I remember during my first few weeks in Costa Rica, I was walking home from class. I was minding my own business walking up the street my house is on when I heard faint music coming from somewhere nearby. I didn’t pay much attention to it because there are plenty of people that play music all the time during the day in their houses. But as I continued to walk, the music got louder and eventually I could hear it very clearly. I was surprised when I heard English lyrics to a Michael Jackson song. I began to sing along in my head until I couldn’t hear the music anymore.
This is just one example of the many American influences from the United States that I’ve come across. It wasn’t that I was shocked that other people in different countries listened to American music; it was more the fact that all I’d heard being played in Costa Rica up until that point was Latin music. Even during my other trips abroad to Mexico and Ecuador, I barely heard American music at all, if any. Ever since that day I’ve heard various English songs that I recognize and have been surprised at how often I hear them.
I have also seen various American themed restaurants. I visited one with my friends recently that was retro themed. I can’t say this goes for every American themed restaurant I’ve seen, but at the one I visited, they served a mix of types of food. Some could be considered American such as barbeque wings or French fries, while others could be considered Costa Rican. For example, I ordered patacones (fried plantains) filled with meat and salsa. They played a lot of rock and roll and had many of the album covers of that genre decorating the walls. All of the music that was played was in English. It was definitely a different experience for me because I wasn’t aware that American themed restaurants were a thing. Costa Rica continues to pleasantly surprise me.
Movies made by American directors from the United States are also shown very often. I haven’t gone to watch one yet but I’ve seen billboards and advertisements for movies that I heard about back home. For example, I’ve seen quite a few billboards for the movie Venom, one of Spider-Man’s popular villains. I’ve been told by a few friends that have gone to the movie theater to see these advertised movies that the movie is either in Spanish with English subtitles, or in English with Spanish subtitles. Some friends and I wanted to see a Costa Rican movie and we had to go to a special theater that played them. My first thought would’ve been that Costa Rican movies would be more prevalent.
One of the reasons why I decided to come to Costa Rica was to be immersed in the culture and the language. I wasn’t exactly expecting to also still see parts of my own culture here as well. For me, I don’t mind the presence and influence of the United States here, but I also didn’t leave the country to still have access to my culture. But, I was pleasantly surprised because even though American culture is present in some aspects, I still feel like I am immersed in Costa Rican culture, which was what I wanted. American pop culture is the main cultural aspect that I’ve seen. I’ve heard it in the music, I’ve seen it in the clothes people wear, and the types of food. It’s interesting how prevalent American cultural trends can be in other countries.
Even though I’ve experienced parts of my own culture overseas, I think it can also be beneficial for me as someone from the United States to experience a culture like Costa Rica’s. You can learn so many things from other cultures in general. I think it allows someone to be more well rounded because they’re trying new foods, hearing new music, learning a different language, and living in a different environment. It can be a good thing to experience change and learn to adapt to it as well as learning to be ok with experiencing something that is different or out of your comfort zone. I know for me personally, having lived abroad three times has definitely allowed me to more efficiently deal with situations where I feel uncomfortable. Experiencing a different culture can prepare you for future life experiences.