Manners – Faux Pas – Pura Vida

Sunbathing Topless - Not Cool!

Sunbathing Topless - Not Cool on a Public Beach

Like any country there is respect with the culture and Costa Rica in no different. Faux pas varies from country to country, but in Costa Rica modesty, politeness, good manners, and common courtesy are the main keys. Even if you do not speak Spanish, learn to say, Buenos Dias (Good Morning) and Muchas Gracias (thank you) and you will see a world of difference. Costa Ricans call themselves, Ticos (TEE-kos).

The number one term in Costa Rican is slang “Pura Vida” (Pure Life) and you will hear it all the time – so when a foreigner says it,  automatically they get the thumbs up. Costa Ricans are usually very polite, quick to shake hands or place a kiss on someone´s cheek. They have a very high literary rate because schooling is required, so they speak formal Spanish.  If you speak Spanish, do not use the the form of “tu”, since they consider that informal or uneducated Spanish.The family is also important, and it is considered very  polite to ask, “How is your family doing?”

Wearing low huggers is not a good idea

Wearing bun huggers shorts or pants is not a good idea

Now if you are invited to Costa Rica’s home for the first time,  take a small gift such as flowers, chocolates, beer, wine, or  if you can, something special from your home country. If you are offered food, try to eat it even if you are not hungry. Not eating is a form of insult.

Dress code in  San José is a little bit more formal than in the countryside or beach cities like Jaco and Tamarindo.  People usually don´t wear shorts outside the beach areas, but it is accepted from foreigners; being invited to a home, don’t wear them.  But if you think you can wear those baggy shorts that hang half down your ass to a party – think again!

Strangely, a country where prostitution is legal, modesty also plays a major part in Faux pas. Catholicism is the major religion; old-world traditions is highly respected among the elderly. Walking into the hotel lobby wearing a bikini without covering up is not  cool!  If you are sunbathing topless on a public beach, and a cop politely walks over and ask you to put your top back on,  but ten minutes later after the cop has left, you take it off again, expect problems.  This is total disrespect for the culture and shows that you are looking down on the people, not counting the fact, it is against the law unless you are on a private clothing optional beach.

Another lack of respects is getting overly drunk. Remember three things,

  • Everyone on vacation likes to get drunk the first night they arrive.
  • Costa Ricans love to drink
  • But they don’t like drunks, especially those that cause problems and are loud and obnoxious.

Arguing out loud with management or hassle the waitress over a bill as trivial as a $1, again this is not cool because Costa Rica’s are generally peaceful and despise conflict.

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  1. Chloe says:

    I will be staying with a host family for a Spanish retreat, and I'm not sure how to thank the family properly. Also, is it rude to sleep in to late? Are there any other things that I should be careful of? Thank you!

    • admin says:

      Usually gifts that are unique from the area you live, baseball caps and t-shirts are cool. Also locally made chocolate, wine and jams. The younger adults have appreciated small bottles of US manufactured cologne and aftershave. As for sleeping in, not cool and it’s consider disrespectful. Learn to adjust with their time.

      On a more expensive level, US made shoes and clothing that are of good quality are also appreciated and electronics can be a great giftas well.

  2. aukea walters says:

    One other comment: please do not show off your wealth. Recognize that the combination of your flying costs, hotel stay and dining during your vacation cost the equivalent of an average Ticos’s basic annual income. Tip the chamber maid and you
    tour-driver and be courteous at all times.
    Be a good ambassador for your country!


    Great info & Advise, looking at moving in the near future to CR. I’m in the Trucking Buss. in the States and really would appreciated very much on some tips on how to etablishing a Refrigerated Transportation Businnes there. I’m bilingual originally from Cuba, but have been living in the USA. for 50 yrs.
    Any help will be deeply appreciated.

  4. WILLIAM says:

    i like reading this it has help me out alot about a country i am really thinking to move to thank you so much and i look forward to your up dates

  5. One additional thing to keep in mind is that exchange policies are much stricter in Costa Rica and rarely allow for refunds so shop carefully and avoid making a scene.

  6. DOMINIC says:


  7. Thanks, I enjoyed your post immensely. It’s nice to see someone writing something worth reading.

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