Why This Couple Of “Normal People” Retired To Nicaragua (And Wish They’d Made The Move Sooner)
We’re just a couple of normal people. I used to be an operational manager for a large finance firm. My wife Amy was a rep in real estate. Like many people our age, we’ve traveled overseas quite a bit. However, unlike many people any age, in 2006, we moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Managua, Nicaragua.
Now, about nine years later, we are permanent residents of Nicaragua and are considering becoming citizens. We like the idea of having two passports, plus that’d mean we wouldn’t have to renew our residency every five years.
Why Nicaragua? Like everybody, we checked in on all the usual suspects. We looked at Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Panama, but we kept coming back to Nicaragua. Over a five-year period, we stayed in Nicaragua several weeks at a time, and we liked it. I don’t know what else to tell you. We just liked it here. Beautiful country, diverse, low cost of living, which is a big factor. Plus we felt there were opportunities here for us. We knew we weren’t interested in a sunset-and-drinks-on-the-patio retirement. We knew we wanted to stay busy.
At first, we based ourselves in San Juan del Sur on the ocean, but we hated it. We sold our house there after four months. At that time, San Juan Del Sur just didn’t have couples our age. We weren’t able to connect with people who shared our interests. San Juan del Sur has changed a great deal since, but at that time we just didn’t enjoy it.
From San Juan del Sur, we moved to Granada. We bought a 150-year-old colonial house with a large patio, and we knew right away that this was the place for us. Everything in Granada is within a short walk. Most people here live within four to six blocks of the city center, so many don’t have vehicles. We’re close to Managua and the international airport, which is 35 to 45 minutes away. And the beaches are an hour-and-a-half drive away. Living in Granada really is very convenient.
Venders come to our door selling fruits, vegetables, soap, animals, about anything you could imagine. We enjoy the unexpectedness of it all.
We are extremely busy, busier than we were back in the States. Amy has an arts studio and gallery, teaches five days a week, and is on a number of community committees. I am on a library foundation, I work with the embassy, and I’m involved with a couple of other projects, including a website for expats looking to move here.
You tend to reinvent yourself when you make a move like this. I never wrote before in my life, but now I write a lot. Amy has always been in art, but she never taught before. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s something here for you to do. We’ve got the American Legion, the Rotary, Lions Club, book clubs, monthly expat dinners, volunteer organizations, church groups, health clubs, and on and on.
Plus the fishing is great, both saltwater and freshwater. We go to Managua for movies. We play golf. There are some concerts and plays. It’s a pretty good life.
The cost of living here is one of the biggest pluses. We live on about US$2,000 a month, and we live very well. We have two vehicles, and we have a maid.
Of course, life here isn’t perfect. This is a different country and a different culture. That’s why it’s interesting. For us, that’s why it’s appealing. If you are open to new experiences and willing to learn some of the language, everything will work out just fine. However, every day won’t be rosy.
One thing I’ve learned is not to push the authorities. A clerk here has complete control. So when the tax assessor comes to your neighborhood, give him dinner, house his family, and your tax will go down every year. We have a friend down the street who kept demanding her “rights as an American citizen.” Her tax bill is up 800%.
Say I’m late for work and carrying heavy things, so I decide to take a cab. I’m the second one in the taxi, and the first person is going somewhere else. I am running late, but I get to see a good part of the city before arriving at my destination. You just have to go with the flow. I’ve learned humility.
You have to remember that you are the outsider. We’ve seen some cocky Americans, for example, going up to Nicaraguans saying, “You should do it like this not like that” or “Why do you only have one fishing boat…you should have a fleet.” That kind of thinking will get you nowhere. The only thing it will do is make you unhappy.
These people know how to relax. On the happy meter they rate much higher than we do. We love Nicaragua, but it is not for everyone. Only the adventuresome need apply.
For us, though, the only regret is that we didn’t move down here sooner.
Continue reading: Top Travel Sights In Granada, Nicaragua