We bussed over the Panama Canal

Unbiased Truth

When telling friends and family about leaving for Panama, I never got to sit down and talk about what this truly involves.

The basics that we transmitted were:

  1. where we were going (Panama)
  2. for how long (4-6 months)
  3. to do what (learn Spanish, get a fresh perspective)

There IS more to the story.

Since we never got to have a real chat about Panama, read on for  Five Things I Haven’t Told You About Our Trip to Panama

#1 Panama is definitely NOT paradise

I grabbed a ticket for Panama for several reasons.

#1 A craving to learn Spanish

# 2 I pictured palm trees, pineapples, and papayas

# 3 I’d heard Panamanians were friendly 

#4 I’d heard Panama was very safe 

I have since acquired a “more realistic view” of Panama. Many expats have posted YouTube videos that give a more realistic picture. They say that:

  1. “Gringo pricing” (aka, charging expats triple) is rampant
  2. You will never quite fit in. i.e. you will always be a gringo
  3. the electricity goes out all the time
  4. internet is spotty

I won’t know for sure until I get to Panama, but no place on earth is paradise. Panama ain’t the exception.

 #2 Leaving is far more difficult than I imagined

I never dreamed it would be so difficult to quit my job – never thought saying goodbye would be so hard.

On my last day of work at the coffee shop, we all wore tropical-themed clothes and don snazzy sunglasses + plastic flowers for a photo. (It was hilarious and we all look like crazy people.)

Even though it was my last day, it hadn’t sunk in. But the next day, and the next, I was extremely sad and missed work immensely. I miss the laughter, the regularity of work, and just the routine of seeing great people and working with great people.

#3 I’m rethinking one of my reasons for going to Panama

View From My Window

A big reason to leave was the weather. Many people complain about our cold winters.

“Ugh, so much snow!” “So much ice!”

I thought I’d love Panama’s 60-80 degree window.

But right now, our weather means a heck of a lot less than I thought. When people ask themselves, “Where do I want to live” or “Where do I want to put down my roots?”(That’s if you are a tree;), they sometimes factor in the weather. Is it sunny? Is it pleasant?

Do you want to know what I think? When deciding where to live, snow/sleet/hail/ice, (yes, we get it all), doesn’t matter nearly so much as your family, friends, and job.

#4 Panama and pickpockets

My Cell

This girl is forgetful sometimes. It’s true.

I’ve left:

  1. My cell phone on a TSA conveyor belt. (My dad found it!)
  2. My sunglasses at our local bank. (A teller returned them to me.)
  3. The same pair of sunglasses at the library (A librarian returned them to me.)
  4. My sister’s Bible on the hood of our can. My dad started driving the car and the Bible toppled into the road.
  5. My water bottle at the airport (never got it back.)

All this is to say….how will I survive where (I hear) pickpocketing is rampant.

#5 I’m forced to pack a skirt

Panamanians don’t like tourists who don’t dress snazzy.

They have dress codes.

U.S. culture is casual, and I love jeans. But since I could be refused entrance to banks, offices, etc. if I were wearing a t-shirt and shorts, I’m forced to pack nice clothes.


Many expats detest this Panama rule. They gripe about exchanging their flip flops for dress shoes, and their cutoffs for long pants. (Or worse, they disobey the rule altogether and are refused entrance to banks, etc.)

I don’t go quite that far. Dressing nicely shows respect. And you feel more classy.

So yes, a dress has made it into my backpack.

What do you think? Did any of these surprise you?

Leave a comment say “Buenos dias.”

Ciao for now,


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