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Missing the Movies?

Just because you move abroad doesn’t mean that everything in your life is suddenly 100% different. You will find yourself partaking in many of the same activities you did back home, like going to the movies. The hubs and I have always been avid movie goers and didn’t let moving to Panama, a Spanish speaking country, slow down our movie date nights. Waiting in line to see midnight showings of Lord of the Rings, all the Matrix movies, and Ironman 2 barely scrapes the tip of the iceberg. Since our big move in January of this year, we’ve learned a few tips and tricks to enjoying our movie theater experience in Panama.

If you’re considering moving to a non-English speaking culture, or have already moved to one, these suggestions will help you know what to expect before you sit in front of the big screen, otherwise you just might not want to watch another movie in a theater abroad again.1. Go with the subtitled movie. If you’ve moved to a non-English speaking country, some of the movie listings are subtitled and some are dubbed. Although you might be proficient in your new language, movies are typically better with the original voices. We also find that the locals are more likely to choose the dubbed movies so they don’t have to read the subtitles for 2 hours and possibly miss action on the big screen. We notice that locals going to a subtitled movie tend to talk more or read out loud, so if you choose to go to a subtitled movie, follow my next suggestion.

2. Be careful which times you pick. If you have chosen to watch a subtitled movie, don’t watch it in the evenings, weekends, national holidays, or school vacations. I know it’s starting to sound like those blackout dates for credit card miles rewards, but trust me on this one! We noticed that all the locals who couldn’t get tickets for the dubbed movie times will go ahead and buy tickets for the subtitled movie times. Then they will proceed to talk through the entire movie no matter how many times you nicely ask them to stop. Sometimes I don’t think they realize that there are other people who do understand English sitting amongst them.

3. Buy your tickets ahead of time, if you can. In Panama, no matter what the movie time is, no matter what day the movie is playing on, there is an extremely long line for tickets. When we lived in the states, we would buy our tickets online or at kiosks near the entrance at the movie theaters. We’ve been lucky enough to find one theater that has an online ticketing system and another that has a kiosk in Panama City. You can even choose your seat assignment when purchasing from the kiosk! Now we don’t have to stand in those crazy long lines anymore.

4. Wait until after opening week. The opening date in your country will usually be after the premier date in the U.S. This builds up even more anticipation and hype for the new movie that’s out. In Panama, we find that the locals talk through the movies whether it’s subtitled or dubbed, so wait a week to watch it in peace.

5. Don’t trust the website for showtimes. This may only be true to Panama, but we’ve kicked ourselves a couple of times for relying on what the theater’s website said. Now, we stop and check the times at the theater or we call. Stopping by has been the only consistent method we can trust.

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6. Translate your movie title, or give it a completely different name. Sometimes we’ll get to the theater and look at the different movies available and then check the reviews on our smartphone before committing to our $4 tickets. Occasionally, we can’t find any reviews, which we know is impossible because the movie is already playing in the U.S. From time to time the title may not translate properly, so the movie is given a different name. One example is when we wanted to see Detrás de las Paredes and couldn’t find any reviews. This translates to Behind the Walls. It turns out that this movie was released as Dream House in English speaking countries. We have since started looking at movie posters online just to be sure we’re picking the movie we want to see.

Our movie date nights have turned into Monday or Tuesday afternoons while school is in session; otherwise we steer clear of the theaters. We really enjoy our movies again and most of the time we get the theater to ourselves!

What has your movie watching experience been like outside your home country? Please leave your comments below.

Stephanie Angulo became an American expat in Panama at 30. She didn’t go to Panama to retire. She writes about her experiences starting a restaurant, exploring her new country, traveling, and assimilating into Panamanian culture at Xpat Escape. You can also follow her journey on Twitter.

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