Costa Rican culture is a melting pot of races and nationalities. The main ingredients are Spanish migrants and many of them have connections to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. As would be expected, there is a rich mixture of a old (over 1,000-years) and well blended traditions and ‘habits’. One passion that is common throughout Costa Rica is the peoples love for music. All over loud jubilant music can be heard and more so at celebrations and processions during ceremonies. Like most developing countries in the world, Costa Rican culture is constantly evolving. They willingly accept new behavioral habits introduced from outside their borders. Locals find themselves saying, “Oh! How things have changed, it was not like that when I was younger!” As in most countries, city dwellers in particular, broaden their bands of acceptable behavior to include customs not tolerated that long ago. However, the definition of “acceptable” is different for the folks residing in rural areas since they are less affected by the daily confluence outside Costa Rica Outside stimuli, such as tourism, business people, television, and other foreign sources, are far less prevalent once outside Costa Rica’s cities. While those who live and work in the city are far less restricted.
In Costa Rica, (including Blue River Resort & Hot Springs) turning off the highway onto many roads, will soon lead past homes and villages where people still are living a very simple, isolated lifesyle, with few of the modern comforts. Many people use horseback riding for transportation, each home has a cow that is milked daily and some homes are without electricity. The residents in rural Costa Rica adhere more closely to traditional cultural values.
Both rural and city dwellers make concessions for visitors to their country. The 3.5 million people of Costa Rica are very polite and extend a warm welcome to visitors. In many ways, their lives are similar to many other western countries. One exception perhaps is the Costa Rican lack of punctuality. This disregard is compensated for by an increase in their levels of patience and tolerance. Rare are the occasions that the public will witness incidences of racial intolerance in this well blended society. Like anywhere else in the world, conflicts and prejudices do exist but they are relatively minor in number and complexity.
Education in Costa Rica boasts a high level of literacy, at over 95%, which differentiates them from many other cultures. Although conservatives at heart, they welcome tourists that are more outgoing in their behavior, cultural habits, mannerism and dress.
Family for a typical Costa Rican holds a tight bond with all members participating in the rearing of the children and caring of the aged. Nowadays there are increased incidences of young Costa Ricans living together out of wedlock, though it happens less frequently than in the USA, Canada, Europe and other developed countries.
Church sill has a strong influence and this is clearly demonstrated in their celebrations such as Holy baptism, communion, weddings, funerals, and other religious services. This religious aspect of the people’s culture is changing slowly and Costa Ricans change in the way they celebrate such occasions. More latitude is extended these days to the behavioral expectations of persons on Catholic holidays. For example, many residents of cities like San Jose can now be seen at the beach or elsewhere enjoying the outdoors on holidays like the Easter Monday.
In rural Costa Rica, most people still withdraw from public life to faithfully observe the many religious celebrations. Hotels and resorts continue to entertain their guests and life goes on as it does elsewhere in the world. Feel free to join them in any of their celebrations tours can be easily arranged.
Those of you visiting Costa Rica for a purpose other than vacation such as a medical treatments (medical tourism) or for business need to pay closer attention to more traditional (acceptable) dress codes; in particular for meeting with a business, at a government institution or at the doctors
A Quick Guide for Tourists
Costa Ricans are very respectful, polite, and moderate in their behavior. It gives them great pleasure to entertain guests and are usually amused if your Spanish is- ‘no tan bueno’ or ‘not so good’. Some reminders for visitors are:
- Take a ‘Cue Card’, along with frequently used phrases if not fully conversant in Spanish.
- Illegal Drugs are just that. Do not get caught in possession of, or using, banned substances, you will be jailed.
- Sticking the thumb through, between the index and first fingers, whilst making a fist, is a very bad or ‘muy malo’.
- Spitting or blowing one’s nostrils in public is ‘very poor behavior’.
- Do not put your feet upon a table even when relaxing.
- Swearing, loud and rowdy behaviors are invitations for trouble and perhaps intervention by the law.
- Shorts and Flip-Flops are OK on tourists but not for persons conducting business on a daily business.
- When visiting a church dress conservatively.
- The legal drinking age is (18) eighteen years old.
- Getting uncontrollably drunk is frowned on and not good for a businessperson’s reputation.
- If you plan to visit someone’s home, it is thoughtful to take along a gift, perhaps a bottle of wine, chocolates, or flowers (not lilies, they are a symbol of death in Costa Rica).
- It is proper to open a gift immediately upon receipt and show it to everyone.
- Tipping is graciously accepted everywhere. Let your conscience be your guide.
- Restaurants add a 10% “service charge” by law; feel free to add an additional tip for good service. Tipping waiters or waitresses- 10% to 15%.
- Porters & Bellhops- $1.00 per bag
- Housecleaning staff- $1.00 per night
There is usually a warm welcome extended to vacationing tourists to come relax and enjoy this super eco-friendly paradise. In fact we encourage you to break away from the hotels and be social with the people and their simple ways. The food outside of the hotels, in most places, is wonderful and they will feed you non-stop if given a chance.
Another couple common sense tips – remember that Costa Rica is in the tropics and is all about being outdoors. So wear sunscreen and headgear; and, when entering wilderness areas, spray on bug repellant.
Keep in mind that our Costa Rica staff at the Blue River All Inclusive Resort and Hot Springs is available to answer any questions that you may have, even before you get here.