Enhancing your Costa Rica vacation

As you probably know, the official language in Costa Rica is Spanish. However, those working in the Tourist Industry are generally fluent in English and often also in other languages spoken by our frequent visitors. Like in many parts of the world, the language in Costa Rica is rich in words and phrases that are unique to this country and which you would not encounter when you travel to other Spanish speaking countries. To help you more fully enjoy your vacation in Costa Rica, today we are going to let you in on the local “Tico Talk.”

The first word you will need to learn is the word TICO which is a short endearment term for Costa Rican. TICO is used for men and for many things and TICA for women. So when we say “Tico Talk” we mean words and phrases used exclusively by the people of Costa Rica and by those visitors who want to join in the fun. Some basic tips to figure the proper pronunciation: you will find in parenthesis the way the word would need to be written in English to come up with the appropriate sound of the word in Spanish. To know which part of the word needs to have more emphasis, it will be underlined. So TICO is pronounced (teeco)

Here are some more.
Definitely the most innately TICO expression is the term “PURA VIDA” (poorah veedah). Literally translated it means Pure Life but it stands for the soul of Costa Rican culture. This is a very versatile expression which can be used in a variety of contexts. It’s always a very positive term and the context will help you grasp the intended meaning for each situation.


The best way to teach you when to use it is to show you the most common times when it’s appropriate and usual to say it.
-when someone asks how are you doing? ¡PURA VIDA!
-how are you enjoying your vacation in Costa Rica? ¡Pura Vida!
-when friends meet, sometimes as a way to greet each other they will say ¡PURA VIDA Diego! When they part, they may also say ¡PURA VIDA!
-when someone asks how was your tour to one of the Costa Rica National Parks or how you enjoyed fishing in Costa Rica, or about the Costa Rica night life, you answer ¡PURA VIDA! If you want to emphasize it, because you really enjoyed it a lot, linger on the first syllable and say ¡PUURA VIDA!
-when asked to do something instead of answering “sure, of course” or something similar, just respond ¡PURA VIDA!
-how is dinner? ¡PURA VIDA!
-how are they treating you? ¡PURA VIDA!
-how do like your Costa Rica Star Villa? ¡PUURA VIDA!
-are you having fun in your vacation in Costa Rica? ¡PUURA VIDA!

Ok, you get the drift. Fun isn’t it? You can convey so much with just these two words!
A similar word is TUANIS (too ah nees) This is much like PURA VIDA in that it also conveys a positive response. Similar to the American slang “cool”. Go back to the examples used for the term PURA VIDA, you can substitute PURA VIDA with TUANIS. The difference is mainly that PURA VIDA is accepted as proper in practically all occasions while TUANIS is more colloquial in the same way that “cool” is more slang, less mainstream.

Another colloquial word used only when talking to people who are your close friends is the word MAJE (mah heh) sometimes shortened to MAE (mah eh) You never use this term to address a person that should be addressed with respect, a lady, your boss, your teacher, etc. Used mostly among young guys.

If your friend asks you Hola, como estas?( Ohlah, como ehstahs) Hi, how are you doing? Answer ¡PURA VIDA MAE! or ¡TUANIS MAE!

If you have enjoyed this little arsenal of TICO TALK, remember to keep checking this blog several times a month for more fun and interesting tidbits to make your vacation in Costa Rica more interesting, fun and interactive by learning more about the culture and lifestyle of your new Tico friends!

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