Culture shock is one thing – adapting to a new climate, culture, language, economy and legal system is one thing some of the above you will never ever completely adapt to and that is ok you, language is definitely not one you should put on the oh well list – that one is a must and everyone should make a valiant attempt at learning.
After almost 6 years in Panama I am definitely not Panamanian – I am still a Canadian expat and proud to be. I am also quite used to many of the 3rd world, tropical, central American differences and yet everyday some random event always seems to make me stop – giggle, frown or simply stare in utter dismay. I thought I would list a few of the random events – facts that may either have you laughing out loud or scratching your head or a combination of the two.
1. Panama is #4 in the world for “Soundest Banking System”. I am thrilled to say Canada is #1. Which is why many of our Floridian and Arizona readers now have Canadian neighbours. The US comes in at #111.
2. McDonald’s delivers – that is – to your home and often quicker than going into the restaurant and waiting for your order. (True story)
3. Panama has grasped the online evolution in banking etc. However when it comes time to renew your plates you must go to the office where your car is registered which could have been at the other end of the country – wait in line and receive brand new plates every year.
4. Paying with a $50 or $100 bill at any store other than a gas station requires i.d., your signature and a supervisor to sign off on your bill.
5. Panama is in need of skilled labour. Which means the unskilled are quickly becoming skilled, leaving the country at an almost 0% unemployment rate.
6. The Pacific tides can be in excess of 18ft from high to low.
7. Do not even try to do any banking or grocery shopping after noon on the 15th or the 30th of every month – it is payday (quicena) and the whole family goes to the grocery store. Don’t say I didn’t warn you – I am serious it is a nightmare.
8. The mosquitos in Canada in July are 10 times worse than the mosquitos anywhere on the Pacific coast of Panama. The Caribbean is another story.
9. The sun rises over the Pacific in Panama.
10. The tourist Visa is no longer available – the new administration canceled the program as of June 30th – 2014.
11. The security officials at the airport will stop working to all gaze at an attractive woman walking by – holding up the line and leaving you standing in bare feet waiting to go through the scanner. (has happened more than once – and I wasn’t the pretty woman they were staring at)
12. Panamanians will not hesitate in telling you your are fat. They will come right out and say “Wow – Gordita”. It isn’t always an insult.
13. It took my only 4 months to get my Friendly Nations Visa from beginning to end.
14. Electricity in most of the country is 16.6 cents per Kw/h.
15. The small natural gas tanks that you use for your home are subsidized and are $4.85. This last a month in our household of 2 adults, 2 cats and a dog. They can also be used for your BBQ.
16. Sales tax is 7% on goods and services.
Every day I see and experience something different in Panama – it is the randomness of life that keeps us young and I truly love it all – well almost all.