How Business is Different in Costa Rica
April 18, 2019 / in Careers, Nearshore Outsourcing,

Summary: In this week's blog, we're diving into the cultural differences between working with companies located in Costa Rica versus the United States. ​


Business, 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. When it comes to how business practices in Costa Rica differ from those in the United States, there's a lot to consider.

Costa Rica and the United States both 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. companies needing nearshore development. Due to this growing interest centered around international business, it is important to understand how the two countries differ.

7 Important Business Practices to Remember When Working with Costa Ricans

1. Costa Ricans Are Flexible with Their Appointment Times

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, they're not going to be overly offended if the appointment doesn't start right on time. Although Latin Americans typically prioritize taking a lunch and a general work/life balance, they also have a strong work ethic that guarantees that they'll deliver on the expectations set by your company and leadership.

Although generally speaking, Costa Ricans are more flexible with their time, professional Latin Americans know that punctuality is important to U.S. based teams.

2. Reminders of Meetings Are Recommended

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 reminders of pre-scheduled meetings. It is recommended to send calendar invites at least a week before the meeting.

3. Put An Emphasis on Small Talk

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, you can expect Costa Ricans to always remain respectful and polite.

5. Business Attire is 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 can vary from business suits to more fanciful dresses, with plenty of accessories, depending on the event.

6. Titles Are Important

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 sometimes 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.

Ready to start your nearshore partnership with Costa Rica? 

Connect with us today or continue exploring all of our custom software development and remote staff augmentation services here.

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