Get ready to embrace the pura vida lifestyle, a go-with-the-flow approach that you’ll aspire to bring home with you. Our Culture Guide to Costa Rica offers a peek into the local mindset so that you can fully appreciate it for all of its richness. Costa Rican culture is a mixture of indigenous traditions, influenced by Spanish colonialism, and sprinkled with customs from its diverse immigrants. This melting-pot in paradise has created a population that is laid-back, welcoming, and the epitome of chill. When in Costa Rica, do as the locals do and lean into the joys of life’s simplest pleasures.
Kiss, Hug, or Handshake?
As in many Mediterranean countries, in Costa Rica it’s customary to kiss each cheek once to greet a friend ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. However, it’s worth noting that this method of greeting is preferable for opposite genders and between women, but it’s not customary for men to kiss other men on the cheek. Instead, men greet each other by giving a hug or handshake -the latter is the preferred greeting during business transactions.
Costa Ricans rarely observe the clock, often arriving late to dinner, appointments, and meetings by 30 to 45 minutes. Many foreigners may see this as insulting, but to locals it’s just their laid-back way of life and not meant to offend anyone. If you plan to meet new friends for dinner on your travels, arrange a time half an hour earlier than you plan to sit down to eat. Then perhaps you can all arrive at same time! Alternatively, just do as the Costa Ricans do – chill out and go with the flow.
There are a few rules of etiquette to observe if dining with Costa Rican hosts. The first – don’t begin eating your food until the host says the words ‘Buen Provecho’. This phrase translates to ‘enjoy your meal’ and is usually a sign for everyone to start eating. Another observation which may be unusual to visitors is that locals never cut salad with a knife, they instead gather ingredients up on their fork to eat. When it’s time to pay the bill, the person who extended the invitation usually pays for the meal, and it’s customary to add 10% to the total cost as a tip for the server.
Dress To Impress
No Culture Guide to Costa Rica would be complete without mentioning the local’s unique style! Costa Ricans take great pride in their dress, both inside and outside of work. Although they tend to perceive their outside work dress as informal, it’s still rather smart compared to other cultural norms. If you want to dress like a local, ditch the shorts and flip-flops and wear a nice pair of lightweight trousers and some fashionable shoes instead.
Mind Your Manners
Costa Ricans are incredibly polite and courteous; therefore, shouting, confrontation and accusations are not considered to be acceptable behavior, especially in public. Even when protesting against something that they don’t agree with, locals are taught to do so peacefully and without conflict. If you’re invited to dinner or drinks at someone’s home, it’s advisable to arrive with a nice bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers as a courteous gesture. And don’t forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, as gratitude is an essential part of the pura vida way of life.