A Guide to Costa Rican Culture
Costa Rica is a country with a vibrant and proud culture. Costa Ricans, or ticos, as they call themselves, are known as friendly people, quick to give directions, share a coffee, or laugh over life stories, even if you’ve only just met.
City Life Versus Country Life in Costa Rica
As of 2019, roughly 80% of the population was living in an urban area. Of course, the largest urban region is the San Jose metropolitan area, or the GAM, as it’s known here. The Central Valley is home to the capital of four different provinces: San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, and Cartago. In fact, it takes a local to know when you’ve crossed from San Jose to Heredia; they’re that close.
Outside of the metropolitan area is another world. Very soon after leaving city borders begins mile after mile of rainforests, mountains, and rolling hills, much of which is protected land. No matter where you go in Costa Rica, you’ll find people connected to nature. It’s just a part of who we are. But in the country, where people can regularly hear howler monkeys, breathe in exhaust-free air, and see unbroken forest… Life is often a little sweeter out there.
You may have come across the phrase “pura vida” before, especially if researching Costa Rica. In Spanish, pura vida means “pure life” and is something of a slogan for the country.
Pura vida both describes Costa Rican’s laid-back culture and serves as a multi-use phrase in everyday language. It can be a greeting, a way to say “thank you”, a way to say “you’re welcome”, an acknowledgement…the list goes on.
Nature is a Part of Life in Costa Rica
Even in the middle of San Jose, if you look out over the city, you’ll see green everywhere. You’ll hear parrots calling to each other. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that Costa Rica contains 2.5% of the whole world’s biodiversity despite only occupying 0.001% of its surface area.
In light of this natural majesty, it’s not a surprise that most Costa Ricans have a deep-seated love and appreciation of the nature that surrounds them. This love translates to action, as 25% of Costa Rica is officially protected land.
Not only that, but Costa Rica has made eco-tourism a part of life. There are dozens of eco lodges, resorts, and tours in Costa Rica that conscientious travelers can stay at and appreciate nature to the max.
What Costa Rica is Known For
Not long ago, Costa Rica only registered on people’s minds for their exportation of pineapples, bananas, and coffee. While the country still exports these products, we’ve largely shifted from a product-based economy to a service-based economy. Services now make up over 75% of Costa Rica’s GDP
English is taught to most students throughout their secondary education, which is great news for both international companies and tourism alike! Thanks to our extremely high literacy and education rates, companies from around the world have found Costa Rica to be an excellent source of minds. Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Procter and Gamble, and McKinsey have all set up permanent shop here, providing quality jobs to hundreds of thousands of Costa Ricans.
Some Stats about Costa Rica’s Culture
Population of Costa Rica: 5.13 million people
Average Life Expectancy: 80.3 years
Literacy Rates, aged 15+: 97.9%
Percent of People Living in Urban Areas: 80%