Welcome Neutral / Spanish / English supporter (delete as appropriate). So you would like to support Costa Rica for the rest of the World Cup? Good choice! But in case you haven’t made up your mind…
Why support Costa Rica?
- Everybody loves an underdog, and we are the underdog’s underdog. Costa Rica were favourites to finish bottom of Group D before the World Cup started, and were 499/1 against to reach the final.
- We are friendly, happy people.
- We do not have an army, it was abolished in 1949 by the winner of a civil war that was declared to defeat an electoral fraud. We are living evidence that you can spend on health and education instead of weapons.
- More than 25% of the country is either a national park or protected area.
- You can claim that you supported Costa Rica before it was cool.
So that’s settled then, we are worthy of support. In order to enhance your experience as an honorary Tico, here is a list of things that you should know about the country and its people.
Basic language and culture
Even if you speak Spanish fluently, there are key words that you need to learn. These words are so embedded in our culture that you cannot possibly understand Costa Rica without knowing them, and their deep cultural meaning.
- Tica / Tico: Costa Rican person, comes from a tendency to use a diminutive to describe things: chiquitica (very small), pobrecitico (very poor).
- Pura Vida. Literally “pure life”, it’s not just a phrase, it’s a way of looking at the world. Life is to be enjoyed to the maximum, happiness is what really matters. It is a statement of courteous intent, it is used as a greeting and a parting salute. It is used in agreement and assent. It means that you are happy with the world, and the world acts accordingly.
- Mae. This word cannot be translated, the closest approximation would be “man”, or “dude”, but those words fail to convey the cultural depth of “mae”. Everyone in Costa Rica is a mae (except your mother of course). The girl next door is a mae. The president is a mae. Your boss is a mae. If the Queen was Costa Rican, she would also be a mae. Costa Rica is fiercely egalitarian, we are all supposed to be the same and nobody should rise above the rest. Because we are all maes, you have to respect the person next to you as an equal. This can have disadvantages, as it can be used to bring down people and to spread mediocrity as a national mindset.
- Chunche. The most useful word in the Costa Rican dictionary, “chunche” means everything. The car is “el chunche”, the chair is “el chunche” where you sit, the computer is that chunche that you use to connect to Facebook (known as “el Feis”), the phone is “el chunche” that you use to talk to people.
- Tuanis. Legend has it that it comes from “too nice”, and it means exactly that. “Que tuanis esa chemise, mae!” means “I really like your shirt!”. Edited: It seems like the word comes from Malespín.
- Pobrecito / Pobrecitica. Poor person (can be used as the equivalent of “awwww”). In Costa Rica it is used mostly to give someone some leeway: “Pobrecito! Let’s give him another chance”. It has permeated into the national culture, and it is now seen as a negative feature of being Costa Rican, we just don’t like giving people a hard time, which means that we are always under-achievers. I believe that Jorge Luis Pinto has managed to eradicate the pobrecito culture from the national team.
If you master those words, you will be able to have a decent conversation with any Costa Rica: “Mae, pass me the chunche, pura vida!” “That is a tuanis chunche you have there”.
Food and drink
- Gallo Pinto. The best breakfast in the world, consists of rice and beans with cilantro, onion, sweet pepper and Salsa Lizano. A full gallo pinto breakfast will also have tortilla, eggs and natilla (sour cream).
- Ceviche. Perhaps not as famous as the Peruvian variety, it is very tasty (and healthy, sort of). There are variants depending on the type of fish used, with the ultimate ceviche being the Vuelve A La Vida (come back to life).
- Guaro. The national drink, it’s a bit like cachaca and aguardiente, and goes really well with sour ingredients (check out the Guaro Sour). The term is also used as a generic word to describe all alcohol.
- Tapis. Used to describe a cocktail or mixed drink (“me voy a echar un tapis”). It is also used to describe a drunk person (“ese mae es un tapis”).
- Birra. Beer. And there is only one beer: Imperial, which you can have with ice, lemon and salt michelada style.
- Goma. After too much birra and guaro, you get a goma (“Ay mae, que goma me ando!”).
- Oeeee oeeee oeeee oeeee, Ticos, Ticos!
- Vamos, vamos los Ticos, que esta (tarde/noche) tenemos que ganar!
- Viva Heredia por media calle… ok, that is just me.
We are a nice bunch, but from time to time you really need to send a good insult when supporting a football team. You can find a full list elsewhere, but these ones should get you going:
- Burro – a dumb person
- Cabeza hueca – no brians (a hollow head)
- Chiflado – nuts (crazy)
- Don nadie – a nobody
- Vayase a freir
espárragoschurros – Go to hell! A nicer way of saying it.
- Chapa – a clumsy person.
- Jetón – a liar
- Limpio – a person with no money
- Maje – dumb or stupid (not to be confused with mae)
- Sorompo – idiot
“Arbitro sorompo” is a favourite of mine.
- Juan Santamaría. In 1856, a group of US mercenary soldiers took over Nicaragua, and were on their way to invade Costa Rica. They were stopped during a battle in
Santa RosaRivas, where Juan Santamaría set fire to a house where the gringos had placed their fortification, dying in the process. Some say that he is made-up and never existed. Says it all really.
- José Figueres Ferrer. 3-times president, Don Pepe abolished the army and set the country in a social-democratic path that increased health and education rates to levels only seen in developed countries.
- Franklin Chang Diaz. Astronaut.
- Claudia Poll. Gold medallist swimmer.
- Paulo Wanchope. He scored that amazing goal for Derby County.
- Joel Campbell. Hero in the making.
Other useful words
Tome chichí! In your face.
Plata (Silver). Money.
Güevos. Eggs, balls, cojones. Costa Rica played with güevos against Italy.
Harina (flour). Money. The fact that we have such diverse words to describe money says a lot about our psyche.
Desmadre. Disorganisation, chaos, but can be used to imply something is hilarious.
Despiche. Lots of fun, but can also be used to state that you hurt yourself (“Me caí y me despiché la madre”).
La Platina. A piece of metal covering the eponymous bridge. A national shame.
Edited to add:
Vara: Thing. See Chunche.
Chinamo. Small, dingy bar. Another source of national shame.
Combate. The First Rule of Combate is that we DO NOT talk about Combate.
There you go. Vamos los ticos, pura vida maes.