Fun, Goofy, & Weird Stuff about Costa Rica

In any web site like this, there are bound to be a bunch of silly, maybe irrelevant, but often interesting tidbits that simply do not fit well under another location... so here are the Odds and Ends.  Little known, but true... and generally useless... facts about Costa Rica!  If you live here... you probably have your own!  Send them to me and I'll add them.

In absolutely no particular order....

  1. In Costa Rica, it is not uncommon to give coffee to babies (in their bottle, with milk) and to young children.  I found this astonishing!  Having had the "pleasure" of a two year old a few times in my life, I simply could not imagine a two year old on espresso!

  2. MANY Costa Ricans use their credit cards for everything. What so I mean by everything? Well... a newspaper, a candy bar, a pack of gum, etc. I mean things as low as just pennies in cost! It is truly bizarre to be in line behind a Tico and watch him whip out his card to make an eighteen cent purchase.
  3. MacDonald's, Burger King and all the others have HOME DELIVERY in Costa Rica!  This is not a good thing if you are on a diet.

  4. Ticos are short statured people in general. Therefore, chairs, couches etc are built about 6-8 inches (sometimes more) lower than furniture say from the USA. If you are tall, you will find that the act of just getting up is an effort. If you have a...ummm... a weight issue as does this writer, it is handy to have a helper nearby!
  5. Cigarettes are only about $1.65 per pack.  Another thing to place under the 'not good' category.
  6. Naming conventions are very different here.  Children take their father's name, but add their mother's maiden name to their full name.  So when you see a name on a business card like Carlos Jose Gomez Guzman, this persons name is Carlos Gomez and the Guzman is his mom's maiden name.  Often this is abbreviated as an initial thus: Carlos Jose Gomez G. or even more commonly, Carlos Gomez G.

    Costa Rican women 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.

    Rarely now, women WILL use the old Spanish naming convention and add a  "de " and her husband's name.  Thus, Maria Gomez when she marries Carlos de la Torre, will become  Maria Gomez de La Torre.

    This system does not work well with most North American names, especially ethic names and would be as dumb as all that hyphenating malarkey in the USA. Imagine Doris Kaspinski de Czezniekevich?
  7. If you should die while here, you are buried here on the same day you die... no embalming... nada.  They just plant you!   Everyone looks to see your obituary on TV several times per day!  (This can occur easily if you buy the cheap cigarettes and have your Big Macs sent to the home!).  More info click here.
  8. There are few street signs in Costa Rica and even fewer addresses.  Read that as almost none.  Just about all addresses are in terms of a well-known building or landmark; often the local Catholic Church, cemetery, or another fixed location.  But just to keep things interesting, some addresses are phrased in terms of building that may have burned down 20 years ago!  Also, when you see an address that says 200M west of something, that normally means 2 blocks and NOT a true 200 meters. Now is a good time to read about driving in Costa Rica.
  9. Diet Pepsi here tastes better than Diet Coke.
  10. Instead of saying "my other half",  Ticos often refer to their significant other as their "media naranja" or the other half of their orange.
  11. Many (honey) bees in Costa Rica are of the Africanized variety i.e. killer bees.   The older species were bred out years ago.
  12. Tangerines are called mandarins (mandarines) here. Limes are limˇnes.  And you can't buy lemons here... or at least I have never seen them.  So, if you want a lime, ask for a limˇn (lee-moan). 
  13. Candy and cookies manufactured here are to Tico tastes and have a LOT less sugar (and maybe fat) and thus a lot less flavor.  If you have a sweet tooth, it can still be satiated as nearly all the popular candy from the US (I am a Snickers freak), is available.  However, if you're a cookie lover, your pretty well outta luck.  Not much available except Oreos and a handful of others.

    Also, non sugary drink mixes like Crystal Light are not available, so if the Crystal Light folks read this, I would like Lemonade, Grapefruit, Orange, and Citrus Splash please!
  14. Locks (houses, gates, etc.) in Costa Rica almost always work (turn) backwards.

  15. We say in English "She had a baby" or "She gave birth", but in Spanish it's , "Ella dio a luz" or translated, "She gave light." Perhaps more accurately, "She gave light to her baby" indicating that she brought the baby frrom the darkness of the womb to the light of day.

  16. Want another one? Bienes raices is the word for Real Estate. Bienes means property or possessions and raices means roots. So there you have "property roots!". Gives meaning to the expression "laying down roots".

  17. Front doors of almost all commercial establishments almost always open INWARDS. This is against every fire code in the USA, but here, perhaps because they have never had a tragedy in which hundreds died because the door could not be opened outwards, there is no such code. As you have become "programmed" to Pull when entering and Push when leaving, plan to feel silly as you tug or push in the wrong direction.
  18. If you go to the immigration office for any reason or to the police station for fingerprinting (as part of your residency), do NOT wear shorts!  They will turn you away!  Shorts are considered disrespectful. Update 2009! Read This
  19. There are Bullfights in Costa Rica, but the bull is never hurt and often, the bull wins!  I love payback!  Read more here.
  20. Milk, eggs, and many other items that you have been trained all your life to refrigerate, are available off the shelf (un-refrigerated) at almost every super market.  This of course flies in the face of everything you have learned about storing these products, but I have bought them every week for the past four years and I have never been sick, nor has anyone I have ever met. Go figure.
  21. The word for HOT, in Spanish, is caliente.  Caliente begins with a "C".  Water faucets imported from the USA almost all have a "C" on them.  If your Hot Water never seems to get HOT in Costa Rica, try the handle with the  "C".  Note, this may change from bathroom to bathroom within the same house!
  22. Ants are everywhere here, and they outnumber us about a zillion to one.  You will have two real choices as I see it!  Spend about all of your entire life trying to kill them all... or just realize they will be part of your diet while living here!  The tiny ones are flavorless, and probably add a tiny bit of protein to the diet!  The bigger ones crunch.
  23. You will see a LOT of folks carrying machetes... those really long, sharp knives.  You see this especially in the country and areas away from San JosÚ.  The machete is the Costa Rican equivalent of Duct Tape.  It is used for everything, but almost never as a weapon... so relax!!
  24. Chinese food tastes funny in Costa Rica.  Not BAAAAD... just funny!  I am also not hungry an hour after I eat Chinese food here.
  25. Burger Kings here taste just like Burger Kings in the US.  MacDonald's do not.  Colonel Sanders are better here. So is Diet Coke.
  26. Generally, meat is kinda crummy here.  Just not enough fat cows.  Thankfully, the Peruvians and the Brazilians have arrived to open restaurants where you can get a good piece of meat.
  27. Costa Rica is smart enough NOT to export all the good coffee!  This is meaningful if you have ever lived in Idaho and wanted a good baked potato.
  28. In many countries, pedestrians have rights.  Drivers must yield to them or suffer the consequences.  In Costa Rica, the Spanish word for pedestrian is "Target".  Be real careful when walking around... especially in San JosÚ and especially at street corners.
  29. At 7 AM every morning, most if not all Costa Rica radio stations broadcast the exact same program.  It begins with the Costa Rican National Anthem and provides the government and other authorized entities a way to send messages or information nation wide.
  30. The meter in a taxicab is know as the Maria... apparently a loose reference to the Virgin Mary and her presumed honesty.
  31. We call them Speed bumps!  To Costa Ricans, son muertos...  or in English... "(they are) dead persons".
  32. I get asked a lot about all the street vendors who wait at the traffic lights to sell you stuff.  Everyone wants to know if this is a rip off and if the food will kill you.  Well I buy stuff from those folks all the time... mostly because these folks work their butts off trying to make a living. 

    As for buying food, I know a lot of folks that do.   I do not.  Just not sure about the cleanliness of the kitchens used to prepare the stuff.
  33. Nearly all Catholic Churches in Costa Rica face to the WEST.  This is a handy thing to know as if you read #4 above, you know that knowing directions is critical and that many addresses in CR are based on distance and direction from those churches.
  34. Q. What about all those cute kids running around barefoot and begging especially in San JosÚ? 

    A. Many of them (sadly) are put out on the streets to beg by their parents.  They are pros at giving you the sad eye thing.  Often their shoes are hidden in a nearby bush.  Now saying that, some are really desperate.  How do you know?  You don't.  And now you have a problem!

    My suggestion is to do nothing, but that is really hard for some folks, so if you just HAVE to do something, here is a suggestion to do ONLY if you are in a very public location with many people around. Offer to take them to get something to eat.  NEVER EVER do this when you are in your car or alone.  NEVER touch them in any way.  NEVER let them get into your car as Costa Ricans seem to think all North Americans are here for sex transactions with children, and it would be really easy to get into serious problems if a child gets into your car. 

    However, if you are walking, and there is a nearby soda (small restaurant), you can ask if they are hungry, then walk with them to the soda.  The really hungry kids will want to eat.  The pros will not.  They want money. AGAIN! Do not touch them in any way.  Let them order, you pay, then you leave.  If they refuse, just walk away and offer nothing. 

    I am SURE someone will disagree with me on this, and with some justification, but I have a tough time as many of them REALLY look like they could use a meal.  Just be real careful!  A LOT of them are drug users even at very tender ages.  The best and safest thing, sadly, is to do nothing.
  35. Q. I see painted designs on some highways and streets.  They look like a big gold or yellow heart with a crack in it.  Sometimes there are hearts with halos.  What are they? 

    A. Broken hearts.  These are painted on the road where someone lost their life.  When you approach an intersection or a road that has a bunch of these painted, drive more cautiously.

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