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Dress Code Change. Shorts are OK!

January 27th, 2009

shortsLast year, I was visiting an inmate err friend at the Costa Rica nacional funny farm err Psychiatric Hospital. I drove up to the gate and requested entry, but the guard told me I could not enter because I was wearing shorts.   I thought he was joking… but no.  It was a rule. Needless to say I was more than a bit torqued at this.  I said nothing as too many times foreigners (read that as Gringos) act in a manner that 1. makes us look like a bunch of arrogant buttheads and 2 one seldom wins these battles.

I went back  home, changed into long pants, and returned.   They let me in.

In and around San Jose, shorts are common daily wear for many North Americans and in the past few years, I see more and more Ticos in shorts.  Some years ago, that was hardly ever seen. Ticos eschewed short pants, but the culture is changing.   Shorts at the beaches are common, of course, for everyone.

Anyway… I asked my wife about this at dinner and sure enough… many government buildings do not permit folks to enter unless properly dressed. In this case, the shorts were a no-no and I discovered that they are not permitted in many other locations as well.  I added this tidbit to my knowledge base and moved on.  I even added it as one of the Odds and Ends in The REAL Costa Rica web site.

Well someone (in this case a Tico), did not take kindly to being refused entry to the Registro Nacional, the location where just about all records (real estate, corporations, etc) are maintained.  The difference is that, being a Tico, he filed a complaint with Sala IV, the Costa Rica constitutional court…. and he won!

Sala IV made it very clear that people can pretty much dress any way they please when visiting government buildings.  This ruling does not apply to private businesses of course. They can still set their own rules.

16 Responses to “Dress Code Change. Shorts are OK!”

  1. Mario on January 27, 2009 9:21 am

    Reminds me of something like 10 years ago, when schools had set regulations on allowable length of hair, use of jewlery, and so forth. Eventually it made its way up to the courts and the regulations had to be dropped.

    Although you have to wonder, at what point a cigar stops being a cigar. Under the court ruling a public office is now basically incapable of enforcing regulations out of consideration for “most of the public”. So, what happens to “most of the public”‘s right to not be offended by those few specimens that have absolutely no sense of coherence, hygene or style in their dress code?

  2. Tim on January 27, 2009 9:38 am

    Nice web site (blog) you have Mario…

    Not sure about most of the public. What I do know is that I hope and prey that CR does not follow the lead of the US in controlling people’s lives. Obviously, there has to be limits and I am sure there are those who will push those limits. As for me… leave people alone. But I am just a visitor, albeit permanently… just my thoughts.

  3. miguel on January 27, 2009 9:44 pm

    Speaking about funny farms…the words of an old song come to mind…sometimes I’m not sure if it’ll be me or my wife that will join them first… 🙂

    They’re coming to take me away, HA HA
    They’re coming to take me away, HO HO HEE HEE HA HA
    To the funny farm
    Where life is beautiful all the time
    And I’ll be happy to see
    Those nice, young men
    In their clean, white coats
    And they’re coming to take me away, Ha-haaa!

    I’m all for comfort…when we were living on Maui…shorts and an aloha shirt was standard wear…although there’s place’s where it would have been out of line and we dressed accordingly…just old school I suppose.

  4. JC on January 28, 2009 6:34 am

    We, as Gringos have become very lax as “anything goes”. Being lazy Americans makes us appear as if we do not subscribe to any code of conduct or appearance. In the USA many years ago, a man would not leave the house without his hat (this is why the military, I am sure still requires servicemen to have proper headdress). If the rule said no shorts, I, personally would say that if that were the rule, I have two choices: comply or leave.

    Just my humble opinion.

    Thank you,


  5. Stan on January 28, 2009 7:32 am

    Interesting. For 10 years, I have always arrived wearing slacks and buttoned shirt so as not to offend anyone with my Gringo-ness (although I am a white African). Never would I dare wear a T-shirt or shorts while in San Jose. But as soon as I clear the city limits on my way to my home in Dominical, I pull over and change to beach attire. Did the same on the return trip. But even knowing that the rules are relaxed, I am sure that I will continue the practice. Even though the rules may have changed, the culture will remain intact for years to come.

  6. lisa on January 30, 2009 11:39 am

    hello, is there still a way to email you? my email using the link you provided has received failure notices…

  7. Tim on January 30, 2009 3:55 pm

    You should have your reply by now. You got caught in the SPAM trap.

  8. SkipEurope on February 1, 2009 3:14 pm

    Nice blog.

    @Mario: why should style be important? Every human is an individuum with his own style, so there should be no limits at what people should wear. I don’t understand how someone can be offended by someones elses clothes as it does not affect your life in any way.

  9. Leena on December 29, 2009 11:52 am


    I’m going to Costa Rica on Dec. 31st, 2009 (in two days) with two girlfriends and we are staying in Alajuela our first night… We’d love to find a restaurant or bar or party to celebrate the New Year’s… Any ideas??? Thanks in advance!


  10. Jerry on March 30, 2010 4:56 am

    “I don’t understand how someone can be offended by someones elses clothes as it does not affect your life in any way.”

    We have a saying in my culture (Mangalore, India) “one should eat what one desires, but must dress what others approve.” Of course, this is an old saying, the modern generation has thrown caution to wind causing frequent friction between different cultures and ethnicity. In a diverse culture modest dressing (or dress code) should be the norm.

    P.S. Dear Tim, it has now become a daily routine to browse your website and blog which I enjoy immensely.

    Jerry, Abu Dhabi

  11. Tim on March 30, 2010 12:31 pm

    Why thank you!

  12. Sandi Hummer on June 22, 2010 12:04 pm

    My sister’s husband was in the Air Force and was deployed to Madrid Spain back in the 50’s. While there, they truly fell in love with the country, the town and their culture, however, there were self imposed dress codes dictated by that culture. If a woman were to wear jeans, capri’s or slacks, anywhere at all, the elderly women in their black dresses and head shawls would spit on them and call them names.

    How times have changed.

  13. ana cristina on September 18, 2010 1:05 pm

    Now a days Dress code is very important for public place. our young craze are wearing some unexpected dress and they are following some irresponsible person.so that …………. thanks for your post.

  14. charlie on October 19, 2011 10:00 am

    I find it amusing that at home many people complain of others coming to our country and want to keep their culture with them which include a dress code, then we go to other countries and want to keep our culture and find it odd that they would object to that, I guess we are just like everyone else after all and not something special.

  15. Texas Brown on November 18, 2011 11:29 am

    I was born and raised in the Philippines, almost 100 percent of students (grade to high school) wore khaki shorts. Visited Jeda, Saudi Arabia and was criticed by the local religious police for wearing shorts. I was in the looby heading to the pool. I was stationed in Germany, where the women prefer to bare all in the pool or resorts.

    If I lived in CR, I would wear long pants everywhere (except to the beach).

  16. Nancy on November 7, 2012 1:53 am

    I want to thank you for a superb website. Now that the people here in the U.S. has re-elected Obama, I am looking for a new country. Reading your info has made me decide that I would not fit in Costa Rica. But, I did want to let you know how much I appreciated your information. I wish every country had someone that would do this.

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