If there’s one thing that can enhance your time in Costa Rica, it’s knowing the language. You’ll be able to get by with only a basic understanding or a few words of Spanish, and many of the locals and people who work in tourism speak some English.
But I’m talking about learning some real, authentic Tico (Costa Rican) sayings. Dropping a few of these charming (and sometimes hilarious) phrases, sayings and slang will quickly endear you to the locals and open up a whole new amazing experience.
Here are some popular Costa Rican sayings:
Mae usually is used like “dude” between friends in the U.S., a word you’ll hear peppered in young peoples’ speech.
Pura vida means “pure life,” a national philosophy that embraces chilling, good vibes, and sunny dispositions.
Tico / Tica
Costa Rican citizens are called Ticos because of their affinity for adding –ico on the end of some words. Women are called Ticas.
Estar de goma
I am hungover or I have a hangover.
A surfer slang expression that roughly means, “cool,” it’s a Spanish adaptation from the phrase “too nice.”
Bored or boring.
Work or job.
Little thing or similar to the English saying “Thingamajig.”
Another way of saying “the thing.”
How’s it going with you this morning?
Dolor de jupa
Estar de chicha
To be angry.
Usually a foreigner that is a blond female.
This literally translates to “[with] much pleasure,” but Costa Ricans use it to express gratitude at meeting someone, to say you’re welcome, or goodbye.
No joda!/no jodás!
A strong saying that means, “Don’t bother me” or “Leave me alone.”
Pinches mean something totally different in Mexican Spanish, but means “stingy” in Costa Rica.
One of the small corner stores that are in every big city and small village in the country.
Bullshit or crap.
What’s up, or what do you have to tell me?
Que mala nota!
What a bad person!
What a downer or drag!
So unlucky or too bad.
The small, usually family-run typical eateries in Costa Rica, sort of like a local lunch counter or diner.
Una teja refers to 100 of anything, but usually denotes 100 colones, or 100 meters if someone is giving you directions.
Thousand Colón note.
Two thousand Colón note.
Five thousand Colón note.
Si Dios quiere
Only if it’s God’s will.
What’s the matter?
What a problem.
Me cayo la pelota
I finally get it or I understand.
What a pity!
If you only knew!
Andar de tanda.
Bar hopping or crawling.
Compliments or cat calls.
Gossip or rumors.
This list is just a start, and I share a TON more endearing Costa Rica sayings in the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook! Check it out!
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