Sunday 24 September 2023

Things only someone who’s been to Costa Rica will understand!

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“Gallo Pinto” (rice and beans) and “Rice and Beans” are two different things.

Gallo pinto with huevos and tortilla
Gallo pinto with huevos and tortilla

Gallo Pinto is a traditional dish of Costa Rica (and Nicaragua) made with rice and beans. Beans are quickly cooked until the juice is almost consumed. The history of Gallo Pinto is not well known, and there are disputes between Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans about where the dish originated.

Rice and beans, on the other hand, served mainly in the Caribbean coast,  a staple of the Afro-Caribbean population in Limon, includes coconut milk and some spices to make it distinctly different from Gallo Pinto.

A ‘sock’ is all you need to make coffee.


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No need for a coffeemaker, a small wooden stand and white cotton sock (clean preferably), ground coffee and hot water is all you need to make a great cup of coffee in Costa Rica. You can buy these coffee makers in artisan stores or make your own. Either way, the “chorrear” (drip) method brings our the flavour of the bean and makes excellent coffee.

There are only two seasons. Wet and dry.


Dry or summer (verano in Spanish) is from December to May and wet or winter (invierno in Spanish) from May to December. During the dry season most of the country gets little to no rain. In the rainy seasons in pours, almost every day, typically in the afternoons, with mornings sunny and beautiful. The muggier the morning, the more intense the afternoon rains.

The temperature stays pretty well the same during the dry and wet seasons, with a cold spell typically the first two weeks of January. Given the Costa Rica has many micro climates, the dry/wet conditions may vary from one area to another.

There’s no time like Tico time.

Photo: Youtube
Photo: Youtube

Tico time or “la hora tica” in Spanish is a relaxed time. “Lunch at 2”, for example, might mean 2:30 or even 3. Tico time is part of the laid-back escape to the daily grind and is found more so in rural and beach areas.

In the cities, tico time is hard to shake. A meeting will typically start when everybody arrives and not necessarily at the hour it was called for.

Mañana is not necessarily tomorrow.

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In spanish, mañana means “tomorrow”. In Costa Rica it means “later”, “in the near future” or “we will see”. This later can mean a week later or two years later. It is very vague. Another way of looking at is “not today, maybe later”

Diay Mae!

Diay Mae are two words that put together can mean anything. Don’t have an answer? Diay Mae! Need an excuse? Diay Mae! Don’t want to commit? Diay Mae! What time ist? Diay Mae! Weren’t we supposed to meet yesterday? Diay Mae!

Diay, you get it, mae?

Pura Vida does not mean “pure life”. It is an expression, a philosophy.

Photo: Joi
Photo Flickr: Joi

The phrase “Pura Vida” is everywhere. Literally it means “pure life”. But in Costa Rica it can be used to say “hello”, “good buy”, “thank you”, or “I am fine”. Almost like Diay Mae it has a universal use.

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This is a philosophy that all is swell in life, taking pleasure in the simplest things, living in peace and stress free.

Try it yourself, get into the habit of applying Pura Vida to all in your life and soon you will see that your life truly becomes a Pura Vida.   But it doesn’t work outside of Costa Rica’s borders, the magic happens only here.

No street addresses here, they’re not needed.

The colour of the buidling can form part of the direction used as an address
The colour of the building can form part of the direction used as an address

Where do you live? The third house from the corner, past the supermarket, on the way to/from, the one with the green door.

Formal, north American style addresses in Costa Rica do not exist. Landmarks and distances are used for directions. This system has many advantages. One, if you get lost or arrive late (or not at all) you can blame it on the bad directions. You don’t want someone really to come over, but felt obligated to invite them, make up an address.

How do you get mail? E-mail does not work with a street address. And does it keep away bill collectors? Not a chance, they know where you live. The next time you apply for any credit, you will be asked to provide a utility bill. Guess what, the electric company knows your address.

Everybody knows everybody.

The Bulevar
The Bulevar. Archie photo.

It is said that, if you stand by the fountain diagonal to the Plaza de la Cultura on Avenida Central every day for a month, you will have run into everybody you know in Costa Rica.

Downtown San Jose’s “Avenida” or “Bulevar” the most transited pedestrian way and sooner or later, if you visit San Jose, you will walk the Avenida Central and walk by the Plaza de la Cultura.  Don’t believe me, try it. One month. I’ll see you soon.

Impossible to find a crowded beach.

Photo: Frode Bjørshol
Photo Flickr: Frode Bjørshol

With more than 1,200 kilometres of coastline on two oceans and countless beaches, it’s virtually impossible not to find not crowded or solitary beach. Even on beaches like Manuel Antonio, Jaco or Tamarindo, at peak vacation times, just walk a few hundred metres off the beaten path and solitude.

You can drive from coast to coast in less than a day.

Photo: Armando Maynez
Photo Flickr: Armando Maynez

You can start your morning breakfast on one coast, have lunch in the Central Valley and be in time for dinner on the other coast.

The driver from Pacific coast to the Central Valley is from less than one hour to four or five hours, just in time for lunch in San Jose. The drive to the Caribbean port city of Limon is only 3.5 hours (a little more to Puerto Viejo), but still in time not to miss dinner.

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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