Costa Ricans are a spirited, friendly and polite people who enjoy meeting visitors from other countries. They refer to themselves as Ticos (males) or Ticas (females). Most of the country's inhabitants descend from Spanish immigrants, though many families originated in other parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and Central America. There are also mestizos, a mixture of European and Indigenous heritages. Generally, men greet each other with a handshake, and women greet friends and relatives with a kiss.
In Costa Rica, Spanish is the official language, but English is spoken by many as well, especially in tourist areas.
Most Costa Ricans are Catholic, with Evangelical Christians following. Other worldwide religions are also represented in smaller numbers.
Strong cultural ties and traditions abound in Costa Rica. Family, hard work and a love of life are generally the most important factors in the lives of the Ticos. Just as in other Latin America countries, much of the customs and traditions are related to religion. Many traditions of the Catholic faith are celebrated within the family and community, including baptism, marriage, confirmation and the traditional Costa Rican funeral. During Easter week, on August 2nd, the celebration of the Virgin of the Angels, and Christmas Week, there are processions, often causing the closure of streets, shops, businesses and transportation. If there is a national symbol of Costa Rica, it is the oxcart. Oxcarts were used to take coffee and other products to market in days gone by. You may still see the occasional oxcart on rural back roads. And you're sure to see them - smaller models anyway - in souvenir shops.
The most standard Costa Rican dish is black beans and rice (gallo pinto or comida tipica), often served with meat or fish, fruits and/or vegetables, and fried plantains. Cheese and other dairy products are rarely used in cooking.
The plantain, or plántano, is a favorite Tico snack. Fried or baked, they are sweet and delicious. Sliced thinly and deep fried, they become a crunchy treat like the potato chip.
Arroz is a dish of fried rice which can be served with chicken (pollo) or shrimp (gambas). It is often featured with black beans for breakfast (along with eggs, sour cream and corn tortillas).
Corn is one of the most popular vegetables, usually prepared as tortillas and pancakes. Corn on the cob is roasted, elote esado, or boiled, elote cocinado. Another local specialty is the palmito or heart of palm, with a delicate flavor.
Fruits found in Costa Rica include papayas, mangos, pineapples, lemons, guavas, passion fruit, and avocados.
Roast pork and chicken are staples, and fresh seafood is a favorite near the coasts.
Popular drinks include refrescos, made of blended fruit and ice, and, horchata, a sweet and spicy drink made from roasted, ground rice and cinnamon. Beer is also consumed, favorites being Bavaria and Imperial, light lager-style beers from local breweries. Wine is not very popular and is usually imported. But coffee is, of course, considered a national favorite!