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Dating & Relationships

The following information is a very general guide and by no means is meant to be considered fact or relied upon. These are simply some observations made to help one be prepared if you plan to date a local. As with any group, there is great variety in behaviors as everyone is different.

In Costa Rica there are no major dating sites available like This is because this is negatively viewed as a way to promote prostitution. In the newspaper, if one looks under the classifieds section, there are  people offering massage services or other people specifically looking for someone special to share their life with. Descriptions read: middle aged man looking for an attractive girl, age 22 to 25, who likes to cook and give massages. Imagine if there were websites to make these connections! So, mainly people in Costa Rica meet in public venues such as a bar, at work, through friends, family, or at church.

Ok, imagine that a guy or girl is in Costa Rica, in a public setting and suddenly his/her gaze meets the gaze of a Tico or Tica.  They meet, he or she is immediately seduced by his or her exotic appearance and Latin dance moves…. then what happens?

If someone happens to begin a relationship with a Tico/a they may be in for a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  There are a variety of  things that are very different from relationships back home. For one, Ticos are famous for their possessiveness and jealousy even they will admit to it.  Of course, the following is a stereotype and does not apply to ALL Ticos/Ticas, but it is very common behavior, and they will openly admit it.

Do not be surprised if after a few dates a significant other begins calling more often to see where their partner is, what they are doing, who they are with at all hours of the day and night. Once the relationship is declared official/exclusive there is no more flirting, receiving calls from, or even looking at a person of the opposite sex without getting into an argument with a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Ticos/Ticas now usually require spending massive amounts of time with them whenever possible.

Jealousy is not simply a cultural aspect that does not have any reasoning behind it. Ticos tend to be jealous, because there are very high rates of infidelity in the country. People like to have a good time, and sometimes they just happen to have a better time with someone new and exciting.

In fact, some Ticos are so jealous they have car tracking devices installed in their spouses cars so that they can see online at any time of the day where the car has traveled, how long it was there, and when it left. INCREDIBLE but true.

Breaking Up

Breaking up with a Tico is usually pretty easy, with a Tica not so much. Tico men are very proud, and their machismo does not let them get to upset. The girls, as in any culture, seem to be a little more sensitive, and since they are possessive as well, cutting the cord is even harder to do. When breaking up with a Tico, expect that now their partner is not allowed to talk to any of his or her friends anymore, as in most cases they will no longer give the time of day.

Motels are not a cheaper version of a hotel

Many foreigners make the common mistake of renting a motel when they arrive in Costa Rica thinking it is a cheaper version of a hotel. In a sense it can be. Most motels simply charge by the hour. Motels here in Costa Rica are mainly used by couples looking for privacy. These couples are often young people or people cheating on their significant other.

These motels are so private in fact that when one pays, they cannot see the person they are giving cash to and they cannot see who is renting the room in order to protect the identities of all parties involved. The rooms are pretty interesting as well. Many of the nicer motels have large Jacuzzi tubs and some even have round beds. Motels are not a place to spend the night in Costa Rica, they are more just to have a good time. Motels are a very practical solution for many Costa Ricans, because many of live with their parents until they get married. This makes it difficult to have privacy in their parent’s home and in some cases forbidden depending on how religious the Costa Rican family is.

Teenage Pregnancy

Something that was very surprising moving to Costa Rica was that birth control is readily available over the counter at any "farmacia" in the country without a prescription or parental consent.  Therefore, one would assume that teenage pregnancy rates are lower, but in fact they are not. Costa Rica is still a developing country. Statistics show that pregnant younger women aged 15 to 19 in developing countries have a higher death rate due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth. Major international surveys show that babies born to very young mothers under the age of 14 are 50% more likely to die than children born to women in their twenties. The negative effects of teenage pregnancy include: obstructed labor, shame of teenage mothers, results in increased risk of infant death and maternal death or disability. These same cases are also at very high risk for sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV or AIDs by indulging in careless, unprotected sex.

According to the regional Ministry of Health in Costa Rica, 177 of the 750 births registered by the city of San Jose in 2008 were to adolescent girls who did not practice abstinence nor use birth control for fear of dropping hints of what they do when parents aren't looking.  For some young girls, especially in highly religious households, becoming pregnant as a teen is almost the end of the world. Many parents still disown their children for becoming pregnant or getting a girl pregnant.

High rates of teenage pregnancy can also be attributed to the lack of communication about the topic in general. In religious households, the topic is all together avoided. In more open homes the topic is still very controversial and taboo so parents in general avoid talking about sex at all. After all, their parents never talked to their generation about sex either. Sex is still very much related with the shame and guilt of the Catholic Church whether people are practicing or not. If parents do talk to their children about sex it is usually threatening them not to get preganant instead of educating them.

In the public and private school systems there are not sex education classes. This leads to young boys and girls experimenting and learning from their friends about sex which leads to high rates of unwanted pregnancies. Frequently on a drive through smaller neighborhoods of San Jose you will see many young couples hiding from their families to go and “make out” or be together which progressively leads to more.

Single Mothers

Increased rates of teen pregnancy have lead to the increase in the proportion of Costa Rican households headed by single mothers. This also has led to an increase in the number of women with children entering the labor force. Many of these mothers have never worked before and are new additions to the labor force. Many times single mothers are unable or unwilling to find full-time work in the high-paying formal sector. For this reason, they end up unemployed or working part-time as self-employed workers. This fact has contributed to low incomes for households vulnerable to poverty, especially those households headed by single mothers. Single mother run households continues to climb. For example, in 1990 about 13.4% of households were run by singe mothers, then in 1996 the number jumped to 22.5%. Currently, a little over 30% of Costa Rican households are run by single mothers. Two-thirds of these mothers also hold a part time job in addition to their motherly responsibilities. Many of these single mothers never married their children’s father or were married for a brief period of time out of obligation and then divorced later.



Being a rather Catholic society one would think that divorce rates would be lower, but they are not. They are very similar to that in the United States. Almost 50% of marriages in Costa Rica end in divorce. This is an interesting occurrence considering that there are strict laws in place that require that one first must remain married for at least three years before one can formally ask for a divorce.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon. One of the major reasons is that many foreigners including Nicaraguans, Colombians, Canadians, and Americans use marriage as a way to gain their residency and then simply divorce. This skews the divorce statistics a bit.

If going through a divorce in Costa Rica, one will have to go through a judicial process and look for a good divorce lawyer. There are two types of divorce in Costa Rica; the UGLY kind and the PEACEFUL kind. The ugly kind is known as a Sanction Divorce. This means that either of the married persons broke the social family contract by participating in one or more of the following activities: committing adultery, extreme physical aggression, trying to kill their partner, trying to kill the children, trying to kill any member of the family, trying to sell children into prostitution, participate in same sex acts, obligating their spouse to participate in sex acts against their will, and doing anything that deeply hurts the other either verbally or physically without the intention of killing. In these cases the divorce is immediate and there is no waiting period. If both parties are guilty of one or more of the above then there is a mediator to decide what will happen to the couple.

The second more PEACEFUL divorce is called a Remedial Divorce.   This type of divorce is a mutual agreement between the two parties involved to end the marriage first through a judicial separation for no less than a one year period. This process can only happen after the couple has been married for at least three years.  This rule is very interesting, taking into consideration the fact that if a couple can have a peaceful divorce, perhaps there is hope that they can reconcile and will not in fact go through with the divorce by the time the period has ended.  Also, it is not surprising to see couples who have divorced or separated get back together at least once or several times. Usually, this push is from societal influences such as family members, friends, or children in the middle pleading for the relationship to be mended.

In most divorce cases the mother is almost always awarded custody of the children unless there is firm proof that she is unfit as a mother, or she has voluntarily signed her rights away. The person with custody of the children of course receives child support. There is also alimony which can be paid if the parties can agree on a settlement. In any case, any property acquired during the marriage must be equally split between the two parties at the time of a divorce.

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