By Liz Small
Contributing writer to LatinWorld.com
Please look before you leap.
After reviewing the many articles that are available on the Internet on the subject of relocating to Panama and discussing the subject with friends and neighbors, we (a handful of full time Panama expat residents) thought we would try to present a realistic view of the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” of this major life style decision.
Depending on your choice of location in Panama, you will find the beaches and the beautiful oceans close at hand. They are typically warm but breezy, thoroughly refreshing, and relatively clean. Speaking of water, that which is intended for consumption, is fresh, pure, and entirely drinkable. There are areas, however, where thoughtless use of pesticides has resulted in the need for the installation of home purification systems.
If gardening is your thing (or even if your prefer to just supervise), you will find an amazing array of tropical flowers (with orchids being particularly hardy and with many varieties available) and trees to plant throughout the year – different things during the two seasons, the rainy and dry months. The climate consists of these two periods, both lasting approximately 6 months. The dry season (or summer) starts in late December, early January and ends in mid May. The rainy season (or winter) gets going around mid May and lasts until mid to late December. Typically, a day in the rainy season begins with the sun out and clear skies. Then in the early afternoon, there is rain for an hour or so, and then the sun reappears. Temperatures throughout the year (again depending on location) only vary 10 degrees or so (75-85 degrees during the day), the dry season being the higher. The climate encourages a particularly lush environment which, in turn, provides the perfect habitat for a host of colorful birds, native animals, and exotic looking – some say “beautiful” – insects!
We have all found these things (the proximity to great beaches and oceans, the ability to be surrounded by a vibrant landscape while enjoying the magnificent weather) have greatly contributed to an easy adjustment to life in Panama. Helping as well are the great roads which lead to many interesting sites and cities, the moderate cost of living, and the ability to meet and enjoy the Panamanian people.
Favorite pastimes (reading best sellers, knitting, gourmet cooking, chatting endlessly with family members on the phone, or even receiving letters) sometimes have to be finessed or eliminated altogether. Bring a good supply of books in the language of your choice – unless it’s Spanish, then “no problemo” – and encourage guests to bring some along with them when they come for a visit. Ditto any special hobby needs or exotic ingredients which may be in short supply or unavailable altogether! Better get hooked up on Skype or some other communication modality and be email literate. Calling internationally and receiving mail is pricey!
Before you buy a piece of ground to begin to have your dream house built, please take into consideration the following: the “ mañana” factor! Everything goes at a slower pace here and there is no sense of urgency. If you have left your ability to be patient wherever you have moved from, please go back and get it. If you were never a patient person to begin with, please think long and hard about building versus buying an existing spec house or resale. Retrofitting an existing structure is much easier than building from scratch. Ask folks who have “been there, done that” and you will soon discover the wisdom of this advice. By the way, those folks you asked for advice, they are your new “family” so try to listen carefully to what they are telling you and profit from their experience. After you have listened and actually followed what they have told you and saved yourself no end of pain and expense, not to mention aggravation, have them over for dinner as a way of saying “Thanks”! They may become your new best friends!
Have you have started to think Panama is synonymous with Utopia? There are a few challenges of which you must be aware. Traffic in Panama City can be daunting. The lack of street signs combined with the curious driving habits of the cab drivers can often result in a hair-raising experience. Are you used to having everything available at all times and in close proximity? Unless you choose to live in Panama City, you will not enjoy that luxury. Many items (produce and paper goods to name two) have to be imported and therefore will not always be on the grocery store shelf and will be a bit more expensive due to importing costs. We have a saying in Panama: “If you see it and want it, buy it!” It may not be there the next time you go looking. Also, there is a suspicion that some manufacturers send goods they would not be able to market elsewhere to Panama. Quality can be an elusive characteristic.
Bienvenidos a Panama!
front photo provided by ethantate at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ethantate/2750089356/
first photo provided by seracat at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mserarolsbcn/3370563337/
second photo provided by Alexander H.m: Cascone at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cascone/1295936293/