Bueno Tardes! I have arrived in Costa Rica to 85 degree heat and 100% humidity and it feels and looks like Jurassic Park out here, only if J.P. had an airport instead of a waterfall helipad. The adventures started shortly after landing, with an unlikely suspect. As the first activity on the list, was to get some colones in my pocket so I could eat, I had to find and use an ATM, simple enough, challenge accpeted. After spending some time finding the English button on the ATM, I requested $150.00 US dollars, the next thing you know, the ATM is doing its best impression of a Las Vegas slot machines expensing 10 Mil Colones by the handfuls. The Colones looks a lot like Monopoly money except with beautiful nature scenes instead of Mr. Top Hat’s money train on the backside of them. I was afraid I had pushed the wrong button or worse put in too many zeros, and that my wife at home was going to look at the bank activity and think we now have a new winter place we could not afford. After confirming with my group and realizing the exchange rate was roughly 550.00 Colones to $1.00 American Dollar and that I had not made a mistake, and all parties accounted for, we could leave the airport, for the real adventure to start.
Sitting in the back of a red 20+ passenger bus, which had striking resemblance to the Oscar-Myer Wiener vehicle; we hit the road to our home base for the next week, Hotel Le Bergerac, about a forty-five minute drive through San Jose.
One of my favorite things to do while visiting a new place is just to observe, and the back seat of the Oscar-Myer Wiener Bus was the perfect place for me. I began looking and seeing the businesses and brands of Costa Rica, and at first they did not look to different then home. KFC, Hertz, Pizza Hut, Citi Bank, McDonalds, Volvo, Subway, (I had not eaten yet, so food was definitely on my mind) all lined the major roadway we were traveling on and for the first time, I experienced these companies as being a global brand, not just an American brand. However, something was different about these brands, it took a few hair pin curves, sudden stomping of the brakes, and a few toot of the horns, for me to realize but these brands were double-take-brands, copyrighted, right now. Similar to being at an airport when you see someone out of the corner of your and you swear it’s your friend from high school, with whom you use to listen to Blink 182 too, and when you look again you realize that in fact they are not your high school blink buddy, but someone different, these companies were not the brands I grew up with back at the states, these brands were different.
These brands had small differences that made them Costa Rican brands, under a parent umbrella of their global brand of course. The McDonald’s arches were still golden and found in their standard red box frame, but rather then advertising a Big Mac or a Mcdouble, for those who don’t frequent at the arches often these are both beef products, EL McPollo (Chicken) was the superstar product here and was clearly shown on a poster with a soccer player taking a big bite from it. Pizza Hut had the same red color and logo, but it appears to be just called the Hut, or, another pizza store borrowed the first five letters, convenient to me and my point. KFC still advertised a chicken bowl, but rather then chicken on top of a mountain of mashed potatoes with extra gravy, the chicken was placed upon white rice surrounded by steamed vegetables. It seems simple but the companies had been influenced by the culture of Costa Rica to modify their products, and image, to be successful in this market. I guess “all the small things” do make a difference for a global brand to make it locally.
And for those who are wondering, I went with the rice bowl, with chicken, mango, pineapple, and steam vegetables stirred in and washed it all down with eight glasses of water.