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Panama > Expat Experiences


By Edgington, Boquete

Published Monday December 12, 2016 (07:55:02)
By Edgington
By Edgington

Who are you?

By Edgington (short for Byron, but no one ever gets it right).

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

Boquete, mountains of Western Panama, September 2016. My wife and I moved here for her health reasons. Also, we want to have enough discretionary income to travel the world and write about it.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Few challenges that could not be predicted: Cultural, of course, language, pace of life, infrastructure not what we're used to, more sedate approach to problems.

Are there many other expats in your area?

One challenge we didn't expect is too many expats, thus too easy to continue speaking English.

What do you like about life where you are?

We like the friendliness of the people, the beautiful environment, the temperate climate, the great food and the lack of noise & disruption. The healthcare system is top notch as well, and cost of living can be much less than in the States. (Emphasis on 'can be')

What do you dislike about your expat life?

We dislike the frustration of not being fluent in Spanish, but we're working on that. A few expats we've met refuse to learn the language, and it's grating to hear them demand English. We're not crazy about certain infrastructure issues - different quality in building codes, cratered roads, no street signs and no addresses, frequent interruptions in electric and water. (Avoid elevators! You never know when the power will fail)

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Two of the biggest cultural differences are the pace of things, and the seeming lack of definitive information and / or answers on technical / legal / traffic-enforcement / visa info / immigration etc. Ask two questions, get four different answers. Also, the mail & telephonic communication system is quite unique. If you're a typical Norte Americano expecting things to work every time, and to work quickly, you'll likely be disappointed.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

First piece of advice: DO NOT move anyplace unless you've spent at least six months living there. Second, DO NOT rely on glossy magazines and disguised real estate promotions. Third, follow several blogs from expats who tell it like it is, not how you want it to be. Fourth, be absolutely honest with yourself (and your spouse or partner) about what you really want. Take off the rose-colored glasses, and look at reality. Fifth, learn as much of the local language as you possibly can. Go to Rosetta Stone, or Duolingo, or a local college and force yourself to learn conversational phrases and verbs, not just 'restaurant Spanish' etc. Sixth, practice patience, and find ways to sloooow down. You'll need those skills. Lastly, read our blog.

What are your plans for the future?

Future plans include more Spanish classes for fluency, travel to surrounding countries - Colombia, Argentina, Chile and others, then on to Europe and Asia, and to bring the travel blog on-line. Byallmeanstravel will be a resource for older / retired travelers needing vital info on costs, healthcare availability, quality of travel offerings and hidden values to take advantage of.

You can keep up to date with By's adventures in Panama on his blog, MEBEinPanama.

Read more Panama expat experiences or view our latest Panama articles

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