Why did you choose to move to Nicaragua?
My wife and I vacationed in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua on multiple occasions. When it came time to choose a place to live, the decision was easy. We currently live in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. It reminds us of our favorite beach town in Costa Rica, but the decade old version.
Costa Rican prices are similar to Canada, but prices in Nicaragua are seemingly rolled back to a decade ago. In San Juan del Sur I can still find a restaurant that serves lunch with a beer for under $5. Travel outside of my little tourist village prices drop considerably.
We love the raw authenticity Nicaragua has to offer. We didn’t want to live in a sea of American chain restaurants. There are some cruise ships that pull into our port, but most are whisked away to the Colonial City of Granada.
What were the hardest things to adjust to?
There were definitely a couple of things that were tricky to adjust to. The obvious one is language. We didn’t speak any Spanish when we moved to Nicaragua, but a month of lessons set us on the right track.
One thing we didn’t think about was shopping. We don’t have a Walmart on every corner, so instead we go to dozens of mom-and-pop shops to find all the things that most people are used to shopping for in one stop. We often drive two hours to the capital city of Managua to get variety in our items. Ordering from online shops like Amazon are not easy, as many items will be held to pay duty.
How did the people around you see you when you first moved? And now?
I’d guess the Nicas thought we were lost when we first moved to Nicaragua. We were living in a tiny beach village with vacation homes for wealthy Nicaraguans who only came for holidays. Most of the time it was just us, and a town full of people whose language we didn’t speak.
I vividly remember Christmas Day. The town was packed full of vacationing Nicaraguans. The restaurants were all completely full and we had no real food in our kitchen. We thought our Christmas dinner was going to be rice and a can of tuna. We peeked into our favorite restaurant, and the owner told us to wait.
She dragged a table out of the kitchen, then went around the restaurant to find two empty chairs. She said she wanted to take care of the locals, as the tourists would be gone in a few days.
I found it amazing that after only a month she considered us locals, and all of the Nicaraguans just tourists. I felt lost in the beginning, but I think the Nicas knew we were where we belonged.
Since then, we have helped raise funds for children’s scholarships, started an animal outreach program, and physically helped neighbors build their homes. But it’s just as important to wave, smile, and stop to talk to everyone we know. We’ve felt accepted and welcomed since the beginning, but now I feel like we have earned our spot in the community.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of moving abroad?
Anyone moving here should read everything they can find in books, Facebook groups, Google, and blogs.
They should then go on an exploration trip to test drive the country. Don’t stay in some swanky vacation home or hotel; stay somewhere closer to the area you might live in. Shop for food and cook some meals.
Most importantly, meet up with as many expats as you can. Gain their perspective, but more importantly, see if you are willing to fit into the community. Moving somewhere isn’t so much about living in a different country, but living in a different community. Get out there and meet your future neighbours to see if these are the people you want to spend your days with.
About Gordon & Elisha
Gordon and Elisha are a Canadian couple who left their corporate jobs behind for a new life in Nicaragua. They decided possessions were far less important than experiences and quality time spent together. Now the couple helps new expats with home finder and relocation services to Nicaragua, and run the blog In Nica Now.