a little nuts to have employees show up at any hour of the day……we here in the United States take it as second nature to show up on time, work hard until our shift is done, and to obey our managers to a “t”………
BUT, could it be that our U.S. work ethic is merely a type of golden calf that we have all been worshipping……and now we expect other cultures to join in on our worship?
I don’t have a problem if companies in the United States want to operate their businesses by-the-clock…….but perhaps some people don’t want to be a slave-to-the-clock?
A few weeks ago I wrote an article about schedules and it was interesting how many people live their entire life based on schedules….even right down to scheduling their friendships……yet other people don’t believe in schedules at all.
Isn’t it okay for both people to exist in the world;
—) Some people will live by their schedules
—) Other people will not
And doesn’t the same thing apply to time management? Isn’t it okay for an entire society to exist that isn’t a ‘slave-to-the-clock’? Isn’t it okay for Costa Rican society to practice their pura vida life in which people take things much slower…….in which people don’t have to show up to work right at 7:59 AM?
Let’s face it; statistically Costa Rican people live longer lives on average than people in the States. So perhaps we could learn a thing or two about taking life a little bit slower. Are we sacrificing years off of our life….merely by making sure we arrive to work right on time?
When the Europeans came to the ‘New World’ they brought with them their belief that ‘they were living life the right way’ and that the Native Americans were ‘living life the wrong way’……what ensued was hundreds of years in which the European settlers attempted to change the way of life for all of the various Native American tribes……..and for the most part the European settlers accomplished what they set out to do.
One of my fears is that the U.S. business owners who have set up shop in Costa Rica are guilty of the same thing as their European ancestors; they believe that U.S. standards of work ethics are the only acceptable form of behavior in the workplace. All these hundreds of years later we are right back where we started from; trying to force a culture to look and act like us. But who says that what we look and act like is right?
Costa Rica is one of those civilizations that Europe only influenced a little bit. Sure, the Costa Rican’s all wear Western clothes, many drive automobiles, and a lot of them watch television…….yet for the most part their country still tries to live out the Pura Vida lifestyle which is almost totally free from stress, angst, deadlines, and feeling rushed.
Perhaps life is better when nobody is in a rush to get to work by 8am……perhaps such a society would lead to less people with ulcers, depression, anxiety, fill-in-the-blank.
Of course, I realize that the United States is what we are; we’re not going to change the hundreds and hundreds of years which instilled within us a certain standard of behavior at the workplace……….but perhaps its not too late for Costa Rica.
Perhaps the U.S. business owners in Costa Rica need to reevaluate what the hell they are doing; maybe they need to rethink owning a business in Costa Rica…..maybe they aren’t ready to live Pura Vida.
The sun is about to rise here in the Midwest and I think its time for my first coffee of the morning,
P.S. If you haven’t heard I’m currently on a national and worldwide tour of 100 coffee houses in 2014 check out my link for the news and stay tuned for dates and locations
Categories: Culture & Society