I received an email the other day, thanking me for this blog. It seems that one man’s reading CC convinced him that Panama was not the place for him to move. He said he was convinced that house construction here would be as high as in the US. He also had decided that there were better and cheaper places to eat in Florida than what he had seen here. He had Subway and inexpensive all-you-can-eat places and Jamaican restaurants with Plantain.
Well, I think this is a good thing. The worst thing that can happen to an individual, or to Panama, is to have a gringo move here with expectations that are inconsistent with what the individual will find here. Anyone that moves here, to have a US living sensation and the same quality of life, is going to be greatly disappointed.
Life here in Panama is very different from the US. Houses, for the most part, are built from concrete blocks. The quality of construction is dependent on the builder you get. Even with a great builder, you have to be involved with the construction or many mistakes will occur. Changes made in concrete is much more difficult to correct.
If you live in Panama City, it will be more expensive than living outside of Panama City. Roads will not be of the quality you are used to in the US. Traffic in Panama City will be as bad or worse than any large city in the US.
In Panama, the best health care will be found in Panama City. It will also be more costly than in other parts of Panama. There are advantages to being in Panama City and others in not being in Panama City. Plan on many doctors spending 30 to 40 minutes with you before going to the next patient.
Whether any one can determine that they will like Panama, by reading on the Internet, is questionable. If you can read enough to determine you won’t like it, you most likely will be right. If on the other hand, you think it sounds like the exact thing you have been looking for, I think you still are working with too little information.
I think most people don’t know and have a good understanding of Panama until they have been here for at least on year. Living in Panama is quite a bit different in the rainy and dry seasons. To enjoy Panama, you need to equip yourself with a modicum of Spanish. You need to spend time living in the same environment that you will live in, if you move.
Don’t believe all of the rosy pictures presented by developments or other sources that will reap a benefit by your moving here. They will only tell you what you want to hear. I don’t care what level of income you come from, in the US, you will be considered “rich” by the average Panamanian.
Don’t move here because you hear that you can have a gardener and a full time maid for a pittance of what it would cost in the US. What you won’t be told is how hard it is to find either of the two that are completely honest and not on the lookout to lighten your wallet. I can’t count the number of times I have heard from people that have been robbed by those they had employed.
Many people don’t like the looks of houses with high fences and bars on the windows. I will tell you that you really don’t need them. Only the people that want to be free of theft have them anyway. It is kind of like flossing one’s teeth. Only do, it if you want to keep your stuff.
If you are considering a move, then plan on changing a large part of your life. Plan on not taking things as seriously as you did in the US. Plan on slowing down. Plan on learning that mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow, but sometime in the future (maybe). Don’t expect to have a call returned, especially to a cell phone. Plan on double checking all of your bills for accuracy. I would bet that out other last year I have had six months of my water bill have an error. Until you are known and accepted, plan on paying a little more for everything than a Panamanian.
Plan on at least 50% of your cable TV stations being in Spanish. Plan on 80% of the rest having Spanish subtitles. Of course that assumes you can get cable. If you use DirecTV, plan on many programs being disrupted because of hard rains. Plan on renting all movies that you want to watch in English. The last time I went to the movies, of the six choice, only two were in English.
On the other hand, plan on meeting some of the finest people you will ever get to know. Plan on the reduction of US based stress . Plan on getting up in the morning a seeing nature for maybe the first time in your life. You will live with nature more in Panama because much of the time your windows will be open.
Before anyone moves to a foreign country, they need to assess what is important to their needs for happiness. Make a list of what your absolute requirements are. Make a list of what things you think you can give up. Decide if you feel that you can change to be happy or if you think that Panama will need to change to meet your needs. If it is the second, please stay where ever you are.
I have always tried to present Panama as I see it and record both the good and the bad. If it helps anyone to have a clearer picture of the Panama, then that is good. Again, it is my opinions and others see it based on their measuring stick. The key is to know what your measuring stick is.