“Tico Time” is a cultural phenomenon that exists in almost every place in Costa Rica; whether it be a small rural town in the mountains, a laid-back beach paradise, or the metropolitan city of San Jose. “Ticos” (Costa Rican people) are generally happy people with an easygoing approach to life. The pace here is slower. Take time to smell the tropical flowers. It isn’t laziness, it’s just relaxed.
If you have an appointment at 8:00, a Tico might show up at 8:15, 9:00 or even 10:00 and consider it acceptable and himself “on-time.” Whereas in North American cultures, “5 minutes early is on-time,” traditional Tico culture regards most any time as good. Since relationships are highly valued here, it is more important to catch up with an old friend, during an afternoon cafecito (coffee break), for example, than to be on-time for an appointment.
Also, be aware that you will never get a restaurant check without asking for it. Ticos consider it rude to bring a check too early. To them, it is the same as telling you to leave. Maybe you wanted another cup of coffee, another cerveza, or maybe you were deep in conversation? Many people mistake this as slow service or laziness, when actually, they are just being polite and appreciate your business.
We call it “Tico Time.” So if your food takes a little while, don’t stress. Just order another cerveza, sit back, relax and do as the Ticos do!