If you’ve been bitten by the travel bug and journeyed to foreign lands, you know that every country and culture has their own unique slang – phrases and idiomatic expressions particular to that corner of the world. Costa Rica is no exception, and its pachuco (that’s Tico for slang) is so ubiquitous that learning even just a few words can really help during your travels. Master a few popular terms and you are sure to impress the locals, while opening new doors of communication.
Renowned for their patience, friendliness and eagerness to help out a traveler in need, Costa Ricans are famous for their unofficial motto, “pura vida.” Directly translated as pure life, this phrase is used in so many ways – as a salutation, a goodbye, a sign of thanks, as well as an expression of general happiness. Now, to broaden your language horizons, we hope you take a moment to learn a few key words and pachuco phrases – a sure-fire way to elicit laughter and smiles.
Popular street slang in Costa Rica
- Un tucan – 5,000 Costa Rican colones (named for the bird on the bill)
- Un mujeron- A very beautiful lady, a total babe
- Una teja -To be a good person
- Agarrar la lata – To take the bus
- Hacerse bolas -To not be confused
- Nave – a car
- Echar el cuento- To be courteous
- Dar taco- To scare off or to intimidate
- Aguado – Boring
- A medio palo – To do something halfway
- Yodo – coffee
- Un camote – Someone who is strange
- Verla fea – To be in a jam
- Tostado – Drunk, drugged or simply crazy
- Tener chicha – To be angry
- Moverse el piso – Love at first sight
- Al chile? – Seriously?
- No tener un cinco- To be completely out of money, or flat broke
- Vacilon – Fun
- Vieras – You should have seen
- Blanco – A cigarette
- Solo bueno! – It’s all good!
- Dar pelota – To flirt with someone
- Con toda la pata – Great or fantastic
Understanding Tiquismos – your passport to fun travels!
In Costa Rica, these colloquial expressions are also known as tiquismos. You won’t find them in your Spanish dictionary, and they won’t fly in other Latin American countries, as each culture has its own dialect reserved for daily conservations among friends and family. One of the best ways to learn pachuco is through total immersion and plenty of practice – just another reason to extend your Costa Rica travels!