Thank you Kris for writing this. Reblogging and adding my thoughts to your post. 🙂
My blogging friend Kris lives in David. I find that often she and I have similar thoughts about things and the longer she blogs and lives in Panama the more forthright she is becoming. That’s a good thing because as she says in her blog post we all, we meaning those of us that live here full-time, see people exploring the “dream” that is Panama.
Like Kris, I have had many people contact me looking for more information about living in Panama. I often have to bite my tongue about things I hear and see and let people find out for themselves. I’m already weary of some of the things I see and hear. I have said repeatedly that moving to a foreign country, any country is not for the faint of heart. Many people end up leaving their brains packed in their suitcases and only take out their hearts once they see the sand, sun or the green lushness of their surroundings. My advice is like Kris’s:
- Head for the hills if you meet a salesperson unless that person comes with at least three recommendations from local expats. If someone is trying to sell you something ask around, people will probably be honest with you;
- You don’t need to sign up for any fancy newsletters or courses that cost money. There is enough free information out there to sift through;
- Information is a double edge sword, I’ve read some blogs lately that have made me angry with the misinformation they have posted. Don’t rely on one blog or forum, really, those of us that blog about our lives in Panama or any other country won’t be offended. And call us on something you don’t think rings true. If I blog about something that I don’t really know a lot about I do research about the topic but sometimes we’re given the wrong information too;
- You don’t need to take a tour. Really. Rent a car, drive. Hit all the tiny back roads, visit every beach, stroll through every little pueblo, poke your head into the stores; eat at a Fonda. End of story. It will be cheaper in the long run and you’ll probably enjoy yourselves more;
- Once you’ve done all that driving you’ll probably find one place that seems like it could be your new home. Go, spend time there. Don’t isolate yourselves from the rest of the community, get out and live*. After all, that’s what you’re here for right?;
- When you ask me for an opinion about something, anything here I’ll give you an honest answer. If you don’t want to hear it, don’t ask. For example: No, you can’t build a house here without being here for the build, don’t ask me about it 10 times and expect to get a different answer by asking a different way;
- Kris mentioned forums. We’ve had our share of reading negative comments. Everybody has their opinion, the negative comments will also help answer some of your questions. And FYI there is at least one negative Gringo in every community;
- Yes, you need to learn Spanish if you’re going to live* in Panama. “Hola” does not qualify as learning Spanish. Either that or you need to make friends with someone who is bilingual. You’ll be amazed out how your life will change with just a few phrases;
- Don’t come to Panama with your superhero cape and a bag of money and think that you’re going to change the people or culture and then complain how you’ve been “ripped off” by the locals. If you’re contracting a service ask around if you’re not sure you’re getting it for a fair price;
- You won’t be able to find everything that you had at “home”. The way the grocery stores are set up has no rhyme or reason;
- Use the “brain trust” of the locals that have come before you. You’ll be amazed how an exchange of ideas or skills improves your life. Think of it as the barter system, what do you have to offer your community?;
- Know that you’ll probably have to learn to do many things yourself. It’s not that there’s not people here who can’t do those things, you’ll just get tired of waiting; and
- Finally, in truth, living in Panama is not easy…at the beginning. The paperwork and red tape will drive most sane people mad until you get used to it and some people never will get used to it. You need to have an open heart and mind. Everything takes more time, more patience, more resilience, and if you don’t have these to spare, Panama probably isn’t the place for you.
* By live, I mean go out in the community other than to hang out at the “Gringo” places, talk to the locals, shop at their stores, learn their language.
The word “paradise” causes a knee jerk reaction in us. We have seen too much of the hype from companies looking to sell you something – publications, books, expensive conferences, and relocation tours.
When were in Las Olas there happened to be three other people from the US having dinner at a nearby table. They were here to check out Panama as a possible retirement option, and they were all very disillusioned, frustrated, and unhappy. After all the sales pitches and tours to expensive high rise condos on the beach, they thought a simple, low key life they dreamed of didn’t actually exist. They were amazed to run into someone living the life they wanted, but had been unable to find.
We asked these people where they had gotten their info, and they named a well known organization. They had spent the majority of their time in Panama City, and were…
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