Kris: The Panama Adventure
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Panama, etc.
I'm Kris (retired RN), and I moved to David, Panama with my husband Joel (construction/remodeling, musician). We moved from Sarasota FL in Oct. 2012. We appreciated the opportunity to retire earlier and live a better life on our limited means, but we've enjoyed this new experience and new country even more than we expected.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging when I moved so I could keep my friends and family updated, and also to document the experience for myself. I was a bit surprised to see more and more people reading my blog, and realized that there are many others who are also moving or considering their options. I think it's been helpful for them to see how the experience has been for someone else.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- The most popular posts are the cost of living reports :
- One that describes my feelings about the people.
- One of a number of photo posts about the river behind my house which I love to visit.
- I try to keep a somewhat organized list of my blog posts.
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?
I'm not working! I have a whole new life, new country, new friends, new things to learn and explore, and the time and freedom to do whatever I wish. I was surprised at how easy it was to adjust to life in Panama. My lack of fluent Spanish has been the main challenge. Otherwise it hasn't been that different and everyone has gone out of their way to be helpful and friendly. I feel that culture shock has been minimal and we adjusted quickly.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Panama? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Yes, I think we were prepared. We had visited three times, and done a lot of research and also made some good connections with other expats and locals in Panama. We came with minimal “stuff” and no pets, which I would definitely recommend for simplicity. I studied hard in Spanish classes which was enormously helpful, but I wish I had started that sooner.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I went to the Feria (International Fair of David) with my neighbor and friend. On the way she informed me that it would take three Balboa's to park. Balboa is our favorite beer and we often joke with her family that after a big day, or lots of work, or any other occasion that we need to chill with Balboas all around. But, I was driving! I don't even drink three Balboas at home, and certainly not when I'm behind the wheel! But no, not beer, money! Balboa is also a unit of money equal to a dollar. We still joke about that and all one of us needs to say is “tres Balboas” and we all crack up.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Panama?
- Learn Spanish – so you can communicate and get things done.
- Learn Spanish – so you can make friends, learn the customs, and understand your new friends and neighbors.
- Learn Spanish – so the local people will appreciate your efforts to learn their language and appreciate your respect for them, their culture, their way of life, and their language. Your experience will be so much richer and more fun when you can communicate. Even if you only know a little, it makes a big difference.
How is the expat community in Panama? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I know some expats and have gone to a couple expat meetings, but finding expats hasn't been a priority for me.
How would you summarize your expat life in Panama in a single, catchy sentence?
Life is good!