To learn more about Nicaragua people and immerse yourself in the country's culture is an adventure in itself.
Nicaraguans or "Nicas" have a reputation for being very friendly and welcoming, despite high levels of poverty and years of struggling for justice. The country’s numerous and accomplished poets, authors and folk musicians also exemplify the strong resilient nature of the people.
Nicaraguan culture has many admirable qualities that you will soon discover. A characteristic that I find intriguing is the Nicaraguans’ love of children, for their own and for others outside of their family. You will witness this caring attitude every day. Just ask my daughter!
I also enjoy how Nicas greet each other with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Even my dentist welcomes me that way! For me, this is a lovely way to say hello and goodbye, much better than the formal handshake we use in Germany.
On the downside, corruption and bribery are an integral part of the Nicaraguan society. A lack of punctuality is a common reality. People are notoriously late, or they don’t show up at all, and that applies to personal and business appointments alike.
It’s also a very "machista" culture. Many men behave aggressively towards women and other men. Having an affair is an accepted behavior that actually improves a man’s reputation in the eyes of their buddies rather than damaging it.
Sadly this machista culture, in combination with a lack of education, insufficient access to contraceptives and the dominance of the Catholic Church, results in a soaring number of teenage pregnancies.
Nicaragua is said to have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Latin America, with 28% of women giving birth before the age of 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund.
The most famous market for arts and crafts (hammocks, hand-carved wood, ceramics and so on) is the "mercado viejo" (old market) in Masaya. Surrounded by an old stonewall, the market feels like a shady oasis within Masaya's labyrinth of hot and noisy streets.
Even on weekends, the market is surprisingly quiet, and the merchants are much more low key than in Managua. This very tourist-friendly place is perfect for a relaxing Sunday afternoon stroll.
If you prefer to mingle with crowds of locals, pay Managua's "Mercado Roberto Huembes" a visit. From kitchenware to DVDs, from clothing to fruit and vegetables, the Mercado Huembes has it all, even livestock. The sounds, odors and colors will turn your shopping into an experience for all senses. Don’t miss sampling some delicious items at the food hall in the center of the market.
While Nicaragua is certainly more famous for the wonders of its natural environment, you can also enjoy a decent offering of cultural events and evening entertainment.
In Managua, for example, the Rubén Darío Theater showcases national and international music, dance and theater performances. And if you enjoy dancing to Latin music, you have a choice of places, with or without live music.
In Granada, there’s the Casa de los Tres Mundos, which frequently organizes cultural events like concerts, exhibitions, plays and movies. Once a year, a week-long international poetry festival takes place in the city.
Festivals throughout Nicaragua celebrate local traditions and religious events. Some are nation-wide in scope, such as Semana Santa, the Holy Easter Week. Others are typical for certain regions, such as the Maypole celebrations and the Crab Soup Festival over on the Atlantic coast.
And still others are unique to specific towns. The San Lazaro Festival in Masaya is a good example. For this festival dogs are dressed up in their best costumes and get blessed by the local bishop, all in honor of San Lazaro.