- What does “pura vida” mean?
- Why are Costa Ricans called Ticos?
- How do Costa Ricans dress?
- Is it true that Costa Ricans never say no?
- What is Tico time?
- Are many homes without central hot water?
- Does every town have a farmers’ market?
- What are Costa Rica’s most traditional meals?
- Are there any famous Costa Ricans?
- When is Costa Rica’s Independence Day?
- What are the five most important holidays in Costa Rica?
- What cultural activities are unique to Costa Rica?
- Is Costa Rica a Catholic country?
- Is there a strong indigenous influence?
- What role does family play in Costa Rica?
- Is Costa Rica gay-friendly?
- What is the local attitude toward women?
- How do Costa Ricans greet each other?
- Why do Costa Ricans have two last names?
- What are macrobioticas? They’re everywhere!
- What kind of music is popular in Costa Rica?
Directly translated from Spanish, this iconic phrase means pure life. In reality, it is more a state of mind: Costa Ricans take every opportunity to enjoy life, and this carefree term expresses general satisfaction. Pura vida is used as greeting or farewell, to express thanks, and as a response to “how are you?”
Tico and Tica (male and female) are colloquial terms that Costa Ricans gave themselves, due to their linguistic tendency to add the diminutive “tico” to the end of words. For example, “un poco” means “a little” – in standard Spanish, the diminutive is “un poquito” (a little bit), but Costa Ricans often say “un poquitico.”
Costa Ricans take pride in their appearance and dress well. In business situations, both men and women dress conservatively. Outside the office, locals dress informally, though men rarely wear shorts except at the beach. Women of all sizes may wear tight and revealing clothing, though females in rural areas dress more conservatively than their urban counterparts.
Not exactly. Costa Ricans are less direct than most North Americans and Europeans, so they’re less likely to respond with a flat out no. For example, if you ask a friend to dinner and he doesn’t want to go, he will probably answer with a maybe, just to be polite.
Tico time is a somewhat affectionate reference to the Costa Rican habit of arriving late for appointments, dates and even business meetings. The best way to combat this propensity is to prepare for a late arrival – or schedule appointments for 30-60 minutes earlier.
Yes, many traditional houses don’t have central hot water and instead use showers with on-demand heaters (sometimes called suicide showers), and dish soap and laundry detergents formulated for use in cool water. However, there are plenty of modern, American-style homes equipped with hot water tanks.
Suicide showers, also known as “termoduchas,” are showerheads built with on-demand heating coils inside. Suicide showers got their name from their appearance – electric wires inside the shower stall – which may seem suicidal to use, but are very safe when installed correctly.
Almost every town has its own farmers’ market, known in Costa Rica as la feria. In general, markets are held on a Friday and/or Saturday. You can shop for a huge variety of goods, including fresh produce, cheese, meats, baked goods, flowers and even handicrafts at very reasonable prices.
Gallo pinto – black beans and rice, seasoned with onion, sweet pepper, cilantro and Lizano sauce – is considered Costa Rica's national dish. Two of Costa Rica's most typical holiday foods – miel de chiverre (squash honey) and tamales – are true delicacies worth trying.
Yes, among them: Franklin Chang-Diaz, a NASA astronaut and record-holder for most space flights; Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former two-term president; Claudia Poll, an Olympic gold medalist swimmer – the only Costa Rican to ever have won gold; Nery Brenes, as of 2010 one of the world’s rising superstars in track and field; and Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica’s current sports sweetheart and star soccer forward for Holland’s Twente.
Costa Rica earned its independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Each year, this holiday is celebrated with fireworks, parades and marching bands.
In calendar order: Holy Week (the week leading up to and including Easter Sunday), the Annexation of Guanacaste (July 25), Our Lady of Los Angeles Day (August 2), Independence Day (September 15), and Christmas (December 25).
Horse parades, known locally as topes, are prevalent throughout the country from December-April. Hundreds of riders gather to show off their beautiful horses, riding skills, and fancy cowboy outfits.
Studies report that 70.5% of Costa Ricans are Roman Catholic, but only 44.9% are practicing Catholics. There is no legal separation between church and state, so the Catholic Church has influence over national politics. However, Costa Rica is not extremely conservative: for example, abortion is illegal, but birth control is widely available.
There are at least nine indigenous cultures in Costa Rica, but they represent just 1% of the country’s entire population. Rural tourism initiatives have allowed travelers to visit these communities, learn about their way of life and even contribute to local economies.
Family is extremely important to Costa Ricans, and family members are very affectionate with one another. Many Costa Ricans live in multi-generation households, and it is common for families to get together as a group every weekend.
In general, Costa Rica is more gay-friendly than other Latin American countries. However, gay marriage is not legal in Costa Rica and sexuality can be a sensitive topic since most locals are Roman Catholics. San Jose and Manuel Antonio are the most open-minded destinations for gay travelers.
Machismo is part of Costa Rican culture – traditional gender roles exist and men are more brazen when pursuing women. However, this stereotype does not hold true for the entire culture, particularly for the younger generation. As the gender gap closes, women are becoming more independent – marrying later, earning more degrees, and supporting themselves. In 2010, Costa Rica elected Laura Chinchilla, the nation’s first female president.
It is common to greet friends, relatives and even acquaintances with an air kiss on the cheek. A handshake is normal etiquette in business situations.
In Latin America, children are given the first last name of both their parents. For example, if Juan Diaz Lopez and Maria Rodriguez Aguilar have a daughter, her full name would be Elisa Diaz Rodriguez – Diaz from her father and Rodriguez from her mother. If she marries, she will not change her name. If she has children, she will pass on her first last name (Diaz) to them.
Macrobioticas are health food stores where Costa Ricans buy herbal teas, natural remedies and homeopathic goods. Natural medicine is very common in Costa Rica, and some doctors prescribe natural remedies alongside pharmaceuticals.
Costa Ricans enjoy Latin, American and British contemporary rock, and have a special affinity for tunes from the 80's. However, when it comes to dancing, most prefer the traditional Latin rhythms of salsa, merengue, cumbia, lambada and soca.