1. If you have a cold, you blame it on the pineapple.
Sickness is a form of gossip that Nicaraguans love to indulge in. When someone gets the flu, you can spend hours analyzing how he got it. Likely culprits are showering too late at night or too soon after doing sports, walking barefoot, getting wet, or eating something cold too late at night or too soon after eating something hot. But secretly, everybody knows that it was probably the pineapple you ate before going to bed.
2. You haven’t eaten properly if you haven’t had gallo pinto at least once a day.
Gallo pinto is Nicaragua’s staple dish, made from frying together rice and beans. You can eat it once a day or, even better, at every meal. Sound pretty much exactly like what they eat in all of the other parts of Central America? Never say that to a Nicaraguan or he will proudly tell you how superior gallo pinto is to the rice and beans eaten in Costa Rica, and the beans and rice eaten in Honduras or Guatemala.
3. You only supported Costa Rica in the World Cup because they had a Nicaraguan on their team.
Well, Duarte is only actually half-Nicaraguan, but who cares? He was born in Nicaragua, he wore a wristband with the Nicaraguan flag, and he scored most of the goals for Costa Rica in the 2014 World Cup. Everybody knows if it weren’t for him, Costa Rica would have never gotten that far. Must be all that gallo pinto he grew up on.
4. You stop thinking that everybody is either constantly disapproving of you or trying to kiss you.
Nicaraguans have an uncanny amount of minuscule facial gestures to convey things other people would just say. When the café owner wrinkles his nose at your order, you know he isn’t disapproving, but rather that he didn’t understand. Similarly, in a country where it is rude to point, most people will use their lips instead of their fingers, making it seem to the uninitiated guest that they are awkwardly trying to kiss you.
5. You no longer flinch when you see how much sugar people dump into your coffee.
1…2…3 cups, not tablespoons. Coffee may be the national drink in Nicaragua, but sugar seems to be the national condiment and is added to everything, including infant formula. You coffee isn’t coffee unless each cup comes with more than your daily-required intake of sugar added.
6. You know the lyrics to more 90s songs than you did as a kid growing up in the 90s.
Suede? Alanis Morissette? TLC? The Cranberries? Sheryl Crow? Nicaragua has a love affair with 90s music that started when they opened their doors to foreign trade in the late 80s and ended in the early 2000s. But it doesn’t matter too much, because, let’s face it, what’s better than belting out Savage Garden for Thursday karaoke nights?
7. You use rain as a valid excuse for not showing up.
“Look, it’s raining,” (Fíjense que, está lloviendo) is a valid excuse for arriving late, or not arriving at all, to almost any event, including work. In a country where it rains for almost half the year, it doesn’t strike you as odd that no one is prepared.
8. You under-exaggerate sizes constantly.
You never call a cup a cup or a person by their real name. It’s always a vasito, mamita, abuelito, hermanita.
9. You know that Saturdays = Beef soup and sleeping.
Nicaraguans have a tradition of waking up Saturday morning and making soup. In every house they will fire up the fogata — an old-school clay barbecue — put on a giant soup pot, throw a bunch of meat and vegetables in, and let it simmer for hours. You get asked if you want a little sopita, which you eat in a giant bowl that could hold a small child. Then you sleep. And repeat.
10. You tell yourself that French fries and fried plantains are vegetables.
Nicaraguans love the carbs and will gladly toss down a lunch consisting of rice, tortilla, and spaghetti. With vegetables limited to the Saturday afternoon soup, you come to consider your meal as balanced when it also includes potatoes, cassava, or plantains.
11. You own at least five pairs of flip-flops.
The dust on the street could get you sick, so you have to change into your house flip-flops when you get home. But you have a different pair for the shower, and yet another pair that you use just in your room. Then you have your flip-flops for going to the corner shop. And lets not even get started with the “fancy” flip-flops you have for going out.
12. You can down 12 Toñas without batting an eye or falling under the table.
We don’t do casual drinking here. When we drink, we order by the crate and sit around the table until everyone has consumed at least 10 litres of the national beer, toña. And then we start with the rum.