This section gives specific advice and guidance on Nicaragua's Society and cultural norms, including religion, status of the family alongside business and social etiquette, customs and protocols with Meeting & Greeting alongside appropriate communication styles in each country to enable an employee to move, live and work abroad.
Religion plays a significant part of the culture of Nicaragua and is afforded special protections in the constitution. Religious freedom, which has been guaranteed since 1939, and religious tolerance are promoted by the government and the constitution. Nicaragua has no official religion. The largest denomination, and traditionally the religion of the majority, is the Roman Catholic Church. It came to Nicaragua in the 16th century with the Spanish conquest and remained, until 1939, the established faith. The number of practicing Roman Catholics has been declining, while membership of evangelical Protestant groups and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has been growing rapidly since the 1990s. There are also strong Anglican and Moravian communities on the Caribbean coast in what once constituted the sparsely populated Mosquito Coast colony. It was under British influence for nearly three centuries. Protestantism was brought to the Mosquito Coast mainly by British and German colonists in forms of Anglicanism and the Moravian Church. Other kinds of Protestant and other Christian denominations were introduced to the rest of Nicaragua during the 19th century. Popular religion revolves around the saints, who are perceived as intercessors between human beings and God. Most localities, from the capital of Managua to small rural communities, honour patron saints, selected from the Roman Catholic calendar, with annual fiestas. In many communities, a rich lore has grown up around the celebrations of patron saints, such as Managua's Saint Dominic (Santo Domingo), honoured in August with two colourful, often riotous, day-long processions through the city. The high point of Nicaragua's religious calendar for the masses is neither Christmas nor Easter, but La Purísima, a week of festivities in early December dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, during which elaborate altars to the Virgin Mary are constructed in homes and workplaces. Buddhism has increased with a steady influx of immigration.
Marriage. The minority of couples who are not Roman Catholic, outside of the upper and middle classes, formalize their marriages through ceremonies officiated by another church or the state. Many common-law unions exist, but Roman Catholics abide by the church's emphasis on marriage. Because of poverty and a shortage of affordable housing, newly married couples may live with one set of parents.
Domestic Unit. Like many Hispanic cultures, family relationships are highly valued and include relatives beyond the nuclear family unit. The word compadrazago, which literally means copaternity, indicates the bond among children, parents, grandparents, and godparents. With a high fertility rate, households are large—generally comprised of six to eight persons—and include grandparents and aunts and uncles. In rural areas, large families are regarded as a blessing: parents have help with chores and farm work. In urban settings, large families with extended kin allow for creative ways in which to house entire families, despite the space constraints of city living.
Inheritance. Land is the lifeblood of Nicaraguan farmers. It is a source of pride and dignity for a farmer to own the land he cultivates. And land can be a means of escaping the poverty that plagues so many Nicaraguans. Inheritance of land in Nicaragua has been complicated by the fact that most of the land was in the hands of a few privileged families. The peasant families who farmed this land had no claims to land ownership. This changed with the Sandinista government as it awarded and distributed land to rural families. Now, however, relatives and allies of the Somoza regime who emigrated in 1980 want to reclaim the thousands of acres they owned. Disputes over resettlements remain a controversial national issue, one that is being watched by the international community.
Nicaragua has always been a society of classes in indigenous cultures, the priests and nobles ruled over the laborers and slaves. This is what the Spanish found when they arrived, and their domination didn't do much to affect this class system. For generations, there was no notion of social or economic mobility for Nicaraguans. Agricultural laborers were descendants of laborers, and expected their children to follow in this path. With few other options available, most did.
Only with the 1979 revolution of the Sandinistas was there a widespread attempt to level the playing field and eliminate the class system. The Sandinistas deliberately took power and expropriated wealth from the rich and spread it evenly among the poor. The Sandinistas also began a national literacy campaign: they recruited young people from the upper classes to teach literacy skills to families in rural areas.
Land is the traditional basis of wealth and status in Nicaragua. Traditionally, landowners have prospered with the export of coffee, cotton, beef, and sugar, and land was concentrated in the hands of a few. Less than one-fifth of the population could be described as middle class or higher. Most Nicaraguans who have work still toil as migrants, following crops and working only during the harvest period. When the Sandinistas gained power, they seized the property of the Somoza family and instituted the Agrarian Reform Law, transferring land to peasant families and squatters on lands.
Nicaraguans share a sense of respect and personal distance, which is apparent in language exchanges. Nicaraguans rarely use the familiar tu form of address, even though most other Latin Americans use this casual exchange. However, the Nicaraguans routinely address one another using the informal and nonstandard pronoun vous. Nicaraguans have very pronounced body language and some gestures may create confusion. For instance, people point with their mouths to indicate a person or object. Rubbing two index fingers together indicates that you want to pay for something and may be another potentially confusing gesture
In business situations, especially when a man gives a lift to a woman, it is best to use caution as it may be misconstrued. In order to avoid any misunderstanding about the nature of the gift, it may be appropriate to consider presenting the gift on behalf of your wife or secretary. Avoid purple and black wrapping paper. Appropriate Gifts: umbrellas, something unique from your hometown or area, a small token reflecting a previous conversation you have had.Gifts to Avoid: Anything like a weapon or knife, coffee or cocoa can be offensive.
Food in Daily Life. Nicaragua has a local cuisine that shares some flavors and ingredients with Mexican food, while it also bears a resemblance to the cuisines of Honduras and Guatemala. Corn and beans are staples of the diet, and garlic and onions season most dishes. Like other Central Americans, Nicaraguans consume corn tortillas with most meals. Nicaragua's version of the tortilla is large, thin and made of white corn. It is used as an edible utensil to wrap meat and beans. Beans are consumed daily as a necessary source of protein in a country where most people cannot afford to eat meat regularly. Nicaraguans are partial to a small red bean generally eaten refried in a dish called gallo pinto, or "spotted rooster." This is primarily a breakfast dish.
Nicaraguans also enjoy tamales, but their version—called nacatamal —has some unique characteristics. The entire meal of corn, rice, tomatoes, chili, potatoes, cassava root, and often a piece of meat, is wrapped in a leaf deriving from a banana-like plant.
The yucca root is a vegetable eaten for its vitamins; it is aptly named vigoron in Spanish, for its high percentage of nutrients. The yucca root is often served with pork rind and greens and sold at roadside stands. In addition, fruits such as mangos and plantains are popular in Nicaragua.
The favorite nonalcoholic drink is coffee. Nicaraguans drink coffee with hot milk at breakfast and black with sugar the rest of the day. Pinol, the national drink, is also nonalcoholic and is made from corn flour with water. Tiste, similar to pinol, is a beverage made from ground tortillas and cacao which can be served cool or at room temperature. Also popular is chichi, wine of the Indians, made from fermented corn. Beer is consumed as a typical light alcoholic beverage, while rum is the hard liquor of choice.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At celebratory meals, Nicaraguans eat steak, either grilled steak called bistec a la parrilla, or grilled sirloin known as lomo.
Most Nicaraguans like to appear helpful and will try to tell you what you want to hear, even if it is stretching (or at times completely altering) the truth. Nicaraguans can be indirect and remain polite but vague when attempting to answer difficult questions. For a foreigner to try to understand something fully, it’s usually best to “triangulate,” ask (at least) 3 different people the same question to see if you can arrive at an approximate answer.
Many Nicaraguan business executives have been educated in the United States, and are aware of the business etiquette and culture
Topics to Discuss: your family, hometown or country, sports
Topics to Avoid: class differences, politics, the Sandinistas
Be on time to the first meeting even though your Nicaraguan colleagues most likely will not be. Nicaraguans do shake hands when being introduced, but this action is often accompanied by other forms of greeting and affection. When people shake hands, the free hand is often on the other person's shoulder or arm. Be prepared for a large amount of small talk before getting to business proceedings.Typically meetings begin a half hour to an hour after the scheduled time. Meetings end naturally and are not timed. Stay behind for a few extra minutes to continue talking with potential business partners. Rushing away to another business engagement is considered rude.