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Frank Martínez of DISCOVER Real Estate – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
McDonalds in Nicaragua – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingPeople who have lived abroad in places such as the United States, including native Nicaraguans like me, have a different mentality than Nicaraguans who have not lived overseas.  Those who have lived abroad want things to move quickly, efficiently and correctly. Unfortunately, that does not apply in Nicaragua.
 
Nicaragua is the one of the slowest places in the world to establish a business, so you have to bear with the system. You need a requirement for every license. If you do not have a certain amount of requirements, they will not give you a license. If you need another license, you need a license before that one. There are lots of permits and that can be very disappointing sometimes. I suggest that you have patience. Patience is the most important trait to have when establishing a company in Nicaragua.

Nicaraguans are very open-minded people. We like clarity when doing businesses. We do not like promises; we like deliveries. Companies from the United States tend to deliver. For example, McDonald’s is everywhere in Nicaragua. They started with one franchise to see how the market would react. The market reacted wonderfully, so now McDonald’s are everywhere. They delivered their product at a low price with the same quality and they kept the name and the brand. That is also important. For example, if Starbucks opened a franchise in Nicaragua, it would do wonders because they deliver what they say, keep the product quality, and keep their image.  Nicaraguans like that.

Nicaraguans don’t like changes in the product or in the middle of the business. They don’t like it when prices go up without any reason and when the quality of the products changes. Nicaraguan businesses tend to start wonderfully and then change the rules in the middle.  In contrast, Americans don’t change the rules. They stick with the rules every time they open a business. They keep their promises. I have seen many American businesses succeed because they do this. On the other hand, Nicaraguans have a tendency to change the rules, so they don’t succeed, even in Nicaragua. An example is a restaurant. Local Nicaraguans open restaurants and they hike up the price and give their customers less food. So what do the consumers do? They find another restaurant to go and eat at. Americans tend to provide more consistent quality and prices and therefore earn the loyalty of local Nicaraguans. Local Nicaraguans who have businesses still lose customers if they are inconsistent.
 
(McDonald ad for Nicaragua, "The Taste of Summer," pictured.)
Daniel Snider of Snider's Realty Nicaragua – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Plaza_de_la_Independencia_de_Granada Nicaragua – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe government of Nicaragua has recently opened a lot of initiatives for new businesses to open in Nicaragua. You obviously have to have good knowledge of the different laws when doing business, especially if you are doing some trading business between Nicaraguan estates. In general, it is not difficult to start a business in Nicaragua.
 
There are a lot of incentives being offered to expats who are trying to start businesses inside Nicaragua. There is a tourism incentive where if you open a boutique, hotel, or anything related to ecotourism, you get to bring your things from the States tax-free and that includes vehicles, boat, and other things that will help you in order to propel your business and boost tourism in the country of Nicaragua as a whole.
 
If you are having a meeting with a Nicaraguan who is keen to doing business, then money speaks louder than words. I have met a lot of different developers in the last few years who have come down to Nicaragua and started development projects such as townhouses, development houses, spec houses, etc., which are all for the purpose of investment. For them, it has become very profitable, so it is a very good business to be in, here in Nicaragua.
 
If you are going to do business with a humble Nicaraguan, then just be humble and speak humbly. The reputation that Americans get around here is that they are "go getters" and they are honest when it comes to doing work. So if you have an American investor involved, then that gives you an advantage.
Gabriel Sánchez of PRONicaragua – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Nicaragua has a positive business culture. There are lots of people in Nicaragua who are looking for their businesses to grow and who are looking for opportunities, either on their own or by partnering with others.
 
The rule of law applies very well in Nicaragua, so if you have contracts or commitments with others, these contracts and commitments are respected.
 
It is easy to do business in Nicaragua. The whole setting up of companies in NIcaragua, for example, a limited liability company, is fairly easy and quick.
 
Doing business in Nicaragua is pretty straight forward. There are rules but people are kind. I would not say there is anything big that you can highlight relative to the business culture of Nicaragua. A typical North American doing business in a typical North American way, with some minor exceptions, would conduct business exactly the same in Nicaragua as he or she does in North America and should feel very comfortable. There would be no cultural shock.
Carlos Roman Gutierrez Solis of Casa Granada Properties – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
US Embassy Managua, Nicaragua- Best Places In The World To Retire – International Living – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Living
In order to learn the business culture in Nicaragua, my suggestion is to always ask around and do some research. Talk to two or three lawyers just to see what they think about the regulations and your plan on setting up your own business. If you do not meet a good lawyer, you can get into trouble with regulations. Do not immediately open your wallet.
 
I think the best way to do your research is to rent a house and stay here in Nicaragua for at least six to seven months to learn the business the culture. Do some online research regarding government regulations. Talk to an accountant about the taxes and ask about your obligations if you open a business. Try to talk to different people in the embassy. Walk into some businesses and ask around. Some businessmen will give you some knowledge on how they run their businesses. While you do your research, you also have to be aware of people who might offer you false help like people who ask for a payment so they can help you start your business.
John-Marc Gallagher of Granada Property Services – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
In one word, doing business in Nicaragua is "frustrating." You have to exhibit an extreme amount of patience if you’re doing business in Nicaragua. In Latin America, if I have an 11:00 meeting, it might mean 11:00, 11:30 or 11:45 and chances are we will not go immediately to the meat of the matter. Chances are we will have a coffee, a meal, or a lunch and it will not last for only 15 minutes; it will last for 2 hours. There is an old saying, “Mañana” which literally means “tomorrow” but in this culture what Mañana means is “It’s not going to happen today”. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, either, but it just means it’s not going to happen today. So if you ask “Are you going to do this; are we going to have a meeting?” the other person may respond by saying, “Mañana”, which literally means “tomorrow”, but they don’t really mean “tomorrow”. What they really mean is that they do not know for certain when it will happen or when it will get done, but it certainly will not get done today.
 
How they treat time is different here in Nicaragua. We live by the clock in the US but we do not live that way here in Nicaragua. So doing business here was frustrating for expats until we learn that an 11:00 AM meeting (for example) does not necessarily mean it will start at 11:00 AM. It could start at noon today or tomorrow. So as long as you have patience and flexibility and as long as you understand the culture, frustration will not set in. But your initial feeling will be frustration because things do not happen in a timely fashion. Things do not happen when you want them to. They happen when they happen and that is something that a lot of people cannot get used to, especially when you come from a corporate world and you have meetings scheduled at 9:00 AM and again at 10:00 AM and another one at 11:00 AM, then you break for lunch, and then you have another meeting at 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM. We cannot live like that here in Nicaragua. You cannot operate on that system here.
 
Therefore, one phrase to describe doing business in Nicaragua is “initially frustrating”.
 
Also, you have to be careful when doing cross-cultural business transactions. I do not think this is specific only to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I have been taught that the best model for a business transaction is “win-win”. If we both win and shake hands and win, everyone is happy. That is not the norm here. I am not saying that someone is trying to stab you in the back, just that business here does not always adhere to the win-win strategy. A lot of times, business here is “win-lose.” In order for me to win, you have to lose. So negotiations are different. It is not always about, “do we both win?”, it is usually, “I am winning and I am happy and if you are losing, I am happy.” So you have to be careful because you are not playing by the same rules and you are not playing on the same battlefield and it is not always a win-win situation. Many local business people do not necessarily feel that to conclude a business transaction, both parties have to win. The win-win situation is not in their vocabulary. In my business dealings, in the world I come from, it should be a win-win situation but that is not always the case here.
 
In the US, it would occur to you that, if you have a long-term business relationship with someone, it may hurt that relationship if one of the parties felt like they “lost” in the last transaction.  That does not occur to a lot of people in Nicaragua. That is another difference here in Nicaragua, and it may or may not be cultural.  It could result from past experiences or the nature of the concept of the rich versus the poor, I am not sure why.
 
In my description of Nicaraguan business transactions, I am not talking about the nature of business transactions between the president of Exxon Mobile with the president of Nicaraguan National Bank. When I say business transactions, as an expat, it’s between you and the guy who is cleaning your pool, you and the guy you are buying your car from, you and the person you are buying vegetables from on the street. Their lives are so revolved around day-to-day issues that the concept of “long-term” does not exist for them. For the president of Exxon Mobile with the president of Nicaraguan National Bank, yes, they would tend to think more long-term about business transactions and business relationships.  But how many presidents of Exxon Mobile are actually in my community? Not too many.
 
So when I am talking business, I am talking about the average person dealing with the guy who is painting his house, repairing his roof, fixing his faucet, delivering his milk. These people live on such a day-to-day existence that to think “I need to not extort twice the value of my vegetables from this person today so that he buys vegetables from me for the next 20 years and buys vegetables from my children when my children takes over my business” does not occur to them. Life is in the “immediate “lane” here.
 
They think something like this: What is it that I need today? If I am going to sell my bananas on the street to a local for a penny and an American walks by and he will pay a quarter, I am going to charge the American the quarter and even though he is paying 25 times the price I charge a local, he still thinks that he is paying a good price for the banana because a banana in the US is a dollar. My banana is worth a penny and I am charging the Gringo 25 cents, the Gringo is going to pay it and he loves paying that amount because he is still paying one quarter of what he was paying in the States but he is paying 25 times more than his Nicaraguan neighbor and that is ok for both parties.
 
It’s OK with the Gringo because he is still getting a good deal but the person selling the bananas is not thinking 20 years down the line. He is thinking about today. He is thinking “What can I bring my family by the end of the day? If I can sell a banana to the Gringo for a quarter that I usually take a penny for, I will take it and I am going to win. The Gringo is going to lose.” But the Gringo is still happy even though he knows that he paid a quarter for a banana that is worth a penny to the Nicaraguan. So the Gringo will not lose sleep over it.  The Gringo eventually knows that he got taken advantage of but he feels that it is for a good cause. And to him, it’s OK to pay more for the banana because he can afford it and the poor Nicaraguan street seller needs the extra cash, even though it’s not a win-win situation if you would look purely at the business ethics of it. It’s not a long-term strategy and it may not even be sustainable, but it exists. We all accept the Nicaraguan price and Gringo price in a business transaction. We still pay a lot less than what we would pay for the same thing in the US but we’re probably paying up to 25 times more for something in Nicaragua than a Nicaraguan because the Nicaraguans know we have the money to pay for it, we know we can pay for it, and the price is still less than what we pay for it in the States. It is not a win-win situation but we have learned to accept the win-lose situation.
 
Here’s an example: Every Saturday morning, I walk to the park on my way to the bank and I get my shoes shined, normally for 20 cordoba, which is US 75 cents. I always tip 10 cordoba, so I pay 30 cordoba in total, which is about $1.10. Every one in town knows that a shoe shine is 20 cordoba. I go to the same man every week for two years. Last week, I went to his shoe shining stall, and I sat down and said “Good morning” and he says “Good morning” and he shines my shoes. When he’s done, he says “$3.” I said, “$3? I get my shoes shined from you every week for the last 2 years for 20 Cordoba.” He starts to smile and laugh. I ended up paying $2.50 for my shoes, which is twice what I would normally pay. Now, I am not going to go back to him or I am going to go back to him and ask how much is the shoe shine ahead of time, and when he comes back down to his normal price, I’ll continue getting my shoes shined from him. He is not thinking of the win-win situation. He might be thinking, “Oh here’s an American.” Or maybe he didn’t recognize me because he is old and may have poor eyesight, or maybe I was dressed differently that day. He didn’t recognize me as the usual Saturday 10 o’clock client and he tried to get three and a half times what he normally charges, if I am silly enough to pay for it (even though a shoe shine in the US may be $7 to $10). So to me, $3 is still half the price or less than what I would pay in the US, but it’s 4 times the price of my standard shoe shine in Nicaragua. In this situation, the man shining my shoes is a businessman as am I. It was not a win-win situation and he tried to get more from me because of who I am, an “estrangero” (stranger or tourist), or a Gringo. So you constantly want to be on guard so as not to be over-charged.
 
The same type of situation is common with taxi drivers.  When a Gringo gets in their cab, they will say, “OK, that’s $5.” A 20-minute cab ride in New York City for $20 is cheap but in reality, that cab ride in Nicaragua should be $.50. I know many Gringos who paid $5 for a $.50 cab ride and we all laugh about it.
 
It is the same thing in Nicaragua when dealing with other business transactions such as buying houses or dealing with contractors. In addition, this does not happen only in Nicaragua. I have lived in Costa Rica and they have what we call “the Gringo price.” There is a “local price” and a “Gringo price” for almost everything. The good news is that, in Costa Rica, the Gringo price is still a little cheaper than what we will pay in the States, anyway. We are not complaining about it. You just have to be aware. Most of us are OK with that. There are times when we blow our tops and say, “Wait a minute, I know you only charge $1 for that.  Why are you charging me $4?”. Then the seller gets a big smile on his face as if to say something like, “Well, I tried!” If you tell him that you would only pay 80 cordoba then he would just laugh it off and agree.
 
You don’t have to pay the Gringo price if you don’t want to. You can walk away at any time. If you bargain hard enough, you will pay the local price. That sounds easy but many expats do not understand how to do that because when we see a price, we think that that price is the same for everybody. In Nicaragua, the general thinking is, “How can I get as much as I can for what I sell for today? If this guy finds out that he paid more and he doesn’t come back, I wouldn’t care.” It is not always a win-win situation. Nevertheless, they are thinking that you will come back because that is just how things are. You always take a shot at people and if it does not work, there are no hard feelings. You just move on.

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