Before most people consider moving to another country, they usually want to know what the key differences are between the U.S. and the new area they’re thinking about. The best way to get that kind of information is to find someone who has lived abroad for a few years and can answer any of your questions. Carol Cobb is a married woman and a mother of two daughters. A few years ago, she and her family moved from the U.S. to Managua, Nicaragua, and they have been happily living there ever since. This is an interview with Mrs. Cobb about her perception of the Nicaraguan lifestyle.
Can you give me a brief description about the community you live in?
I would call it an American style community with a gate. There are about 25 to 30 homes. There are sidewalks, cul de sacks, and a small park where the kids can play.
What was it like at first relocating to Nicaragua?
I had a two year old at the time and we already rented a house before we came. I came with a young daughter and a dog. I didn’t speak Spanish and I didn’t know anyone, but I had a guidebook and a driver. I bought furniture for the house, as well as some plants. In the meantime, I met a woman who grew up near me in Virginia. She spoke Spanish, which was a huge help to me. I eventually hired a Spanish tutor to give me lessons. I learned about where to get certain things like groceries, diapers, etc. A big part of the first few months was learning where everything was and where to get things. There are no street maps or phone books. You just ask people and they give you directions. You learn what’s available, where to get it, and how to get there. I got rid of the driver after a month. I put my daughter in school, we met a lot of people, and she was learning Spanish. Things have been great ever since.
What was something you wish you knew about the area before you moved there?
One lesson you have to learn is if you see something you think you might need at the store, buy it because it might not be around later. There have been times where I’ll see something at a store, and I think to myself that we will need one of those at some point. I’ll go back to the store to get it, but it won’t be there anymore. That was something I wish I knew before I moved there.
What is the best /worst thing about living there?
The best thing about living in Managua is that it’s small, not very hectic, and not a lot of traffic. If you want to go out to eat, you can just walk to the finest restaurant without any reservation. Life is super easy, you don’t have to plan ahead and you don’t have to be organized. You have much more time on your hands. For example, grocery stores have 1 brand of things, unlike American stores, so you don’t have to spend all of your time deciding which thing to get. Honestly, the American lifestyle is much more time consuming. The benefit of having all this time is that you can spend it with your family, go to the beach, the park, whatever you want. The American life is just more hectic. I only get frustrated about small things in Nicaragua, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.
What kind of activities do you enjoy doing?
We enjoy going to the mountains for hiking, and we go to the beach. Sometimes we even go zip-lining. I enjoy the outdoors. Managua is not your typical capital city. There’s a lot of green space, parks, and places to be outside. Usually, if you live in a city in the U.S., you would have to travel pretty far to get in nature.
What is living the Nicaraguan lifestyle like for your kids?
They love living here. My youngest daughter goes to a Nordic school, but it’s a very international community. I think we have students from at least 82 different countries. It’s a really nice community of families, very nice and laid back. At most schools here, the kids wear uniforms, but here they can wear their own clothes, and play outside during recess. It’s just a nice environment. I feel like my daughter is getting more of a childhood here. The kids there aren’t concerned with electronics, what brand of clothes their wearing, consumption, things like that.
My kids are both dancers. They spend a lot of time dancing. My youngest daughter wrote a paper about why it’s great to be a ballerina in Nicaragua. She said we have a beautiful national theater, they get to be on TV, and they’re in the newspaper. It’s a small town so they get a lot of attention and do special things.
They’re also girl scouts. Technically it’s an American Girl Scout program, but they accept girls from around the world. Through that, they do community service work, they go camping, they hike, and they make crafts, which is all great for them.
They both play the piano, the lessons here cost about $10 an hour, and I know people who pay a lot more for lessons in the U.S. There’s still a lot of American culture they get exposed to, even though we’re in Nicaragua. They love the Harry Potter books, they love the Silly Bands fad, so it’s not as different as you might think.
Can you give me a few examples of what certain things cost in Nicaragua?
To fill up my car with gas, that costs about $40 and I drive a Honda CRV. Certain things are really inexpensive. For example, a manicure/pedicure would be about $15. We like to go to a really nice Japanese message clinic which is about $10. To go take your kids to a pediatrician is about $40. I spend about $500 a month on groceries. Ballet is about $60 a month and they dance about 6-8 hours a week. The private school we send our kids to is about $400 a month. Our condo has a well and we have a service where people pick up trash, open the gate and make sure the area is safe. That costs about $250 per month. Electricity is the only thing that’s very expensive. That costs around $400 per month.
Is there anything you would change about your community?
Just very small things. We don’t really have a schedule where the trash man picks up your trash like you would in the U.S., but not really much else. We live in a really nice neighborhood, the people here are friendly.
What would you say to someone who is on the fence with relocating there?
I guess that would depend on why they were on the fence. In my case, I remember Mike asking me if we want to move to Nicaragua for 2 to 3 years. I said, “of course”, I would love to go anywhere for 2 to 3 years, but I don’t know what I would have said if he asked me if I wanted to go there for the rest of my life since that’s a pretty big decision. I guess I would tell those people to just do it. Just give it a try. If you don’t like it, you can always move back. It’s very easy living here. We’re very close to the states so you’re not isolated at all. Communication is easy too. We have Skype and high speed internet. You really don’t feel that far away from your family back in states. Honestly, it wouldn’t really feel that different from moving to another state. I guess what I would say to them to just try it because you’ll find that the quality of life here is fantastic. The food is much fresher, we always eat fresh fruit and vegetables, and the beef is hormone free. I just feel like we’re much healthier living here. There’s not all the processed food that people in the states eat. It’s just a much healthier lifestyle.
Do you plan on staying here for good, or is there somewhere else you would like to go?
I don’t know. My kids definitely want to stay here until they go to college. Part of me says maybe when they go to college, we might go back to the states, but we love it here. The weather here is great. I love not having to worry about what to wear because you know it’s going to be warm. You know if it’s going to rain or not. It’s just very easy to live in a warm climate. We really don’t have plans to move somewhere else.
Is there anything else you want people to know about what it’s like to live in one of these communities?
I may have been here too long, but it’s easy to live here. I enjoy traveling to other countries, but I must say when I come home, life is easy here. I think people in Nicaragua really know how to live.