Extending Word of Mouth

In Nicaragua, word of mouth is king. That is, people don't make connections by looking in the yellow pages or searching for someone's web site. They do it by talking to someone who knows someone that can help.

While this sounds like a perfect situation for on-line information like you find in NicaLiving, that is not the case. I know because I had based the idea for a web site on this assumption. I was wrong. This information is typically distributed only in face to face meetings. If you are not deemed worthy of such information, it will not be shared. This is the case with everything from farm workers to high-value professionals.

This system is built into the culture. It's just how things work in Nicaragua and in most of Latin America. What makes NicaLiving special is that it has facilitated word of mouth connections for people who would not have otherwise been offered such connections. Specifically, not living in Nicaragua and/or not having decent Spanish skills is not going to make traditional word of mouth connections available.

I am going to take my dentist as an example. I met him one day when I was walking my dog. I mentioned the meeting in my blog years ago. He said something like "this isn't the place for that kind of dog", in English. Some time later I needed some dental work and decided to give him a try. I have been happy with his work and have mentioned him on NicaLiving. I know of at least three clients he has thanks to my expanded definition of word of mouth to include an on-line community.

Is this good for him? Of course it is. But it is also good for NL members. While his English skills were only a significant advantage for one of the three I know of, it was information distributed to a much expanded word of mouth community.

Without doing much looking here is a short list of things NL has made available for people without traditional word of mouth connections:

  • Connect you with good doctors, dentists and vets
  • Offer information on typical (and legally mandated) wages and energy costs
  • Offer legal information on immigration, importation, marriage, divorce, real estate and more
  • Help you locate products such as hardware including an email connection to a person who will talk to you in English about hardware
  • Offer help with banking, shipping and other commonly needed services

For those of you who live in Nicaragua, I expect you are aware of the alternative. Typically, you end up spending a lot of time standing in lines, having face to face meetings and getting Gringo-priced answers. If time, money or both are important to you, NL has likely helped you out. I know it has helped me.

Do you have a responsibility in return? I believe so and I believe it is to understand and respect this expanded idea of word of mouth. As a lot of information is here in NL, available to anyone, this makes the recipient of this word of mouth connection the one who needs to be the responsible party. That is, to live up to what would make you worthy in a traditional word of mouth connection. You need to treat these introductions, no matter how passively established, as if they are a favors done for you by a friend. Let me offer an example.

Omar Rugama connects real estate buyers and sellers. He is very good at this in the area he works (Estelí) because he is well known and respected. He gets paid by a percentage of the transaction price should a sale be made.

My responsibility in a traditional word of mouth connection is clear. I am not going to refer someone to Omar who is only window shopping. That would waste Omar's time and lower his respect with the sellers. Now, you should be able to find Omar but without a referral from someone he knows and respects you will have to establish your own credibility.

For those of you from a big city in the US, this will all seem pretty foreign. On the other hand, if you lived in a small US town, all this will sound familiar. Nicaragua is a small country with a total population of less than many cities. If you want the benefits of being part of this extended word of mouth community, you need to treat the expression "I found out about you on NicaLiving" as you would a personal introduction by a friend. If you don't, we will all lose these benefits.

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It seemed like a sure thing...

I haven't quite known how to handle this, so since you all have started a discussion, which I am late to yet again, I'll drop a note here.

Personally speaking, I'd rather pay for service than rely on acquaintanceship and trying to fudge my way through, cadging a favor here and paying it back there. Paying is cleaner. More honest, but it helps a bunch to know someone first, and to know others whose thumbs you can look at. Up. Down. Sideways. You pay attention and do the calculations and then jump in.

I'm not good at Spanish. Not good enough to handle my own immigration process. The orchid lady kindly shared some thoughts, and both before and after asking her some questions I did a bunch of reading, both here and elsewhere. So I had an idea of what I needed.


There are some things that have never been clearly answered. And not being competent in Spanish, I figured I'd rely on the many recommendations and hire the attorney in Managua.

You know.

The one whom everyone says is dead honest, reliable, and all the rest. Four hundred up front, four hundred on completion.

I held off asking specific questions until I'd hired him. Fair is fair and all.

So once he gets my retainer I ask. Specifically. Four precise questions.

And he does not answer.

On the eighth day I ask again and get a vague, meaningless answer.

So I ask again.

And again he ignores me.

So after four or five days, for the fourth time, I ask again, and get the same vague, meaningless answer.

So my conclusion is that either this attorney is fraudulent, or he is incompetent. Or both. This is my opinion, based on my own, actual communications with him.

I know more than he does. I told him that when I fired him.

Bit it kinda makes no nevermind, really. I'm safe.

I didn't get far enough to actually have to depend on him, and for that I am truly grateful. And it really seems like Nicaragua itself may be too much work to bother with, with all the requirements that no one can define, and the consulates that aren't really there, and all the other things. There are other places that are more expensive, but better in every other way, and I'm looking at them now, seriously.

So I guess I have to thank him. But you might not.

Well, I'm glad you found out your threshhold....

Its best now than later.

Personally, my recent trip to Canada, before (visas) and during (banking and government) was more red tape than I had faced in 6 years here. But...boy was it worth it. One beautiful country.


Ur not Cdn Juanno??? If not, glad we treated you well,lol

Yes I am, My Dad was born in York Townships, Toronto

Visas were for Maria (US & Canada)

I had forgotten how beautiful that trip from Calgary to Vancouver was. Friends have now now retired in Blind Bay, Vernon and Victoria and my Kids (29 & 32!) are in Calgary


Hope ur kids survived the hail storm a few days back in Calgary!!! I have driven from Victoria to Sask many,many times, nothing like driving thru the mountains!! 1 day will do the train!! Cheers

The Coconut Wireless On Line At Nicaliving!

Great post fyl, on a wonderful community website!

When I lived in the capital city of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, thirty years ago, much of the country still operated on the stone-age model. There were no cell phones, no internet, no television, and only one national newspaper and a good national radio system. There were landline phones.

No national road system connected Port Moresby with the rest of the country. Air planes were the only way to get around a country, where there were 785 completely different language groups spoken by approximately 3 million people. But ä few regionally shared "languages" such as Pidgin and Motu had emerged so speakers of the 785 different languages could communicate with each other. English, Pidgin and Motu are now the constitutionally recognized national languages of Papua New Guinea.

Yet, among those speaking the same language, called the won tok (one talk) connections, news from home spread to Port Moresby via the "coconut wireless" in less than 24 hours. A murder in the back bush country around the highland town of Mount Hagen would be known to all the relatives in Port Moresby, hundreds of inaccessible miles away, in less than 24 hours.

This could be critical information too far-flung relatives, as under traditional customs, if there was a murder carried out by one tribe on another, it could be "redressed" by a counter murder of any member of a clan, anywhere in the country. Some of my students in Port Moresby would have to go into hiding to avoid being murdered themselves because of a dispute which had taken place hundreds of miles away in the Highlands. The "won tok" was a vast communication system for a given language/tribal community group.

Loyalty to ones own clan or tribe was the supreme virtue (and sometimes vice when it came to government hiring practices, as there was an implicit duty to hire members of one's own language group first, the rules of the Australian imposed civil service system be damned.)

Nicaliving has created it own "won tok" system among ex pats living or interested in living in Nicaragua, and it is an invaluable community.

Nicaliving could be a model for local communities in the U.S. to survive the current economic crisis by giving people in various areas the information and connections they need to help themselves and everyone else survive. Indeed, maybe Craigslist does this already to some degree. But, if all communities in the U.S. could be connected by access to the internet to obtain information about jobs, transport, low cost food cooperatives, medical assistance, etc., maybe local "intranets" could give local communities the means of joining together to solve their mutual problems.

But, for that to happen, the internet must be made accessible to all and independent of corporate control. I'm hoping our wonderfully creative computer nerds can devise a system which will circumvent the squid-like grasp of Comcast and Verizon. That may be the only hope for everyone's ultimate survival, but will require universal internet literacy and access. We must all become literate in "ïnternetese".

At any rate, thanks fyl for a great topic and for being such a wonderfully creative computer nerd. The world needs more like you!

It's coming

You might enjoy following the smart city initiatives, also called the Intelligent Community Forums (ICF). The Canadians will like Canada 2.0. There are already test cities around the world but it's still early days. The plans are to have everything on-line, like the items you mentioned, with the entire city being a WiFi hot spot.

Only Problem With

this --and I agree, that's the only way to get much of the information you need in Nicaragua, is your intermediary will try to broker your business.

The $6K drilled well suddenly becomes $12K; the heavy equipment work doubles, with the "commission" going into the intermediary's pocket. I think of it as the Amway model . . .

I don't mind paying for information and service, but sometimes the cost is out of proportion to the benefit. The beach lot that the seller wants $30K for is now $60K, thanks to the efforts of the friend who made the introduction.

There's a bit of this built into any business. It's just in Nicaragua, I've had a couple of people try to latch onto me, and expect a salary for helping me buy cipro, or order lunch. If you find someone connected who can cut through the red tape, or who provides a real service, I don't begrudge this individual fair compensation. Many of us help one another without any thought of renumeration, but I would expect to pay someone to waltz me through the residency process.

Desk staff at your hotel whom you've used as your private reception service should be tipped handsomely, The attentive waiter or waitress should be acknowledged. These courtesies keep the world turning on a greased axle.

What's particularly irksome is when someone with whom you've already had a productive business relationship attempts to bend you over for a short term gain. I had a recent experience with this and I'll never use this gentleman's agency again. There's been any number of posts on NicaLiving addressed to this particular cultural attribute.

NicaLiving has been worth its weight in gold to me. Not having to re-invent every Nicaraguan wheel really puts you way ahead of the game.

One other comment re: Omar. Omar would probably appreciate establishing relationships with "window shoppers" as long as their intent is clearly disclosed. At some point many of these are going to be buyers, and they will naturally gravitate to Omar who they know and trust.

I know in my IT business I often deal with people for weeks or months, perhaps helping them in some small way. I may answer a million annoying questions -often at a time when I really don't have the time for them. Not all eventually do business with me, but many do, based on the relationship we've built. I'm dealing right now with a guy in Puerto Rico; I have to tell him to hit the enter key after each line of code. Suddenly, in the last three weeks, he's given me $1000, with the promise of more to come.

another angle

fyl is looking at this from another angle. In person, he could recommend a contact to someone within his circle of friends, expecting each party to treat the other well - because he knows both parties.

On NicaLiving, when we recommend a contact, we're recommending someone we know to just about anyone with an internet connection. So please, when you find contacts on this website, treat them with respect.

I agree

I like your point of view and clarification, Susan, personally I have been contacted for several people through NL, I am really happy for it, almost all of them were really nice people, and becomes to be my clients and friends. As I explain once to Phil, looks people who is coming through NL are more open mind as usual and as you said are treat Nicaraguan with respected. I understand is not easy to deal with another legal system, culture and etc., so this forum gives the opportunity to search in advance to move to Nicaragua. I myself posted and will be posting comments to do things easier in Nicaragua. However my comments are not a Bible to follow and people needs to be assisted by a lawyer, I explained some procedures but procedures o requirements as part of the bureaucracy changes some times; just as example a NL member read a link I posted which has been visited more 5,000 times: How can I bring my handgun to Nicaragua? http://www.nicaliving.com/node/12944, this guy imported three guns to Nicaragua, then called me when he couldn´t release the guns from the airport. If he would email me before of that – I don´t charge any fee for email advice – I would tell him and explain again -because in in the article- he just can bring 2 guns instead of 3, So legal assistance will be required my of any other lawyer, my articles are a guidance but not a 100% what someone has do to, again the procedure and even the law can change so is mandatory to confirm. I myself confirm and re confirm some procedure sometimes, another example will be MINGOB they changed in one year some requirements to do the registration of the Forging’s NGO´s. That´s mean NL has been an extraordinary tool for thousands of people how leaves or want to leave in Nicaragua.-

Best Regards

Paul Tiffer ptiffer@cablenet.com.ni


If anything, the word of mouth markup here on NL is going to be lower than on the ground. I don't know about the rest of you but I have never received a kickback from anyone I have promoted, either on NL or in person. Just to make that clear, I have received good treatment from multiple people because I have sent them customers but that has never been in terms of payment or commission for a referral.

That said, John certainly does have a point about word of mouth on the ground. To me, it is really no more than the difference between a real friend and a friend on commission. There just is more room for that commission in Nicaragua. There are multiple people I will never recommend, either on NL or in person, because I see them as nothing more than a friend on commission.

Is there a way to protect yourself? Of course. You need to do your homework. For example, if we are talking real estate, independently get some prices so you feel comfortable with what you are hearing. To use Omar as an example once again, on the day we looked at 14 different places (and I thought I was going to die from the amount of bicycle riding I was doing), I saw places for sale not on Omar's list. He suggested I go ask about them. I can think of two very specific places where I talked with the sellers and they were clearly no where a good a deal as anything Omar was showing me.

Now, Omar is pretty special and my friends Jean-Pierre and Sandra will also tell you. They looked at maybe 100 properties with Omar before they bought one. But, if you figure out what the market looks like, you should be able to tell if you have an Omar equivalent or a friend on commission.

I wouldn't recommend anyone at this point

If I meet people and they seem reasonable after some time and they're interested in getting residency the way I did, I'll make some suggestions. Otherwise, enough gringos have come through that stiff people (three) that I don't want to mess up my relationships with people I know giving their names to people who I really don't know who might disrespect them or cheat them.

Everyone who shows up here asking for advice on how to handle a move to Nicaragua is not necessarily a nice person. Safe enough to give generic advice, but not introductions to specific people without meeting the people wanting the introduction first and asking the people you're planning to introduce them to if they want to be introduced. My dentists don't want medical tourists. Dentists who do want to deal with medical tourists are listed on line.

Ask Nicaraguans if they want to be advertised on a site like this before posting about them by name; ask people if they are willing to help someone before telling people that so and so can help you with that. The people giving the references should consider that their relationship with the people they're naming here depends on other people they don't know much about not being problems for their own friends and associates.

My relationships with Nicaraguan I rather like or who have given me good service, and expats who done things for me, are more important than what a random passing person I don't know wants.

Rebecca Brown

This thread was a really good read.

I am really looking forward to my first trip to Nicaragua in the beginning of September. This site has been so helpful to the way things work in Nica and have convinced me to just make this trip more of a pleasure trip and try to decide what areas I am really interested in instead of aggressively looking for property. I am going to spend a good bit of time around Matagalpa, Jinotega, and Esteli, so if you see a gringo that looks lost or out of place make sure to say hi!