Customs and traditions
Costaricans like to identify themselves as a
contrast to the rest of Central America: they are not
poor, lack reading and writing skills, and do not live
in political chaos. Costaricans instead emphasize their
high standard of living, their educational level and
their national parks - and not least the fact that they
have done well without an army for over half a century.
The residents call themselves ticos, a
reference to the diminutive forms for which Costa Ricans
have a preference. (Reduction events –ito / -ita are
found in all Spanish but in Costa Rica they are used
extensively and in several variants, including –tico).
Overview of the capital city of Costa Rica, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
In yet another contrast to the neighboring countries
and their residents, Costa Ricans often look "white".
The population is also "whiter" than the neighboring
people, but the Costa Ricans are more mixed up than the
Spaniards from whom they think they originated. At the
same time, the large influx of "whiter" North Americans
has created a certain friction - some of the North
Americans adopt a patronizing attitude towards the
country's "Latinos". According to reports, more than
two-thirds of all beachfront properties are owned by
foreigners today, which contributes to the fact that
some Costa Ricans feel excluded and discriminated
against in their own country.
A cultural exception is the Afro-Costa Ricans, who
live primarily on what in Costa Rica is called Costa
Atlántica, the Atlantic coast. They identify with the
culture and residents of the Caribbean island world.
Here food and music rhythms are different.
Afrocostaricans were previously subjected to substantial
discrimination, but this has diminished over time.
Today, it is mainly Nicaraguans who are exposed to
prejudice and contempt. The Nicaraguans form a clear
Know and label
Costa Rican people consider themselves friendly and
polite. You often use titles, that is, you address a
person with a doctor, professor
(teacher), abogado (lawyer), etc. Señor
and señora act as Mr or Mrs in front of the
surname. A more familiar form of speech is don
and doña, followed by the first name. Children
and subordinates often use this talk about the elderly
or people in a senior position at work.
Like most Spanish speakers, Costa Rican people have
two surnames, the first from the father and the second
from the mother. A woman does not change her formal name
when she marries, but sometimes informally uses her
father's name and adds to her husband's, according to
the form García de Cruz. Many people mainly use the
first of the two surnames.
Western attire dominates. Young people like to wear
jeans, with a shirt or blouse. Schoolchildren wear
school uniform. Men in business often wear dark suits,
but when it is hot, the jacket is not always necessary.
Women often wear long pants. Costaricans do not normally
wear shorts, with the exception of possibly during the
weekend. You only have swimwear on the beach.
To greet and converse
You like to greet people even if you just pass each
other on the street. The greeting phrases change during
the day, but it is common with the abbreviated
arches (good, good). Shaking hands is a common way
of greeting, especially men in between. Man to woman and
between women, cheek kisses are common. A kiss applies,
on one cheek.
Costaricans largely use usted - the
nine-form - when talking even between people who are
close to each other. The du form here is vos,
not tú as in most Spanish-speaking countries.
Costa Rican people can perceive Tu as snobby.
Pura vida is an expression that no one can
avoid in Costa Rica. It literally means "pure life" but
is commonly used to express that something is good,
nice, beautiful, nice - or to say "serve". A common
obscene gesture is a fist with the thumb between the
forefinger and middle finger.
The Swede who wants to flatter can still congratulate
Costa Rica for the eighth finals in the 1990 World Cup -
and among other things beat Sweden in the group stage!
There aren't many Costa Ricans who don't know about it -
the country has only been to the World Cup twice and
football is both favorite pastime and bloody serious.
Politics is a popular topic of conversation, and not
particularly charged due to the country's relative
The Costa Ricans like to joke and drive with
everything and everyone. According to a popular
expression, Jesus would not have crucified him if he
came to Costa Rica - he would have made fun of him.
As a visitor, one should be cautious with criticism
of Costa Rica. It is particularly sensitive in a country
where national pride is so strong in many.
Directions and times
Like many other Latin Americans, costaricans are
drawn to refuse by saying no or "it is not possible" -
often one expresses goodwill by vaguely predicting that
something can happen. Asking if there is a risk that a
Costa Rican would rather give directions than say "don't
know" - even if he or she does not know the answer. It
sometimes causes some confusion.
The visitor can also be confused by the directions
themselves. Formal street addresses are almost never
used - instead, places are described as "two blocks
north of the church" or similar. The landmarks that
everyone is supposed to know do not even need to be left
- an indication can be "100 meters from the fig tree"
even though the tree in question was felled 20 years
The Costa Ricans talk about hora tica - "tico-time"
- which means that you are not necessarily as punctual
as a Swedish. But Costa Ricans are considered to be more
punctual than many in neighboring countries. Since they
no longer have long siesta - dinner grids - you should
arrive in time for lunch meetings. For more social
events in the evenings, the time is less important.
Anyone who is invited to a Costa Rican can bring
flowers, chocolate or a bottle of whiskey.
As in other countries in the region, rice and beans
are basic food for most Costa Rican people, regardless
of social group. The national court gallo pinto
enjoys many for breakfast while others eat it several
times a day. The Gallo pinto (can be translated as
"spotted rooster") consists of black beans and rice that
are fried together and preferably seasoned with fresh
coriander. Casado is also a national dish and
involves a plate of rice, beans, vegetables and usually
food bananas as well as any kind of meat or fish.
Other common dishes are arroz con pollo
(rice with chicken) or olla de carne, a meat
soup with plenty of vegetables in. Generally, a lot of
chicken is eaten and beef or pork. Seafood is mostly
found on the coasts but can also be enjoyed in the
markets on the central plateau. Ceviche is fish
or shrimp marinated in lime, chilli and fresh coriander.
Pipas are green coconuts in which you make
holes and drink with straw. If you want to spice up the
drink, you can venture to the local sugar cane brandy,
Bocas are light dishes traditionally served
free of charge at bars. Anyone who drinks a few beers or
drinks will, with a little luck, get a whole meal,
consisting of varied bocas.
Traditions and holidays
A majority of Costa Rican people identify as
Catholics, but religiosity is rather lukewarm for a
country in Latin America. By tradition, however, many
celebrations are associated with the Catholic Church.
One of the most important holidays is semana
santa, Easter week. Then processions and trade
fairs are held, alcohol sales are banned and public
transport is stopped - the country shuts down largely
from the Thursday to Easter Eve.
At Easter, just like around Christmas, however, it is
crowded on the beaches as many Costa Rican people have
the corresponding "industrial vacation" and take the
opportunity to leave the cities.
Another celebration is on August 2 and is dedicated
to the national saint La Virgen de Los Ángeles,
"angel of the Virgin". Then processions from, among
others, San José go to the Basilica of Cartago and many
celebrate with fireworks and festivities.
A non-religious celebration is Independence Day on
September 15, when school children are commanded on the
streets to wave flags. The same is true of Juan
Santamaría Day, April 11, when celebrating a national
hero from the 19th century - a young drummer who,
according to legend, helped prevent an invasion.