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

The Truth Behind Tico Time

Tico Time is in fact a very real and scary illness. But it is a regional ailment, and not contagious; at least that is what I have come to realize while being the only one who is ever early/on time or even checking the clock.

With the phrase “Pura Vida” being the trademark for the country of Costa Rica, I wasn’t sure how much of saying affected the way of life. Daily life in the United States revolves around the amount of sunlight there is in a day to accomplish everything. Interestingly, during the winter/rainy season the sun rises much earlier in CR, around 4:30 in the morning, and sets around 6pm. Since the sun sets earlier it seems as though half of the tico day takes place in dark.

My host family in Liberia in particular did not seem concerned or aware of the time, and since they were my first impression of CR, I was extra attentive and affected by them. Since they lived on a ranch, their house was the farthest away, so they had to drive into town to go to their jobs and drop me off at the bus stop. The night before my first orientation day I asked what time we would be leaving, and they told me 8am. We ended up not leaving until 8:30am, and this happened every morning, being late by more than a couple minutes. Even though they were running late, not one of them looked at the time or seemed to be in a hurry. This was surprising not only because of the seeming lack of concern of their jobs, but also because my host mom owned a business. When I asked her what time she opened it in the morning she told me 9am the first time, then the next day she said 8am. Closing time was the same, when I arrived at her business after orientation, I asked when she closed and she said in a bit, then just decided to close right then. Although I am sure she cares deeply about the success of her business, there does not seem to be the same type of idea of professionalism seen in the US. Instead of being focused on the customer, at least in my host mom’s case, her business seemed to be more about something she enjoys, based on her own desires and conveniences.

Another experience with tico time that I was extremely bothered by was when my host mom and I were visiting at her sister’s house. We had gone there straight after I got out of orientation, so I was tired and when I finally asked when we would be leaving, she said soon. Two hours later we were on our way home. In the moment I was furious, believing it completely inconsiderate to waste someone else’s time, because I was expecting a specific ending point. After some perspective I realized that she was just valuing the time she had to catch up and share with her sister. The rest of my host mom’s family that lived with her: her 30 yr. old son, his girlfriend, the son’s two teen children, and nephew, all shared one bed in a cramped room, so I could have a room all to myself. They also all piled into the backseat meant for three, so I could sit in the passenger seat of the car without any difficulty. They may have complained internally, but not once did I hear them say anything negative about the situation. Instead, they all seemed happy to be together. Where I live, dinner may be cut short because one of us needs to be somewhere at a certain time, or the four of us each drive a different car to all of our individual commitments. Even once we all get home, we retreat to our corners of the house for some “much needed” time alone. Here, their time together is truly cherished.


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