My Love Hate Relationship With Panama… Nine Reasons You Do NOT Want to Move to Panama

Hate is a very strong word and it’s not often that I use it… There are many things I love about Panama, and like anywhere else I’ve lived there are some things that I strongly do not like. Going to a new place, especially a foreign country,  you have to expect that things will be different and sometimes VERY different.

Like any other place there are trade offs. You learn to accept the bad with the good, enjoy life in a new place and sometimes you even learn from it 🙂 Some of the things on my “hate” list I knew full well going into it that they might be a challenge, but my thirst for adventure and to see how other people in the world live have pushed me on. Other things on my “hate” list, I did not see coming and stem from cultural differences.

In America, growing up we are taught that rules and regulations are firm and when we do not follow them there are consequences. For example, (this one might not seem like rocket science but it is a common occurrence around here) when you are hired for a job you are expected to show up to work. If you don’t show up for work, it is likely that you will lose your job. This is not the general case here in Panama. Coming from a place where you have been taught rules are firm to a place where they are more just like “guidelines” can require some serious patience.

So with out further adieu, here are the 9 Things I Hate About Panama. Stay tuned for the things that I love about Panama.

Nine Things I Hate About Panama


Appointments Basically Don’t Exist-

Oh my gosh… I’m not sure I even want to get started on this, it makes my blood boil. The concept of setting up a firm appointment with someone ahead of time is somewhat foreign and even if you do, it’s not really solid. I can’t tell you how many times we set “appointments” with people only to be stood up without any notice and or communication. It took us 2 months of no show appointments to get our internet fixed.

Customer Service is Lack Luster-

Making someone’s dining experience or trip to the store a pleasurable one is not a big concern here. Service is often very basic and to an American (or others who are used to a customer service based culture) can border on rude. In many stores you will not receive any help until you go way out of your way to ask for it, and even then usually there is no rush to finish what is being done or stop texting before help is offered.

Local Online Services are Rarely Available-

Paying a bill online is almost unheard of. Many bills you must pay through a third party and ONLY in cash. The third party payment processors often only accept payments at certain times of the day and if you get lucky, the person who knows how to use the system will be at work AND the system will be working.

Any government business like, registering a car, or getting a license usually requires many extra steps. Commonly you end up standing in line, getting to the front, and handing  papers in so you can be told what the fee is for your transaction. However, you must go to a different office, stand in line and pay the fee before you can go back to the first line, show your proof of payment and finish the paperwork. Oh and you can’t wear shorts, flip flops, or tank tops in government buildings or they won’t serve you.

No Addresses- No mail system-

Imagine a world where you have to find everything with the directions, “Past the water tower, near the green house and by the house with a big mango tree.” It drives me bananas, makes things hard to find and prevents any kind of decent mail system take place. I’m not high maintenance by any means but I do miss easy online shopping and Amazon.

Traffic and Driving are Horrendous-

In and around Panama City traffic is absolutely awful. Roads are narrow and super crowed and people drive VERY aggressively. Rush hour traffic lasts for most of the day and if you get stuck in it you can expect super long wait times. Outside of the city traffic and driving are not quite as bad. Not as many people own cars and it is less congested. Out where we live, people LOVE to drive with their brights on basically blinding you

Bugs, Mosquitoes, & Scorpions-

Living in the tropics you have to expect a certain amount of bugs and critters. Living outside of the city you will see more. Right now (May) we are experiencing some crazy phenomenon that I’ve never seen before. Almost every night a new species of bug hatches, mates and dies. Even with the windows and doors shut, we wake up to hundreds of dead bugs in our window wells and door ways. This is not common for the rest of the year but then you still deal with mosquitoes, chitras, scorpions and sometimes other critters. I have killed many a scorpion in our house and was also stung by one.

Humidity-

This was one things that I was well aware would be present before coming down but it still can be hard to deal with sometimes. Air conditioning exists but it can be very expensive to run so the beach and our pool have been a savior.

Garbage In The Streets and On The Beaches-

Oddly enough, throwing trash away in a garbage can is not intuitive for everyone. The lack of garbage cans or consistent garbage collection can add to this problem here and some people resort to burning their trash.  Many cities are working on increasing the number of receptacles and consistent collection.

Cost of Living-

Some services you can get for much cheaper like a house cleaner, a nanny or lawn care, but other things like food and electricity, you can end up spending more than expected and feeling like you aren’t getting the value of what your are paying for.

Overall Panama is a great place to be…it’s just not my forever home.

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One thought on “My Love Hate Relationship With Panama… Nine Reasons You Do NOT Want to Move to Panama

  1. I totally agree with you! I am Latin American and had a cultural clash when I came to live to Panama. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people but the things you are all issues that can drive anybody crazy! I’m sorry I missed you when you lived in Pedasi. I wish you have safe travels and keep living the dream (for all of us!). Best wishes!

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