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Costa Rica Business Etiquette & Culture

Costa Rica etiquette and manners plus cultural communication                  Costa Rican etiquette, manners, gift giving, protocol, appearance, dress, communications, and more -    

Costa Rica Introduction

Costa Rica (meaning "rich coast") has a population of three million in which 95 percent is of European (including some 7 percent mestizo—mixed European and Indian blood), 3 percent black or mulatto, 1 percent East Asian (primarily Chinese), and 1 percent Amerindian. About 51 percent of Costa Ricans live in urban centers.

Costa Rica has developed and maintained a stable democratic government. They are a fiercely democratic culture with a belief in peace through negotiations. The government is a unitary multiparty republic, composed of a president, a unicarneral legislative assembly made up of 57 deputies, and the Supreme Court of Justice. The president is both chief of state and the head of the government, holding only one successive four-year term of office. The people of Costa Rica are politically active and proud of their government. Election voting is mandatory of anyone over 18 years old.

The official language is Spanish. Creole is also spoken. English is widely understood. Roman Catholicism is the official religion. However, various evangelical Protestant sects have been growing.

 

Costa Rica Fun Fact

In recent years, Costa Rica has nearly become synonymous with the term "ecotourism." Its pristine rainforests are painstakingly protected, and an ever-increasing tide of people come to witness the astounding abundance of plant and animal species each year. Women in business will meet with greater acceptance in Costa Rica than in other Latin American countries. Women have even been elected vice-president of Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s higher learning institutes award degrees in many fields -- including law. Costa Rica has a higher number of lawyers per capita than any other country in Central America.

 


Geert Hofstede Analysis for Costa Rica


Costa Rica is similar to many Latin American countries when analyzing Hofstede's Dimensions (see Latin America Hofstede Graph below).

Costa Rica's highest Hofstede Dimension is Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) at 86, indicating the society’s low level of tolerance for uncertainty. In an effort to minimize or reduce this level of uncertainty, strict rules, laws, policies, and regulations are adopted and implemented. The ultimate goal of this population is to control everything in order to eliminate or avoid the unexpected. As a result of this high Uncertainty Avoidance characteristic, the society does not readily accept change and is very risk adverse.

Costa Rica diverges from other Latin countries on the Power Distance (PDI) Dimension with the lowest score of 35, compared to an average of 70 for all Latin countries. This low Power Distance Index for Costa Rica indicates a de-emphasis in the society on a citizen’s power and wealth, in other words, equality and opportunity for everyone is stressed.

Costa Rica also ranks lower on masculinity (21) than other Latin countries (48) which indicates a low level of differentiation and discrimination between genders. In this culture, females are treated more equally to males in all aspects of society. This low Masculinity ranking may also be displayed as a more openly nurturing society.

Costa Rica has a low Individualism (IDV) rank of 15, as do most Latin countries. The score on this Dimension indicates the society is Collectivist as compared to Individualist. This is manifest in a close long-term commitment to the member 'group', be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group.

In many of the Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, the population is predominantly Catholic (see Religions Graph below). The combination of Catholicism and the cultural dimensions shown in the Hofstede Graphs above, reinforce a philosophy predicated in the belief that there is an absolute ‘Truth”. As Geert Hofstede explains about peoples with a high Uncertainty Avoidance Index, their attitude is, “There can only be one Truth and we have it.” More Geert Hofstede Details

Written by Stephen Taylor , the Sigma Two Group

 

Religion in Costa Rica


* WORLD FACTBOOK 2011

In a country that has over 50% of its population practicing the Catholic religion, we found the primary correlating Hofstede Dimension to be Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI). There were only 2 countries out of 23 that did not follow this correlation, they were Ireland and the Philippines. (See the accompanying article)

 

Costa Rica Appearance

International Business Dress and Appearance   Business dress: Men should wear a conservative dark suit. In warmer climates, a jacket is optional. Women can wear a dress or skirt and blouse for formal business meetings, but it is far more common for women to wear pants to work. Costa Ricans are much more formal and serious than other Latin Americans. Therefore, keep jackets on during business meetings

International Business Dress and Appearance   Local people bathe frequently because of the heat, and guests are expected to bathe at least once daily

International Business Dress and Appearance   Making a fist with the thumb sticking out between the middle an index fingers is obscene. This gesture is known as the "fig"

International Business Dress and Appearance   Most North American gestures will be understood is Costa Rica

International Business Dress and Appearance   Don’t put your feet up on any furniture except items expressly designed for that purpose

International Business Dress and Appearance   Fidgeting with your hands or feet is considered distracting and impolite

 

Costa Rica Behavior & Manners

 

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Costa Ricans are by far the most punctual people in Central America. North Americans are expected to be on time for appointments

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Since Costa Ricans allow themselves only a limited time for their midday break, everyone is expected to be on time for a business lunch

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Most business entertaining takes place in the evening, since lunch is the main meal of the day. Spouses are welcome at business dinners

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Gifts frequently exchanged on all kinds of special occasions

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  If you are invited for dinner to a home, bring flowers, chocolates, scotch, or wine. Do not bring calla lilies; they are associated with funerals

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Have business cards, proposals, and other material printed in both English and Spanish

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes) More information on International Gift Giving

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Considering sending a gift to someone in Costa Rica? See this information

 

Costa Rica Communications 

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Handshaking the common greeting. Abrazos (embrace of good friends) is not as common as in other Latin countries

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Titles are important and should be included on business cards. Address a person directly by using his or her title only. A Ph.D or a physician is called Doctor. Teachers prefer the title Profesor, engineers go by Ingeniero, architects are Arquitecto, and lawyers are Abogado. For persons who do not have professional titles it is common to call a gentleman Don (plus his firstname) and a lady Dona (plus her firstname). This is how children and subordinates refer to adults, and it is a sign of courtesy for people doing business with each other to refer to each other in this way unless otherwise requested by the person you are addressing.

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Most Hispanics have two surnames: one from their father, which is listed first, followed by one from their mother. Only the father’s surname is used when addressing someone

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos (TEE-kos)

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Politics are freely discussed because of the stability there

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Good conversation topics: children, history, art

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Bad topics: any personal criticism, religion

 

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