Misconceptions of Life in Panama – Inside Panama Real Estate
Inside Panama Real Estate
By: Larke Newell
Almost all Panamanians now speak English, making it unnecessary to learn Spanish when moving here
Not true. In Panama City and of course Boquete, which is an ex-pat enclave, English is a bit more widespread but in other areas not so much. Recognizing the benefits of learning English has certainly helped and it is now being taught in most schools. However, even in David, which is the capital of Chiriqui province, most employees in stores, banks, and other businesses speak very little English. The exception is those in government offices, who mostly all have at least a smattering of English. Consequently your stay in Panama will be much more rewarding and seamless if you have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish. That should definitely not be considered a hardship. It is a beautiful language and fun to learn. Panamanians are very patient and helpful in that regard and are always willing to assist you. They are very honored when they see ex-pats attempting to speak their language.
Schooling in Panama is second rate
Definitely false. There are both public and private schools here as well as several international schools. Most children wear school uniforms and it has been my observation (besides the cuteness factor) that students of all ages appear happy and well adjusted. Teachers are professional, most of the facilities are good, with more being added continually, and sports, art, and music are available. At a higher education level there are junior colleges, private universities, and specialized universities.
Medical care is not up to North American standards
Another falsehood. Medical care throughout Panama is up to date and inexpensive. Many doctors receive their training at prestigious US hospitals. New hospitals and clinics are being built everywhere, including in the smaller areas. State of the art equipment, clean efficient facilities, and caring staff are the norm. Excellent insurance plans are available and there are no long waiting lists for tests such as MRI’s and procedures like hip replacements, as there are in Canada and the US.
Real estate prices have skyrocketed in the last few years in Panama
Yes, they have increased somewhat, especially in Panama City and the beach areas. This is completely understandable as the country has become so popular as a retirement haven. However prices remain considerably lower than in North American countries. It is the norm here to purchase or build a much more elaborate home on a gorgeous property for much less than what it would cost for the equivalent elsewhere. Also lower property taxes, cheaper cost of utilities, and affordable maintenance costs must be factored in.
Panamanians resent Americans
Again – absolutely not true. In the past some in the areas of Panama City and Colon resented the US troops who, while capturing Manuel Noriega, caused devastating collateral damage, with many innocent civilians killed or wounded. However, that was many years ago, and on the flip side Panamanians are thankful to the US for the construction of their canal and President Carter’s return of it to Panama. As with any people anywhere, treat them with respect rather than arrogance and they return the favor tenfold. Panamanians, for the most part, are kind, friendly people who go out of their way to welcome all newcomers to their country, wherever they might be from.
It is not possible to have your Social Security or Old Age Pension cheques forwarded to Panama
Yes, you certainly can get your pension cheques deposited in this country. It is becoming easier and easier to open Panamanian bank accounts, as opposed to a few years ago when it was difficult and time consuming. Another alternative regarding your income from back home is to continue having your cheques deposited in your bank there and utilize a debit card to withdraw funds as needed. The only drawback to this is that there is a five dollar fee for each ATM withdrawal.
Hopefully this article will debunk some of the common misconceptions and will reassure those considering the move to Panama. No country is perfect and Panama is no exception but it is a terrific place to live and the pros unquestionably outweigh the cons.