People and Culture in Costa Rica

“Ticos” as Costa Ricans lovingly refer to each other are very warm and hospitable hosts. You will feel welcome and comfortable in Costa Rica during your time abroad. There are many tourists and ex-pats in Costa Rica and it is one of few countries in the world with no military. Ticos have a very inclusive healthcare system and strong focus on education. In fact, almost every Costa Rican under the age of 30 has taken English throughout their schooling. You’ll find that many can speak English just about fluently, so greeting people you don’t know will become normal!

Costa Rica


Life happens at a much slower pace in Costa Rica in comparison to the United States. For U.S. Americans, this can be a difficult adjustment since the go-go-go lifestyle is a hard one to break and we like things to happen quickly. Rather than the typical small talk you encounter at the grocery store, bank, and post office in the United States, Ticos enjoy chatting with one another for what may seem like an extended period of time. Be prepared this when you are traveling to Costa Rica. Routine items such as getting money out from an ATM or sending a package at the post office may take longer than you anticipate. Always plan for more time than you expect and use this extra time to reflect on your experience in Costa Rica, practice your Spanish with locals in line, or bring something to do to keep your mind off the wait.

Another highlight of Costa Rica is the public transportation systems work fantastically and efficiently. Figuring it out will make you feel as though you won a medal of honor as these systems typically aren’t written out, structured, or publicized to standards you’re accustomed to. The best thing to do is to ask a local, your host family, or your site director how to navigate the transit system and soon you’ll wonder why the United States hasn’t universally created just as efficient systems.

Costa Rica bus

For more information on the people and history of Costa Rica, check out these resources:

You’ll find that there is a difference in lifestyle and general way of life between the Caribbean coast, central mountains, and the Pacific coast. In San Jose and the surrounding capital area, people move quickly and it is where most of the business is done. The coastal areas include small towns, growing seaside resort communities and still operating fishing villages. Many Ticos leave the San Jose area almost every weekend to visit the beautiful beaches and those that live there year-round have a unique, easygoing lifestyle that fits in well with blue waves and sandy beaches.

Costa Rica

Remember how your parents used to tell you to keep your elbows off the table during meals? Or that it’s rude to slurp your soup? Well there’s good news guys, these American cultures and customs don’t always translate to other countries! While the local people you meet won’t expect you to be fluent in their language, culture and customs, it is important to familiarize yourself with them.

Do you know how kissing, snoring and other things sound in other languages? That’s right, even sound effects can be translated!

The most important thing to remember while you’re abroad is that things will be different. But, different doesn’t mean wrong. Be open, be curious, and read more about the culture you will be stepping into. Get excited about LIVING the life you’ve only dreamt and read about until now!

 Costa Rica