• 10 Things You Will Hate About Panama (and why you should learn to love ’em)

    Good morning everyone,

    I hope wherever you are this day, you’re staying warm (and for those of you in Panama I hope you’re staying cool). Today’s post just had to happen. I hear every single day that people are tired of the hype all over the Internet about how perfect Panama is. Most of that is coming from people selling conference tickets and houses in Panama. So, I just had to do it. I had to write about the 10 things you’re definitely going to hate if you move to Panama. 

    Now, before anyone jumps down my throat, you should know me fairly well by now. This won’t be a negative post. I love Panama and for every single not-so-great situation I describe, you’ll discover there’s something really great going on to counter it. However, there are things that will bother you about Panama. It’s a fact. I’m sure there are things bothering you in Kansas City, Quebec, Chicago, Miami, London, Helsinki, Las Vegas, or in Caracas. Wherever you’re from, I bet you could put together one hell of a top 10 things you’d hate list. Here’s mine on Panama. This is in no specific order. 

    1. Motorcycle drivers create their own lanes  

    This blew my mind when I first moved here, mostly because I almost ran a couple of these drivers over. It’s crazy. In the U.S., motorcycles have to stay in the appropriate lane, just like any other vehicle. Here (and I thought this was illegal until I noticed many cops on motorcycles doing the same thing) motorcycles swerve in and out of traffic, and drive up the narrow aisle between lanes.

    See? Like this!

    I sat in traffic one day on a street that was two lanes going in the same direction (one way street). A young couple, walking hand-in-hand, looked both ways before crossing the street. They did everything right. Then, as they crossed, suddenly a guy on a motorcycle came flying up that space between our lanes and screeched to a halt. I mean his back tire came up off the ground as he somehow managed to stop before slamming into this couple. The driver shook his head and threw his hands up in the air as if it were the couple’s fault. I didn’t even think it was possible to get run over by a motorcycle. Really? That was a close one though. 

    Beware, when driving, checking your blind spot in Panama also means making sure there aren’t any motorcycles creeping up, like the one you see in the photo below, just chillin’ at this person’s back bumper.

    This guy is just sitting in someone’s blind spot

    Why should you learn to love it? Well, when you’re waiting for your pizza to arrive, you’ll be glad your delivery guy is able to get through the traffic quickly.  

    Plus, if you happen to own a motorcycle, you’ll be able to almost completely avoid traffic. Hmm, maybe I should learn to ride a motorcycle. 

    2. Everything shuts down on certain holidays – 

    What does this mean? Panama is full of very religious people, of many different religions. Quite a few of the business, especially in Panama City, are run by Chinese or Jewish business owners. This means that on any Chinese holiday or Jewish holiday, getting things done may be difficult. I set out one day to do some clothes shopping with my family, and my mother-in-law kind of shouted out as we were leaving that it was a Jewish holiday. I heard her, but didn’t think much about it. 

    A few miles down the road, when we pulled into the Los Pueblos outdoor shopping center, I noticed the gates down and the doors closed on most businesses, so many that it didn’t really make sense to walk around and shop. 

    And it’s the same with the Catholic Holy Week. You might want to run out to the mall to pick something up and find that it’s closed down or closed early due to a religious holiday observance. 

    So, it’s a big deal sometimes when it’s a normal day for you, but you can’t get anything done. It’s like trying to get your favorite chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A on a Sunday. Ain’t gonna happen. 

    What’s the good side of this? You’ll always find something open on your holiday, whether you’re Catholic or Jewish or it’s the Chinese New Year. Your options may be limited, but you can still get things accomplished. 

    3. Snakes and bugs  

    This is the tropics. Not only is it hot and muggy, but you will see lots of bugs, and quite possibly snakes and even scorpions. You might find less of these pesky creatures in Panama City, but they are here in and around the city. And I’m sure you’ll find much more out in the interior. 

    Found this spider in our bathroom

    A friendly writer living high up in one of the mountain communities in Panama’s interior, Rhonda, recently wrote about finding a scorpion at her front door one morning, stinger up and ready to attack. Her cats were just messing around, swatting at it, no care in the world. I’ve never seen a scorpion here, but I’ve found very large spiders in my house. The spider in the photo above was found in my bathroom.

    In our last house, my wife woke up early in the morning to use the bathroom and through her tired, blurred vision, barely noticed a snake slithering around near the toilet. I’ve written about this before. She screamed, ran out of the bathroom, and slammed the door behind her. I rolled out of bed thinking someone had broken into the house or something. Marlene warned me to stay back because there was a huge snake in the bathroom that might be poisonous. I’m a wimp when it comes to snakes, so I was more than willing to back off. 

    This think looks huge close up

    When the firefighters and police showed up, they had a big laugh when they found the snake. Looks huge in the photo above, but it was really this big. Look at the photo below.

    This is what it looked like to the cops. That little thing that looks like a dog turd…that was our snake

    What’s the good side? It’s the tropics! This means wonderfully warm (genuinely hot) weather. Forget the bugs! If you don’t like bugs or other pests, get a cat. Or get a dog. Hell, the spiders eat the mosquitos.

    4.  There’s no MLS (Multiple Listing Service/System) in Panama 

    This can be frustrating when you’re searching for a home, or when your preferred real estate agent is searching for you. You won’t find one-stop shopping when it comes to apartments, condos, or homes in Panama. People have set up websites, some really great ones, to try and roundup some listings, but it’s difficult to get a real finger on the pulse of the real estate action going on across the entire country. That’s why you’ll notice most agents stick to small areas, where they can truly understand what’s available.

    What’s the good side? You’re still able to find great deals in the towns you love, as long as you get out on foot and do a little bit of searching. If you visit, for example, Penonomé, absolutely fall in love with the place, and decide you’d like to talk to a local real estate expert or go directly to the owner of a house you see for sale, you can do that. You can do it without having to worry that 20 people are online about to pounce on that home. You might not find such a large audience if trying to sell a home, and as a buyer you won’t see all the cards spread out on the table, but when you find a gem, you have much more of a chance of getting your hands on it. 

    5. Littering is still a problem in some areas – 

    I’ve heard from many expats visiting Panama that they were shocked by the amount of garbage on the ground in some areas. This is a problem. It bothers Panamanians just as much as it bothers visitors and the causes vary from people just being careless and tossing their milk carton out of their car window to not enough garbage trucks on the street.

    In some neighborhoods, you’ll see big unofficial garbage collection points, that are just flat out nasty. You’ll see dogs picking at bones and flies buzzing around. Did I paint a gross enough picture for you? I don’t want you to be shocked when you get out and visit the non-touristy areas. 

    This is nasty!

    The good news is this is a problem the Panamanian government is well aware of. More trucks have been purchased, new programs have been put in place, and it seems that they’re genuinely trying to clean up the streets. I’ve seen signs posted reminding residents to not throw their garbage in some of these unofficial collection points.

    Recycling bins on the Cinta Costera

    I’ve seen recycling bins in parks and other places that get a lot of foot traffic. I was just at the Cinta Costera the other night, a fun place to hang out along the water, and I noticed the recycling bins in place. Even in the smaller towns in the interior, I’ve started to see recycling bins. At the town center in Penonomé, the little park there in front of the church had bins in place. That’s awesome. 

    The Penonomé town center

    Many Panamanians have taken it upon themselves to help clean up the issue. Just yesterday morning, I heard on The Breakfast Show with Gerry D (which can be heard Mon-Fri, from 7am-10am, on Cool 89.3 FM or at their website www.pbcpanama.com), a fellow named Roba Morena talking about an upcoming recycling fair. He said his group collects nearly 10,000 pounds of recyclables per year. You can read about the upcoming fair, which is actually this Sunday, Jan. 26, at the Banco General parking lot in Villa Lucre from noon until 5pm, at http://www.robamorena.com/feriayoreciclo/

    So, in some areas you might still see trash on the ground, but at least you know people are working on cleaning it up.

    6. This place might not be as affordable as you’ve heard – 

    Let’s just say it like it is. A lot of companies are hyping up Panama, telling you that it’s the most affordable place to base your retirement. You’re being told that you can find super-affordable rentals, you can buy food for half the cost of what you’d spend in the U.S., and utilities are crazy cheap. 

    Panama City is definitely not the cheap retirement haven it used to be. It’s hard to find a low-cost rental in a desirable location. Like most major cities in the world, Panama City is a popular destination, right on the water, and living downtown can cost a lot. In that same area, electricity will be high, and grocery costs will probably be a lot like what you’re used to, even more expensive for some items if they’re imported. 

    Life in the high-rent district will cost you

    However, this doesn’t mean you can’t retire to Panama on a shoestring budget. You absolutely can. You just have to know how to do it. 

    You have to face the facts about Panama City. It’s expensive now. Expect to pay at least $1,200 to rent a decent place in the city (and that’s on the low end). Out in the interior, it’s still very possible to rent a place for under $500 a month. I’m not going to go into this too much, because I just covered it in my article The Real Cost of Living in Panama, which you can find by clicking here

    Panama is not like the U.S. You won’t walk into a Target or a Walmart and buy everything you need right there in one spot. You will find places like El Machetazo and Discovery Center, where a variety of items are on the shelves, but I’m telling you, warning you, if you rely on one store to get everything you need, you’re going to spend a small fortune.

    Buy local brands to save money

    You have to learn to shop like Panamanians. This means buying your fruit and vegetables at the Saturday market or any other fresh market around town. If you live in one of the small towns where fish is brought out straight from the docks each morning, buy your fish from the street side vendors. With a family of 6, I buy certain things at PriceSmart (member shopping, like Costco) like meat and juice, but I buy toilet paper at the regular supermarket. If you learn what to do and what not to do, you can live in Panama on a fairly low budget. You can read my article about PriceSmart shopping here

    Try to shop at the farmer markets

    I put a Real Supermarket Prices article together, which you can read here, and afterwards I got a lot of email responses about how Panama didn’t seem any less expensive than peoples’ home cities. The reason for this is I tried to put items on the list that people would be familiar with, so they could see what those prices are like here. I also tried to put some Panamanian brands on the list. You can buy a $5.39 pack of Chips Ahoy, or you can spend $1.50 on a similar local brand. As I mention in most articles, you can’t buy all imported goods if you want to save money. 

    Water is usually very inexpensive in Panama and so is trash collection, but electricity…wow. It totally varies. I’ve heard a lot of people tell me their electric bill is well under $100 per month. My sister-in-law is shocked if hers goes over $30, but she’s rarely home and never uses an air conditioner. If you run your AC all day, and you live in a pricier area, you could see bills of $300 per month or more. I know because I’ve received bills that high. 

    Living in a place like Boquete, Cerro Azul, El Valle de Anton, or Volcan, you’d rarely use the AC, so your electric bill would be very low. However, if you’re living in the penthouse suite in a Marbella condo and running the AC all day (Panama City is hot), expect to pay more for electricity.

    You’d probably never use an air conditioner in Cerro Punta

    All that said, if you can learn to live like a local, you can still save a lot of money retiring in Panama.

    7. Customer service isn’t great (for the most part) –  

    If there’s anything that will probably drive you nuts about living in Panama, it will be the general lack of a good customer service mentality. I’m really into customer service. I always have been, so it bothers me a lot when I’m paying for a service and someone rolls his or her eyes at me, or just refuses to help…it’s pretty aggravating. 

    I’ve always found customer service to be a serious issue in Panama, but I’m noticing now, that it seems to be about the area you’re in. It’s unfortunate, but true, that if you go to a popular restaurant near a lower income area, the service just seems worse. Then, you go to the same restaurant in an upscale mall, and it’s a totally different experience.

    Tantalo in Casco Viejo has great food and great service

    When I taught customer service techniques here in Panama awhile back, I was told by many of my Panamanian students, that the reason they didn’t provide great service is that tips are always low. I can see how that would be a factor. People are used to paying very little in Panama, so I imagine the tips are quite low as well. I think a lot of it has to do with employers not making the employees feel like they have a vested interest in the company. They’re getting paid a very low salary (many times by foreign employers who came here to open up shop and save money), they clock in and out, many work more than 5 days a week, and they go home just to do it all over again. You’ll rarely see sales initiatives in place or rewards for employees. That’s a shame.

    Keila and Eliecer provided outstanding service at the Do It Center in Villa Lucre

    This means great things for us though. We have the opportunity to completely change things. As customers, we can help by smiling, being friendly to the person serving our food, leaving a fair tip, and making sure we’ve actually told the server that we appreciate their great attitude and a job well done. Doing that, we might be able to change the poor customer service mentality.  

    As business owners, you can lead the way by providing great service yourself and teaching yoru employees how to do the same. Motivate your employees. Make them feel a part of something bigger. And for cryin’ out loud, if you come here to open up a business, be a good employer. Treat your employees with respect and pay them more than the bare minimum. You’ll probably still save money. Just sayin’.

    8. Construction noise in the city – 

    This might not be much of an issue in the interior, except maybe parts of the Pan-American Highway being reduced to one lane because of construction, but in the city, construction noise is always around. 

    Construction work in Obarrio

    So much is happening in Panama, all over the place, and with all the work going on, you’re bound to be annoyed by some of the construction noises. And if the sound of the jackhammers, wrecking balls, and other equipment doesn’t bother you, you might hate, or get a kick out of, the constant whistling and yelling you’ll hear every time a pretty woman walks by the site, as work halts and workers step to the ledge to check out the action down below.

    When one beautiful woman passes, one guy whistles, and no less than 20 workers risk their lives to peak out at the street below

    The good news is it’s quite entertaining to see everything halt, like a Broadway musical number is about to begin, and see the guys yelling their praises to the passing women. Also, it’s good to know that so much progress is happening. I’m excited to see what new businesses will spring up around the city. There’s so much change going on all the time. It’s exhilarating. 

    9. Traffic –

    If you’ve read anything about Panama, I’m sure you’ve read about the traffic issues. Panama City is gridlock traffic during all rush hours, which is a good portion of the day. Trying to leave the house anytime between 7am-10am in the morning, and 4pm-8pm in the evening, is a bad idea. Just avoid it if you can. Unlike any other place I’ve lived, there aren’t many shortcuts here. You can’t really dodge the traffic because if there’s an alternate route, everyone else already knows about it.

    The Cinta Costera at 5pm

    Living in the interior, you might avoid most of this traffic. Unless it’s carnaval time, any other holiday, or a long weekend. Many Panamanians escape the city whenever they can by heading to the interior. So, if it’s Holy Week, and you want to get to Coronado, you might find yourself in some pretty heavy traffic on the highway. We went to David during one of the long holiday weekends (I can’t remember which one). We avoided all traffic headed out there, had a great time (did the Volcan video which you can see here) and all was great…until the drive home.

    The Corredor Sur at 8am

    We left early in the morning, before sunrise, to head home, knowing everyone else would be driving back to Panama City this day too. We were flying home, no traffic at all, but then decided to stop for breakfast. That 30-40 minute break was a big mistake. By the time we got to the entrance to El Valle, traffic was bumper to bumper all the way back to the city.

    So how is any of this good? Well, when you stay in Panama City during any of these long holiday weekends, you find the streets open up with hardly any traffic. It’s amazing. Everyone has gone to the interior. 

    The Corredor Norte at 9am

    And as far as the daily traffic grind, again, things are getting better. The Metro trains are scheduled to start running this year, many of the buses have been taken off the road, and hopefully traffic will start to ease up. If traffic congestion really bothers you, just move to one of the small towns in the interior where a lot of people write bikes. That would be great.

    10. Getting things accomplished, step by step by step – 

    I’m sure you’ve all heard of the mañana attitude (where things move very slowly, especially anything relating to the government) here in Panama, but there’s one other issue you might notice when trying to get anything accomplished. Several employees will be involved in whatever it is you’re trying to get done, whether it’s buying a cheeseburger, getting a work license, or anything else. 

    For example, for one of the jobs I had here, I needed to go get a copy of my police record. I went to the building that issues these, to make sure I could prove that I was an upstanding citizen. I stood in line at one desk, to request the form I needed. When I made it to the counter, the lady told me I needed to go to a different area of the building to pay the small fee I was required to pay (I think it was only $1). Then, I needed to go back to the original lady to get the form stamped. I kept thinking, “Why can’t I just pay her, have her stamp my paper, and be on my way?” It doesn’t work like that here.

    At one of the social security hospitals here, I stood in line with my wife to explain what we were there to do. We were given a form and told to take it to the doctor. So we went to his office, knocked on the door, interrupted his conversation with a patient, just so he could sign the form (I guess agreeing to see us), then we had to go pay at a cashier window, then go back to the first counter…you get the point, and this was all before actually getting seen by the doctor. Once the doctor prescribed our medicine (after the exam), we had to do a similar process to get the meds (including visiting the pharmacy first to make sure they had them before going to pay and then returning to get the medicine). 

    For the final step in getting my cedula, I had to go to an office on the second floor of the Tribunal Electoral office to turn in my paperwork. Then, they sent me downstairs to pay. At that point I got a little bit lost. I’d paid and couldn’t figure out what to do next. I got into the wrong line before I was told I needed to go back upstairs to the original office I’d been in. So I did. They did what they had to do and then sent me back downstairs to get in line to have my photo taken. Then I was told I needed to come back another day to pick up my ID card at a completely different desk.

    For a great example of all this, read my steps to getting a Panamanian driver’s license here.  

    This might all seem a little bit crazy, and I’ll never agree that it’s efficient, but when you think about it, it’s all a big checks and balances system. If four people are handling pieces of the process, it’s a lot harder for one person to take a payoff and speed up the process for certain friends or crooked businesspeople. It ensures everyone is equal.

    Plus, it helps lower Panama’s unemployment rate. Panama is great at making sure its people have jobs. I’m not kidding. I counted 14 employees at the Burger King in Costa del Este. And only 3 customers at the time. This is great for the employees and makes the job a lot easier for them. Now, 14 might be overkill, but I can tell you when I was a teenager, and only 2 of us were on shift to man the front counter and the drive thru window at the ice cream joint where I worked, I would’ve loved to see 12 coworkers respond for backup. 

    Bonus #11.   Your DVD player might not work 

    If you haven’t already switched to streaming all of your movies on Netflix or any other online venue, you might still have a DVD player. I do. 

    When I moved to Panama, I had a container shipped with all of my belongings, from Columbus, Ohio, to Panama. There was no way I was leaving my 500+ DVD collection behind. Since it took awhile for my stuff to arrive, and I wanted a second DVD player anyways, I bought one here too.

    If you don’t already know, DVDs sold in the U.S. have a region 1 code built into them. Canada falls under region 1 as well. Panama is region 4. I didn’t know all this when moving here. What does that mean to you? 

    If you have a DVD player that’s purchased, for example, in the U.S., it’s going to play region 1 DVDs, but unless it’s a multi-region player (many are nowadays) it won’t play discs from any other region. 

    So, when I bought my DVD player in Panama, it was a region 4 player and it wouldn’t play any of the discs I brought with me from the States. I figured out what the problem was and took the player back to the store. I asked for a multi-region player. The attendant assured me the next one I bought was multi-region. It said it was on the box. Still, it would only play the movies I’d purchased in Panama, not the ones I brought from the U.S.

    I took the player back to the store again, and was sent to some little room where they could test it. I brought a region 1 disc with me, and the guy was unable to get it to play. Then, I saw him play around with it a little bit, he punched a code into the remote control, and bam, it started playing my region 1 disc. I went home, happy to be able to finish my season of Friday Night Lights.

    Everything was fine for awhile, until my container arrived and I set up my surround sound DVD system from the U.S. It wouldn’t play my Panamanian DVDs. Same issue as before, but the other way around. I remembered the guy putting a code into the remote control at the store, so I started doing a little bit of digging around online. I found that almost all players can be unlocked so that they play discs from any region. It’s a very easy process. 

    You really just have to go to Google and type in “How to unlock my Panasonic 57R43.” Of course you’ll need to substitute what I typed with the make and model of your player. I used the following site, just now, to find the code for my Philips DVP5990 player. http://www.videohelp.com/dvdhacks?dvdplayer=Philips+DVP5990&hits=50&Search=Search

    You’ll see on that page, if the link works, that the step by step instructions for unlocking my player, in other words making it region free, are as follows:

     

    Press the Setup button

    Select the Preference Tab

    Press 1,3,8,9,3,1

    Press up/down key to select “0”

    And hit menu to exit.

     

    Sometimes you’ll have to open and close your disc tray and power off the player for a certain amount of time. Different players have different instructions. Hopefully this will help you be able to once again use the DVD player you paid good money for. I think this works for Blu-Ray players too. I tried with a PS3 and couldn’t figure it out.

    I typed in Philips and the model number you see here (all except the /37 at the end)

    Well, guys, I hope you didn’t find my post too negative. That truly wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to clear the air and be honest about some of the things I’ve seen and heard lately online and on the social media sites. Panama is not a perfect place. No place is. But I love this place and hope you will too.  

    If you haven’t already, enter your email address into the field below the red suitcase (in the top right corner of the page) to start receiving our bi-weekly newsletter.

    And check our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Panama-For-Real/418977398194595

    And our Youtube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6N7Ih2bjD0FjOBnDg_-Flg

    Thanks for reading, 

    Chris

     

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33 Responsesso far.

  1. Happy to leave says:

    Did 12 years in Panama.
    Thought maybe a bit of investment and get to enjoy the tropics.
    WRONG !!
    #1 Lawyers and the classic “process” is medival at best
    #2 Trash improvement and protecting the environment ARE NOT GOING TO HAPPEN…its that DNA thing
    #3 Cost of living is high and the chinese who own all the markets are always raising prices at the pueblo markets
    #4 NO CONSEQUENCES WILL EVER BE GIVEN HERE on any matter or physical attack OR ANYTHING…PLEASE BELIEVE THAT IF YOU DON”T BELIEVE ANYTHING ELSE EVER WRITTEN
    #5 Very rare to find someone who will not steal from you at some point…starts out good and then they take things
    #6 NEVER NEVER lend any amount of money as you will NEVER see it again
    #7 Whatch out when buying property…We bought at Visata Mar golf resort when new and paid in full only to fight for 2 years to get title…cost another 10k via lawyers
    #8 You will be robbed…unless your extremely lucky or have protected yourself….the first time you need the police you will understand why…they do nothing
    We are speaking from first hand experiences
    #9 THERES SOOOO MANY BETTER PLACES TO RETIRE ETC ETC…Please be carefull
    #10 Theres no real culture here …drinking seco and playing loud music IS THE CULTURE
    #11 FOODS TERRIBLE….whats one super dish youve had in Panama thats local..NOTHING unless you like chicken soup
    ADIOS PANAMA

    #5

    • Chris says:

      Thanks for your honest opinion. This allows people to see the good and the bad before making a decision to move here. Sorry to hear it didn’t work out for you. Thanks again for reading and for commenting.

  2. Travelman32 says:

    Panama is a crime ridden shit hole that is far too expensive for what it offers. This is, at best, a developing nation that tries to charge American/Western European prices, sometimes higher! My wife and I were held up at gun point on a beach (littered with trash sadly) and we will be happy never to step foot in this place ever again. The police were slow to react, mostly useless and uncaring. Avoid!

  3. Rosa says:

    I actually agree and disagree in a lot of thi g because ive been in Panamá and its very beautiful. You cannot expect the country of your dreams, with no danger or people that disrespect the law. At least Panamenians are united when theres something wrong about their country ; we love their culture, their food, and mostly the historic places. Yes ive seen motorcycles between cars, but if you live there you should now you cant change it. Thats hiw its it. In conclusion Panamá is the best country ive been in because they love to celebrate their independence days as panamenians, so you should go to Pamaná and have the most enjoyble time of your times.

  4. Tom says:

    Loved reading this – verty very interesting. I’m researching because I’ve been in Bogota for three years and want to move on, and just spent the weekend in Panama had the best time ever. Loved just sitting in the fish market drinking beer and eating ceviche at prices you can live on. The issues you raise, I cannot possibly see as being as bad as bogota. It’s a hole and nothing compared to what I saw in Panama. And the best things about Colombia, I.e. Everything outside Bogota, are equally accessible so I don’t have to compromise. Seems my money won’t g o as far, but a great insight to helping me decide on the move

  5. Bosque Virgen says:

    Great article, yes. But I’m left wondering why my week in Panama (with friends who’ve been living there PT for some years) was so different from what you and the expat gurus say.

    I’m a popular guy, very outgoing and cross-cultural. I speak 4 languages and have avocationally learned more Spanish than one “American” friend married to a Chilena (living in Chile) and another married to a Mexicana — neither lady knowing any English. I was looking forward interacting with Panameños and maybe getting the chance to tell some that at least one “American” deplores the way los EE. UU. have raped Latin America through the centuries.

    We’re driving to one of my crowd’s modest homes in Boquete from the airport and stop for a munchie. The girl behind the counter exudes total negativity and barely speaks to us — and that was my experience everywhere there. The gurus claim Panameños are so gratified by whatever effort you make to speak their language — NOT so in my experience, ever.

    Indeed Panameños generally struck me as very unhappy, depressed or oppressed people. My expat amigos, very normal positive people themselves, concede that my perceptions are correct that rank-and-file Panameños generally resent Americans. That is completely understandable, but not (as I say) what I’d always been told. This prompts the question, for me, of how much “Americans” actually belong down there.

    Learning that you have to have a house sitter while away from Panama or you WILL be robbed — and that any household help you hire WILL be looking for where you keep your valuables — doesn’t help. I understand the economics down there, but typical restaurant food was totally mediocre. I politely asked a waitress where the salt was and she acted like I was asking for change for a $100 bill.

    I don’t know where Panama’s vaunted beauty is hiding. David looks like Newark.

    Thanks for letting us comment directly w/o going through FB or whatever.

  6. Clive says:

    Nice article..

    first time a read a blog and did not fall asleep.. I enjoyed it.

    if its Gods will i will be moving there ..

    • Chris says:

      Ahaha, thanks Clive. That’s funny, man. Glad to hear you stayed awake through it, and yes, God willing you’ll be on your way in no time.

      Chris

  7. Frankie says:

    I just read your article and loved that while you stated the obvious reasons to hate this country, at the same time you listed what to love about them. I am born and brought up here and have a very hard time dealing with: hideous customer service, horrendous traffic and constant noise wherever you go. It’s good to look at good side as well. And it makes a lot of sense. Thanks,

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Frankie, for your great comment and for checking out the site. Yes, I love this country (and of course there are things that bug me, but I’m cool with that, lol). Thanks again.

      Chris

  8. I have lived in Panama since 1985 and can say I have many great experiences here with my Panamainian wife of 30 yrs and two children. I agree with many of the things you say and I will say that I have killed spiders, scorpians and snakes in my home mostly baby Fer de Lance.
    I( bought my home in 1986 and paid it off in five years. It was a cheapy but it got us away from greedy in-laws and the noises and crime of Panama City. Oh yeah if your dryer is outside and you drop a sock behind it don’t just stick your hand behind it, snakes like to ave their young there because of te warmth. Chris first time I have seen this site and like what I see thank you for the articles.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks so much for the dryer tip. I would’ve never even though of that. I’m sure I’d remember after the first time a family of snakes bit my fingertips. Thanks for your kind words about the site and for taking the time to read and comment.

      Chris

  9. Rosemary says:

    This is a great topic. Good job.

  10. Carlos Martinez says:

    Hi Chris!!!

    I’m glad I’ve read your article about our country and that is not hateful. I agree with you in many of the things you wrote. I guess that as panamenian I dont see many of the things you called out as bad (Im ok with bugs, definitely not with the SNAKES) There are several things in my country that were not always that way. Traffic is not getting any better (public transportation is awful) and I’m not even going to write about littering.

    I see no lies in your article!

  11. Nicole says:

    Hello I am from Panama and I live in a small town in West Virginia and I enjoyed reading your article.
    I few a years ago I went to Panama to visit my father and my family I took my husband he was my fiancee at the time,I have never gone as a tourist I had the tourist experience until I went with him, I was very surprised how many people spoke tEnglish to him and how everyone was so friendly towards him I even took him to El Machetazo in Calidonia and the service we had there was amazing, the can drivers were really nice.
    When I got tithe part about your cedula I feel you if it wasn’t for my father and the fact that he is very popular and has connection I would’ve never gotten my cedula and passport as fast as I did.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Nicole,

      Thanks for checking out the site and for sharing your story about visiting Panama with your husband. Sounds like you had a great experience. Are you guys planning to eventually retire here?

      Thanks again!

      Chris

  12. Katie says:

    Thanks Chris on the wonderful insight to a beautiful country. I was down over Thanksgiving and can’t wait to get back there this spring. I agree with so many of your “hate/love” points — but all tolerable for me.

  13. chris says:

    Nice article, most i completely agree with except for the rental one. If you know where to look you can find great deals on apartments. My roommate and I pay $500 for our nice 2 bedroom place centrally located in Hato Pintado. There are other rentals just like ours in the area. Unless you need to stay in Paitilla you can definitely find reasonable rentals.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks a lot for checking out the site. You’re right, you can definitely find places out there. Like I was saying, you can find houses in Brisas del Golf, a 3-bedroom home, for $800. So I know there are definitely apartments out there too. But it would be hard to find something for that price right in the heart of downtown Panama City (El Cangrejo, El Carmen, Obarrio, etc.). But good deals can still be found if you really get out and search for them.

      Thanks again for checking out the site and for your comments.

      Chris

  14. Al says:

    In preparation for our move we’ve started ripping all our DVD’s to a 1TB external drive. Didn’t want to lose our library either!

    • Chris says:

      Al, excellent idea. I have everything on a hard drive now too. It just seems like the safer way to go. Thanks for checking out the site and for commenting.

      Chris

  15. Cindy says:

    It boggles my mind that you could write an article about the things you’ll hate about Panama without mentioning the petty crime. Where we lived around Coronado, expats and Panamanians alike have been terrorized – yes, I’m using the word terrorize – by robbing thugs who have been breaking into homes, tying people up and robbing them. They have been known to beat owners, poison their dogs, etc. They have been known to follow people home from the bank and rob them. They have been known to sabotage vehicles in order to rob people. They have even laid seige upon a restaurant full of patrons – twice – tied everyone up and spent hours robbing them while beating the owner. These are not isolated incidents – they are calculated attacks. Everyone who lives in that area knows of at least one person who has been victimized. There have been some great efforts made by the local expat community to try and crub this, but it is still happening with regularity.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Cindy,

      Thanks for reading my article and for your comment. I didn’t mention crime, because I’m planning to put together a report solely about crime in Panama and I didn’t want to mix it in with the lighter things you might hate about Panama. And for the most part, the criminal element in Panama revolves around certain areas, so just like in the U.S. and many other countries, if you stay out of those areas, you’re less likely to experience it. Obviously, Coronado isn’t one of the places I’m talking about, so these issues are surprising.

      Plus, with something as serious as crime, writing an inaccurate report can seriously damage a town’s reputation, so I have to be very careful with that.

      This is the first I’ve heard of it being so terrible in Coronado. I’m sorry to hear you’re having such a bad experience. I have many friends out there who’ve never mentioned this, so I’ll have to do some digging around and see what I can come up with for a good report. Is this going on inside the gate at Coronado? Or is this mostly happening to people living outside the gated community?

      Thanks again, Cindy, for reading and for your comment. I’ll definitely look into it.

      Chris

  16. Great post Chris! I’m really glad to see that your site is staying true to your vision and telling it like it is.

    Karen

  17. Simone says:

    I loved this post.. Thank you for sharing it and being so kind haha

    I loved that you posted about the DVD player as I also have this issue I bought a sound bar LG and I can’t watch any of my movies do you think that I can jail break that?

    Thank you so much for your information
    Simone

    • Chris says:

      Hey Simone,

      Thanks so much. Thanks for checking out the site (and our Facebook page) 😉

      Hey, I’m not sure which sound bar you have, but I found the following steps for the LG HLB54S. It seems like a pretty routine set of instructions, so it’s worth a try. If not, try putting your brand and model number into the search field at the link I provided in the article. That might work too. Let me know how it works out. Have a great day!

      1. Power on the player with no disk in the drive

      2. Press “PAUSE” on the remote

      3. Enter “3 1 4 1 5 9” on the remote (the word COdE appears on the display)

      4. Enter “0” on the remote (0 = All Regions, 1 = Region 1, 2 = Region 2, etc.)

      5. Press “PAUSE” on the remote

      6. Power the player off and then back on

  18. Marina says:

    Hola,hello,enjoyed reading your comments and with all my respect,I dissagree with you-I live in Colorado and went to visit Panama approximately five-six years ago and rented a three bedrm apt paid 600.00 and 600.00 deposit on calle 50,yes it was noisy if I opened the windows,it was furnished and with washer and dryer,my sister lives in Panama but her bedrooms are ,so decided to get my own place;the neighbors were very polite and they were all profesional,the bldg was centered,close to many restaurants,hotels,banks,etc.rented a car with no problem;everywhere I visit(malls,stores,banks,restaurants)I was always treated with respect-now,the problem came when I was ready to comeback(I stayed three wks)and ask for deposit refund,which I had a receipt,end of story:I’d to get one of my Nephews,a Lawyer to deal with them and that’s left me with a very sour taste in my mouth,dont feel like going back,truthfully.Something I’ve always valued is honesty,my frustration was the worst.I feel in the long run,that everywhere in this world,by my own experience you’ll find good and bad and when you balance it,is more good,right here in Denver,daily i go to supermarkets,malls,different stores that leave me very disappointed due to “lack of good customer services and willingness to help”sad.What’s better about Panama,is the warmth of the people,I don’t have to pay to get service with a smile,like I feel is the problem here and the atmosphere in Panama,I breath happiness don’t feel hurried.Hope you enjoy Panama and stay longer,in the meantime,I’ll think about going back to visit family.Have a wonderful day.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Marina, thanks for checking out the site and for your comment. Yes, you can still find some rentals available, but 6 years ago is a long time ago, things have changed quite a bit. And as I mentioned in someone else’s comment, you can find rentals for a little less than what I mentioned, but most of those won’t be in the downtown, city center, like in Obarrio or El Cangrejo or Marbella. Most of the more affordable places will be a little farther out. And yes, sometimes dealing with the landlords can be a real pain. A young expat friend of mine ran into this situation where he was talked into giving a landlord cash for an apartment. Like $300 for a security deposit and it was right before carnaval. So you can probably guess what happened. The landlord was supposed to be getting the apartment ready for him, but instead partied in carnaval with the cash, never got the apartment ready, and the guy was out $300. He never even got to move into the place. But it turned out the landlord was kind of a dangerous thug, so in the end the guy just decided it wasn’t worth trying to get his money back. You have to be careful with some of these landlords, especially when they’re not party of any kind of property management company. If it’s just a one on one deal, you can find yourself in a bad place. The following article, which comes from The Visitor, explains rental laws really well. Check it out: http://www.thevisitorpanama.com/2014/01/panama-landlord-and-tenant-laws/

      The people here are great, really warm, and you should definitely consider coming back 🙂

      Chris

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