1Home Delivery

Fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and many others have home delivery or “express” as it is called in Costa Rica. All ‘express’ service is prepaid, that is food is not sent out for delivery unless paid for at the time of the order. And since there is no North American address system, delivery people – always on motorcycles – will drive by honking the horn to call the attention of the person/house having placed the order.


The Spanish system or surnames is used in Costa Rica, that is the first last name is paternal, the second maternal. For example, a child takes his or her father’s last name first and mother’s second. Rodriguez (father) Chavarria (mother). The woman never takes her husband’s last name, uses her maiden name for life. In recent years, possibly due to U.S. influence, many are shortening their second last name with a single letter, ie Rodriguez C.  A North American or European, for example, that takes on citizenship will adopt his or mother’s maiden name for registry purposes. Thus is former U.S. President Barack Obama would become a naturalized Costa Rican, his name would be: Barack Hussein Obama Dunham. The current U.S. President would be: Donald John Trump MacLeod
or Donald John Trump M. if adopting the modern version used today by many in Costa Rica.

3Smaller Sized

Costa Ricans or “Ticos” as how they are referred to are general smaller statured people; therefore, clothing sizes are generally smaller, so is furniture. A ‘large’ shirt in Costa Rica is typically equivalent to a ‘medium’ in the U.S.  The family bed or mattress (colchón in Spanish) is grouped into one size, a ‘matrimonial’ (marriage bed). The matrimonial is typically a ‘full’. Before buying a mattress, verify the dimensions of your bed (not in inches). Size standards vary from manufacturers. Purchasing sheets, blankets, spreads, most imported, are in slightly different standards.

4Street Signs

Getting around in Costa Rica is challenge. Despite an effort in the last several years by municipalities, mainly in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) to erect street signs, people do not use standard North American addresses. All addresses are based on a landmark or a reference point and counted as 100 metres for each block. The landmark can often be a building that was once used for a particular use which is no longer or may not even exist physically any longer. “The old liquor factory” or “antigua aduana” (old customs house), for example, that today may have a totally different use. A half block is “50 metres”.


In every small town or community, including many ‘barrios’ in the GAM have a farmer’s market every Saturday, some even on Sundays. They are called “ferias” and offer locally grown fruits and vegetables very cheap, compared to the local supermarket. Ferias are also a community gathering place for many Ticos/Ticas, a way to catch with their neighbours.

6A Lemon Is A Lemon Is A Lime

Tangerines are ‘mandarinas’. Lemons or ‘limones’ are really limes. Yellow lemons are called ‘Limon Acido’ (Persa) and can usually only be found in specialty stores or high-end supermarkets such as Automercado.


Eggs are not kept in the refrigerator. In the supermarket, as in every Tico home, eggs are available off the shelf (unrefrigerated). There is special reason for this, read on. Ticos kitchens will not have hot running water, dishes are ‘scrubbed’ in room temperature water. For showers that have hot water, they are typically by way of the ‘suicide shower’, an electrical water heating device attached to the water pipe, with electrical wires dangling. A tall person (remember the shower height is made for the smaller stature Ticos) one might get a shock, literally. And if you are in a Tico home with running hot water, the typical faucet is reversed, that is the hot and cold are most likely the opposite of what it is in North America.

8Hot Is Not Caliente

“Hot” is not spicy in Spanish. ‘Caliente’ is the word for hot. Going to a restaurant or at the supermarket looking for a hot food, such as in spicy, the term is ‘picante’. Going to a restaurant and asking for something ‘caliente’ may get you a stare since meals are usually served hot, unless you are ordering a cold plate, which is then really confusing. When it comes to temperature, a person has ‘calor’ (is hot) and not ‘esta caliente’, which could mean ‘feverish’.

9The Ants

Ants are everywhere. Literally. The ratio of ants to every other life form in Costa Rica is like a trillion to the 100th time and then some. They are everywhere. After sometime of living in Costa Rica, you will learn to deal with it, that is in managing your lifestyle in co-habitation with the ants. “Resistance is futile”.


The word for handcuffs are ‘esposas’, the same term used for wives. A person placed in handcuffs by police is ‘esposado’, which many foreigners translate as ‘married’.  The correct term for being married is ‘casado’, which, by the way, is the same name use for the typical dish of Costa Rica, a ‘casado’, a meal using rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and an optional entrée that may include chicken, beef, pork, fish and so on all on one plate.


Bonus: Costa Ricans are obsessed with “futbol” or soccer. An important game, ie a national or regional title can affect business. During World Cup play that included Costa Rica’s national team, ‘La Sele’, many businesses gave employees time off to see the game. The country, for 90 minutes, literally came to a standstill. When a game is on, everyone will be watching.