The slang of Costa Rica is as rich as the culture of the country itself. When you’re traveling in the pura vida country down south, you might run into the words una teja. The enterprising tourist may go scrambling for his or her Lonely Planet phrasebook only to encounter the following unhelpful definition: “a roof tile.” Surely these smooth-talking Ticos can’t all be roofers …
Though its origins remain obscure, the slang term una teja came to stand for 100 colones in Costa Rican currency, the same way a speaker from the United States might call a dollar a buck. Over time, una teja came to refer to 100 of anything. How many kilometers are we from San José? Una teja. And now, una teja has transcended currency and quantity altogether. Simply put, una teja means perfect, 100%, brilliant, fantastic. Though I’m certainly too old to get away with saying this myself, a millennial might phrase it thusly: keep it 100.
Along with pura vida, una teja is an oft-repeated Tico mantra that reflects both the style of life in Costa Rica, and the great pride that Costa Ricans take in their customs and culture. It’s one of those phrases that sticks in your head — una teja — and after enough time in Costa Rica, exploring its pristine beaches, its flourishing jungles and forests, its engaging capital city and the vibrant nightlife to be found therein, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better phrase to sum up your experience. There are places on earth that defy description. When it comes to natural beauty, cultural diversity and excellent surf, nowhere else compares to Costa Rica. If you find yourself at a loss for words, feel free to let Americanos and Ticos alike know that your time in Costa Rica was una teja.
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