Joey: PTY Life
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Panama, etc.
I’m from Louisville, Kentucky and moved to Panama in 2011 to finish up my last two years of college with a degree in International Business. I loved the chaos, the heat, and people I’ve met in Panama City so I have now decided to make it my permanent home.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
In 2012, I started my blog PTY Life because there wasn’t much else around at the time on what life in Panama was like or cool things to do through the eyes of a 20-something.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorite blog post that I did was one called 15 Things That Suck About Being A Gringo In Panama. There are so many new and awkward things that you have to get used to as a foreigner in Panama so I wanted to show that we should just laugh at some of our difficulties and not take things too seriously.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Panama differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My life in Panama is way more interesting than it was back home in Kentucky. I get to go to the pool or beach year round, I can easily get around not having a car, and I get to work from home. I never really experienced culture shock because I have a really open mind and it takes a lot for something to phase me.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Panama? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was actually really prepared when I came to Panama. I first visited the country when I was 18 in 2009 and came two more times after that so I knew what I was getting myself into. I had an internship at a multinational company set up and would be starting my next semester of school as soon as I moved there. I also took two years of Spanish class in college before coming and I think that helped a lot knowing the basics of the language.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
During my first supermarket trip in Panama I couldn't find the bananas and all I could find were these huge things that kind of looked like bananas. I bought them and just thought that bananas must look different in Panama.
The next morning I ate one of the “bananas” for breakfast and it definitely didn’t taste like the bananas I was used to eating. The taste was bitter, dry, and it was very difficult to peel. But I was trying to embrace life in a new country so I didn’t complain and ate the rest of the “bananas” over the next few days.
During my next trip to the supermarket I was so relieved because they had the bananas in stock this time that I was used to eating. They were right next to the “Panamanian bananas” that I previously had and I assumed they must be imported from some other country. I grabbed a few bananas and was happy I didn’t have to eat the nasty ones that I had before.
I explained to one of my Panamanian friends how bad the bananas tasted here and that I was so happy to find some normal ones. It took a second for him to put two and two together but he figured out that it was actually plantains and not bananas that I had eaten the first time.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Panama?
- Do some research on the cost of a month long intensive Spanish course and include it in your budget before moving to Panama so you have no excuse not to do it. Yes, there are a lot of expats and Panamanians here that speak English, but the everyday people you are going to encounter like waiters, cashiers, taxi drivers, store employees, etc. most likely do not and you at least need to know how to speak basic words to them.
- Before actually moving to Panama, take a few extended trips here to make sure it’s the place you want to be. I love living in Panama but I’ve heard a lot of people say they could never live here after they visit.
- Be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting in line for everything. It’s going to bother you at first but there’s nothing you can do about it so just download some games or books on your phone and treat it as entertainment time. I usually get caught up on my Words With Friends matches in the grocery line.
How is the expat community in Panama? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Panama has a large expat community and I’ve made friends from all over the world by living here. The downside of this is that a lot of the people are just here for a few months or a year so I’ve made some great friends and then they end up moving back home or somewhere else.
How would you summarize your expat life in Panama in a single, catchy sentence?
A fulfilling lifestyle with unique experiences.