Costa Rica Business Culture and Etiquette

Business Culture and Etiquette in Costa Rica

Doing business in Costa Rica represents a splendid opportunity to explore vibrant markets in one of the most attractive business jurisdictions in Latin America. With strong sectors that include the service industry, electronic components and tourism, many experienced investors are looking into how to register a company in Costa Rica.

However, as in any new country, it is imperative to possess a solid understanding of how the business culture works before entering the local market. Understanding Costa Rican business dynamics and protocols is essential to your company’s success. By understanding the cultural nuances and local business practices, you will be better prepared to take advantage of opportunities and navigate challenges when doing business in Costa Rica.

A world map highlighting a close-up of Costa Rica, showing several cities including the capital, San José, as well as Liberia, Puntarenas, Puerto Limón, Cartago, and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. The map details the locations of capital and port cities essential for business in Costa Rica.
Most business in Costa Rica happens in the main cities

Costa Rica has witnessed consistent gross domestic product (GDP) growth over the last half-century, totaling a GDP of USD$68.38 billion in 2022. This means doing business in Costa Rica is a secure bet not just today but in the mid-to-long term economic future.

Costa Rica is known for being one of the most developed nations in Latin America, and is a major recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region, although it is relatively small in size. The country is also a popular destination among ex-pats and tourists from the United States and Europe. Additionally, Costa Rica has some of the lowest crime statistics in Latin America.

If you are considering starting a business in Costa Rica or are already present in the country, read on to find out what you should take into account when doing business there.

Business etiquette in Costa Rica and the Central American region

While Costa Rica is a part of the Central American region and shares a lot of its culture and customs due to geographical proximity and shared history, there are points of differentiation that are important to each of the countries in the region. Despite the many similarities, it is important to treat every Central American country as unique.

Here are some business etiquettes in Costa Rica to keep in mind:

  • Tico business culture in Costa Rica.
  • Be patient.
  • Business talk.
  • Networking in Costa Rica.
  • Learn language.
  • Punctuality

Tico business culture in Costa Rica

Ticos (Costa Ricans) are globally known for being friendly, peaceful and generally relaxed; such characteristics are also prevalent in the business culture.

There is nothing Ticos appreciate more than modesty. Humility is one of the most important values when dealing with Costa Ricans and it directly translates into the business culture. While this doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of and talk up your business, it does mean that this should be done moderately. Do not exaggerate and try not to talk directly about how much you are making unless it is directly related and relevant to the business meeting.

Doing business in Costa Rica – Be patient

An infographic titled "Costa Rica: Market Snapshot" shows Costa Rica's flag on the upper left and a map in the background. It provides details: population (5.1 million), GDP (USD $69 Billion), GDP per capita (USD $26,809), capital city (San José), major exports (medical instruments, bananas, tropical fruits). A must-see for anyone looking to register a
The local market for those who want to do business in Costa Rica

Costa Ricans live a pura vida lifestyle, which literally translates to a pure life, and is a slogan for a relaxed and peaceful society. You must be patient when dealing with public employees and institutions as there can be high levels of bureaucracy in some public institutions. Make sure to be thorough in everything you do (i.e legal procedures, visa applications) to avoid delays and complications.

Business talk

If you’re dealing with someone new, be prepared to establish a relationship first and to have various encounters before closing a deal. In Costa Rica, as with other Latin American countries, individuals prefer to form a relationship with an individual before they engage in business dealings. Costa Ricans are curious and ask general and unspecific questions regarding your business; it will be up to you to offer specifications. Learn to read their level of interest to see how much you should talk about your business or whether to leave it for a more formal setting at a later date.

The importance of networking in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a very small country with a population of a little more than 5 million people. As such, in the business world, it seems as though everyone knows each other. This is even truer when operating in a particular business sector. Be respectful and honest to all people you have encounters with and try to maintain a good relationship with the people surrounding you. Business reputation and word spread fast in Costa Rica, especially in tight circles.

Language – learn it!

Costa Rica boasts a high English fluency amongst the general population, but try to use simple/straightforward language in meetings conducted in English and allow for clarification and rephrasing when possible to avoid miscommunication of any kind. Learning Spanish or even trying out a few words or phrases will go a long way towards establishing more trusting relationships.

When speaking Spanish, Costa Ricans tend to speak with more technical vocabulary. Make sure to ask for the meaning or to rephrase the sentence if you don’t understand – this will be seen as you taking an interest in the meeting specifics. Business in Costa Rica works through communication, after all.

Business attire

Costa Ricans usually dress smart for business meetings, especially when the nature of the meeting is more formal. However, it should be noted that informal meetings do not require formal dress attire. Men usually dress in dress pants and long sleeved shirts, often interchanging a tie for a jacket, with most public employees dressed in a suit. Women’s clothing varies according to the setting, from simple pants to more elaborate dresses and accessories, according to how formal the occasion is.


Like many countries in Latin America, punctuality may not be a priority for everyone. While many businessmen stay true to the established meeting time, others may not be. For this reason, it is better to be prepared for the worst case scenario. See below some important notes regarding appointments for business in Costa Rica.

  • Be flexible.
  • Be prepared to wait for people to arrive.
  • Meetings can run longer than scheduled due to delays.

Try to confirm the time of the appointment with as much notice as possible. This will show your commitment to the success of the meeting in addition to reducing the chance of the meeting being delayed or postponed.

Biz Latin Hub can help you to do business in Costa Rica

While Costa Rica is a very easy going country, it is always better to work with a local partner who is knowledgeable about the country’s business culture and customs.

Biz Latin Hub is the trusted local partner of many individuals and companies who have expanded their operations to Costa Rica and elsewhere in Latin America. Get in touch with our team of experts today and we will help you and your business expand in Costa Rica.

Learn more about our team and expert authors.

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Services offered by Biz Latin Hub to help you do business in Costa Rica

The information provided here within should not be construed as formal guidance or advice. Please consult a professional for your specific situation. Information provided is for informative purposes only and may not capture all pertinent laws, standards, and best practices. The regulatory landscape is continually evolving; information mentioned may be outdated and/or could undergo changes. The interpretations presented are not official. Some sections are based on the interpretations or views of relevant authorities, but we cannot ensure that these perspectives will be supported in all professional settings.
Legal Team Costa Rica
Legal Team Costa Rica

Legal Team Costa Rica is the Biz Latin Hub leading experts on doing business in Rica The Team writes on the news, doing business, law, and changing regulations. The team are experts in corporate law, Administrative law, Employment law, Immigration law and legal advisory services. Read more about them here. You can contact Legal Team Costa Rica via our "contact us page".

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