Nowhere in the world are people more helpful, hospitable, and friendly than in Costa Rica. Most have had enough contact with North Americans (many have lived for years in the United States or else-where abroad) to be understanding and to forgive the foreign differences.
Dress code-San Jose is more cosmopolitan than elsewhere in the country, and slacks on women are acceptable here. You will see young ticas in blue jeans. Do dress up for performances at the National Theater and other occasions important to the Costa Ricans. Wearing jeans there doesn't show respect to the people or their culture. For men or women, shorts are for sports and the beach only. Shorts worn on the streets of San Jose label one a tourist from a block away. In villages which may be less liberal, woman should wear skirts unless going hiking or riding horses.
All Latin Americans consider themselves as American as citizens of the United States of America. Travelers from the United States can show consideration, and it will be appreciated, if they refer to themselves as "norteamericanos" or North Americans.
Machismo still exists in Latin American, but much less in Costa Rica than elsewhere and is less a problem for foreign women than in most other places. The most obvious sign I have seen in all my rambling is polite surprise from men and women alike at the weird things women do-travel alone, hike, ride, swim and live alone, fly planes, operate their own boats and businesses, and make all the important decisions in their own lives. I have never had an incident involving a Costa Rican.
A Costa Rican advises: Don't be blatant in manners, dress, or voice. Blend in. The locals catch on quickly if you stand out. Explain clearly (not loudly) what you need and want. Check things said to you for truth. People sometimes want to please you enough to say 'si', yes, to anything you ask. Single North American girls have a bad reputation, so many men think they're an easy catch. Show that you respect yourself.
Nude bathing is at best completely offensive to Costa Ricans. At worst, it's downright dangerous to bathers in some areas and has led to serious incidents. The white sand beach at Cahuita may look like a deserted island to you, but its these people's front yard and the path behind it through coconut palms is the walkway to their homes. In some coastal villages where there's little affordable entertainment, local girls are never taught to swim, though they miss safety and enjoyment because their parents don't want them exposed to nudity on the beach. What a shame!
Men traveling to Costa Rica planning to find an accommodating Tica should know that real romance takes time and much adjustment on both sides to cultural differences. Prostitution is legal, and registered prostitutes are tested periodically for disease, but many are not registered, and AIDS is here too. Take care.
Costa Ricans are polite and possibly more considerate than you are used to. One can be a lady or gentleman anywhere. Here you'll find that an interest in the people and their concerns makes your trip really enjoyable and enlightening.
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