Traditions & Customs in Nicaragua
- In Nicaraguan Spanish, a distinction is made between the “formal” you and the “informal” you. The formal form (“usted” for one person, “ustedes” for several people) is used with foreigners, older people and people of high rank. The informal form (“tu” or “vos” for one person; “vosotros” for several people is almost never used outside the Bible, but always in correct (continental) Spanish, Nicaraguans would address a group as “ustedes”) is used between peers and friends and after you have been explicitly asked to address someone informally.
- Don (for men) and Doña (for women) are common expressions to address people politely by their first name, e.g. Don Ramon or Doña Maria. It can be freely translated as Mr./Ms.
- Nicaraguans are very concerned about their appearance and don’t understand why “rich” tourists walk around in shabby or slutty clothes. It’s true that a smile feels good, but in Nicaragua a shower with your smile feels even better.
- While there is a sizeable irreligious minority in Nicaragua and a growing evangelical community (along American lines), most people like their (mostly Catholic) faith as it is, thank you, and do not take too kindly to being ridiculed or openly trying to convert.
- Men in shorts are not common in Nicaragua, and given the risk of mosquitoes, you should consider wearing trousers or jeans.
- Some Nicaraguan women swim with a T-shirt over their swimming costume. You don’t have to do that, but women walking around the beach topless is definitely not a good idea.
- Don’t be surprised if you get nicknames from complete strangers based on your appearance. If you are visibly white, people are likely to call you “chele” (from leche=milk). (from leche=milk). Also, nicknames like “gorda” (fat, woman), “flaco” (thin, man) or “negro” (non-offensive term, simply the colour black) are never meant as insults.
- Also, don’t be surprised if people make comments about your weight or (if they see you again after a while) about weight gain or loss. Because weight is visible, they don’t think it’s an offensive topic to talk about. In fact, it is sometimes an appropriate topic of conversation.
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