Paris Cheaper Than Panama City?
Editor’s Note: As Kathleen explained yesterday, she and Lief are off on a two-week family vacation in Medellin, Colombia, their first since they launched the Live and Invest Overseas business in Panama City four years ago.
Before she took off for Medellin, Kathleen dusted off a few of the very first dispatches we published during those very early Live and Invest Overseas days, including the one below…
I suggested he double-check his math. Lief’s budget, which he presented to me last week, shows that it will cost more for our little family to live in Panama City, Panama, than it cost us to live in Paris, France.
How could that be? I asked incredulously.
My husband the accountant assures me his numbers are correct, and, indeed, holding aside the cost of housing, which is best considered separately, it appears our day-to-day cost of living will be higher in Panama than it was in France.
On one hand, this is a comment on how affordable Paris can be. This is a place where even a modest lifestyle can feel rich, where the greatest pleasures–strolls along the Seine, afternoons in the Luxembourg Gardens–come gratis.
In Paris, we were happily car-free and walked nearly everywhere. The butcher, the baker, the grocer, the wine shop, and Jack’s school were all less than 15 minutes’ walk from our apartment, as were the Tuileries gardens, the Louvre, six movie theaters, and a dozen cafes and restaurants. When we wanted to venture beyond our quartier, we took the metro. For less than 2 euro, we could go anywhere in the city.
Other things in Paris can be cheap, too–telephone, cable, and Internet, for example. Our phone plan, which cost less than 40 euro per month, allowed unlimited free calls anytime to anywhere in the United States and anywhere throughout Europe. Hard to beat. Full cable and wireless Internet service cost, in total, less than 70 euro monthly.
On the other hand, in Panama, we need a car. Which means monthly insurance, gas, and maintenance expenses…plus the cost of a driver, because I’ve given up trying to muster the courage to navigate the traffic in this city on my own.
Basic phone, cable, and Internet charges for our apartment in Panama City are comparable, in dollar terms, to what we paid in Paris–not including international phone calls, which, again, in Paris, can be free to the U.S. and Europe.
In Paris, we paid for heat maybe six months a year. In Panama City, we pay for air conditioning year-round.
Groceries are more expensive in Paris, but not dramatically so.
Reviewing Lief’s numbers, I couldn’t argue. For our family, given our lifestyle and what’s important to us, day-to-day living costs in Panama City work out slightly more expensive than in Paris.
Then there’s housing.
In Paris, you could spend as much as 15,000 euro per square meter to buy an apartment in one of the city’s prime neighborhoods and 5,000 euro per month or more to rent one.
You could also buy or rent for considerably less, of course. It depends on what kind of apartment you’re in the market for and in whicharrondissement you’d like it to be located.
And this is the fundamental point to remember, not only in Paris, but in Panama City…and anywhere.
When we contacted a friend in Panama City, a local real estate agent, to begin to explore our housing options there, we were surprised by his initial response. He told us about places for rent for US$5,000 a month and for sale for US$500,000, $800,000, even a million dollars and more.
In Panama City?
We’re putting aside purchase options, right now, and focusing on rentals, for two reasons, not only because the prices we’re being quoted don’t compute, but also because it’s wiser, moving to a new place anywhere in the world, to rent for a while before committing to a purchase. The truth is, today, we don’t have any idea which of Panama City’s neighborhoods makes most sense for us.
In addition, I don’t think this is the time to buy in this city, not in any neighborhood. The for-sale market has softened and will continue to do so. Better to rent and to watch…
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