What about Costa Rica?


Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, and Panama to the south-east; it is located between the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Its name means ‘rich coast’ in Spanish.

It is not a country that will be well known to most, but observed more closely, it is a nation which has some quite interesting characteristics:

  1. Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos and Ticas.
  2. Costa Rica is slightly smaller than Lake Michigan.
  3. There are 800 miles of coastline, both on the Atlantic and Pacific.
  4. It only takes up .03% of planet’s surface but holds 5% of its biodiversity.
  5. There are over 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies (10% of the world’s butterflies are in Costa Rica), 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects.
  6. More than 25% of Costa Rican land is protected national parks and refuges.
  7. The average life expectancy of 77 years is one of the highest in the world.
  8. Costa Rica has no standing army. It was constitutionally abolished in 1949.
  9. They claim a 96% literacy rate. In very poor and rural areas, where children can’t get to schools, they teach classes over a national radio station.
  10. When a woman is pregnant they say she is con luz, or “with light.”
  11. When someone is your significant other, your other half, they are your media naranja, or the other half of your orange.
  12. Pura vida is the national saying, which means “pure life,” a sunny, feel good expression used as a greeting, goodbye, or if someone asks how you are doing.
  13. The average Tico makes $6,000 a year and the average wage labour is $10 per day, the highest in Central America.
  14. Costa Rica aims to be carbon neutral.
  15. Names are confusing in Costa Rica. Ticas do not take their husband’s last name.  The woman uses her full maiden name for life. No changing of national ID cards, drivers licenses, etc. She also adds her mother’s maiden name. Children take their father’s name.
  16. The older generations of Ticos are not tall, so most furniture, like chairs, couches, beds, etc. are built 6-8 inches lower than in the US.
  17. Locks (on houses, doors, and gates) almost always work backwards.
  18. Milk, eggs, and other perishable items are often sold unrefrigerated.
  19. It is common to buy wine in little paper boxes, which you do refrigerate.
  20. Often times milk is sold in a little plastic bag, and you have to cut the edge with scissors to open it, which often results in inexperienced gringos covered in milk and putting water on their cereal.
  21. Costa Rica is a Catholic country but ensures freedom of religion.
  22. On the Atlantic Coast, the Caribbean side, most of the population is descended from African roots, like Jamaica, and speak Spanish as well as a patois.
  23. A Costa Rican female swimmer won a gold medal in the 1996 summer games in Atlanta.
  24. Costa Rica is the longest-standing democracy in Central America.

2 thoughts on “What about Costa Rica?

  1. When a woman is pregnant they say she is con luz, or ‘with light.’.”
    What a positive, uplifting euphemism! In other Spanish-speaking countries, such as Mexico, where I lived for a time, she would be “embarazada” – embarrassed – hardly an uplifting title to carry for nine months.

  2. PS – Kuba, you might want to check your links – when I clicked on the “Reply” button in my email notification of this post, it took me to a page on your site that said, “Well, isn’t this embarrassing!” and explained that I had the wrong URL. Fortunately, from there, I was able to click on the “What about Costa Rica” link, and here I am. Just thought you might want to know.

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