So, one of the most important things for us to look at when we go somewhere is the friendliness of the people.
We’re happy to report that Panamanians and expats living among them are some of the friendliest people either of us have ever met. This makes Panama a great choice as a retirement destination. However, there are some things you should be aware of that might help you get along better with folks in Panama.
Are Panamanian people friendly: Some Panamanian history & culture information
Panama has been a crossroads of the world since the 1600’s. As a result, it is home to immigrants from all over the world. The most common race is the “mestizos”. They are a combination of Spanish and native Indian and black. However, there’s also many folks of American, Arabic, Chinese, and European origins.
Panamanians are a fun loving people and parties are almost a national pastime. We were in Panama during the month of November, which is their National Independence month (yes, that’s month, not day). We totally didn’t know that when we went but it was interesting to see how they can pack 5 holidays into one month and take as much time off as they can to celebrate – all banks and public offices are closed. It was all in good fun. While we were there the president even moved one of the holidays so that Panamanians could celebrate it along with a weekend.
They also have a predilection for beauty and elegance. It’s visible in their Indigenous crafts, and Panama City’s many neighborhoods – especially the Casco Viejo historic sector.
Did I mention that the Panamanian ladies love to dress up, wear nice makeup, and clearly take care of themselves? It is not unusual to see the local women walking around in very high heels and flashy dresses, it’s especially interesting to watch them maneuver the uneven sidewalks with amazing skill.
Are Panamanian people friendly: Getting Along With Panamanians
Like I said, Panamanians are some of the most friendly and easy going people you’ll find anywhere. Like anyone else, they respond to manners, kindness and respect very positively. If you treat people around you well, you’ll see smiles and genuine graciousness when you interact with them.
Here are some tips to help you:
Don’t be an Ass: You know, I shouldn’t have to point this out but, in our travels, I’ve seen so many “Ugly Americans” and “Euro-trash” that I can’t help but feel people still need to be reminded of this.
If you act arrogant, stingy, or condescending, you’ll find that the Panamanian people will not be nice to you either.
Remember that Panama has been an international crossroads for a long time now (thanks to the Canal). It is a multiracial/multicultural society. So, it would be a huge mistake for you to assume you’re more sophisticated or “cultured” than anyone else there.
Keep calm: It’s important to keep your temper in check when you’re dealing with anyone (native or expat) because then you just look like an “Ugly American” (even if you’re not from the US) and people will remember it and avoid you. Panamanians tend to be formal when dealing with strangers, so public displays of anger and inappropriate behavior are frowned upon.
Dress Well: You would think that in a tropical region people would dress light. Think again. You will almost never find a Panamanian man or woman in shorts or t-shirts. It’s simply part of the culture to dress up. As a result, better dressed people are treated better. You will also notice that both men and women are impeccably groomed at all times in public.
When in Rome…
Are Panamanian people friendly: Expats
So, along with the locals, in an expat community, you have to worry about them too. I’m happy to report that the expats are also very friendly in Panama. In fact, as a group, they we’re the friendliest expats we’ve ever met.
This holds true not only in person but also in the forums. In many of the other community forums (Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador) we have often encountered difficult or argumentative people. This has happened way less often in the Panamanian forums with people usually offering helpful suggestions or, in one case, actually gathering some information for us.
A good example of that is when Joanna was discussing prescription medications in a forum with a random expat in Boquete, who then went out of her way to check that those medications were obtainable at a pharmacy in David. She then went back a week later to talk to the pharmacist on our behalf one more time.
In contrast, when we were in Costa Rica, we couldn’t even get most expats to talk to us because we weren’t part of their clique. The one exception to this was an expat who was visiting Costa Rica from (you guessed it) Panama.
Now, I realize I’m painting with a pretty wide brush and that there are (obviously) friendly or helpful expats in other countries and, of course, there are some asses in Panama. I’m just making the point that in our experience, the folks in Panama have (as a whole) been friendlier.