Saturday, March 28, 2009

Word of the Day: Ocupar

Ocupar, which means 'to occupy' in Spanish, also means 'to need' in Costa Rica. This is perhaps one of Costa Rica's strangest words. Since it's used in this way so often, I recommend shying away from the word ocupar to mean 'to occupy' because it will likely confuse the locals. You should use more general verbs like 'estar' instead.

To illustrate the potential confusion with this word, I was at an internet café and I asked the guy where the bathroom was, to which he asked me "ocupa el servicio"? I responded somewhat facetiously, "no, pero quiero ocuparlo pronto". He then said, "entonces, no ocupa el servicio", to which I responded "no, todavía no ocupo el servicio, pero, sí, tengo que usarlo". He then understood my urgency, but I don't think he ever understood why we had those awkward moments.

All of this just to go to the bathroom. Be mindful of this word!

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