Always Happy To Help

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.

20 thoughts on “Always Happy To Help

  1. Don
    I think you describe Panama’ in a very clear way. We have lived here for 2.5 years and frankly your blog was one of the resources I used to convince me to give it a try by visiting and then eventually buying a home here.
    We still maintain our home in California but it seems we are spending more and more time in Panama’ and less time in the U.S. We are now at about 6 months in each place since I still have business interests in California.
    I still enjoy reading your Panama musings and check with your blog almost daily.
    We live just outside of Rio Hato at the beach (Buenaventura). If your ever in the area stop by. We would love to meet you in person.
    Dan Terry

  2. Hi Dan,

    Now I am going to have to do some research to find out where Rio Halo is. Thanks for dropping in and taking the time to leave a comment.

  3. dear don ray,

    i think it takes a certain sense of adventure & interest in other cultures

    languages & humanity to break out of”the box” & we are not all alike

    thank goodness! i only hope frank & i are able to retire “south of the


    you do us all a tremendous service & enlightment. thankyou ellen

  4. It is like it is, clear like water…
    Don, you describe panama like a panamanian sin pelos en la lengua!

  5. Hey Don,
    The main reason I read your posts is to get information. You have been more than fair in your responses. I really appreciate that. The post that this refers to validates my (our) decision in relocationg to Panama in general, and David in paticular. We can hardly bear waiting to get down there in December for a real look-see.

    I think that a lot of people relocate thinking that this is going to be another extension of the U.S. After 25 years of Naval service, I have experienced world cultures firsthand. Those that visited and lived with locals, sharing their experiences, thoroughly enjoyed themselves while overseas. Those that did not experienced a rather shallow experince. I found this to be true even while stationed in Hawaii. As my wife is Hawaiian, we lived in the community amd made valued life long friendships. My other members of the wardroom typically lived in base housing or communities where everyone looked like them. They were always the first to want to get “back” to the U.S. Last time I checked, Hawaii is a state in the U.S. My point? I believe that living in David will be a great experience. Will we live there for the rest of our lives? Only time will tell. Based on the varied posts, I think this will be a good experience for us as well as Panamanians.

    The only thing that I dislike about the new immigration laws are that they want us to give up our U.S. citizenship for Panamanian.

  6. Freddh – Aloha, i “liv” 13 yrs hamakua coast , big isle, left 12 yrs ago and now can_NOT afford to live in hanokaa………Good LucK in David i am still eyeing UP-country volcan or? Respectfully Michael

  7. Aloha Michael,
    Yea it is quite prohibitive to live Hawaii. My wife is, i. e. growing a lot of things. from Kau District on Big Island. We lived in Mililani Town on Oahu back in 76-80, when we could aford it. Up country Volcan is still one of our choices though David still looks very , very promising. Not too large. She may very well opt for Volcan because likes the agriculture. i. e, growing things. She is my resident farmer.

  8. Ah—LOOOO—hah, fredh Is your “local” bride from Kau, or live there now.??? Love Wiohinu/Naalehu Wood Valley, Though ,Whoa Brah !! Madame Pele’s breath Purty da kine STONG there. (Hard to gro things).. I was one of the “Bunch” that built (29 weeks) Arbo-land for Ken & Marquerite Arbo (AKA ocean view Shopping cener) at Hawaiian Ocean View Estates…. David as far as i can discern from elevation, soil, etc. climate maps should be similar to Mililani town??? only spent a total of three weeks Oahu spread over several times–Maui & Big Isle-Know ‘most ever’ “nook & cranny”Kalapana to Wiapio Valley… Best Luck in David, Mahalo Nui Loa , resectfully, Michael

  9. Aloha. Michael,
    My wife is from Pahala, you passed through on your way to Naalehu. While we have never lived there, we often visited family and friewnds. I always enjoyed the welcome atmosphere on the Big Island. I used to tease that if one wanted a soda after 6 pm, you had to go to the Shell gas station and use the machine. I also enjoyed waking up to the sound of roosters crowing and the laid back lifestyle. I know that David will not have that same quiet quality, but I iamgine that the people will be the same. We will also invisit Volcan as well because of the ag., yet I am still drawn to a medium city as David. Actually the commute is about 45 mins, and with the new highway, it may a little shorter.

    We’ll just have to come down and experience for ourselves over a longer period. We are also looking at Merida, Mexico as an option. What is ultimately standing in the way in the Panama’s National ID Card and Article 53, Decree to reorganize the National Public Safety and Defense Council, create the National Intelligence and Security Services and make other arrangements. This is of concern as well as being limited to 30 days, with an extension of 60 day (maybe).
    Mahalo Nui Loa

  10. I don’t know,

    David is OK for a visit, a chinese restaurant and the such.. Perhaps a few sacks of rice at PriceSmart? One can surely find better prices on extras in other places, I’m sure. Also, David is a necessary evil if you need warranty service done on your new Toyota or Mitsubishi at the dealership.
    Other than that, for us, David is a hot, humid, not so inspiring town you pass through on the way to the beach or the mountains.
    We like Cuesta de Piedra, on the way to Volcan. I also like the small (hamlet?) called Paraiso which is near Cuesta. Prices just shot up so fast & so high we had to leave and I’m hoping this global recession/stagpression deflates the bubble aggressively and we’re able to buy a nice BIG chunk of land at about 1000M with a good water source & good dirt!
    Right now, the only job is to hang on to your Pesos and watch the DX charts. After all, we’re only here for a good time, not a long time!

  11. All opinions expressed by KK are those of KK. Many people like it here, I being one of them. KK liked Panama well enough that he left and rarely has a good word to say about it and prefers Costa Rica instead. My opinions are usually contra to his. But to each his own. Where ever you are, enjoy it and try not to influence others to dislike where they live.

  12. All opinions expressed by KK are those of KK. Many people like it here in David, I being one of them. KK liked Panama well enough that he left and rarely has a good word to say about it and prefers Costa Rica instead. My opinions are usually contra to his. But to each his own. Where ever you are, enjoy it and try not to influence others to dislike what or where they live.

  13. Hi Don Ray – Amen. KK sounds like someone who is trying to make the best of a bad decision – think he over-invested in CR at the wrong time and is trying to justify his choices, which is why he sounds like a hack for the CR tourist bureau.

    BTW – it makes me sad to see the phrase ‘pura vida’ used and abused by those such as KK. What was once an expression of the love of the simple life of the ticos has been turned into a hackneyed advertising slogan…

  14. I am very new to this blog and still attempting to navigate it properly, so I hope I’ve come to the correct place.

    May I first say that we have lived abroad on diplomatic postings for the past 30 years and Don’s attitude and flexibility is precisely that which is required when residing abroad (sometime also in one’s own country!).

    We are not US citizens and are looking to retire either to Malaysia (MM2H Program) or to Panama. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has considered these two countries as a retirement options and why you came to the conclusion you did.
    I realize that for US citizens, the proximity to home and same currency usage would have been points in favor, although cost of living in Malaysia, I believe, is considerably less.

    We are torn between the two places and comments/advice from anyone out there would be a huge help.

    Many thanks.

  15. Hi Marie. Thanks for dropping in. There is no right place to go in this blog to ask questions. Sorry, I can’t compare Panama to Malaysia. I have found Panama to be a good country for me. Very relaxed attitude, Much less stress than in the US. Expenses are comfortable for me. I like the weather and the people. I find health care to be good. Good luck on your search.

    What the blog will show you is a little of a day to day example of my living here, since it is written in a journal format and not organized like a formal commercial site.

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