This morning I happened on one of the blogs I read called “Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua”. I enjoy reading blogs from other Latin American countries for comparison. The current post was called “Let’s Get Real About Retiring in Nicaragua”.
While I do not believe that Retiring in Nicaragua and retiring in Panama are the same, one thing is glaringly the same. The portrayal by many sources, such as International Living, leaving the reader with a very rose colored illusion of paradise. That may be the grass is greener on the other side of the fence syndrome.
“Let’s Get Real About Retiring in Panama” would be a good name for a book. I have worked on a book for the last two years and every now and then I open it up, reread what I have written, correct some punctuation and spelling and maybe add a few more lines. Then I close Scrivener and let it cure for a while more.
I have searched for a title for what I have written and “Let’s Get Real About Retiring in Panama” may represent it as well as anything.
There are plenty of books out there and many more I am sure in progress on retiring in Panama. I have a hunch most are done for some sort of profit motive.
You might ask why write a book if you don’t intend to to make some money off it. Well, I doubt if I would make much from a book. I am not sure what my ovation is, and that may be the reason, I haven’t completed the book.
I think some are written to promote the country so that the value of their purchased property increases rather than expecting to make any real income from the book. I have no property to increase the value of.
I have lived here long enough that I have seen people on the Yahoo groups telling how great Panama was right up until the sold their property and moved back to the U.S. I have also seen some of the same people, now in the U.S., write on the same Yahoo groups and now say a person has to be a fool to move to Panama.
The fact is that Panama is not for everyone. I get email almost on a daily basis asking what my opinion is on this or that. If I have an opinion, based on some experience, I will try to respond. However, I also try to tell people that the only opinion that counts is their opinion.
Their opinion will not be forged by spending money on a tour sponsored by many of the companies having lectures and tours for potential retirees. It will not be obtained from reading an outdated book by someone that may not live here or spends most of their life outside of the Panama.
It will be had by spending some real time here living in the real world situation.
I was recently asked about a new retirement development close to the Costa Rica border. I know nothing about it except from its website, I could see that it was pretty close to Paso Canoas. The website obviously created a very positive impression of the new development. I did notice that the pictured rental was on a second floor and didn’t have secure windows and had a sliding door to a back patio.
Many might think that a second floor would naturally be secure. My experience says something different.
Before our current house, Lilliam and I lived in her 3rd floor apartment. One day, the maid that was cleaning the apartment came to me in the living room and said, “Señor Don, un hombre está en el balcón atras.” (Mr. Don, there is a man on the back balcony).
I went to the back balcony, and sure enough there was a young man that was working on the opposite end apartment and had gone downstairs and had been locked out of the building. He had climbed up to our apartment and wanted to walk through the apartment to get to the apartment he was working on. Lilliam was furious when she came home from teaching and learned that I had let the man go through her apartment to the other apartment. I can still remember that heated conversation.
Well, I was still in a learning phase and this was one of my learning lessons. Two things were in this lesson. One, never let anyone you don’t know into your house. Yes, I heard you Lilliam.
Two, a third floor apartment is no more secure than a first floor apartment.
I know a lot of people come here because they think living is cheaper. Well, that can be debatable too. On the last two trips Lilliam and I have made to Texas, Lillian has taken a hard look at the prices in the grocery stores. She hasn’t found anything to be cheaper when it comes to food products in Panama. Plus, there is a much greater variety of everything there.
Some may think that it will be cheaper because they won’t need a car. There is plenty of taxis and buses and the fares are cheap compared to the U.S. It is hard to live in Texas without a car.
Yes the bus and taxi fares are cheap. They will be an adventure for newcomers. They are plentiful and go to almost anyplace you want to go. A bus trip to Panama City from David will only cost about $12 or so.
Two examples of cheap bus rides. A few months ago there was a very bad traffic accident on a bus running from Boquete to David. The bus driver was texting and lost control of the bus. Many were hurt and if I remember right there were some deaths. The price for these passengers was a trip to the hospital or to the morgue.
There have been a couple of recent occasions of armed robberies happening on these local buses. The young man that takes care of our pool was robbed on his bus to David and lost his cell phone and all the cash he had on him.
While I believe there is much less crime in Panama than most of it’s Latin American neighbors, there is more crime than gets the appropriate press. Most gringo and gated communities don’t want crime mentioned. The mention of crime seems to have a negative effect on property value. Imagine that.
I do spend less money on my cell phone than I would in the U.S. My monthly contract costs me about $33/month with unlimited usage. I will qualify that by saying I have never hit a limit.
I spend less on gasoline, but then I drive less in Panama than I would have to in the U.S. That is one of the reasons I live in David. I can get to anything I want in about 15 minutes at the most. If I lived more remote to David, it might be different because gasoline is more expensive in Panama than in the U.S.
I could not live in Panama City. I bet it would cost me double to live there and I would hate it.
Not good enough currently for Internet radio, so obviously right now not good enough for VOIP phones, Skype, NetFlix, etc.
The climate of Panama is great. The country landscape of Panama is beautiful. Those are the parts created by God. However, like Nicaragua, there is plenty of trash strung around and it seems the culture of Panama has not chosen to make it trash free.
You may be thinking that this is a fairly negative post and wondering why I live here. Well, I am happy here. It took a while. I like the climate. I love the people. I like the slower pace of life. I understand Panama now. I also found my Lilliam here and she makes me happy.
Will you like it here? I don’t know. You will have to find your Lilliam. By that I don’t mean a person, however being here with the right person helps. I really mean finding the thing you can point to that makes you say “this makes me happy living in Panama”.
I always recommend that people live here for a minimum of 6 months (at least 3 months in the rainy season and 3 in the dry season) before deciding to make a permanent move. If you are more frustrated than happy during that period of time, then I suggest you will not like it here. I have lived here over 12 years and still find new challenges every month.
Please take your time making your decision to move here. I hate it when I run into unhappy extranjeros.