Last Updated: Feb 21, 2012
Costa Rica does not have a national motto, but most would agree that its unofficial slogan is “pura vida,” meaning pure life. Though the origins of the phrase are not definite, Costa Ricans reportedly began using the expression after watching the 1956 Mexican movie titled "Pura Vida!" By 1970 the phrase was widely used throughout the country. Today, these two words can be used as a greeting, and generally symbolizes the Costa Rican idea of letting things go and simply enjoying life.
Pura vida has become so uniquely Costa Rican that the expression will always identify the speaker as Costa Rican. The phrase is important to locals, as it means much more than just pure life: throughout the country, the expression is used to express satisfaction, happiness and peace. It reminds Costa Ricans of their country’s beauty and the warmth of home. Today, pura vida has many idiomatic meanings and has been incorporated into everyday use:
To Greet Someone
When friends meet on the street, shake hands, or wave hello, it is common to say "pura vida!" In English, this is similar to greeting someone with “Hey, how are you?” or “What’s up?” A response of “pura vida!” implies that all is well.
To Say Good-bye
When Costa Ricans leave a restaurant, friend’s house, or bar, it is common to hear “pura vida!” If lots of fun was had, another farewell is “Hasta luego, todo estuvo pura vida,” or “See you later, everything was amazing!”
To Show Appreciation (for a person, object or situation)
Costa Ricans often use “pura vida” to express their satisfaction with a situation, object, or situation. For example, if someone says “Usted es pura vida,” that means “You are a great person.”
To Say Thank You or You’re Welcome
In informal situations, pura vida may be used to say thank you or you’re welcome. It is not uncommon to hear both meanings at the same time, for example when exiting a taxi, the passenger may say “pura vida” as thank you, while the driver responds with the expression as you’re welcome.