Important—Cultural issues regarding clothing:
Women - Professional Nicaraguan women dress very modestly. If a trip to a lake/stream/beach is scheduled, try to bring a one-piece swimsuit or a tankini that covers the midriff. Respectable women in Nicaragua DO NOT wear shorts in public. As a result, we ask that women wear pants, capris or skirts that fall below the knee. Please do not wear shorts unless we let you know otherwise. For church services, please bring a nice dress/skirt that falls below your knee and a pair of dress shoes or nice sandals. Flip flops are considered shoes to wear in the shower or while lounging around the house.
Men- Respectable men in Nicaragua do not wear shorts in public. As a result, we require that men wear pants. You will always be wearing long pants when out in the community unless we specify otherwise. It is very unusual to see Nicaraguan men wearing shorts. You may wear shorts when you are relaxing for the evening in the guest house. For church, bring a nice polo shirt or dress shirt, dress/khaki pants and shoes other than sneakers.
We recommend bringing a pair of closed toed shoes for daily footwear and a pair of sandals to relax in. We highly recommend bringing flip-flops to use in the shower.
Some of the churches are situated higher in the mountains so warm clothes to sleep in and a jacket or zip up sweatshirt are highly recommended. During rainy season, a jacket and umbrella along with an extra pair of shoes will be necessary.
**Ok, now that all may seem a little too strict and inflexible. It’s 90 degrees and will be working with kids and building in the hot sun and dirt all day. What gives?
There are several cultural reasons that merge together that have created this dress code.
#1—We want to respect the Nicaraguan culture and in return, see that each of you are given the same amount of respect.
Dress is very important to Nicaraguans, much like it was in the U.S. and Canada back in the 50’s and 60’s—when men regularly wore a suit and tie, and women dressed up to go to the market. Professionals dress very modest and proper—long pants, long sleeve shirts, collars, long skirts, etc. If they go to the bank, they dress up. If they go to a party, they dress up. Children will often attend events dressed in their Sunday best.
In contrast, Americans and Canadians tend to dress “sloppy” —shorts, tee-shirts, and tank tops. Partly because that’s our culture, partly because most Americans and Canadians in Nicaragua are just trying to deal with the hot climate. Regardless, compared to the higher standard of dress shown by the Nicaraguans, we appear sloppily dressed.
The simple step of dressing in a “Nicaraguan appropriate” way goes a long way in having Nicaraguans view each of you not as beach vacationers, but as professionals here to teach, minister, and make a difference.
#2—We want women to be especially prepared so that they will not bring unnecessary attention.
Women have a few additional challenges in Nicaragua where we work that men do not.
Nicaragua is a more male dominated society. Professional women have to work hard to earn and keep the respect of others; the same is true of American and Canadian women working in the country. A modest dress is one way of keeping that respect.
Shorts—a woman’s thigh is considered a very sensually intimate area; much more so than in the states or provinces.
Hollywood reputation—for much of the world, their view of American women is based on what they see on TV and in the movies—which often portray American women as promiscuous or in a sexual context. Dressing more modestly helps to fight this stereotype.
#3 - Our Churches and Schools Believe in Conservative Dress
We want to join the work that the Nicaraguan church is doing and not detract from it. Serving them by showing utmost respect for each part of the culture will say “We love you.” It’s a simple as that.
**Thank you for your patience with our dress code! Remember that we live here for years at a time and live with this dress code continuously. We hope that adapting to it for a shorter period of time will not be that challenging. We believe it will improve your experience significantly.