Estimated Reading Time: 10 Minutes
When you come from a different country and you want to use hand gestures in Costa Rica, you have to be a bit careful.
Even if you’re not planning to learn Spanish, although you should, you might want to learn a bit about hand gestures.
You might be saying something totally different with your hand gestures than you’re really planning to. You might hurt people with your gestures without even knowing it.
There are quite a few universal hand gestures that we all know, like the gesture for peace or giving someone the finger (though you shouldn’t do that).
So you won’t have to suffer any culture shock and making local citizens mad at you by using wrong hand gestures, let’s go through them
1. A number
In my country, we use the first three fingers on the thumb side of our hand to say we want three units of something.
In Costa Rica, they use the first three fingers on the pinky side of the hand.
2. I like it
There are three ways to say “I like it”. Costa Ricans then say: Pura Vida.
The first two ways are hand gestures as seen in the pictures.
Moving your eyebrows up and down is another way of saying that you like something, as shown in the GIF.
To tell someone how tall a person is, we hold our palm down
and Ticos do it differently
The size of an animal (something that grows)
The size of a thing
A very small thing or small animal
4. Just a moment
This is very similar to showing the size of a small thing or an insect for example. This means just a moment, I’ll be there in a sec. This can also mean “give me a little chance” when you’re in traffic.
This is one of the hand gestures that I hate most. Wait, I’m busy. This might mean a very long wait. It’s a way of telling something else or someone else is more important than you are.
5. Begging you, please
If you’re begging someone to help or do something for you.
6. I don’t know
Telling someone that you really don’t know the answer needs a hand gesture as well as a facial expression.
7. So what?
So what, it doesn’t matter, who cares.
8. A little one
Lifting a pinky is used to say someone is very skinny or a man packs lightly. It’s also a more decent way of giving someone the finger.
9. Say hi
People who know each other and say hi when being close to each other, they touch their fists together.
Young adults who know each other, and are at a distance from each other, they give the peace gesture.
The hand gesture to accuse someone of being a busybody, of meddling.
He is an idiot, a moron.
12. Go straight
When you ask for directions, they tell you to keep going straight in the same direction.
13. Having a drink
There are several hand gestures that involve alcohol:
The man is drunk
Please give me a drink (straight, like whiskey, rum or vodka)
We can order a quarter (bottle)
14. Talking too much
She or he is talking way too much.
15. Say that again?
Could you say that again? Please repeat what you just said?
16. What a mess
This hand gesture is used to say that someone did something wrong or created a mess.
17. Call someone in their home
Instead of using a doorbell (when there probably is none), you can shout from the street. The word to use is Upe, learn here what that is.
18. Finish up, leave it the way it is
Be done with what you’re doing, stop it now.
19. At the closing of your property
This is the best hand gesture of all, the one that you will see used when you are buying a house from GoDutch Realty. When you’re ready for such a successful hand gesture, contact us.
Practice these hand gestures and become an expert on communicating with the local residents without an accent.
Special thanks to my assistant Shirley Chamorro for being a patient model.
The grammar of the Spanish version of this blog was checked and corrected by Wagner Freer of Spanish School for Residents and Expats. We strongly recommend this language school as your best choice to learn Spanish, click here to contact them.