Excerpted from the Costa Rica Career Guide
Over the last few years, Costa Rica, which has a population of only 4.8 million people, has become a favorite destination for millions of tourists who are attracted to the country’s abundant natural resources. Costa Rica is just a few hours away by plane from the United States, as well as just minutes away by plane from other Central and South American countries. In addition, Costa Rica has become a safe, attractive haven for foreign investment amounting to millions of dollars. All of this has led Costa Rica to feel the influences of foreign cultures as well as that of the organizational culture of multinational companies.
General communication is made through polite and indirect ways of speaking, avoiding conflict or confrontation.
Generally when speaking, it is better to abstain from using informal address forms (vos or tú) upon a first meeting or introduction. Those forms should be employed only upon request from the other party, which is usual in Costa Rica (especially the use of vos). Even in that case, if one feels it is too soon to do so, using the formal address (usted) is recommended.
Costa Ricans have a particular speaking style with frequent use of diminutives by adding the tico/tica suffix to words and cutting words short. Costa Rica is a good place for beginners to learn Spanish as Costa Rican Spanish is particularly easy to understand. Many language schools provide intensive group instruction, and nearly all also offer students accommodation with a host family, student residence or discounted hotel rates.
If You Want To Act Like Local…
• In Costa Rica, it is considered impolite to say ‘no’ outright and more indirect forms are preferred.
• Excessive displays of public affection are frowned upon.
• Street addresses have recently been introduced in Costa Rica. The use is official, but they are not very popular; rather directions are based on cardinal directions and landmarks.
Some international protocol details are not relevant to Costa Rican culture when it comes to business. When dealing with foreign business people, however, they become more relevant. For instance, protocol is followed to a certain degree in terms of initial greetings when introducing a manager or officer. The rule is younger people will always introduce older people and junior employees will introduce senior employees. Once introductions are made, the rule is for senior employees to take precedence in shaking hands. They will decide whether or not to shake hands with junior officers or employees. One should respond with a firm handshake and eye contact. Business greetings do not include kissing the cheek (of women) or the use of informal address forms vos or tú.
Appearances matter in Costa Rica. Men’s business clothing can vary between the government, financial and industrial sectors. Both the government and financial sectors require formal clothing: classic suits and traditional shoes (with laces, although buckle shoes are becoming more common), usually in dark colors. More casual clothing is worn in the industrial sector, for example, a long-sleeved shirt and formal trousers, except for special events. Women, likewise, wear formal dress, or skirt/blouse or trouser/blouse sets. More clothing variety can be found in other sectors, again with casual clothing prevailing. In a large number of companies, however, workers wear business-casual clothes and even have full freedom to choose their clothing, particularly so on Fridays.
Unlike many other Latin-American cultures, Costa Ricans are comfortable with working in groups and allowing everyone to submit input in order to achieve consensus. Each member of the team has a distinctive role and is regarded as having something to offer. Managers in Costa Rica should strive to create an open work environment where employees understand their participation is welcome and needed.
Women and Minorities in the Workplace
In the late 19th century, the Costa Rican government encouraged women to study and work in nursing, education and office administration. The first women-led associations of workers and activists were created in the beginning of the 20th century, and Costa Rican women gained suffrage in 1948. Costa Rica has already had several female vice presidents and presidential candidates, and the country elected its first female president, Laura Chinchilla, in 2010. The World Bank states the female labor force in Costa Rica increased by 26 percent from 2000 to 2010. The labor code provides for pre- and post-childbirth maternity leave and breastfeeding leave and rights.
This is just a sample of what you'll find in the complete Costa Rica guide.