October 27, 2011

Costa Rica: The Bosnia-Herzegovina of Central America

Can I just say something? This flag is awesome.

I came to Costa Rica in 2006 and it wasn't long before I heard one of Costa Rica's unofficial nicknames: "The Switzerland of Central America." 

"Hmm," I thought, "That interesting." Coincidentally, the only time I had been to Switzerland was just a few months before I got here, and I was curious about the comparison because frankly, I didn't see it. (See here, here, and here for more details and ideas about this nickname). I asked a few people and apparently it got this reputation because both countries are sort of peaceful and democratic in areas that are frequently neither. And both have lots of mountains and cows. Sure, I agreed with those points but beyond those, I didn't see many more similarities to Switzerland. A safe haven for banks where trains run on time? Not exactly. A reputation for transparency and efficiency? Yeah, right. Watches? No. Pocketknives? Well, they do have a lot of machetes here, but they're hardly discreet. Yodeling and shit? Try again. The more I thought about this, the more I became convinced that it was just a ploy by some Costa Rican tourism agency.

But then one day while eating cereal I was reading the statistics in the back of my atlas (as I like to do) and I noticed something: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Costa Rica are almost the same size (Bosnia is the 127th-largest country and Costa Rica the 128th). Then I started noticing a few other similarities. Let's break a few of the main ones down, shall we? I found some general stats for each country on Wikipedia (Costa Rica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Switzerland). We'll consider it a contest-- the closest country to Costa Rica for each category wins!

AREA OF COUNTRY:
Costa Rica: 19,653 square miles (128th)
B-H: 19,741 square miles (127th)
Switzerland: 15,940 square miles (133rd)
Winner, Bosnia vs. Switzerland: Bosnia-Herzegovina!

POPULATION (2010/2011 estimate):
Costa Rica: 4,608,426 (123rd)
B-H: 3,843,126 (129th)
Switzerland: 7,866,500 (95th)
Winner: Bosnia-Herzegovina!

GDP* (Per capita, nominal, 2010/2011 estimate):
Costa Rica: $7,843
B-H: $4,702
Switzerland: $75,835
Winner: Bosnia-Herzegovina!

Intentional Homicide (aka Murder, 2008, per 100,000 people):
Costa Rica: 11
B-H: 1.8
Switzerland: .71
Winner (aka Loser): Bosnia-Herzegovina!
(Sad Fact: The USA's score was 5.4 on this)

Costa Rica: 3
B-H: 0
Switzerland: 9
Winner: Bosnia-Herzegovina!

TOTAL SCORE: 
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA 5 : 0 SWITZERLAND

So, as you can see, Costa Rica may have cows, but in the end it's got more in common with Bosnia-Herzegovina than the famously-neutral watchmakers of Switzerland.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


*As indicated, this is using nominal GDP, not PPP GDP; if PPP were used, neither Bosnia nor Costa Rica would look as impoverished on paper... but I don't really know much about PPP since I'm not an economist.

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2 comments:

Lucy said...

dangerous dangerous water you choose to sail in matey-boy, for one awaiting his costa rican citizenship to be resolved. they might even decide to cast you out from the "we are all americans" for this one!

Sitzman said...

Wait, is that what you thought I was saying this while time? I was actually saying "We're all BOSNIANS"! And there's nothing wrong with that, of course. I'd actually like to go to Bosnia. One day, perhaps...