Costa Rica was determined to be the happiest country on earth in 2012
Costa Rica was determined to be the happiest country on earth in 2012

Costa Ricans are renowned as some of the friendliest people in the world. If you're planning to visit Costa Rica, it helps to know a little about how Ticos behave, interact with one another and what you can expect from the people you meet during your travels. Come with me to learn more about cultural and social etiquette in Costa Rica!

Typical Costa Rica farmers
Typical Costa Rica farmers

A warm Welcome

When meeting friends in Costa Rica, it's customary to kiss the other person's cheek lightly. This greeting is typically reserved for meetings between members of the opposite gender, as men meeting one another typically do so with a handshake or one-armed hug. Maintaining eye contact during these greetings is considered polite. Handshakes are your best bet when first meeting people, as although Ticos are very friendly, being overly familiar with new people can be seen as rude. When it comes to personal space, Ticos are quite comfortable maintaining distances of between one and two feet when speaking.

Family feeding pigeons in Plaza de a Cultura in Downtown San Jose
Family feeding pigeons in Plaza de a Cultura in Downtown San Jose

Dressing Appropriately

Ticos typically dress casually and practically, and most Costa Ricans won't make a fuss about what you're wearing. However, common sense goes a long way. For example, dressing in shorts and flip-flops is fine for a day at the beach, but if you're planning to visit the theaters and museums in the capital of San Jose, you'll probably want to dress up a little. If you're doing business during your stay, formal wear is considered appropriate, and Costa Ricans typically favor outfits that aren't too revealing.

The most used phrase of Ticos,
The most used phrase of Ticos, "Pura Vida"

Cultural Taboos

There aren't many gestures visitors should avoid using in Costa Rica, but there are a couple of things that are considered rude. For example, placing your feet on furniture is seen as disrespectful in most situations, and pointing is also considered rude. If you need to gesture at something, use your whole hand, and avoid pointing directly at another person. Also, Ticos usually expect direct and sustained eye contact during conversations, and failing to do so can be seen as rude or dismissive.

Punctuality

In keeping with the relaxed Tico lifestyle, Costa Ricans don't place as much emphasis on punctuality as some other countries. Being a little late is socially acceptable. Business meetings and professional appointments are an exception, where timeliness is expected as a matter of courtesy.

Beautiful Costa Rica flag in the wind
Beautiful Costa Rica flag in the wind