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Guide to Costa Rica: People and Economy

Written by Thomas Power | 10th January 2014 |


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Costa Rica is a country blessed by exuberant nature, pristine beaches and an inmense biodiversity.

However, what is often not mentioned but really makes this country a special place is its people.

People and Etiquette

Costa Ricans are normally fiercely proud of their culture and their country.

Ticos are predominantly direct descendants of Spanish colonists. Costa Rica was lucky to be the most neglected part of colonial Central America because of the absence of mineral wealth (gold and silver) or an abundant indigenous population.

Therefore, colonists who arrived Costa Rica were not looking to exploit the place and instead wanted a place to work and settle down with their families.


Costa Ricans are usually very polite, quick to shake hands or place a kiss on someone´s cheek.

They tend to use formal Spanish, using 'usted' instead of the more familiar 'tu' for most social interaction.

""Where there is a Costa Rican, wherever he is, there will always be freedom"" Jose María Sanguinetti, ex-president of Uruguay once said.

Family is also very important, as elsehwhere in Latin America, it is considered polite to ask about how someone's family is doing.

Do consider carrying a photo of your family, ideally extended family with you, you will find it a popular conversation starter.

If you are invited to someone´s home, take a gift such as flowers, chocolates or something special from your home country.

With this in mind, if you are coming from an area or a town with a particular claim to fame or product associated with it, consider taking some with you when you go on holiday to Costa Rica.

If you are offered food, try to eat it even if you are not hungry. Costa Ricans don´t like to say no and will avoid answering no, instead just saying ¨gracias¨.

Dress code in the capital San José is more formal than in the countryside. People usually don´t wear shorts outside the beach areas and they use leather dress shoes, instead of tennis, unless they are actually playing tennis that is.


Costa Rica has a stable economy and a relatively high standard of living. Its economy depends mainly in tourism, agriculture and electronic components exports.

Costa Rica's major economic resources are its fertile land and frequent rainfall, its well-educated population, and its strategic location in the Central American isthmus, which provides easy access to North and South American markets and direct ocean access to the European and Asian Continents.

One-fourth of Costa Rica's land is dedicated to national reserved forests, often adjoining picturesque beaches, which has made the country a popular destination for affluent retirees and ecotourists.

Costa Rica used to be known principally as a producer of bananas and coffee. Although it is still a largely agricultural country, its manufacturing and industry´s contribution to economy has overtaken agriculture in the last 15 years.

The main export products in 2004, in order of importance were: electronic components, textiles, bananas, medical equipment, pineapples, medicines, coffee and processed food.

In recent years, Costa Rica has successfully attracted important investments by such companies as Intel, which employs more than 2,000 people, Procter & Gamble, which is establishing its administrative center for the Western Hemisphere; and Abbott Laboratories and Baxter Healthcare from the health care products industry."

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