What is it like to live in Panama ?

by Jennifer Venter January. 21, 2018 2150 views

Everyone asks "what is it like to live in Panama" so I thought that I would come up with a bullet list to give you some first hand insights - bearing in mind that we live in a more rural location which about 40 minutes from a town :

  • Weather varies between hot, very dry to hot, very wet (did I mention hot and humid?). Where we live is a tad (note the word - tad) cooler since we live more north and closer to the mountains;
  • Lots of bugs, good bugs, bad bugs, you name its probably here or as our one dear American friend says "critters". If you live in the more rural areas, scorpions, spiders, frogs and snakes are highly respected due to the fact that they may or may not be poisonous.
  • One of your first purchases when you arrive in Panama (if you dont have it with you) is insect repellant, bug spray and sun screen.
  • Panama is a very small country with a population of 4 million people. There are very few roads so although we may live close (as the crow flies) to something, we have to rely on the few roads to get to different places, which can also be SLOW going due to bad roads. Some roads are tarred but then some may have huge pot holes so you end up driving like a drunk person. Plus the speed limit is low.
  • There is a large police presence with various check points to ensure laws are followed.
  • Everyone is retired except for us so now we are fondly called The Kids;
  • Everyone has grey hair except us and complain about their aches and pains as they are going into their eighties;
  • Everything is an adventure from filling your car, buying an ice cream, going to church, buying clothes,etc.
  • There is a lot of wisdom and knowledge amongst the ex pats here as they have lived full lives and are from many different cultures / countries;
  • Where we live you HAVE to have a 4x4 or better yet a horse as the roads are bad, and many are gravel or rocks.
  • If you want to shop, you need to plan ahead and write many lists of what you need or may need in the near future, we cant just hop to shops in our area;
  • Panamanians are always smiling, friendly and so helpful even though they may not speak a word of English,
  • This is a third world country so things are different here FULL STOP so best not to expect it to be a first world country when you come here
  • Panamanian people and children think we are giants since we are so much taller than them,
  • Panamanian children are extremely well behaved whether in a shop, church or walking in the streets.
  • Panamanians tend to be scared of dogs so dogs become alarm systems instead of an electronic alarm system;
  • There are a lot of candle lit dinners (due to power failures which may last 5 minutes to 8 hours)
  • Houses are painted BRIGHT colours so they can be found i.e green house on the corner;
  • Staple diet is rice and beans, and boy oh boy the rice and beans are fantastic here;
  • Other than anti depressants and some antibiotics, you can get pretty much whatever you want over the counter via your local pharmacists,
  • Lawns are cut via weed whacker or lawnmower or machete as well as horse or cows depending on what you have;
  • Dogs are very sociable here - they even visit each other (I guess their facebook must be down);
  • Making a cup of coffee becomes an occasion as boiling water on a gas stove takes 12 minutes 42 seconds to whistle (yes we did time it);
  • The houses do not have hot water so water is heated generally by gas. So taking a shower becomes an exercise in itself as you end up literally jumping around to avoid the boiling hot or freezing cold, its difficult to get the temperature just right. If you have an electric water heater, this connects directly to electricity via 2 wires and onto the shower head. This contraption is aptly named Suicide Shower or Widow Maker.
  • Even though Panama has nine months of rain, there are still (sometimes) water restrictions in certain areas during the dry months (generally December, January, February);
  • During the days we hear a car now and again, sonbesies (in the dry season), wind in the trees, and bird chirping .
  • The evenings are very dark here with the most beautiful stars (if the clouds have moved away). During the evenings, you will hear : the owls having long chats to one another, distant horses neighing, and people walking up the gravel road - their footsteps making a crunching noises. It is very peaceful here.
  • Very few of us wear watches here, unless you have an appointment, watches are happily left on dressers. Most of the time, we rely on the sun to see how much day is left. Sunrise is typically at about 7am and sunset about 6:30pm.
  • Where we live it is hard to tell what is a Monday and what is a Sunday, so many times you will hear me ask what day IS it ?
  • Many times you will spot us staring out into the trees, watching the squirrels or many different types of birds.
  • Everyone says Hola ! They may not know us, but we all greet each other either in Spanish or with a wave.

Well that is all that I can think of, for now. If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment/question or send me an email.Feel free to share my blog. Thank you for stopping by!

Much Love, Jennifer

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Jay Boggess 3 years, 1 month ago

WOW! Thanks for sharing your experiences in such detail. It's fascinating! Keep 'em comin'!!!

3 years, 1 month ago Edited
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