Expat Life In Managua, Nicaragua

Why Carol And Mike Chose To Reinvent Their Lives In Nicaragua

Carol Cobb and her husband Mike moved from West Virginia to Managua, Nicaragua, 12 years ago, with their young daughter. Their second daughter was born in Nicaragua a couple of years later, and Carol has spent the past dozen years building a life and raising her children in her family’s adopted country.

Why did this couple of Americans choose Nicaragua as the place to reinvent their lives? Mike perceived business opportunity, and he and Carol both liked the opportunity Nicaragua seemed to present for a more back-to-basics lifestyle. Many of us yearn nostalgically for simpler times and the way of life we remember from our own childhoods. In Nicaragua, Carol and Mike have found this for their children…along with the investment opportunity that got Mike’s attention a dozen years ago. They’re enjoying a family-focused life while Mike is building a legacy business.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it has been. It has not, however, always been easy…as Carol explained to the group assembled for last week’s Live and Invest in Nicaragua event in Managua…

“When we decided we were moving to Nicaragua, we packed up a container full of furniture, toys, and our car, everything we had, really, and we moved it here with us. In fact, we sent the container about a month before we made the move ourselves. So when we got here, the container was already in the country.

“I went the very first day to ask about it. I could see my container on the docks. They told me, ‘OK, no problem, tomorrow we can bring it to your house.’

“So I went every day that week, and every day they would tell me tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. I had a 2-year-old baby and no one to watch her for me, so she came along every time. After a week of visiting every day, they told me I was going to need to have the bill of lading translated into Spanish. I just burst into tears.

“When I cried, they released my container and took it to my house.

“Today, 12 years later, it’s much easier to find what you need in Nicaragua. So much more furniture, household goods, electronics, etc., are available here in Managua now. If I were to move here today, I would sell everything in the States and just buy it all new when I got here.

“One of the biggest practical challenges when we arrived here was getting around Managua. There were no street signs. I had a map, but it’s hard to follow a map without street signs. This has gotten a lot better, though. Now you can use Garmen and even Google Maps, but you need to count the number of blocks to see how far it is to your destination.

“Directions are always unusual. If somebody invites you over to their house, they are going to tell you something like: ‘From such-and-such landmark you are going to go two blocks toward the lake and two blocks east and then it’s the blue house with the green gate.’

“Each city is different. In Managua, toward the lake means north, but in Granada, toward the lake means east. It’s important to know the lingo in the city you are navigating.

“Something else you need to understand is that, if you are in a hurry in Nicaragua, you are the only one who is. Say you are in the grocery store, picking up a couple of things on the way to a meeting. You’re running late, and there is one person in front of you. That person might say to the cashier, ‘Hold on a minute. I forgot a few things…’ and then go back into the store to do more shopping. You just have to wait. You have no choice except to adjust to the reality that you are the only person stressed out about time.

“So those are some of the challenges of living here. What are some of the benefits?

“One that may surprise you is the medical care. I have been super happy with the care available here in Managua. We have a brand-new hospital, and, for less urgent care, we’ve found great doctors. I have the home number of my pediatrician. When one of my kids is sick, I can call their doctor at home and give him the symptoms. When we go in for an appointment, whether for myself or my kids, the doctor sits with us for as long as it takes. There is no hurry, and he really listens to what we’re saying.

“And it’s super inexpensive. We pay US$45 to see the doctor. The lab work is done immediately. I’ve gone in, feeling bad, and my doctor has told me to run down to the lab, get the blood work, then bring the results back up to him. He’s able to diagnose me and prescribe treatment right away. It’s not this long process that you undergo in the States, and it’s all so much less expensive.

“My oldest daughter Amanda needed surgery on both feet when she was 11. After investigating the options, we chose to have the surgery performed here in Nicaragua as opposed to in the United States, The doctor we found here teaches at a U.S. medical school, and we felt very comfortable with him. The experience was unbelievably positive and successful. The cost was US$1,500 per foot, including the overnight stay in the hospital and all other costs.

“Dentistry, too, is super inexpensive. It’s US$30 to have your teeth cleaned. My daughter Amanda wore braces for 18 months; she just had them removed. The total cost was less than US$1,500, including the retainer she now has. And we’re really happy with the result.

“Cosmetics procedures are readily available. You can have Botox and fillers right at the salon where you’re having your hair done. Again, it’s super inexpensive compared with elsewhere.

“Many of the doctors here speak English. You can request this when making your appointment.

“The cost and quality of medical care in this country is a big benefit. There are smaller benefits, too. One nice benefit for us are the movie theaters. We have VIP movie theaters here where you can watch a first-run movie in English while being served dinner—wine, sushi, etc.—in a fully reclining chair. You pay for the food separately, of course, but the movie ticket is just US$6.

“Another nice benefit of living here for me has been to do with my car. Whenever it breaks down or I hear a rumble, I call my mechanic and he comes right over. He comes to my home and works on the car in my garage. He’ll figure out what’s wrong and go out to get the parts then come back to make the repairs. When the repair is going to take longer than a day, I can call the rental car company and they will bring a car to me. It’s super easy, unlike what I remember from when I was living in the United States. I remember it being complicated and hard and crying when the mechanic told me how much it was going to cost. Here it is very affordable.

“Why are we still here 12 years later? Really, because we love it. Mike and I have considered the idea of moving back to the States a couple of times, but, each time, we’ve made lists of the pros and cons, West Virginia versus Managua. And every time our life in Managua wins…”

Kathleen Peddicord

Continue reading: Making A Plan For Retiring To Panama

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