Managua, Nicaragua Report of what it's like to live there - 02/23/08

Personal Experiences from Managua, Nicaragua

Managua, Nicaragua 02/23/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Third expat experience - I have also lived in Central America and South Asia prior.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I have an assignment at the U.S. Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

One stop usually from U.S. (Either Atlanta, Miami or Houston).

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Crummy USAID housing but OK to great for State Department housing.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Comparable to Washington, DC.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Everything is available at Pricemart!

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Decent restaurants but few that will rank with Zagat!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

About US$40 - $70/week for full time maid. Nannys are available as well.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Let your bank know that you will be going to Nicaragua. Our credit card was shut off with a fraud alert after we arrived. Credit card fraud does take place.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes - Catholic, Mormon, 7th Day Adventist and Non-Denominational.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Cable/Satellite TV is available.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to have basic Spanish at a minimum.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There are huge difficulties. With the exception of the Embassy facilities, there are not many handicapped accessible buildings.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Same as the U.S.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxi's don't have any meters and people have had issues with drivers ripping off non-Nicaraguans.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

There are dealers for Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Mazda. Most U.S. families have an SUV.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

OK - DSL costs approximately US$50/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Enitel has the better coverage and everyone in Nicaragua has a cell phone.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Internet phone.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are many pets at post with OK vets. There are no great kennels so boarding is usually with other families at the embassy.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No - just occasional EFM jobs at the Embassy or teaching jobs at one of the international schools.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It depends on the section - usually business casual to business.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Petty crime is on the increase. People had items stolen from their cars.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Occasional we have stomach issues but the health unit and Vivian Pellas Hospital are good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Dry season and rainy season. We loved the climate.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Levels of satisfaction vary but one can chose from American Nicaraguan School, Lincoln School (Christian) and Nicaraguan Christian Academy.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not sure what they do at the school, but nothing is done for special needs grown ups in the Embassy!

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are OK preschools in the Las Colinas neighborhood.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Growing - presently about 100 official with an ever increasing amount of expats in the beach towns on the Pacific Ocean.

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2. Morale among expats:

Poor to OK but with the summer transfer season it could improve. This is one of the more difficult and non-cohesive Embassies we've worked in.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Restaurants, a few bars/clubs and frequent events at people's houses.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for families and couples. Singles complain about a depleted dating pool as Nicaraguans often marry quite young.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not sure, but there is at least one GLBT nightclub.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is a strong class structure and many Asian and Black FSO/LES personnel have reported difficulties and/or open discrimination.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Shopping at one of the two malls, traveling around Nicaragua. Some personnel fish, mountain bike, hike and surf too.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Great ceramics and hammocks.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes - unless you are traveling out of Nicaragua often.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Tough question - We loved the country but it was a very difficult embassy in which to work.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Skis, sleds and expectation that anything in Nicaragua will ever be done when it is promised.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, patience, beach gear, and an onward assignment with a departure date!

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

From Friday afternoon to Monday morning, we loved Nicaragua, but the work week almost threatened our love for this beautiful country. The reduction in Post Differential from 15% to 10%, due to an oversight at Post, had a big impact on the decreasing morale.

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