Surviving the 7-year expat itch

Well it’s been seven years now that our family has lived in Nicaragua. The number seven seems to have a lot of significance in relation to time, seven days in a week, seven years in a cycle, even the seven year itch which, in relationships, can spell doom.

Indeed, they say that every cell in your body is new after seven years. So here we are new bodies and new attitudes about our life here. We’ve matured into this culture, our kids have grown up here, and we’ve made friends. Those things that we hoped for in our life in Nicaragua, have basically happened. Perhaps it is because our expectations were realistic or even set on the low side. But nevertheless, we do like it and we plan to stay.

We considered other countries, such as Belize, Panama and Costa Rica, when we first considered our move, but decided on Nicaragua for a variety of reason. Our company, ECI Development has residential resort projects in both Belize and Costa Rica right now, and we are actively scouting for a property in Panama, as well.

In fact, my wife and I spent a lot of time in Panama leading up to our move to Nicaragua. The truth is that we like all of these countries, and could easily live in any of them, but we chose Nicaragua because it just fits us better than any of the others.   

Let me hit one nail right on the head. The concerns most often voiced about Nicaragua center around safety and politics.

Nicaragua is safe, the second-safest country in the hemisphere after Canada, according to a study produced by Harvard’s business school affiliate in the region. We don’t have bodyguards or drivers.

The politics of the country are meaningless for expats and property rights are secure for legitimate owners who take care in the due diligence process and perhaps purchase a title insurance policy from First American Title. For anyone considering an expat life in Central America, not considering Nicaragua would be a huge mistake.

So how did we get here?  Where are we at this point? What are the things we appreciate? What things annoy us?  How do we feel about our new home and where do we go from here?  It’s great to have some time to reflect on this and share an update at this seven-year milestone with family, friends, and folks who are considering a move overseas.

So let’s begin by saying that it hasn’t been all good. No place is perfect, and Nicaragua is no exception. 

Of course the stereotypical Latin American things can get on your nerves like the “mañana” attitude, long lines at the bank, and a general disregard for the importance of time.  The law here actually forbids moving cars out of traffic lanes for a fender bender until the police arrive, sometimes backing up traffic for a mile or more. But electronic banking has meant that we seldom if ever walk into a bank anymore.  The real trick is to learn to “Hurry while you wait,” as Thomas Edison once said.   

Attitude is important. Some of the things that are frustrating can also be quite funny. Like parking attendants, who have never driven a car, trying to park people, who don’t listen to them anyway. It can be a fiasco that is pure comedy if you’ll let yourself laugh. We try, and usually do, but we also know that when we start to get frustrated, it’s time to step back and count our blessing.  

Overall the good far outweighs the bad and we love living here. In fact, we’ve had some serious discussions in the past year or two about the possibility of moving back the U.S. and they usually go like this, “If we moved back, where would we put our kids in school? What would that cost? Would they get as good an education? Where would we want to live and what would that cost?” 

Each time we’ve searched, we’ve come back full circle to remaining here. 

But it runs deeper than just cost of living, of course. We like the freedoms we have here. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But the fact is that the U.S. is quickly becoming a nanny state and I, for one, don’t like it. 

For example, my wife makes brownies and cookies to take to the bake sale at the girl’s school. There’s no health department regulation prohibiting that.  If a teacher hugs my 5-year-old, that’s OK too. If someone with an entrepreneurial spirit wants to be a barber, they hang a shingle outside their shop and start cutting hair. No trade association forces them to go to school and get a license. If you don’t like the haircut, don’t go back. 

In the Unites States, I tell my daughters to stay off the rocks and don’t even think about climbing a tree in public spaces. The fear of lawsuits has every public and private employee declaring even mundane actions off-limits.

In Nicaragua we use our common sense. If one of my girls falls out of a tree and breaks an arm, we take her to the doctor and she learns to hold on tighter next time. We even practice sometimes with some cliff jumping in Somoto Canyon, a true national treasure hidden in Nicaragua’s mountainous north.

Even in my business, where I speak to groups about what we do and how we do it, I’m often limited in what I can say due to regulatory issues. Imagine having to leave the United States to practice my First Amendment right to Free Speech. Sad isn’t it?

So for these and many other reasons, we now make our home in Nicaragua and will for the foreseeable future. 

Mike Cobb is CEO and Chairman of ECI Development. His blog on expat life in Nicaragua can be read at http://www.mikesgringolife.com

 

  • Nero

    Well said Mike, you touched upon every reason why I love to live in Nicaragua. Personal freedom being my favorite, although sometimes it can work against you. Im still willing to take that chance.

  • vladimir

    Hello mike, may i contact you? would like to ask you some questions sir
    my email is chinandega75@yahoo.com

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  • Jim

    My wife and I have decided on Nicaragua over other locations. We have a 6 month old son and obviously a few concerns. Are you available for advice? Thanks in advance