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Posted by on Feb 7, 2014 in Attempts at Humor, Costa Rica, Culture, Moving to Costa Rica, Uncategorized | 46 comments

5 Costa Rican Misnomers

5 Costa Rican Misnomers

Words Mean Things  (maybe just not what you think)

In my former working life, among many other things, I managed a sales team; over the years it was interesting how the title of the sales position changed…modifying it from Sales Guy to a word that had no correlation to the word “Sales” at all.

The title progression went something like; “salesman” to “sales representative” to “account manager”, then “account executive” and finally, about a year before I left, if asked what they did, the sales guy would say he was in, “Business Development”.

Each iteration distancing itself further from reality that they were sales people, there to sell you our service.

Since moving to Costa Rica I have seen the same clever use of words, used to hide the truth. They may be oxymoronic, misnomers or just terms used in order to put a little lipstick on the pig.


Express Lane 15Caja Rápida (life in the fast lane?)

This term is both a misnomer as well as an oxymoron. Caja is the Spanish term meaning, among other things, cashier and Rápido is the Spanish term meaning quick or fast.

So, Caja + Rápida = The Fast Lane.

To be clear, nothing having to do with a cashier in Costa Rica is fast. There are many things that may slow you down: a suspicious colone, a barcode that is not in the system,  a conversation the cashier is having or, especially in the case of the Caja Rápida line, a customer with about 200 items in their shopping cart.

In the States, the “Express Lane” almost always has a sign dictating the maximum number of items you can have in order to participate in the Expressness of the lane. There is no such precision for the Caja Rápida lane in Costa Rica.

The lane acts much as the Stop Sign in Costa Rica – a suggestion – a suggestion to limit the number of items in your cart; a suggestion that no one follows and a suggestion that makes the sign designating the registers quickness unnecessary. We are learning, not just at the grocery store, that things take time. It is ok. Slow down. Relax. Pura Vida.

No Hay Problema.

Solor DryerSolar Dryer

This name Solar Dryer is just a joke, really. Because of the high cost of electricity many people do not have, or use, an electric dryer for their clothes.

Instead they use a solar dryer, the sun, and lay their clothes on all manner of a clothesline: railings, bushes, roof overhangs, the sidewalk – really just about anywhere the sun might hit.

We purchased a stackable washer/dryer unit and we rarely use the dryer; when we do, we see it reflected in our electric bill.

I was unsure about using the Solar Dryer at first, but after seeing and feeling the result, I am happy with it.

No Hay Problema.

The_storm_and_rainThe Green Season

Green Season – a marketing way of saying, “Rainy Season”. In all fairness, the rainy season does make things green and lush and gorgeous.

However, I am thinking the term Green Season most likely originated with the Costa Rican Tourism Board. I have no proof, mind you, that this is the case.

I do, however know that tourism drops off mightily during the rainy season because tourists are afraid they might melt.

Rainy…ehr…The Green Season runs roughly from the end of April to mid November. We just endured our first Rainy Season, and by endured I mean we operated our lives exactly the same as if it were the Tourist Seas….  I mean the Dry Season.

Most mornings during the Rainy Season start out sunny, cool and beautiful. The rain then finds us mid-afternoon and stays for an hour or two, then the skies clear again. So, you bring an umbrella with you when you go out and occasionally you modify your plans a bit.

No Hay Problema.


Joyeria is the Spanish word for Jewelry Store.

There is no Joy found here.

Hot Water on Demand

As opposed to its much more notorious name – Suicide Shower – hot water on demand sounds pleasant, even customer service oriented.  Hot Water on Demand is a very accurate term though.

The water is not hot until it hits the shower head. Once at the showerhead the water is heated electrically. That is right, oil and water might not mix but electricity and water, in Costa Rica, DO. Electrical wires run to the shower-head providing you with the luxury of the hot water you desperately desire.

Suicide Showerhead

Although an awful idea, the suicide shower is ubiquitous in Costa Rica and, actually safe***. I have used Hot Water on Demand devices several times without too much damage.


*** I am not an attorney, electrician, nor am I a plumber…Also, I have no money.


Hasta Pronto,



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Greg Seymour is a quitter. At 41 Greg and his wife Jen quit their jobs, sold damn near everything they owned and became Intentionally Unemployed and retired early to Costa Rica.
In addition to writing on this blog, Greg has written for other online publications and has written two popular books about living in Costa Rica:
Greg Seymour Amazon Author Page

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  1. Great and funny article (and accurate). My dear spouse is not only afraid of the suic … oops … hot water-on-demand shower, but won’t go to the bathroom in the old Tico house we use as a workshop because he thinks it has a suicide toilet.

    • Haha Marilyn, that is funny – I would hate to see/feel a suicide toilet…

  2. You never dried your clothes in the sun before moving to Costa Rica?

  3. Great article I enjoyed it…well written..

    • Thanks for reading and the commenting Doug. I appreciate it.

    • Thanks – the solar drying is actually quite nice. Everything in the States is slated to efficiency and convenience. We started the whole solar drying because of the high cost of electricity here. If that cost went away, I don’t think air drying would go away.

  4. Hilarious! Haven´t been in Costa Rica but this is kind of, no this is similar to Uganda – everything! Great post =)

    • Thanks – I would imagine you would imagine things are similar in all developing countries.

  5. Greg, this is a great article. I love those kind of observations. Green season is an excelkent marketing name. Here where we are they call region a Green Isteia. After our first year here, we made the same point: Ir’s green, ’cause ir rains a lot :). I’m concern with that shower head, though. Hope two of you are not using that suicidal tool in your house! And if you do, please stop!

    • Thanks Frankaboutcroatia – Green season is great for being an Expat here, especially for inter-country travel, as lodging is A LOT less expensive and National Parks and beaches are near empty.

      On the questionable shower accessory – luckily our rental has a small hot water heater (that is not attached to the shower-head) so we have hot water to all areas of the house.

  6. Don’t worry I never dried my clothes in the sun before because in Washington it’s impossible! haha. I was so freaked out by their showers when I first got here, I couldn’t understand the electrical wiring in the shower/hot water combination at first but it’s so normal here. My brother said the same thing when he saw it – suicide showers! Nice post Greg 🙂

    • Thanks Samantha, I would love to see statistics on accidents related to the suicide showers. My guess is they are few and far between – but the thought of water and electricity in close proximity to each other combined with the LOOK of the wires on the shower head – it just gives me shivers.

  7. “Joyeria is the Spanish word for Jewelry Store.There is no Joy found here.”
    As a woman, of course, I must disagree…but I got a hell of a laugh out of that. Fun post 🙂

    • Haha – I think my wife disagrees with me on the Joyeria as well. Glad you liked the post.

  8. I’ve had so much fun reading your post! “No hay problema”, I think in some moments it is not so easy to share their point of view on that:) I like your way of perceiving small things in life, will definitely keep on reading your stories. Un abrazo!

    • Thanks for the kind words. The Pura Vida, no problem attitude, is becoming a part of me much easier than I thought it would. Life is too short to stress about silly things.

  9. So funny to read about the Caja Rápida! In Mexico, we have a special queu for pregnant ladies and old people. Of course, everyone pretends to be one and the cashier is too polite to call them out of it. “Miss, you’re not pregnant!” “What? You calling me fat?”

    • That is funny. That is one thing special about Costa Rica, they are thoughtful to the elderly, women and those hurt. We see it on the bus, at the bank or in the store. People give up their seats or allow in front of them in line. It is nice to see.

  10. Greg

    I have enjoyed your wife’s blog a lot and this is the forst time I have seen one from you. You guys are really living a great adventure. My wife and I plan to move to CR in about 4 years. More like 5 but I keep trying to trick myself that it will be sooner.

    Thanks for the great blog. And I agree with all five!!

    • Hi David,

      I am glad you found my blog. Jen has a tendency of posting more frequently than I do. Good luck with your plans…who knows, it might turn into 3 years. Let us know if we can help with any questions you might have. We are certainly enjoying our great adventure.

  11. This is a great, hilarious post! I love the jewelry store and the showers sound…interesting haha. Be careful there! 🙂

    • Haha – the showers aren’t that bad, really. This coming from a guy who doesn’t have to use one.

  12. Ohhh man, I was laughing so much at this. A few of these things ring true here in Croatia – like the sllllllllow lane. But that shower scene is out of a horror film….!!

    • Glad you liked the post Mrs. Chasing the Donkey. The fast lane is very amusing – we now treat it like just another lane, which is good because there are usually only 2 lanes (of the 8) that are open.

  13. This is so funny and I love your disclaimer. But that shower looks seriously scary!! I don’t have a dryer here in the UK and love drying things outside…although the constant rain at the moment makes that harder!! Great post.

    • Thanks! It can be challenging in the rainy Green season to dry the clothes, but you just wait until later, or until another day. Turning your 3 day shirt into a 4 day shirt – No Hay Problema.

  14. What a great, fun post!! I love the solar dryer one but I have to admit, I have used it for some time myself (but I have never called it a solar dryer)!! And I can understand why there is no joy for men at the Joyeria (but for women, well diamonds ARE a girl’s best friend)!!!!

    • Thanks Constance. The name solar dryer was used a lot when we were looking at rentals…many came with a washer but all came with a solar dryer…lol

  15. HAHA. That shower set up is ridiculous. Love it.

  16. That shower looks kind of terrifying! It reminds me of a hostel I stayed at that advertised hot water for the baths – what they didn’t mention is that you had to chop wood and light a fire to heat the water yourself.

  17. Oh wow. That suicide shower made me laugh! I can’t say I’ve ever had a showerhead with wires in it!

    As did the “Green season” – familiar with the wet season of places like Philippines and Darwin when it comes down in bucket loads but life just carries on!

  18. Always love reading your posts as you add that extra humor that makes you want to continue reading. I am a little fearful of that suicide shower but the best has to be the express lane. Let’s be honest, for the most part in Wal-Mart here in USA, it’s merely a guideline that many folks fail to adhere to.

    Great post guys!

    • Thanks Chris – yeah, the fast lane is probably pretty universal. Alhough, in the States you will see people try to get close…or at least, less than double. Here, there in no known maximum – so everything goes. Oh well, Pura Vida.

  19. The article is funny, but the hair is funnier!! And Greg, the appropriate term is now “Director of Electronic Services”.

    • Hey Sungcha. Thanks for checking out the site. Yeah, I am having (hair) growing pains – ha. I am sure that sales designation will change soon enough. Hope all is well.

  20. Until you’ve used a hot shower on demand, you have no concept. Yes, it was scary the first few times, even decided not to use it a couple of times. Thought I would get electrocuted or shocked while taking the shower.

    • Haha – True. The B and B we stayed at on our exploratory trip in 2012 had one. Once you get over it and figure, “hey, thousands have used these” it’s not so bad….my showers there sure were quick though.

  21. If you dry your clothes outside in the fresh air, but without a very strong Sun, they will smell awesome all day long.

    • Great tip – I love the smell of sun-dried clothes… maybe not the stiffness of them though.

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