Pura Vida sign on a tree

Pura Vida: A better life

What does it mean to have a better life? Is there a checklist or a price tag? If you ask Costa Ricans, otherwise known as Ticos, the answer is “no”.  All they say is “Pura Vida”.

So what is Pura Vida?Pura Vida sign on a tree

It’s heard on the streets of Costa Rica all the time. As a greeting, a farewell, even an answer to “how are you doing”? It is used is so many different ways, it’s hard to tell at first what it even truly means. But hang around long enough, and you realize it’s hard to hear Pura Vida without seeing a smile. It’s deeper than words can truly express, it’s a way of life. An expression full of gratitude, optimism, hope and joy. Pretty much the opposite of everything you feel when you hear the word “stress”. It’s no wonder that according to the Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica is the most satisfying place to live.

Where did it come from?

It originally came from a Mexican Movie entitled “Pura Vida” in 1956. The main character in the film repeats the phrase over and over, despite a string of very bad luck. By the end of the movie, his luck turns around. “Pura Vida” took hold in Costa Rica and by the 80’s characterized the country, in contrast to other areas of Central America experiencing war.

That’s nice and all, but how does it lead to a better life?

Well, simply put, Ticos believe that life is what you make of it. The literal translation is “pure life” or “simple life”. Life is too short to worry about everything and dwell on the negative. So, Pura Vida doesn’t magically grant a better life, but it is a reminder to live with a free spirit and love for life. Try working “Pura Vida” into your vocabulary, and mind, and see if it brings a smile to your circumstances.

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