Deciding to Move to Panama?
“Panama is a Spanish-speaking country in the tropics,” I remarked to the assembled group at the start of this morning’s conference program here in Panama City…stating the obvious.
“That is to say,” I continued, “don’t move to Panama if you don’t want to live among people who speak Spanish.
“And don’t move to Panama if you don’t like tropical weather. At least don’t move to Panama City. It doesn’t get any steamier.”
Here are nine other reasons I suggested you may not want to choose Panama:
- There are bugs at the beach and snakes in the jungle.
- This is a Catholic country. People take the Catholic feast days seriously. If you intend to run a business here, understand that your staff won’t be working on religious holidays.
- There’s no national to-your-door mail delivery service. You’ll need to engage the services of a mail-forwarding service (for example, Mailboxes, Etc.).
- Don’t move here if you don’t like loud parties. Latinos do.
- Don’t move to Panama if you don’t like firecrackers. Latinos do.
- Don’t move to Panama if you’re bothered by taxis with no door handles, no window handles, no air conditioning, no seatbelts, or, in extreme cases, no seats.
- Latinos don’t like to disappoint…so they won’t tell you, “no.”
“Can you fix this leaky faucet?” you might ask a Panamanian plumber.
“Si, Senor, no problem.”
Which can translate to mean that, yes, this man can fix your faucet.
Or it can translate to mean:
“Well, maybe, if I’m able to find the replacement parts.”
“Well, I’m not sure, because I’ve never seen a faucet like that one before.”
“In fact, no, I can’t fix that faucet, because I’m not really a plumber…”
- Mañana does not mean tomorrow. One cynical friend, living in Latin America for the past 10 years, maintains that, in fact, “mañana” means: “I don’t care about you at all. Maybe I’m wasting your time and money, but that’s not my problem.”
I’ve been traveling in this part of the world for 25 years but living here only 10 months. Perhaps my view will become more jaded in time. Right now, my definition of mañana is: “I hope to be able to address this request within a day or so, but I can’t make any promises…”
- Don’t move to Panama if you’re easily frustrated by red tape. You’ll have to deal with a lot of it as you engineer your move.
Note, though, that this is true no matter where you decide to relocate. Think about it. Over your lifetime, you’ve gotten a Social Security card, a driver’s license, and a credit card. You’ve opened a bank account and gotten an ATM card. You’ve bought a car. You’ve arranged health insurance, car insurance, homeowner’s insurance. Etc.
Now you’re moving somewhere new. And you need all those things anew. Plus you need a residency visa, if you’re intending to live in the place full-time.
Now you’re trying to do all these things in a place where the people speak another language and the cultural divide isn’t insignificant.
A place where people don’t want to tell you, “no,” even if that’s the answer to your question…
Don’t let this put you off. Just don’t try to go it alone. Get help from an attorney experienced at helping expats establish themselves as foreign residents.