Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Tico Test

In my last post I posed the question, “How do I camouflage myself as a tica, Emily?” This post is here to answer it!

First, for anybody ignorant of Costa Rican lingo, tico is the nickname that Costa Ricans give themselves. A tica, therefore, is a Costa Rican woman. As with any culture, people are individuals and are highly diverse aesthetically and socially. Now I will do the moral injustice of describing and generalizing ticos.


Morenito… kinda: This is the Spanish term for stereotypical idea of ¨Latino¨ skin tone. Many ticos are indeed moreno by ¨American¨ standards. However, the indigenous influence that lends the darker tone is definitely more diluted in Costa Rica than in other Latin American countries. The population is a melting pot of indigenous, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and African American heritage. Skin color here is actually a deep social topic, but I will save that novel for later. Main point: Most ticos aren´t pasty white like stereotypical Americans, but don´t have the striking indigenous complexion seen in other Latin American countries.

Hair: Caramel brown to black. Also, fake bleach blonde and very obviously dyed red. It is in any style for women. There is definitely a higher percentage of mohawks and shaved designs for men here than in the States. To each their own, I guess.

Eyes: Most ticos´ eyes have that mysteriously deep umber color. Others have startling bright hazel. Blue almost doesn´t exist.

Physique: Ticos, like their nickname, are tiny. They have shorter statures and finer features. At 5´3¨, I´m actually an above average height-wise.

How I compare! I´m decently pasty. My skin complexion goes between pink and burnt. My hair is dirty blonde. My eyes are definitely blue. A polite word for my height would be ¨stumpy.¨  1/4

Dress and Appearance

Tops: Ticas DON´T wear t-shirts. Every day is a fashion show for most interesting (or most revealing) blouse. And, unless you are out jogging, athletic wear stays in the closet. Ticos, on the other hand, just wear whatever.

Bottoms: Ticos wear, almost exclusively, skinny jeans. On really hot days they wear shorts. I will restate: athletic wear stays in the closet.

Shoes: Talk about hipsters. Ticos wear Converse. Ticas wear Converse, flats, or heels that double their height. Tennis shoes pretty much don´t exist.

Makeup: Ticas, in my opinion, tend to wear a lot of makeup, though I think Americans wear a lot of makeup too. Guys don´t wear makeup.

Other random things: Cologne and perfume are used daily and in vast quantities, especially in the older population. Lots of men shave their legs. Jewelry use is comparable to the States. So are tattoos and piercings.

How I compare! Well, before I came I practically lived in t-shirts and cargo shorts. The only shoes I brought were tennis shoes. I NEVER wore makeup. Same with perfume or jewelry. 0/5


Greetings: The typical greeting or introduction is an air-kiss on the right cheek between women or women and men. Men greet each other with a handshake.

Personal Space: There is less of it.

Talking to Strangers: It happens.

How I compare! I´m still awkward with the greeting kiss. I still like my personal space. I don´t talk to strangers. 0/3

My score! Well, just going by the things I can´t change, I only score 25%. Including everything, I get an 8% at the start of my semester. However, if I changed the things that are possible for me to change, my possible tica score would be a 75%.

I have actually made changes to my dress in order to fit in. I started dressing nicely in blouses and jeans every day. I bought Converse shoes. I even started wearing makeup *shudder. Possibly I´m better at the greeting and talking to strangers. So, I guess now I would give myself a 7/12, or a 58%, so I still fail. See how well you score with my tico test!


Nicholette LeBlanc, Juli Camacho, Lindsey Stoltz. (Gringa, Tica, Gringa)


Here I am with my extended familia tica. Perhaps I stick out a bit…


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