Navigating November In Panama
Wondering why Panama seems like a ghost town this month? Government offices are closed, the banks are closed—which means law firms are closed—and so are most local businesses…
This is Panama’s independence month (yes, month… not day). Holidays are as follows:
|Nov. 2||Day of the Dead|
|Nov. 3||Separation from Colombia|
|Nov. 4||Flag Day|
|Nov. 5||Colón Day|
|Nov. 10||Grito de Independencia (First Call for Independence) in Villa de los Santos|
|Nov. 28||Independence from Spain|
(And, keep in mind, when the holiday falls on Saturday
or Sunday, the president may make Friday or Monday a holiday too.)
We gringos have our own holidays to celebrate this month, too…
|Nov. 11||Veteran’s Day|
|Nov. 25||Black Friday|
If you’re living in or happen to be visiting Panama for Thanksgiving day, don’t despair… While it’s not a locally celebrated holiday, you won’t go wanting for Turkey Day fun, thanks to Panama’s long-standing American population. There are dinners to be had across the country, many in support of local charities. (See the calendar below for some specific suggestions.)
That said, Thanksgiving is still a foreign holiday here… it can be easy to forget when you’re ensconced in a heavily-American expat community. I was reminded of this recently by a story a friend related…
“My 6-year-old daughter’s teacher told her to bring in a Thanksgiving decoration to school as part of her homework. I figured it would be no big deal… I’d stop off at the grocery store and surely they’d have some sort of turkey wall decoration stuffed in between the Christmas stuff and the toilet paper. (I know, strange place for Christmas decorations, but that’s where they’re kept in this particular store.)
“But I couldn’t find anything related to Thanksgiving. I searched the five surrounding stores and still came up with nothing.
“I even received a chuckle at the local pharmacy when I tried to explain what I was looking for in my very broken Spanish: ‘Uh… decoración para la Día de Gracias?’ The woman looked at me blankly, then laughed and ran off to find someone who could speak English. Even with a translator, the shopkeeper couldn’t figure out what I was talking about…
“In the end, I wound up going to the internet and printing out a picture of a turkey.
“Thanksgiving does exist in Panama, to some degree, but mostly in the expat communities. It’s one holiday that you may have to put in a little more work to make it what you’re used to. Things like wall decorations aren’t going to be a quick-drive-to-the-Walmart away.
“You won’t have trouble finding turkey here, and pecan, apple, and pumpkin pies can be found in most grocery stores this time of year… and some places, especially the more Americanized supermarkets (like Riba Smith), do have a small Thanksgiving section. PriceSmart, our local Costco, makes a great pumpkin pie.”
Celebrating Thanksgiving in Panama can be lots of fun, but if you are coming to Panama to obtain visa, residency, purchase property, or just want to conduct business in general… don’t come expecting to accomplish anything during the month of November.
Aside from all the official holidays (and the “bridge holidays” on Monday or Friday), a lot of people take vacation days during this month to capitalize on the time away—they get to spend five days at the beach, instead of two. Some folks here manage it so that they work only a few days during the month, at all.
Given that, the city will be moving slower than usual and no one will get much done.
On the bright side, there will be no traffic in the city that weekend… but be warned about the holiday traffic. The Pan-American Highway will be packed on any day that would have masses coming or going from the beaches. Every week this month either a Thursday evening, Friday, Sunday evening, or Monday will see the highways in gridlock.
November and December are popular months for holidays all around the world. It’s important to keep that in mind as you plan your business transactions around the world.
This is not the time of year to try to get anything done in a hurry…