Carol Cobb is a wife and mother of two school-aged daughters from West Virginia. For the past 13 years, she and her family have been full-time residents of Managua, Nicaragua. Carol participated in our Live and Invest in Nicaragua Conference last week with a presentation on navigating life in the country where she and her husband have chosen to raise their children.
“One of the biggest advantages we’ve found living in Nicaragua is that we have a lot more time as a family,” Carol told the group. “My husband is running a business, and our daughters are both teenagers now… so we’re busy! But it’s not a hectic lifestyle. Family is very important in this culture, and we’re really enjoying that.”
The focus on family is important for Carol, but it’s not the only benefit of living in Nicaragua she highlighted for the conference group. Another big advantage is the cost of living. Carol and her family are living a very high-end lifestyle on a budget that wouldn’t even qualify as middle class in the United States. They’re living in a big house in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Managua. They have lots of help, meaning no chores and, again, more time for family and leisure. Carol has a full-time maid, a full-time gardener, and a driver to help with errands and taking the kids to dance classes, school activities, etc. In the States, she’d never be able to afford this kind of support.
Carol and her husband Mike eat out every week, often with friends. They have five-star, fine-dining options, and they never have to worry that a nice dinner out isn’t in the budget.
“Nicaragua is not only really affordable,” Carol explained to the group. “It’s also healthy. First because the focus is on family. This makes for a generally happy, healthy lifestyle. In addition, food is local and organic. I have fresh, organic produce delivered to my house each week for a cost of just US$8 per bag.”
Another thing Carol says she prefers in Nicaragua compared with the United States is the medical care.
“Dealing with a hospital here,” she explains, “is simple and straightforward; you don’t get the runaround. You aren’t directed from doctor to clerk to other doctor and so on, like you often are in the States. And, like everything else, medical care here is cheap. One of my daughters got braces recently. The total cost is US$1,500. Full braces would cost at least double that in the United States.”
Of course, life in Nicaragua is not without its challenges.
“There are certainly some disadvantages and things you’ll have to get used to,” Carol told the group. “Getting mail, for instance, isn’t what it is in the United States. Here it’s a much more complicated thing. You don’t just have a mailbox in front of your house. We have a NicaBox, which is essentially a postal box where our mail is delivered. Then we go to collect it from the NicaBox office. The cost for this service is US$25 to US$30 a month.
“Shopping is another challenge, “Carol says. “We do most of our clothes shopping in the United States, because there just isn’t much selection here.
“You have a variety of options for grocery shopping. You can get any imported American foods you might want, for example, but you’ll pay for them. That is, they’ll cost more than they would in the States, and certainly they’ll cost much more than local products. If you stick with locally produced food, though, your grocery bill will be a fraction what you’re spending now.”
Other challenges of family life in Nicaragua?
“After living here 13 years, I’d say we’re over this hump,” Carol told the group, “but another challenge you need to be prepared for is to do with the culture. You need to be ready to embrace the Nicaraguan way of life. For us, this was a big part of the fun. Looking back, I wouldn’t say this has been as much a challenge for us as it has been an opportunity and an adventure.
“We have many Nicaraguan friends now, and our daughters do, too. Some of our best memories of life here are times we’ve been invited over to our friends’ and neighbors’ houses. We’ve so enjoyed the chances to experience Nicaraguan life up close in that way.
“One important thing we’ve learned is that, if you get invited over to a Nicaraguan’s house for dinner, don’t show up on time. A half-hour late can be ok, but an hour late is more appropriate. Show up sooner and you risk catching your hostess undressed… as we’ve learned the hard way!”