D is for Dicha

Costarican idioms fro A to Z (loosely interpreted)

D is for dicha, or luck. When you ask anyone in Costa Rica how they are, they almost always answer, “Muy bien, por dicha,” or, “Muy bien, gracias a dios.”  “With luck,”  or “Thanks be to God,” we are doing okay. They acknowledge with this common greeting that their wellbeing is not an assured thing.

When I was in nursing school we learned in our cross cultural classes about something called locus of control. The idea was first introduced by Julian Rotter in 1954 and has come into and out of fashion in psychology ever since.

The idea is that everyone has a locus (Latin for place) where they feel their life is controlled. People with a high internal locus of control believe that events result primarily from their own behavior and actions.  Contrarily, People with a  high external locus  feel events outside of themselves decide if they are successful or not.

I’ve always found this concept fascinating and how it applies in things like obesity, diabetes management, and exercise, but I also think it applies to politics and the current state of inequity in the USA. For instance, has the recent economic decline in the USA flipped some people who firmly believed they had control over their destinies in to the external locus group? Hard not to see how that might happen. How many people lost jobs and fell behind in the mortgages or became homeless through no fault of their own? Do hard economic times change the statistics?

In Rotters’ time (the 1950s and 60s) the data showed whites as having a propensity for internal locus, blacks and hispanics, external. And in the 1950s it’s easy to see how those statistics might hold up. But now? I doubt it. My guess is white people are feeling less secure in their ability to steer their own ship, unless, of course they are in the 1%.

Costaricans tend to acknowledge that not everything is within their control. Life has taught them that.

I once thought I was firmly in the Internal Locus group. I could do anything I wanted. Now, being— of a certain age— I have discovered that even though I have done everything correctly, life sometimes offers up a curve ball when I thought it was coming right down the middle.

What’s your locus of control? Click here for a short questionnaire.




  13 comments for “D is for Dicha

  1. 04/04/2012 at 3:50 pm

    Great post, Sarah. I’d have to agree with the distinction re whites having a more internal locus of control than other races; culturally speaking, Caucasians were weaned earlier from divine intervention. In the US, though, long before the current economic crisis, there was already a shift in control locus: people began casting responsibility for their mishaps elsewhere–case in point: lawsuits that border on the ridiculous (like the McDonald’s coffee thing). It’s interesting to think of this locus of control issue as a pendulum–worth researching a bit, maybe. Thanks for the insights!

    And my two cents re “dicha”: in Mexico people also tag “gracias a Dios” on every positive statement (though not on the negative ones, and you’d think divine intervention would be as responsible for the good as for the bad, right? Hmmm… Religion stumps me), but not “dicha”. Dicha is used more for “happiness”, and one common phrase is “dichoso (a) tu”, as in “you’re soooo lucky”. Funny, eh?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • 04/04/2012 at 5:21 pm

      Hi Guilie. Thanks for stopping by. I always love it when a native speaker comments on these posts. I’m just a blind expat fumbling with the language and hence the caveat “loosely interpreted” at the beginning of every post. Now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone here say, I wrecked my car, thanks be to God. Funny how that works. LOL. Good luck with the rest of the challenge.

  2. 04/04/2012 at 2:49 pm

    Scored 9- but most of my real answers would have been a compromise between the two given options. I’m old enough to recognise that some things just play themselves out regardless, but think it’s important to be fully responsible for my own actions. Is there such a thing as a flexible locus? Smart, thoughtful posts- dicha that I found it!

    • 04/04/2012 at 5:13 pm

      I agree, Lisa. There should be a medium ground in those questions. I found them very difficult and ended up as a six. 50:50. Maybe it’s those years of living here that have done that to me. 😉 I’m sure at and earlier age I would have ranked in the 99 percentile. I do enjoy your posts and thanks for the visit. Dicha, for sure, and the A to Z Challenge.

  3. 04/04/2012 at 11:58 am

    I didn’t have time to take a test because I’m frantically trying to read a few blogs before I have to drive to Helena. My son said a snow storm is on the way but we haven’t had snow all year.
    Loved your post again. Dicha

  4. Lynne
    04/04/2012 at 11:12 am

    4 – Pretty astute observation about type A, control freak, internal locus of control types living abroad. That would be an interesting study… Maybe we can deal with frustration better in a foreign culture better than we can deal with it at “home.” (Of course, by the standards of anywhere else in the US, South Carolina might be considered a foreign land!)

    • 04/04/2012 at 11:29 am

      LOL, Lynne. Yes, we Control Freak types tend to go mucking about when we should probably stay home and make life miserable for those we love. But I do think there is something about feeling “other” in the first place that helps us survive in foreign countries…. like South Carolina. 😉

  5. 04/04/2012 at 9:23 am

    Nice post. I scored 4 too. Yay, internal locus, which is what I thought. I am trying to live in the moment and create a wonderful, joyous life … working most the time so far 🙂 I just noticed you are a Scrivener user – I am in the 30 day trial and although I like it, I still don’t really understand how it all works. Do you recommend it?

    • 04/04/2012 at 9:38 am

      Highly. Highly. Highly recommend Scrivener. If you are interested, Gwen Hernandez teaches a basic Scrivener class. You learn an incredible amount and it’s cheap–25-28 lessons for ~ $25. By the end you will be able to maneuver the program around to your liking. There are so many features that most writers don’t use them all, just set it up so it fits. Also befriend Scrivener in facebook, if you are a fber, and you’ll get links to helpful articles about how people use it. By the way, Gwen is writing “Scrivener for Dummies” (it’s not released yet). Her website is http://www.gwenhernandez.wordpress.com/ and you can find her Scrivener posts listed there. Best of luck, and I’ll check back with you later on your blog.

  6. 04/04/2012 at 8:00 am

    I scored an 8. I think it the Spanish in me that has that attitude of “what will happen,will happen.”

    • 04/04/2012 at 9:39 am

      Yes, the Spanish in you, or living on Shelter Island. 😉

  7. Bex
    04/04/2012 at 1:55 am

    Oh wow – I scored 4, does that mean that I am a control freak?! I have to say, living in Greece REALLY helps me to become almost Zen like and take one day at a time, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to plan in this country, when even the politicians keep changing the laws regularly!
    “Siga siga” (slowly slowly) – take life slowy and why bother worrying??
    Like the ‘curve ball’ comment – that’s so true.

    Glad you found and liked my blog.


    • 04/04/2012 at 9:43 am

      Why do you suppose it is that type A personalities (often internal locus types) end up living abroad where frustration is the only game in town? LOL. I like Siga. Siga. My mother always used to say, “Slowly, Snail, slowly.” Yes, slowly and enjoy. Oh, Bex, I think there is a broken link with your RSS feed. I cannot access it, anyway. I’ll hang on to your web address and try to subscribe later.

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