Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Work in Costa Rica

No, this isn't a how-to on getting a work visa. I'm going to introduce a few Costa Rican words that relate to work. Consider the following:

Brete, also used as a verb bretear, means job. This is a slang word, something you wouldn't find in the paper or on the news. However, Ticos will use this word in informal situations.

Oficio is another word for work, but it refers to household chores. In Costa Rica this is traditionally a woman's work. (I don't make the rules, I swear.) In rural areas you'll often hear women say "I need to get back home to hacer el oficio." (Please excuse the Spanglish.) This usually involves mopping the tile floors and, in rural areas, sweeping ceilings for cobwebs, termites, or wasp nests.

Terms for remuneration include chamba, which is a considerable amount of earnings, as well as una millonada, which would be a huge amount of money in the millions of colones, which essentially means thousands of US dollars. (Millonada is used most frequently in reference to lottery earnings.) These aren't particularly Tico words, but I hear them used often nonetheless.

Perhaps the most important work vocabulary has to do with what some would consider passive income. (Hey, it's no knock the Ticos--who doesn't like free money?) Pensión can refer to a pension earned after retirement ('retired' in Costa Rican Spanish is 'pensionado' whether or not the retiree has a pension to speak of), which for many government employees equals full pay for life. Pensión also refers to the child support that a Tico pays for each child not in his custody. Fortunately, the Costa Rican government does a good job of enforcing child support laws. Unfortunately, however, many Costa Rican men make a habit of having children with multiple women. (Again, don't blame the messenger--I don't make the rules!) I really don't know how they do it....well at least the part about them actually paying all that child support. Kids are expensive--even in Costa Rica.

Alright, good talk.



Erin said...

Great article! Just one small addition: as you know, at the end of each year, Costa Rican workers receive an aguinaldo, which is basically a bonus equivalent to one month's salary. Oh, to be a tico! :)

Thomas Carmona said...

I actually wrote my next article right before reading your comment. Thanks for the reminder, though. I don't know how I left that out the first time!