Once you come to Panama, chances are pretty good that you will fall madly in love with this stunningly beautiful land. Here are 10 tips to making sure Panama is right for you.
- Keep an Open Mind. Panama may seem like a mini-me America, but it's still Latin America. Things are different here. Instead of getting upset about what's different, understand that this is their country. With that comes a different set of customs, traditions and way of life.
- Learn to Laugh. There are some things that are so ridiculous that you just have to laugh. For example, my fiance went to the biggest bank in Panama to make 5 separate deposits. After processing three deposits, the bank teller told Kleriston that he was going to lunch, and that Kleriston would need to finish the deposits with another teller. WTH??? Being Latin himself, my sweetheart pushed back and the teller reluctantly finished the deposits himself. I would have dutifully gone to a different teller. Crazy, but true. And instead of getting upset, we now get to laugh about it every single time we tell this outrageous story.
- Explore Panama. There are so many micro-climates here that you can have a variety of different experiences without ever leaving the country. Try things you never thought you'd try before. Go kayaking in the ocean, zip lining in the jungle canopy, hiking to a waterfall, bicycling on Amador, coffee tasting in Boquete, whale watching in the Pacific, or try taking a culinary class from the variety of chefs who call Panama home. There are so many different new things you can experience with just one passport stamp.
- Accept the Slower Pace. Everything is slower here. Service is rarely quick. Fast food isn't served fast. People even walk slower. If you bring your Western impatience, you'll become frustrated very quickly.
- Learn Spanish. You don't need to become fluent (unless you want to), but learning some key phrases will help you ask for directions, buy things you want at the grocery store, and hire domestic help.
- Buy a Hammock. My hammock is one of the things I love best about Panama. The weather here is good year-round, which makes lolling in the hammock a daily activity. It's an inexpensive way to have a daily dose of good old fashioned relaxation. Forget the hammocks made of rope. Hammocks are sold all over Panama, so buy one that's made of a thick cotton fabric, and you'll see what real comfort feels like.
- Plug Yourself in with Other Expats. There are three main expat regions in Panama--Panama City, the Coronado Beach Area, and Boquete. If you live in one of these areas, it's easy to connect with other expats who can help you get settled by answering questions about daily living in Panama.
- Take Time to Enjoy Panama. It didn't take me long to get so embroiled with my life in Panama, that I stopped doing many of the things I love to do. One day I woke up and gave myself a martini-like shake. Being busy is great, but walking on the beach, buying ultra-fresh fish at the fish market, and spending a lazy afternoon in my hammock are the reasons I moved here. Once I put those enjoyment items back into my daily routine, I realized why I'd moved to Panama in the first place.
- Try Something New. A new country is the perfect opportunity to try out a new hobby or two. If you've never been an avid golfer, now is the time to learn. If you've always wanted to get involved with a charity, there are a lot of hungry kids and stray dogs that could your help.
If you're on the fence about Panama, come spend a month. Perhaps Panama is for. With these 9 sure-fire tips, you're certain to have a happy life.