My 5 Favorite Things about the Tico (Costa Rican) Lifestyle

Brandi Gallaher is a student at Oklahoma State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Brandi is currently studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica on an ISA Fall 4 program.



My favorite food I’ve had since being here is definitely the fruit. There are so many more different kinds of fruit in Costa Rica than in the US, and they’re all SO good! I’ve tried mamon chino, guanabana, mangosteen, papaya, guava, oranges (different than in the US, they are green), fresh coconut, carambola (star fruit), sweet lemons, and cas. My favorite fruit here is probably the bananas though. In the U.S. I don’t really eat many bananas, but here I LOVE them. They’re so fresh and they taste so much better, probably because they’re grown here rather than imported. They are also a lot cheaper than they are in the U.S. which is also nice for us poor, starving college students. A lot of the fruit that is not grown here is VERY expensive, like pears, grapes, peaches, apples, and kiwi. I actually spent $3 on one pear at a rest stop, thinking it would cost about the same as in the U.S… I learned my lesson! I love how there are fruit stands EVERYWHERE too. And my mama Tica is always stocked up on fruit in her kitchen. There’s a huge local fruit and vegetable sale on the weekends here called the feria that she gets fruit from for really cheap direct from the people who grow it. In fact, my favorite breakfast that she makes us is a fruit plate and waffles (as opposed to most people who prefer the gallo pinto). The fruit here is so fresh and delicious, it’s perfect for breakfast!

2. Names

Costa Rican names are very different from ours in the U.S. When you are born, typically, your parents choose a first and middle name for you, then you take your father’s last name. That is not the case for Costa Ricans. They do not have middle names. Instead, their parents give them a first name, then, they have a first last name and a second last name. The first last name is their father’s surname, and their second last name is their mother’s surname. I like this because the child gets a piece of both of their parents, as opposed to just one. So, for example, if a Jose Gomez Solano and a Maria Castro Martinez had a baby, their child would be Silvana Gomez Castro.

My “gringo” family and my “Tico” family…see all the differences?!

3. Being the minority

In the US there’s a lot of diversity among race and culture, but still, a majority of Americans are white, like me. So, for me, it’s been really interesting being in a culture where I’m the minority. Not only is the color of my skin different, but my accent, my clothes, my personality, and even the way I walk are different too. I’m so easily spotted and classified here as a ‘gringo‘. I don’t think any Tico I’ve come into contact didn’t think I was from either the U.S. or Europe. At first it was kind annoying to be stereotyped so quickly, but now I feel like it’s been a great opportunity for me. It’s given me a different perspective, and now I think understand how minorities in the US feel, so now I won’t be so quick to judge.

Beach at Manuel Antonio

4. Beaches

I absolutely LOVE the beaches here in Costa Rica. They’re so beautiful and every one that I’ve been to so far has been different. This first beach I went to was Dominical which is on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, and it was seriously postcard gorgeous! There were so many palm trees, mountains, white sand, and coconuts everywhere. Tamarindo is on the Northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica and it was also beautiful. Here, there weren’t many mountains, but the beach was so open. Tamarindo is a more touristy too, so hotels line most of the coast. Manuel Antonio is another beach we went to, also located on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This has been my favorite beach so far! It was absolutely gorgeous and there were so many monkeys and other wildlife right on the beach. It was a surreal feeling, and by far my favorite. I’ve also been to Puerto Viejo which is a beach on the southern Carribean coast. This was a completely different feel than the beaches on the Pacific. The water here was much clearer and there weren’t as many waves. The sand was also darker. The atmosphere on the Pacific is also much more mellow, and there are a lot more people of African descent living there. My favorite thing about my visits here are my morning runs down the beach, of course! Best time to see everything without the crowds, and the sunrises here are amazing!

Grafitti in Downtown San Jose

5. Lack of Street Signs

Okay, at first, I HATED this aspect of Costa Rica. Being directionally impaired, I can’t find anything without my GPS or very thorough directions: turn right on 1st Street, then turn left 0.2 miles later on Sandusky Ave. Here, there is no such thing as street signs. Addresses go something like this: the second green house 50 meters from KFC. But, when you show someone here that address, they know exactly what you’re talking about. The first month I was here I literally got lost every time I went anywhere. I still get lost now, but it’s a little easier to find my way because I’ve come in contact with the famous landmarks: the KFC, the railroad tracks, the courthouse, and the McDonald’s by Centro Comercial del Sur. However, despite my initial hatred for this characteristic of Latin American lifestyles, I’ve really come to appreciate this difference. It’s given me an opportunity to practice my Spanish, since I’m constantly asking people for directions, and it’s made me notice the little things about Costa Rica more: the colors, the buildings, graffiti, plants, turns in the roads, parks, monuments, and restaurants, all of which can be used as reference points for directions.

One thought

  1. Just a few points that are wrong, we do have middle names here in Costa Rica.

    And also Puerto Viejo got Salsa Brava one of the best waves around here.

    Either way nice post!

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