Costa Ricans are renowned as some of the friendliest people in the world. If you're planning to visit Costa Rica, it helps to know a little about how Ticos behave, interact with one another and what you can expect from the people you meet during your travels.
In a conversation, Ticos are relatively formal. When addressing someone, they use the formal usted in most instances, reserving the familiar vos or tú for close friends, family, and children or teenagers.
Upon greeting or saying goodbye, both sexes shake hands, although across genders, a light kiss on one cheek is common.
Proud of their neutrality and lack of armed forces, everyday Costa Ricans are uncomfortable with confrontation. What may seem like playful banter or justified outrage to a foreign tourist may be taken very badly by a Tico. Avoid criticizing Costa Rica unless you know exactly whom you’re talking to and what you’re talking about.
In some cases, especially in the service industry, a Tico may tell you what they think you want to hear, just to avoid a confrontation – even if they know there's little chance of follow-through or ultimate customer satisfaction. It might happen that a Tico would give you wrong directions instead of telling you they didn't know the way.
Tico men tend to dress conservatively. In San José and other cities in the Central Valley, you will rarely see a Costa Rican man wearing shorts. In many towns and cities, while accepted, tourists will stand out when wearing shorts, sandals, and other typical beach, golf, or vacation wear. Costa Rican women, on the other hand, especially young women, tend to show some skin in everyday, and even business, situations. Still, be respectful in your dress, especially if you plan on visiting churches, small towns, or local families.
Placing your feet on furniture is seen as disrespectful in most situations, and pointing is also considered rude. If you need to gesture at something, use your whole hand, and avoid pointing directly at another person.
Ticos usually expect direct and sustained eye contact during conversations, and failing to do so can be seen as rude or dismissive.