business practices in costa rica

How Business Practices in Costa Rica Differ from Those in the United States

business practices in costa ricaBusiness, like language, varies from country to country across the world. From common practices to appropriate communication techniques, there are a lot of nuances to take into consideration when working with someone from another area. In some countries, like Japan, silence is valued over constant conversation. In others, like Germany, punctuality is preferred over flexibility. While some differences are vast, others are minor. When it comes to how business practices in Costa Rica differ from those in the United States, the differences are vast.

Costa Rica could not be much more different than the United State. From the landscape to the climate, there aren’t many similarities to be found between the two. However, both countries have growing populations with even faster-growing interests in web-based work and software development. Because of this mutual interest, Costa Rica is quickly becoming a go-to for U.S.-based companies needing nearshore development. Due to this growing interest centered around international business, it is important to understand business practices in Costa Rica and proper business etiquette.

7 Important Business Practices to Remember When Working with Costa Ricans

1. Appointments Are Always Flexible

Costa Ricans are not known for being the strictest of people when it comes to punctuality. Due to their more relaxed approach to time management, business appointments do not always start right on time. In fact, some websites who cover business practices in Costa Rica recommend bringing a book to your next meeting in case you have to wait for an extended amount of time. Due to this approach, business meetings often last longer than scheduled.

2. Consistent Reminders of Meetings Are Necessary

This differentiation between Costa Ricans and Americans stems from the Costa Rican pura vida lifestyle and their flexibility with time. Due to their busy lifestyles, Costa Rican business partners need constant reminders of pre-scheduled meetings. It is recommended to send appointment reminders a week before the meeting then two days prior to the meeting, with a final reminder going out the day of.

3. Put An Emphasis on Small Talk

Most differences between how business is done in the United States and Costa Rica stem from their pura vida lifestyle. While businesspeople in the United States often get straight to the point, Costa Ricans like to take their time. It’s important to emphasize small talk during business meetings with Costa Ricans. Speaking on topics like the weather, general news, or the latest sports scores are completely acceptable and welcome.

4. Networking is Highly Important

When compared to the United States, the population of Costa Rica is small. With only 5 million people in the country, networking plays a huge role in business growth. It’s important to get out there and discuss current business ventures and possible future business endeavors with the community. The small, tight-knit community can open up partnerships and opportunities with fellow businesspeople that may have gone unnoticed without networking. Due to the closeness of the Costa Rican community, and the importance of networking, it is crucial that you keep your comments respectful and your intentions honest.

5. Business Attire is Still Preferred in Professional Settings

Costa Rica’s beautiful beaches and lush jungles may lead you to think that casual attire is acceptable throughout the country; however, the opposite is true in a business setting. Despite their laid back lifestyles, Costa Ricans still hold looking professional to high regard. Men are often found in dress pants paired with long sleeve shirts. Most opt for a jacket over a tie, unlike businessmen in the United States. Women’s wardrobe choices vary from business suits to more fanciful dresses, with plenty of accessories, depending on the event.

6. Titles Are Very Important To Costa Ricans

Titles are very important to Costa Ricans, especially those that hold professional or political titles. While professional titles are important to businesspeople in the United States, too, the titles of Costa Ricans differ greatly. Costa Rican men use both their father’s and mother’s names in correspondence, but only use their father’s names when introducing themselves. While businesspeople in the United States often have one surname and are fine with being called by their first name, in Costa Rica one must be invited to refer to the other by their first name. It is even seen as rude to call a Costa Rican by their first name without being invited to do so.

7. Negotiations Will Take Time

Business decisions are expected to take longer in Costa Rica than they are in the United States. This is because business decisions are made between all involved parties within the business which means there is a lot of bureaucracy to navigate. Additionally, because of the close community of networkers, business decisions and negotiations are often made over dinner, in a more relaxed environment, which can stretch out the process.

While Costa Rica is not on the other side of the world, business culture in Costa Rica is quite different when compared to the United States. With the more relaxed approach to time management and decision making, Costa Ricans do business at a slower pace. The close-knit community throughout the country means that there is a personal level to the business whereas there is often a strict line between business and personal life in the United States. Despite the differences, partnerships between businesses in the United States and Costa Rica continue to thrive in web-based work and software development.

At Number8, we connect businesses in the United States looking for development work with nearshore developers based in Costa Rica. We focus on assisting companies with improving their internal IT processes to ensure smoother business for everyone. If you are interested in learning more about what we do at Number8, give us a call at (502) 890-7665 today!