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Costa Rican punctuality, or the so-called Tico Time, will be an essential part of your lifestyle as soon as you live in Costa Rica.
Tico Time is being comfortable with NOT being on time for a date, a meeting, or an appointment. This means the person is taking the liberty of late arrival at an appointment without giving notice to the other party. This can be 10 minutes, half an hour, or even more. Depending on the occasion of having an appointment, this can vary tremendously.
I consider myself punctual, even after living in Costa Rica for over 40 years. It occurred to me to write a blog about Tico time because a seller and I had a misunderstanding about an appointment we had.
The seller of a property in Ciudad Colon got really mad at me for not showing up on time for a listing appointment. At least, that’s what he thought. For some reason, the seller thought we were on daylight savings time, but we don’t use that here. So I thought I’d better not ask him how he went through life with that idea.
I care very much about time. I guess that’s the Dutchman in me. But, talking about it to a sister in the Canary Islands, she is also always 10 minutes early everywhere. It must have been the education mom and dad gave us.
Modern times allow us to use technology. For example, I always register appointments on my iPhone, and the system enables me to set several alerts. But, occasionally, I make the mistake of writing the appointment in the wrong week, which worsens as I get older.
Being on time is an attitude.
To be on time somewhere, you have to leave on time. That is often difficult to calculate, especially in a city with a lot of traffic. However, Latin Americans have a different attitude about time, although their sense of responsibility is getting better, especially in business. Socially, things haven’t changed much in those 40 years I’ve lived here.
Now that we all have a cell phone with a clock on it, we no longer have any excuse when being late. But, unfortunately, many think being on time for a meeting is unimportant.
Nobody really cares about 5 minutes or 10, half an hour, or even a couple of hours. We call it “Tico Time.” This might mean people come late, later, or never. The amazing thing is that expats in Costa Rica adapt to this lifestyle really quickly; the most punctual person “turns Tico” in no time. You can’t say they didn’t adapt to their new home country!
Don’t wait too much
If you’re invited at 8:00 pm for a party, the host doesn’t expect you to be there at the appointed time. So, God forbid, you might catch your hosts still getting dressed if you’re on time!
The other day, my wife and I had a cup of coffee and a cookie (which is how we drink coffee in Holland). She said that two friends planned to come by at lunch, around 12. So I stopped working early. Unfortunately, at 1:00, they hadn’t shown up, so Nina sent them a text message to tell them we had just started with lunch, which was a simple sandwich.
They returned the message saying that they were just buying bread. That was at 2:00 pm, and they didn’t show up until 4:40 pm.
I’m glad we ate.
Especially professionals like doctors and lawyers tend to have disrespect for their client’s agenda. Until you tell them. Over the years, I have made many enemies telling them that I expect them to respect my time, and many have learned. Because I complain!
Save yourself a lot of heartburn and re-confirm any appointment you have a couple of hours before. You’ll be surprised how many will tell you they’re glad you called and if it’s possible to change or cancel the appointment. AND wherever I go, I always bring my book.
Calling to say you’re late
I use Waze a lot, so I get a better idea of how long it will take me to get to my appointment. I like to be early for an appointment, just in case traffic is heavy. So when I get there too early, I park my car somewhere and I read my book.
Ticos also appreciate you sending them a message when you’re running late. That shows you’re not a friend of Tico time! It’s so easy to send a Whatsapp or call when you’re going to be running a little late. But life is not a one-way street, and effective communication is king.
You can save yourselves the boiling anger when the other person doesn’t show up or arrives later than agreed. If you can’t, you need to develop more patience.
Adjust to the culture
Most of you relocate here because you’re tired of the rat race and want to slow down and enjoy life more. BUT, no matter how long you have been living in Costa Rica, you should call if you’re running late. Do NOT get used to Tico time.
By the way, when the friends DID show, they were not only 2 but 4 people; they duplicated on the way. But, of course, they were starving by then and ate all the bread they bought, with the bottle of whiskey they drank. But we’re cool with that.
Ready to move to Costa Rica? We relocate. Contact a GoDutch real estate agent (who will NOT be late, I promise) to assist in your property purchase in Costa Rica.
Used in featured image: Image by asier_relampagoestudio on Freepik