Maria came forth from the kitchen carrying two large plates of casado, a typical Costa Rican dish including rice, beans, a variety of side salads, and meat. She set them in front of us. “Oh wow. Es enorme!” I exclaimed. “Muchas gracias.”
Maria smiled widely and looked down, pleased. “Con mucho gusto,” she replied.
Throughout our week in Costa Rica, those words were never uttered with less than earnest pleasure. The words are spoken with feeling, always with a demure smile.
Anyone who took high school Spanish learned gracias and de nada as “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” But de nada actually means something closer to “It’s nothing.” Con gusto, or con mucho gusto, is the phrase used in Costa Rica. It means “with pleasure.”
When I pointed out the fact that no one in Costa Rica uses de nada, the young woman behind the hotel front desk nodded, explaining, “To say ‘it’s nothing’ is… not as nice.”
That’s true. To say “it’s nothing” degrades the thanks of the one expressing gratitude, as though to say, “Your gratitude is unwarranted.” It also cheapens the action that receives the thanks. “What I did isn’t worthy of any gratitude.” De nada can be said with a dismissive wave of the hand. It can be said without a smile.
Con mucho gusto, on the other hand, acknowledges both the gratitude and the action. It connects the giver and the receiver over the shared moment in which both parties are pleased. “I’m pleased by what you did for me,” and “I did it with pleasure.”
Con mucho gusto reflects the kindness of ticos (Costa Ricans) we met all over the country, where even the simplest interactions, like buying a mango at a roadside fruit stand, left me feeling like I’d made a new friend.