I try to respond to each email I receive. Sometimes I receive “non deliverable” messages when I reply. This may be because of spam software on the receiving end that doesn’t like chiriquichatter.net as an email address. If you write and don’t receive an answer, then see if your spam software filtered my response. At any rate, I received an email today that I responded to, that was returned. I just decided to reply in the form of this post.
The posed email question was as follows;
My wife and I are planning to visit Boquete the second week of June this year with thoughts of retiring in your area. We see bullets of beauty shops for $8 an afternoon and live in maids for $150 a month. How much of this is true and how much hype?…
I assume from the writer’s email that he has read this on some website. I don’t know the source.
These are pretty simple questions, and others that live in the area may respond with additional information in the form of comments.
Let me respond to the questions and then provide my 2-cent soapbox.
1. Beauty shops for $8.00 an afternoon.
I don’t have personal knowledge about a beauty shop. I get my haircut here in David for $2.00 at a unisex salon. I understand she cuts ladies hair for $3.00 and depending on the style and what she does, it could go to $7.00 to $8.00. When I was in Boquete, several charged $2.00 for haircuts. Just before I left one place had changed the rate to $3.00. Obviously this was a result in the number of “gringos” that had moved to Boquete.
2. Live in maids for $150 a month.
Now this seems like a simple question, but has several things that should be understood. I am not sure what the current minimum wage is in this part of Panama. I think it is still below $1.00 an hour. Therefore, if you pay $150, you are paying for about 150 hours a month. You will be responsible for the employee’s social security. You should have a written agreement covering the duties and the social security portion. If you are going to live here, one of the first things you should get is a good lawyer to advise you on such things.
If you have a fulltime maid, gardener, etc. you need to make sure you have good references, because hiring the wrong person can be expensive (Read between the lines). I think most that have live in maids give the maids the afternoon Saturday and all of Sunday off and they are entitled to 1 month’s paid vacation a year. Remember that the room you are providing and the food they receive has a value.
I have a lady that cleans twice a week and I pay her $8.00 for each day. If she takes a cab home, I pay her an extra dollar. However, she is outstanding. Extremely honest and I have never seen anyone work harder during the 8 hours she is here.
That should answer the questions, now for the soapbox. A person that wants to fit in and be an asset to the community should pay and expect to pay the same that a native resident of Panama would pay. You should not pay more or less because you are not Panamanian. When you pay more than is normal, then you become an inflation factor. Many, not all, people that provide services will consider your ability to pay, and if they think they can charge you more, they will. If you deliberately pay in excess, you are doing a bad thing. If you want to help the country and have resources to do that, then donate. There are plenty of hospitals, schools, and families that can use help. Helping a family should be done anonymously. If it becomes known that you give to the needy, you will be surprised at how many needy appear at your door. If you want to help, do it that way and don’t do it by paying more for a service.
I have found the Panamanian people and Latin American people in general to be very nice and most will do an honest days work for their pay. The businesses I distrust in general are businesses that are run by English speaking people. There are exceptions, but in general, I would include Real estate agencies, housing developments, builders, etc, that have English speaking owners. Many of these businesses have been set up to specifically sell to “gringos” who has more dollars and less sense.
When you pay more for the land and services than a local would pay, you increase the likelihood that a local cannot buy the same thing. Land prices increase. Good help becomes unavailable.
Even a small thing like tipping for meals needs to be reevaluated. In the states, I never gave less than 15% to a person that served my meal. Here in Panama, depending on the restaurant, many locals might not tip. I think 10% is reasonable. If the service is extremely good, I still give 15%. However, there are times when the service deserves and receives $0.
In the states, I always took my groceries to the car in a cart. Here, if you have several bags, they will bag and take them to the car. The bag boys will watch to see when a “gringo” is checking out and they will want to bag his goods. When you consider the minimum wage, a quarter tip to take the bags to the car is pretty good. Fifty cents should require some real effort.
You will see beggars around many of the stores. They may be someone that has lost a leg and cannot work. They may be blind. They may be native Indian women (I have never seen Indian men begging – they send their wives). They may be someone that is hungry. They may be children. I let my conscience be my guide. Sometimes I give. Sometimes I don’t. I have no problem giving a little something to the first four. I never give anything to children or to adults that are having children ask for money. In my mind I am promoting the wrong incentive to a child to give him money for nothing. If he wants to shine my shoes, I will pay him whether I need it or not. I may not be right, but that is the way I think.
I guess the soapbox got carried away. If you were lucky, maybe you stopped reading after the two questions were answered.