Nicaraguans generally have a pretty relaxed attitude towards time. Even in formal settings it’s acceptable to be up to 30 minutes late. Unless you really need to be somewhere, try to get used to the laid back regard for timeliness.
In Nicaragua, pointing is done with the lips. Purse your lips together and raise your chin in the direction of whatever you are indicating.
While in many countries a finger wag is mainly used by adults to tell children off, in Nicaragua it’s used by people of all ages to say no. It seems to hold a special power when telling insistent taxi drivers or street vendors that you don’t want a ride or a snack, so use it well.
Instead of writing an imaginary cheque in the air to signal for the bill in a restaurant, Nicaraguans rub one index finger down the other a few times. It looks weird the first time you see it, but it’s the best way to get the bill if you’re in a hurry.
Even if you’ve only studied basic Spanish, you might remember that “adios” means “goodbye.” While that’s true in most Spanish-speaking countries, in Nicaragua things are slightly different. Here it can mean “hello” as well as “goodbye,” which might lead to some amusing situations.
The use of the formal form of address varies from country to country, but in Nicaragua you should always use the formal “usted” instead of “vos” the first time you meet people. The only exception is with children and people who have already addressed you as “vos.”
Haggling might be expected in the markets and when buying from street vendors, but it’s not done in shops. It’s also worth remembering that haggling too hard might upset people, and the amount you save is likely worth a lot more to the seller than it is to you.
Nicaraguans are friendly and inquisitive on the whole, but you might find that people stare a bit. This is particularly true in rural areas where foreigners aren’t such a common sight, and people with fair hair and skin will probably be stared at more often.
If you’re asking how to find something, it’s best to ask three different people if you can. On many occasions Nicaraguans are so keen to be helpful that they’ll completely make up some directions in order to “save face.”
In Nicaragua people are a lot more up front in describing others. Instead of skirting the issue of someone’s weight, they will call a fat person “gordo/a.” Don’t be offended if you’re called “negro/a” (black) or “chele/a” (white), it’s the local way.
If you’re lucky enough to be offered something to eat or drink by a Nicaraguan, it’s best to say yes. Refusing the offer is seen as bad form, so even if you’re not hungry or thirsty, try and take it.