• 15 Tips to Mentally Prepare You for Life in Panama

    I’ve been asked a few times recently about satisfaction among expats in Panama and what seems to drive people to pack up and leave. That’s a tough question to answer because each person has his or her own story. It might be the constant humidity, the slower pace of life, traffic (if they live in Panama City), missing family and friends back home, boredom, or a number of other things that bothers someone enough to cause them to call it quits. 

    You’re probably thinking, “Boredom? Wait, what, Chris? How could someone be bored? They’ve waited all their life to retire, lie on a hammock, and sip wine while rereading the entire Nichols Sparks collection.” Very true. George R. R. Martin is more my style, but whatever the reading material, yes, believe it or not, life can get dull when you’ve got the entire day free. 

    Yes, even this can get boring

    I won’t get into that too much, but let’s just say that it might take some getting used to. And other things about Panama might take some time to adjust to. That’s what this article is all about. This is about the things you can do in the U.S. or in Canada or wherever you’re living now to get a head start on mental preparation for this wild adventure you’re waiting to begin. Doing some of these things now might help ease your mind a little bit when you finally settle down in Panama for the long haul. Now, I may have mentioned some of these things in other posts, but maybe not…I’ve written a lot, lol, I don’t remember. 

    Oh and one other thing. None of this is meant to be negative. It’s just me joking around. So don’t get sensitive on me. 

    1. Rooster Alarm – The Corn Flakes commercial is a liar. I found out quickly the first time I visited the interior of this country that roosters don’t quietly meander up to the fence post, take a look around, inhale a deep breath, and let out one long rooster crow before feeling satisfied and retiring back to the coop.

    This rooster in Penonome might be your new alarm clock

    At least not in Panama. So, if you plan to move here, a good thing to do to practice and prepare yourself for life in the interior of this country, is to download the rooster alarm tone for your phone. Make sure you set it for “loud” and make sure you set it for 4:30am. Then, when it goes off at 4:30, make sure you have the snooze set to go off every two minutes, and let it do this all day. 

    In towns like Rio Hato or Penonome or maybe even Aguadulce, plus some neighborhoods in larger cities, roosters may be as common as dogs, so prepare yourself in advance so you don’t go nuts later. 

    2. Start throwing yourself into trafficYou can’t talk about real life in Panama City without touching on the subject of traffic. I sat in traffic about three hours yesterday trying to pick Mar up from work. This isn’t so different from many other major cities though. What is different, is the need to throw yourself in front of other cars. 

    You may have heard of the “juega vivo” attitude in Panama. It’s basically the game of life and means players win by staying ahead of everyone else, so “me first.” Nowhere is this more obvious than on the road. It’s very, almost extremely, rare that anyone will let you pull out in front of them in traffic. No one is going to invite you into their lane. You literally have to step on the gas and put yourself in front of someone. It’s risky, but it’s how things are done here.

    You’ll have to force yourself into this

    So, to prepare for this, just start pulling out in front of oncoming traffic (okay please be safe when you do this). If you want to get used to Panama City traffic, drive it like you stole it. Turn every day life into Grand Theft Auto (please don’t really go steal cars or yank people out of the driver’s side door and smack ’em around). 

    3. Hire people to do stuff for you – One thing people look forward to when they think of moving to Panama is the option to have a maid clean your house (every day or a couple of days a week). You may even opt to have a live-in maid. Plus, other hands-on work you’ve always hated can be contracted out. Hire a gardener to make your home front look snazzy or just pay someone to mow the lawn. Get someone to clean your pool for you. Oftentimes they’ll even come right to your door and offer their services. 

    These guys are awesome!!!

    These things sound great, right? Well, believe it or not, they may take some getting used to. My wife’s family has had a maid working for them for about 15 years. She’s like part of the family. They asked her to work for us when we first moved to Panama to make our adjustment easier. I have to say, I wasn’t prepared for that. I grew up cleaning my own dishes and doing my own laundry so suddenly having someone around to do it was odd. I felt bad letting someone else clean my stuff. But it’s her job and she’s getting paid for it. It’s like telling the bank teller you’ll count your own cash or telling the barber you’ll cut your own hair. You just don’t do it. 

    If you want to prepare for this, hire a complete stranger to walk back and forth in front of the TV while you watch the morning news. Have them clean stuff and move things around so that you can’t find them later, lol. Seriously. That’s what happens. Eventually you learn the person’s ways and you come to really appreciate the help, but at first it’s really weird having someone in your home, especially if they’re a live-in maid. 

    4. Random honking – This is something else I’ve mentioned several times in the past. Panamanians honk their car horns all the time. They honk to let people know they’re passing their driveway, they honk when they see a pretty girl (or a handsome guy), they honk to say, “Hey, up yours, pal!,” and they honk to let you know it’s okay to start driving again as soon as the light turns green. 

    Taxi drivers are the worst

    To prepare yourself for this, just start honking at everything. When you’re sitting at the traffic light, keep your hand at the ready. Just wait for it. Then, as soon as it turns green, just lay your whole elbow against the horn. Let it rip. Make sure the people in front of you know you’re in a hurry and they need to get the hell out of your way. 

    Then, wait ’till you see an attractive person on the sidewalk and honk like a madman. Don’t let people pull out of their driveways. Instead, speed up, and just as they’re about to hit you, hold down your horn and laugh maniacally as you pass. Do it. Prepare yourself for Panama and enjoy the process, it’s extremely liberating. 

    5. Stop doing all your shopping at one place – No more Walmart, pal! Just give it up. Stop cold turkey. And no more Target either. Instead of buying a bunch of stuff that you kind of like from one store, start to appreciate the finer things in life. And when I say finer, I mean specialty items you can only get at one place (and I don’t mean that special pumpkin puree you can only find at Whole Foods).

    Stop buying your produce in supermarkets

    In Panama, it’s very common for people to go to their favorite bakery to get the bread they can’t do without. Then, they’ll stop by a business (that’s actually in someone’s home) that bakes the best cakes. Then, they’ll go to a fresh produce market to pick up cheap fruits and vegetables. Then, they’ll go to a supermarket to get their meats from their favorite butcher before heading over to the Mercado de Mariscos for all their seafood needs. Instead of buying bulk in one shop, start buying what you really like from different vendors. This is life in Panama. 

    6. Embrace the cold shower – I swear only Anchorage, Alaska, and Chicago, Illinois rival Panama when it comes to freezing cold water (I’ve never been to Canada). Maybe it’s because your body becomes so used to the hot humid atmosphere. Then, when water is lukewarm, it feels like it’s minus 30. 

    “But, Chris, I’ll make sure I have a hot water heater,” you might be thinking. Okay, fair enough. But will your friends and hotels and family members? Chances are, not everyone will have a hot water heater. I’ve stayed at hotels where my options were to take a freezing cold shower or trust the external water heater device that was plugged in above the mirror and had exposed wires. I went with the cold shower. 

    So, to prepare for this, just go without hot water. Do what I do. Stand under the shower head. Hesitate for about five minutes. Remember that hot shower you had that one time at that one bed & breakfast. Think about the cold shower you took in that small community of Nancito in Chiriqui, Panama. Quietly cringe and debate how clean your body really needs to be today. Then, reach out, grab the cold water faucet and crank that sucker up as high as it will go. Next, scream, arch your back, and do that funky little, “Holy cow this is cold” dance. That’s how it’s done. 

    Preparing for no water

    And better yet. Fill a big jug full of cold water and take a slow shower under that little stream, just to prepare yourself for the frequent water outages that will occur. I woke up this morning to my daughters warning me the water was out. It happens quite frequently in my neighborhood as there’s a lot of construction going on near our house. So, I went out to our emergency water tank we keep full outside, filled up some jugs, and the family showered, brushed teeth, and cooked using this water. 

    7. Get used to Spanish subtitles – Whether you’re watching TV in your home or out at the movie theater catching the newest flick, there’s a good chance you’ll be watching it with Spanish subtitles. At Panama movie theaters you have two options. You can either watch a movie that’s dubbed in Spanish or watch it in original English format, but with Spanish subtitles. So if you’re the type of person who refuses to watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Pan’s Labyrinth simply because you can’t stand seeing a movie with subtitles at the bottom, you might want to rethink your move (or stick to watching your DVD collection).

    Even Netflix here in Panama automatically assumes you want Spanish subtitles on every show and movie. Of course, you can turn them off, but each and every show starts with subtitles. This is great if you have Panamanian family or friends around wanting to watch with you, it just might take some getting used to on your part.

    The Walking Dead on Netflix

    So, going forward, from now until you arrive in Panama, put subtitles at the bottom of your movies and turn the captions on on your TV. You don’t have to read them (although Spanish subtitles might help you learn Spanish) but seeing them in front of you for two hours at a time will help you prepare yourself for your new movie-watching experience. 

    8. Spanish speaking announcers – If you have basic cable here (and not some sort of special black box), you need to know ahead of time that nearly every sporting event you watch will come with Spanish-speaking announcers. 

    Yes, this means NFL, UFC, boxing events, and even WWE wrestling. What’s super annoying is that you might hear the English speaking announcers there in the background, but they’re being overpowered by the Spanish-speaking announcers. The English words you crave are so close…yet oh so far away. If you’re lucky, you might find a channel or two that actually plays the event in full English, but be ready to watch with Spanish subtitles. On a side note, you might also miss out on the American commercials during the Super Bowl. This drove me nuts last year. Instead of the cool, hilarious commercials I was waiting for, I got to watch a boring Panamanian version of a Miller Light commercial and maybe three other boring commercials that played over and over again.

    If you like wrestling, get ready to listen to these guys

    So, to prepare yourself, hire a Spanish-speaking friend to sit next to you on the couch as you watch any sporting event. Then, try really hard to hear the English-announcers while your friend shouts out everything he sees on the screen in Spanish. This should prepare you 🙂

    9. Click “Save” a lot – Internet is high speed (ish) in Panama and electricity is dependable (ish) in Panama. I’ve been here just over five years and for some reason it seems that in the last two years, I’ve noticed a lot more power outages than before. This might just mean a short dip or it might mean going without power all day long. I live in Panama City and experience this, and I know people who live in towns in the interior and have complained it.

    To prepare yourself for this, start constantly saving any work you do on your computer. Click save every minute or so. You may develop a nervous twitch, haha, but at least your work will not get deleted. 

    And if you really want to prepare for this, just tell your spouse or an older child, to randomly, maybe once a week (okay power outages don’t happen that often here, but it’ll make practice more interesting) turn off the circuit breaker. They shouldn’t let you know when they’ll do this. You could be watching the NBA finals, taking a hot shower, shaving your face…whenever. Have fun with it. 

    10. Cook a little more than usual – Not more often, but more as in the amount of food you cook. Let me explain. When I first moved here, I’d prepare about two pounds of ground beef, two packs of spaghetti, with two jars of sauce. I have four kids so this worked out great. 

    That was until family started showing up. Suddenly, as soon as the spaghetti was finished, I’d hear someone at the door. It never failed. Family members showed up when they were invited and even when they weren’t. In Panama, family and friends are everything. So be prepared for visitors and cook a little more. Now, I typically make three pounds of beef, three packages of spaghetti, and three jars of sauce. 

    To prepare for this, just pretend a family of three is going to ring your doorbell at any moment. And if you don’t want your food to go to waste, give it to the homeless or actually invite family and friends over for dinner. 

    11. Loud music is a part of life – I don’t think it matters where you live in Panama, you better be prepared to hear a variety of music at any hour of the day. At one point, when I lived in Villa Lucre (a small neighborhood in Panama City), there was a night club (disco) right behind my house. I swear reggaeton (Latin reggae) would start at 7pm and would continue until about 9am. Then, the neighbors on my street would play their music as well. One house was the home of an older couple who loved tipico music. So hearing an accordion was very common in the afternoon and early evening. The other house was the home of a young college guy who’d play club, pop, salsa, merengue, and reggaeton late at night on the weekends. 

    You should have been there when I was painting the house. It was a Saturday afternoon and reggaeton, salsa, and tipico filled the air. I had my stereo outside and I cranked up my country music. It was an awful, strange blend of music as Charlie Daniels tried to out sing Samy y Sandra Sandoval and Marc Anthony. 

    This is the site of my music melting pot paint job

    How do you prepare for this? Well, the fun way is to wait until your spouse is sleeping (he or she is moving to Panama with you, right?). Then, creep outside of the bedroom window, pop in a Spanish-language cd (just go with one of Marc Anthony’s salsa tunes, you can find his stuff anywhere), turn it all the way up, and push play. Then sit back and laugh as your spouse rolls out of bed and curses you out for the next half hour. 

    12. Go fry crazy – I don’t say any of this to pick on Panamanians. I love my new people. It’s all just fun and games. But honestly, y’all fry everything. Panamanians fry bread (hojaldres), they fry pastries (empanadas), they fry chicken, they fry, they fry tuna, and they fry lunch meat. 

    If you don’t cook it in your own home, there’s a good chance you’ll be buying it fried somewhere on a Panamanian street. Okay, don’t get me wrong, Panamanians make delicious soup and they do roast and rotisserie chicken and meat sometimes, but the majority of Panama food is fried. 

    This is how it’s done

    So, to prepare for this, start frying everything. Fry breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ll never forget when my mom-in-law visited the U.S. for the first time. She’s an awesome cook. But I wasn’t used to eating so much fried stuff. For breakfast she’d fry eggs, tortillas, hot dogs (salchichas), and even made french fries…for breakfast. My dad used to toss some potatoes in oil with a weekend dinner or something, but she made a pile of french fries with breakfast. It blew my mind. 

    13. Be prepared for quirky road rules – Not only traffic congestion is an issue in Panama, but the addition of some strange road rules can make things confusing. Most of these come into play when Panamanian traffic police are doing all they can to ease that congestion. 

    For example, on certain roads, at certain times of the morning or in the evening (rush hour periods), traffic patterns change. You have to be very careful making your way around the city and its suburbs at these times of the day. A road that usually goes in both directions, might suddenly change to a one-way, two-lane road between 6am and 8am. 

    Look for signs like this

    I’ve seen people pull onto these streets expecting it to be a regular road, like it usually is, only to come to a screeching halt just before smashing head first into an oncoming car. 

    So, if you want to prepare for this, start going the wrong way on a one-way street. Just go for it. Drive straight at an oncoming car, then slam on your brakes at the last second. No, seriously, don’t do that. Don’t listen to me at all. It’s safer that way. 

    14. Be ready to hear new music – I don’t mean new as in salsa and merengue and tipico and reggaeton. Sure, those styles of music may be completely foreign to you, and you can easily prepare yourself by purchasing a few cds you wouldn’t normally listen to.

    What I’m talking about is music in English you’ve probably never heard in your life. I don’t know any of the radio stations off the top of my head (as I’ve stopped listening to most of them and have gone back to my cds and mp3 mixes), but I can tell you that the few times I’ve tried to find English music on the radio, I was shocked by what I found. 

    It seemed that the only music I could find (in English) other than the newer pop and dance stuff that’s mixed in with Spanish music, was 80s music. And I don’t mean, “You can dance if you wanna…” or “Walk like an Egyptian…” I’m talking the strangest, oddest tunes I’ve ever heard. I was alive in the 80s and I happen to like 80s music, but I’d never heard 9 out of 10 of the songs played on the radio. I kept thinking, “Where did they get this crap?” It’s like the DJs flew to Borat’s country and asked what American or British music they listened to in the 80s. 

    Maybe something from this soundtrack

    So, to prepare for this, bring lots of music you enjoy with you and be ready to listen to a lot of music online. And if you really want to prepare for that strange 80s music you’ll hear, maybe find a VCR, go to all your local pawn shops and pick up any 80s movie you’ve never heard of, and watch them just for the music. Good luck!

    15. Religion returns to schools – Yes, Panama is doing it right, in my opinion (sorry if you disagree). Religion is a part of the school system here in Panama. If you go to a public school or a private school, there’s probably a 99% chance your child will be taking a religion (and ethics and values) class. And, of course, if your kids go to a Catholic school, or a Jewish school, or a Muslim school, there’s 100% chance they’ll be learning religion. So, if you have school-age children, be mentally prepared for this. There’s no escaping it. God isn’t being taken out of the national anthem here and God isn’t being taken out of the schools. I hope this doesn’t turn off any fans/readers. We all have the right to our opinions and I respect yours whether I agree with or not. But religion in schools is a fact here. 

    16. What happened to our fortunes? – Okay, one extra, and on a much lighter note. Well, not really since I love fortune cookies. 

    Seriously, do it.

    No more fortune cookies. Seriously. It’s sad, I know. I guess fortune cookies are a wacky gringo thing because Panama has a lot of Chinese residents, and quite a few Chinese restaurants, but I’ve yet to see a freakin’ fortune cookie. And I’m sorry to say there really is no way to prepare for this. You just have to accept the heartbreak as it comes.

    Well, that’s it for my 15 Tips to Mentally Prepare You for Life in Panama. I hope you learned a few things and had some fun in the process. If you feel that some things are missing, such as preparing for green olives being in most of your food, check out my other articles, like 10 Things You Will Hate About Panama by clicking HERE or 15 Quirky Things About Panama And Its People by clicking HERE

    Thanks again for reading,


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46 Responsesso far.

  1. Brian says:

    I just found your site while surfing. Gave me the best laugh I have had this year. I live on Volcan Baru in a small town called Santa Rita and can totally identify with everything you say. I have driven all my life, and have very few fears, but I do have to go into David once per month for shopping. I park in a shopping mall on my side of David and take a taxi wherever I need to go. It costs 2 dollars anywhere in David. Living here takes a lot of getting used to, but is well worth it for the peace and serenity in spite of the chickens. I’m surprised that your power and water only goes off once per month, here it normally goes off anywhere from 3 to 4 times per day. Thank God for the dry season when it only goes off once per week. In truth, one does get used to all the inconveniences, and learns after a while to appreciate the different, and far superior culture. I am the only gringo in town and I know every person in town on a first name basis, and if I don’t show up for some community event, many people are at my front door wanting to know about my health, and that everything is OK. In the states I could have been dead in my bed for months and no one would know or care or known for years if it weren’t for the smell. Being retired I will put up with all the inconveniences you so correctly discuss in your blog in order to enjoy all the benefits of living here.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Brian!

      Oh man. I envy you living up there. I recently spent two weeks in David for vacation, on the road that leads to Boquete. We were right around the middle, between David and Boquete, and it was awesome. Going from Panama City to out there, you immediately sense a huge change in the environment. It’s so much more relaxed out there. Someone even slowed down to let me get over when I put on my turn signal. That NEVER happens in the city! I can definitely see how you’d be enjoying your retirement in Volcan. God bless you, brother.

  2. sue ross says:

    GREAT INFO. I am all over the shopping tips! We are coming in January for 2 mths. One thing we cannot find info on is things to bring with. I like gluten free pasta, einkorn flour etc. Things that gluten free people eat. I dont mind paying more but if you cant find it…. Things that typically come from a health food store. Also need a strong blender for smoothies. Should we buy there or ship our Vitamix back and forth. Also shipping small stuff (not containers full). What is the best option. Would like to bring some of my own spices, sea salt, etc. Not much for processed foods so good there with the exception of Crunchmaster crackers and blue corn chips.
    thx for your advise we are super excited.

  3. Jennings says:

    Great article! I was so happy to find your blog – we are in the process of researching our “elsewhere” and Panama is #1 on the list (not in a city, though – probably western coast). My husband will have some adjustment issues, but I travel frequently to Uganda, so I could write my own “TIA” list (This Is Africa). 🙂

    I’ll be reading much more in the coming days! I’m hoping to find a “real life in XXX” blog for each of the several countries we’re looking at, so we can get a good feel for things.

  4. bob r says:

    great informative articles
    very witty and literate
    finally found source of info
    without hidden agenda

  5. Matias says:

    Hey man, loved your site, too bad that I’ve found it too late. I’ve been living here for 4 years now, and I just quit my very well payed job because I can’t live here anymore.

    Something that I haven’t seen addressed in your posts is the quality of the common people here in Panama, it’s a sensitive issue, but I would like to read about your point of view in this subject.

    It may sound a little harsh what I’ll say, but take it from the perspective of a young adult that came here all alone.

    I’ve been working in the greatest company of Panama (you can guess which) and people are so disqualified for the job. College education here is incredibly awful. I work with the suma cum laudes of universities and they can’t talk of write properly.

    I also find the panamanian culture extremely closed, and people very, very rude, blunt and very racist. I have venezuelan and colombian friends and you would not believe what people say to them faces, generally the low/middle class people.

    I quit my job but I have to stay until march to finish a project. I lost a lot of money opening a company, getting the papers, etc., etc., but I’m leaving here for good.

    Thanks for your posts.

  6. Angel says:

    Great Article Chris!
    Love the humor and it was educational, gotta say I’m intrigued with the 80’s music, curious as to who and what it’s all about.

    You do no fortune cookies are a U.S. Invention,right? SanFrancisco China Town to be specific. They also make a giant fortune cookie too!

    Keep theists coming love to read them.

    • Chris says:

      Hey Angel!

      Thanks man. Ha, the 80s music is nuts! Your fortune cookie fact doesn’t surprise me, lol. I’d never really thought much about the things until I realised one day that they were never offered with a meal here. Thanks again for reading and for commenting.


  7. Hi Chris,
    Great post here! I can imagine all of the things you mention and more being very amusing! Very funny how you illustrate them! My wife and I will be spending quite a bit of time in Panama in the coming months, so we are mentally preparing ourselves! I have a question, and it seems like you give the best, most accurate information regarding Panama. I wanted to see if you had any advice as far as dealing with the visa. Since we will be in Panama longer than 90 days, its seems we need a return or onward ticket to be allowed into the country. The thing is, we’re not exactly sure where, or when, our next destination will be, and we don’t want to spend money on a ticket just to be allowed into the country. Do you have any advice around this, or suggestions on how to do this most cost effectively? Feel free to send me an email if it is more appropriate. Well, thank you for posting great, humorous, useful information on your blog. Job well done!

    I look forward to reading more!


    • Chris says:

      Hi Gerardo,

      Good to hear from you, man. Thanks for your kind words. I think the best advice I can give you (maybe someone else reading this can comment with a better suggestion) is to start checking with the airlines and find out their canceled ticket policy. I’ve heard of people buying a round trip ticket, flying to Panama, then canceling the return portion of the ticket for a refund. You just have to check into this. Hope that helps.

      Thanks again for reading and for commenting, Gerardo!


  8. Lori Mailloux says:

    Chris, I look forward to reading all your stories. You make me laugh and at the same time you me feel more prepared to move there because I trust you to tell it like it is. Thank you!

  9. nelva leavitt says:

    This was really a funny article to discuss interesting “adaptability” points. And if we could take the issues with a grain of salt or sugar, might I say, we would enjoy ourselves as much as you seem to be doing.I enjoy your writing.
    Que la pases bien!

  10. Victor L Marrero says:

    Chris, great article. You are rite on. I travel to Panama yearly on vacation with my wife that’s from Bethania and those thing you discribe are why I love Panama. And one more thing, I always say about Panamanians,”Jodio pero contento”. Because no matter what they always find a way to be happy.

    • Chris says:

      Hey Victor,

      Thanks man. It’s funny because some people have taken this as a negative article, but it’s not at all. Just like you said, these are things that I love (or have come to accept at least) about Panama. You have to adapt. And, yes, Panamanians always find a way to be happy.

      Thanks again!


  11. Gino Morales says:

    Oh come on… you know you LUV all that stuff, and I bet the “juega vivo” lifestyle is growing on you big time – LMAO

  12. David & Melody says:

    Thanks Chris. As always, a “for real” look at real life. Some of these things I would look forward to…different music for example…even the subtitles to help with learning the language. I will stock up on ear plugs to combat the roosters and if the neighbors are playing loud music then my loud bass guitar playing to rock won’t matter to them either….that’s good as I can’t play too loud now in my apartment.

    As always…Melody and I love your posts.

    • Chris says:

      Hey David & Melody,

      Thanks so much. You should definitely rock out with your guitar. There’s a street performer here who plays guitar, unlike all the others who do everything from juggle to hula hoop to unicycle riding. He rushes out at each red light, stands on top of a chair, and starts playing La Bamba. The dude’s awesome. Just another random Panamaism.

      Thanks again for reading and for commenting.


  13. Ken Carter says:

    Right on Chris. My wife and I just left Panama after spending two months in Gorgona on a fact finding trip. You write a very true analysis on how life exists there. We know all about the loud music, the horns, the in your face vehicles on the road but also saw a good side to Panamanians. They are more serious looking than the Tico’s from Costa Rica, but once you get to know them, they are just as friendly. We are retuning in April to take up residence and apply for our Pensionado Visas. We look forward to coming back. Bring it on.

    • Chris says:

      Hey Ken,

      Thanks man. Gorgona is a cool place. I like that whole area, and you’re absolutely right, for all of these quirky things I wrote about, you’ll find 100 great things. Panamanians are awesome people and I love this country. Let me know if you guys need an immigration lawyer. Or just click on the ad in our sidebar. Gary Matteo is an awesome person to work with and offers our readers a discount. It’s the KM Group Ad. Just let them know I sent you 🙂

      Thanks again, man.


  14. Chris says:

    Great piece! Love the humor in which it was written and I found myself chortling on each point. I’m envisioning myself doing these things in the relatively quiet suburbia outside of Atlanta. I’d probably get arrested or cited for noise violations and driving. 🙂 Anyway, I appreciate your writing and tips as we prep for a visit to Panama next year!
    All the best,
    Chris H.

    • Chris says:

      Hey Chris,

      Thanks so much! I’m glad you were able to laugh with me. I had a great time writing it. Ha, yeah, don’t try these things in Atlanta. I should put that disclaimer at the top of the article, lol.

      Thanks for reading! Make sure you check out the rest of the site and watch our videos under “All PFR Videos.”


  15. Tom Giles says:

    I spent most of my adult life living and working in Panama and our kids grew up in Panama. After getting the kids settled in back stateside, I retired at age 48 and my Panamanian wife and I returned to Panama to build a retirement home near her childhood home in Veraguas. We built our retirement dream in Panama and lived there for 8 years but 7 years ago there was a second grandchild. 6 years ago, we decided to return stateside and help out with grand children. 5 years ago I went back to work to stay busy and shore up our retirement savings for our next retirement in Panama. We still have our home in Panama and periodically return for vacations. Late next year, my wife and I plan to move back to our home in Panama but this time it will be seasonal.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Tom,

      Sorry to hear you had to leave your retirement home, but at least you’re planning to come back. That’s great, even if it is seasonal. Thanks for reading and for commenting.


  16. Karen Ann says:

    LOL! Love this one Chris!

    So true in the interior also…except for many of the traffic woes. When we go to Panama I put my sunglasses on and close my eyes as my hubby pretends he’s driving through the combat zone in Afghanistan again. All that military training comes in handy. You forgot the flashing lights though, maybe it’s a country thing. After someone “flashes” you the challenge is to figure out whether he’s telling you la policia are under the next tree, there’s a herd of cattle on the road or if it’s just someone saying;”Buenas dias amigo”.

    We found out a couple of days ago that the music we thought was coming from the cantina across town (competing with the cantina down the street) was actually coming from some four foot high speakers in front of a house about three blocks away. As for the radio music on the English station from Panama (our daytime entertain by the way when the station manages to be on the air), my day wouldn’t be complete without hearing at least one Bee Gee song… Happy times!

    I was cleaning a couple of days ago and found an old “fortune” in the pocket of a jacket that I hadn’t used for well over two years. I’d brought it from Canada of course…like you, I’ve never seen them here.

    This article should be the primer for anyone considering moving here. Thanks for approaching the “pitfalls” with humour. Here’s hoping that those waffling about whether to make the move take it seriously.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks so much. I love hearing that you loved it :). Ha, that’s funny, about your husband driving through a combat zone. That’s what it feels like sometimes and the potholes and raised manhole covers are like landmines. Yeah, I didn’t mention the flashing lights. We did that in the U.S. too though, at least where I lived. I was happy to see people do that here when a cop is up ahead. It does drive you nuts when someone flashes their beams and you never see a cop. Because you keep thinking, “Man, how far ahead is this cop.” It takes forever before you feel comfortable there isn’t one up ahead, lol.

      Thanks again, Karen. It’s funny because most people agree with me on this article, but I’ve had a few grumps who’ve done the whole, “This is Panama, not America, and you should deal with that!” attitude. It kills me. I try to be lighthearted and just joke around, but I always seem to rub someone the wrong way. I love Panama, but these things are true. And as I’ve said a million times, I could easily write a “100 Things You’ll Hate About The U.S.” article. People need to lighten up, geez. Thanks for sharing my sense of humor. You should start a new business out your way. Karen’s Pedasi Fortune Cookies. That would be kind of cool. Just bake regular ol’ cookies, delicious pastries, etc. all with fortunes in ’em. That’s why I love Pedasi. So much opportunity out there.


  17. John Maciolek says:


    Outstanding article. I have been in Panama for like 8 years now and I have found exactly the same items. As for the Netflix my friend and for any other person in Panama who has Netflix, try using Spotflux as a VPN and get the Netflix from the US, better selection and more

    • Chris says:

      Hey John,

      Thanks, man. I’ll have to check out Spotflux. I mentioned on FB, when I replied to your comment, that I use that Hola thing (system, app, whatever you’d call it). It works great and it’s free. You just download it to your computer. My only complaint is that sometimes it stops and you have to restart the show you’re watching, but that seems to be very rare. It works great with Netflix, but I tried with Amazon (I wanted to see Ron Perlman’s new show Hand of God on Amazon Prime) and it kept saying I was out of the authorized areas or something like that. Thanks again, John.


  18. Jeff Beeman says:

    I know the house with the hammock above. I stayed there last July in Uverito Beach. I relaxed in that same hammock! Thanks for the pic and the wonderful article! Jeff

    • Chris says:

      Hey Jeff, I saw your comment on Facebook last night, but didn’t respond because I promised my kids I’d get off my phone and watch a movie with them. That’s definitely the same house. I wonder what they’re charging for that place now, or if anyone’s renting it at the moment. That would be a perfect writing retreat. I didn’t actually stay in the house when I took that photo. I visited someone who was. Thanks for reading and for commenting, man. I appreciate it.


  19. sarge says:

    Armand, I have friends moving to Las Tablas in January. They’ve sold their house and all belongings and will be Panama bound. They’ve visited and found Las Tablas to be their Nirvana.

    • Chris says:


      Las Tablas is really cool. It’s very small town though (probably one of the most third-world areas of Panama). The people are the friendliest I’ve met anywhere though. Twice while we were there reporting last time, people invited us into their homes and started walking us around, letting us take pictures in their houses, lol. I was shocked. I’d love it there. I don’t think it would work for me having young kids, but if you like the small town life, it can be a nice place to settle down. Plus, you have Chitre’s mall (and KFC and McDonalds in case you’re in need of a fast food fix) only 30 minutes in one direction and Pedasi only about 30 minutes in the other direction. Just prepare to hide away or get out of dodge during carnaval as Las Tablas is probably the wildest carnaval the country has to offer.


  20. sarge says:

    Another Great (long) Informative Essay. I’ve Missed your Panamanian Wisdom. I’m sure that young children and a beautiful wife keep you plenty busy. I worry about the Humidity, Molds & Allergens (and I’m a Tough Guy), and the wife missing the Grand Kids along with the interaction of Our Grown Children. Personally, I look forward to the Adventure. I can Horn Honk, Cut you off, Samba, Loud Music (sans rap), Rooster Crow with the Best of them. Fried Foods – mmmmh Yum. TV, who cares, I weaned myself off But the wife has certain shows that she loves to watch. Maybe, one day, Good to see you back.

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Sarge! I know I’ve been a little slow on the reporting. I’ve been working on my novels and all kinds of stuff. I’ve been swamped. I need to put together another location report and video soon too. The kids are out of school this week so I might have time to do one. Sounds like you’re ready and prepared for Panama. As always, my friend, thanks for reading.


  21. Armand Brodeur says:


    My wife and I have been in Panama for a little over a month; and have just finished our first week in Las Tablas. You advice rings so true. I enjoy and appreciate material and am already looking forward to the next installment. Actually We do get some nice things at the fonda next door to our apartment that aren’t fried. I suspect we may find that the variety is limited, but the food is just great and delicious. I had a great filet de roz the other night $6.00 for a plate load of great tasting meat. It did come with French fries. We get good burgers and pizzas in a few places and great burgers and pizza at Poncholo’s.
    I do suspect that some of my neighbors would eat a rock if you fried it.

    Thank you for your info.


    • Chris says:

      Hey Armand,

      How’s life in Las Tablas. I’ve been there and reported on there before, but not for my own site. I need to cover that area soon (and the other places on the Azuero). I like Las Tablas. That’s where I got my hammocks for cheap. And yes, Las Tablas is probably the friendliest and the most affordable town I’ve visited. Marlene and I ate lunch there for like $5, and it came with meat, rice, beans, salad, plantains, and juice. If you haven’t already, take a trip to Pedasi. Go to Smiley’s there Friday night (and I think Tuesday) for live rock music and big pitchers of sangria. It’s only about a 30-minute bus ride away. Thanks for commenting and for reading, Armand. Good luck on your adventures!


  22. Mike Guterman says:

    Good article. You forgot one important think to always keep in mind.
    “Mañana” does not mean tomorrow. It mean “not today”. Important difference.

  23. catherine says:

    Have to say right on point with what I have read. I grew up in Panama and went to private schools there. Every Thursday we before class went to mass services then classes began. One thing I would like to point out about Panama schools is that one is better off going to private schools. Not to say that public schools are bad. But the problem with them is when the what it seems nation goes on strike the only schools open during that time are private schools. My mother was a single mother and she managed to have her 3 kids in private schools and she paid for our private school bus to come get us at our home. When I got to the states I was skipped a couple of grades due to the curriculum is much more complex over there than here.. I was learning Latin and calculus in the 8th grade. But in all…. good guide.
    The maid thing is hilarious I was used to the maid and everything done for me… When I got here it was completely different.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Catherine,

      Thanks for commenting and for checking out the site. Did you read the articles I wrote about schooling here? I wrote a couple and they’re under the “Nuts & Bolts” tab at the top of the site, then under “Panama Schools.” I have only two articles there, but they kind of touch on some of the stuff you mentioned. I didn’t mention the strike info though, which is a great point. Sometimes you still have to keep your kids out of school because the strikes cause traffic issues (and you don’t feel like dealing with all that mess). Thanks again for commenting, Catherine, and thanks for reading 🙂


  24. Scott James says:

    Great article Chris. I’m from Cincinnati and live in Villa de las Fuentes II near El Dorado with my Panamanian wife and our 11 year old daughter. You are so spot on!
    I really enjoy your writing!

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Scott. I love hearing from people with similar living arrangements as me and my family. Especially when they agree with me, lol. I’ve been getting challenged the last couple of days (by just a couple of readers who don’t agree with me, but you can’t please everyone). So thanks for commenting. I really appreciate it.


      • Allan Sisson says:

        ,,,hi Chris enjoyed the article,,,,i live up in Canada and took a 3 week trip to Panama City,,,i wanted downtown for a different experience than the resorts,,,,every day was over 90 f that took some getting used to,,,just walking down the Cinta Costera could tire you,,,no shade but a great location and urban plan,,i do a lot of bike riding but traffic was a hazard,,,some streets pretty rutted,,,,the food was great and cheap,,,,good south american wine half price,,,,fast and cheap interenet,,,,,loved the music and people,,,took in the Canal of course but the driver had no English,,,my mistake,,,i got left in Colon but found another bus back thankfully,,,,another day i hopped on the wrong bus the ones with jimcrack,,,took me 20 miles out of town into cowpasture,,got back eventually,,,great place but there is a learning curve,,,,,made the mistake of using the atm machine too often,,,5 $ service charge per trans, wont do that again,,,

        • Chris says:

          Hey Allan,

          Thanks for reading and for writing in. Sounds like you had quite the Panama experience, lol. Yeah, it’s definitely hot and humid down here. I know how you feel. The first time I visited Panama, I flew in from Alaska, so it’s a rough change. Yes, for bike riders, Panama isn’t the greatest place (at least not in the city). The Cinta Costera is one of the safest places to ride a bike here. A friend of mine, Kris, rides her bike out in David. So I’m sure there are some mountain bike groups out there somewhere. You should join our Facebook group on Hobbies and Talents at the following link and see if you can find any other bike riders out there wanting to get together. Here’s that link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/519197154878158/

          Those international ATM charges are nuts, aren’t they? I still get hit with them whenever I use my U.S. debit card. Thanks for telling us about your trip, Allan, and I hope you make it back to Panama soon.


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