Culture, Conduct, and Customs
- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
Nicaraguans are generally open, talkative, and hospitable. In most areas of the country, Nicaraguans are accustomed to seeing foreigners, but they are still curious—and not very discreet about it. Expect blunt questions right off the bat about your age, marital status, and your opinions about Nicaragua. The reaction is nearly always one of curiosity, hospitality, and friendliness.
Despite their directness, Nicaraguans are prone to circuitous, indirect behavior associated with the cultural concept of “saving face.” When asked something they don’t know, people often invent an answer so that neither party is embarrassed (this is especially true about directions and distances; as Allan Weisbecker observed, “no one, no one, south of the Mexican border has any idea how long it takes to go from anywhere to anywhere else”).
Business contracts are rife with implied obligations neither party wants to discuss openly, even simple payment details and the work to be done.
Many Nicaraguan city dwellers are, in fact, recently immigrated campesinos, and they often bring their country ways—and livestock—with them to the city.
Anti-Americanism, in our experience, is rare, Nicaraguans being particularly adept at distinguishing between a nation’s people and its government’s policy. In addition, because most Nicaraguan families adore cable TV and have at least one relative sending money back from Miami, Houston, or Los Angeles, many are quite fond of the United States and maintain the dream of traveling there one day.
The word “gringo” is used more often as a descriptive, casual term for anyone who comes from north of the Mexican border. In rare cases, it is meant as an insult (in which case, it will likely be preceeded by “pinche”).
Likewise for chele, chela, and their diminutives, chelito and chelita, all of which simply mean pale or light-skinned, and are in no way disrespectful. In fact, many cries of, “¡Oye, chele!” (“Hey, whitey!”) are used as much for light-skinned Nicaraguans as for foreigners.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition