Living with a Costa Rican Family


When studying abroad, sometimes it’s stressful to live with a family that has different customs, and speaks a different language. At ICADS we know this, so today we want to share with you some general information and rules about the Costa Rican families which are part of ICADS community.


  • Students have access to basic appliances such as stoves, washing machines, ovens, TV sets, and, in many cases, computers and Internet.
  • Students should keep in mind that services such as electricity and phones are very expensive. They are expected to make very rational use of them.
  • The price of heating water is costly. If students are used to singing or dreaming too long in the shower, it is very expensive for the family.
  • Students are supposed to ask for permission if they want to use the phone. If they are given permission, it is recommended to keep calls very short and use a local calling card at all times.
  • Internet access might be available; however, its use is restricted. Why? Because students are expected to interact with the family as much as possible and not to isolate themselves in front of a computer.

  • Costa Ricans tend to be very clean, therefore the houses can be very small but tidy! Some places are more humid or dusty than others therefore sweeping, mopping and dusting can be frequent activities in your house.
  • Host mothers will have to clean/sweep/dust student’s room often and change the sheets at least once a week.
  • Students are not allowed to keep food in their room.
  • Personal hygiene is a big issue here. Everyone, local or not, is expected to take at least one daily shower. Body odors can be interpreted as disrespectful or offensive.
  • Because of septic tank systems, most bathrooms will have a basket next to the toilet where you should be throwing toilet paper, sanitary napkins, tampons, etc.

  • In general, Costa Ricans show their affection physically: they kiss and hug often.
  • Costa Ricans are courteous and expect everyone to say “Buenos días” in the morning and “Buenas noches” when leaving or going to bed at night. When asking for something, they always say “por favor”. And “gracias” is always a must! If someone sneezes, normally everyone around says “Salud!”
  • Before starting to eat a meal in the company of others, as well as when approaching someone who is having a meal, Costa Ricans say “Buen provecho” or just “Provecho”.
  • Table manners can also be an issue but it shouldn’t be much different from being a guest anywhere.
  • Most of the families don’t like anyone walking around barefoot. It’s considered unhealthy.
  • Costa Ricans, in general, like to handle everything with care, so students are not supposed to slam doors (in the house and elsewhere) or throw things around.



  • Host families will provide 2 daily meals: breakfast and dinner. Students are expected to try typical Costa Rican food, which at all times should be plenty and varied.
  • For Costa Ricans, feeding people well is a demonstration of affection. Sometimes, students feel their family is trying to overfeed them. If this happens, students should tell them that you usually do not eat that much (“No como tanto”).
  • If students have to skip a meal, they are supposed to inform their family on time.
  • They should also let their family know if they are not going to be home on time to have dinner.
  • Students must inform their family if they plan to be away for the weekend.
  • Families expect students to be respectful of their homes and avoid the use of alcohol.
  • Students are not expected to do work around the house such as cleaning the house, babysitting, etc. However, it would be a way of integrating yourself into the household more quickly (help wash dishes, etc.).
  • Bring sturdy clothes and consider leaving expensive clothes at home.
  • Women may be expected to wash their own underwear.
  • Host mothers will show each student where to put their dirty clothes. She will do the laundry at least once a week.
  • Costa Ricans are very patient. If they speak too fast, students need only to tell them: “más despacio, por favor.” They will slow down and will be supportive.
  • Students have to insist that they need corrections with their Spanish. Many Costa Ricans think correcting people is rude.
  • Costa Ricans are often very conservative. They do not like conflict and are sometimes uncomfortable with intense discussions. It is best to discuss political and religious issues gently with families.
  • Light sleepers should consider earplugs. Host family houses are located in urban neighborhoods, where street noises might be quite annoying.


It is important for you to know that most of our families have been housing our students for over 3 years, and many of them have worked for ICADS for more than 7 years. We carefully choose the family that best meets every student’s needs. However, keep in mind that each family has its own rules and they are expected to follow them.

When coming to Costa Rica, students are never isolated from other classmates. Host families are located in clusters, in urban neighborhoods around ICADS, within a 20 minute walk or bus ride. Thus, students walk together from their homes to ICADS.

We hope this information will be useful to make your stay in Costa Rica more pleasant.  ¡Pura vida!!

Share this Post