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What is Upe in Costa Rica?

What is Upe in Costa Rica?Everyone in Costa Rica knows what upe is. Or uuuuupeeeeeee, when you yell it. If you don’t say upe loud enough, nobody will hear you and they won’t come to the door. Do you want to know what Upe in Costa Rica is?

Alf Giebler, in his book “A lo Tico”, says that is means “is someone there?” when you are at the door of a house or a business. Constantino Lazcariz, in his book “El Costarricense” says that is means “Ave María purísima, aquí le traigo de parte de nuestra señora la Virgen de Guadalupe”. Since it’s so long, over time the sentence was shortened to upe.

Upe is definitely much easier for those of us who don’t speak much or any Spanish.

So why do you need to know about upe? Because whenever you are going to visit someone, you’re going to need to yell uuuupeeeee so the people you visit will know you’re standing at the door.

Why don’t people just have a doorbell instead of all that yelling?

You need an arm 15 feet long

You need an arm 15 feet long

The doorbell

“And the doorbell?” you might say… Ah yes, the doorbell. Most everyone one has a doorbell in Costa Rica. But we have a small problem. The doorbell either doesn’t work, because the wiring got wet in the rain so many times, they stopped fixing it or… you can’t get to it, unless your arm is 15 feet long. Let me explain.

Pots and Pans peddlers use upe while going through the neighborhood

Pots and Pans peddlers use upe while going through the neighborhood

Home Security

When we build a house in Costa Rica, we first take care of home security. So we build bars. Not the one’s where you have your beer. We build security bars, everywhere. So we feel safe. Do we need them? Well, I don’t. That’s why I did a blog on it in 2012, I hope you read it so you understand where that is coming from. These security bars and security walls stop any visitor from getting to the frontdoor of a house or even from putting a finger on the doorbell.


Most homes have a carport in front of the house, or they have a portal at the front door. Well, they always build a cage around it, just for home security. Nobody figures out that the doorbell was installed right next to the front door. So when, as a visitor, you’re standing in front of the cage, your arm will not be long enough to get to the doorbell, unless it is 15 feet long.

Power outage

During a power outage, you can worry about your fridge not working and your beers getting warm. The one thing you don’t have to worry about is that your visitors will still be able to let you know they are at the gate when they’re yelling uuuupeeee…

The broom salesman uses uuupeeeee

The broom salesman uses uuupeeeee too

The old days

Even in the old days, before we had a need for home security with security bars in the windows and around the carport, upe was used all the time. When visitors could still get to the front door to ring the bell, you could hear the upe echoing through the neighborhood.  It was customary for sales people to go walking through the neighborhoods with their merchandise. Upe was used by a variety of sales people, who maybe some of you recognize from when you were little:

  • The milkman
  • Those who sold brooms door to door
  • Bible salesmen
  • Tinsmiths who could repair your gutters
  • Eggs salesman
  • Pots and pans peddler

The milkman uses upe to let all the neighbors know he's doing the rounds

The milkman uses upe to let all the neighbors know he’s doing the rounds

Try it

Go ahead; try it out on your neighbor. You’ll find that their ears are tuned to the upe or uuuuupeeeee, depending on the age of your neighbor. You might have to yell it a couple of times, but I promise you that it works.

The best part of all of this is that once you know how to use upe in Costa Rica, you are on your way of adapting to your new home country.

When you purchase a property in Costa Rica from A GoDutch Realty agent, we’ll always hold your hand throughout the purchase process, until the day you learn to say upe. If you have not purchase a property from us yet, contact us now.

Main photo = Fashion photograph designed by Asierromero –

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I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send us. I know you all meet people on the plane, in the supermarket, at yoga, at the gym, at the Blooms ladies club, at the potluck organized by your community. Please remember the GoDutch Realty agents when you talk about your home in Costa Rica, when you meet someone who wants to purchase one, we appreciate it.

We Love your Referrals at GoDutch Realty




Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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