But you’re about to find out

If you’ve never been to Panama, these six aspects may catch you by surprise.

#1 When Panamanians turn on their left blinker, watch out

A lady mentioned this to me yesterday.

“If you see the left blinker, get ready, cause they’re turning right.”

Confused, I just shrugged, but today I saw it happen before my very eyes. A car put on the right blinker and turned left. I can’t even comment on why it is. It doesn’t seem to make sense; that’s just the way they do it. 

#2 Mother’s Day is December 8

This proves I’m ethnocentric: I thought everyone celebrated Mother’s Day in May.

A Panamanian told me that Dec. 8 is Mother’s Day. (Actually, she called it “Dia de Madre,” or something like that.) I understood the words but was super-confused. But yes, today is the 7th,  so Mother’s Day is tomorrow. On the streets, young vendors are selling Mother’s Day cards, and printed signs advertising live music for Mother’s Day are tacked to bulletin boards.

#3 Helpful, but not

Panamanians, in general, are eager to help gringos. Almost too helpful. They will say, “Yes, I can help.” before you even explain what you need. And they will do their best to help you, even when they don’t know the place you are looking for, can’t answer your question, or can’t understand your Spanish.

Basically, Panamanians are super polite and don’t like to say no.

#4 Merry Christmas is Feliz Navidad

Yes, Panamanians celebrate Christmas, but they say “Feliz Navidad,” instead. It’s currently mid-December, so fake pine trees, light bulbs, and wreaths decorate the doors, restaurants, rooftops, etc. Silent Night and Joy to the World play faintly in libraries, restaurants, and houses.

Trees, flowers, and grass are everywhere, though. I don’t think it’s going to be a white Christmas;)

#5 Difficult English words for Spanish speakers

My sister and I were discussing the difficulty of rolling r’s in Spanish. We asked a girl from Colombia what English words are difficult for a Spanish speaker to learn.

“Words like mountain and schedule,” she said. “Words that start with S are hard to say. And mountain is just difficult.”

(I can see why mountain would be difficult. You’d think it would be pronounced “mount-ane” not “mount-in.”)

#6 Roughly 60% of Panamanians are Catholic

Religious music is quite common in Panama. An hour ago, Tim Hughes’ Here I Am Too Worship song floated over to our hotel from the restaurant next door. (The lyrics were in Spanish.) But yes, many people are religious and there are quite a few churches nearby. Many Panamanians are Catholic.

The taxi driver who picked us up from the airport identified himself as a Christian.

“Panama is very….welcoming, to everybody,” he said. “Many religions…Muslim, Christian, Catholic.”

Any of these surprise you?

Now you know six more things about Panama!


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