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expats in Panama

What’s up with the Expats in Panama?

You may have heard the term “ugly American” or even the slogan “Gringo Go Home” and you may be wondering “where in world does that come from?

It is true that, for some reason, Americans don’t have the best reputation abroad.

My opinion, both through personal experiences as an immigrant and through lots of travel, is that some of these derogatory attitudes toward Americans are well founded but some are just old stereotypes.

In Panama, there is this old stigma and tension that was started with Americans that lived in the Canal Zone during the construction and operation of Panama Canal, prior to it being turned back over to Panama. These Americans were often segregated from the rest of the Panamanian community, went to separate schools, and didn’t even learn to speak Spanish. There was also an air of entitlement that followed them and they often expected that Panamanians were there to serve them. Those Americans were dubbed “zonies”. It is with the zonies that these unflattering names and slogans started in Panama.

Unfortunately, I’ve traveled enough to understand that it’s not all in the distant past. I’ve personally witnessed some very embarrassing behaviors of my fellow countrymen while in other countries, like Mexico and Costa Rica. So, I could see how the locals would be offended and would want us gone.

Obviously, wherever we end up abroad, we want to make sure we are in a community that is not considered “ugly American”. We’ve now researched and explored Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama as possible abroad homes and have to tell you, we just don’t know what is up with the expats in Panama.

They are just too nice!

Really – We are not kidding.

As part of our research we scour expat forms and we post a lot of questions on different topics that we feel will help us determine our final destination. As part of this process, we learned and now truly believe that Panama expats are by far the nicest of all the countries we’ve check out so far. Complete strangers offer help and assistance and advice.

We have had expats in Panama help us with the following:

  • Check medication availability in a hospital 30 miles away.
  • Take pictures of properties.
  • Talk to rental agent on our behalf to find out more info.
  • Meet for coffee to talk about life in Panama (when we visited in November).
  • Give advice on prices and offer to look things up for us, locally.
  • We’ve even had a couple of consulting job offers.

WOW! – Right?!

By far, we felt that expats in Panama were the most approachable and friendly and always eager to help. We have not found that to always be true in either Mexico or Costa Rica. In fact, my experience with many expats in Costa Rica was downright negative. It was almost as if they were angry that things got expensive there and resented anyone new interested in coming to “their” country.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were exceptions in all countries. We met some nice expats on the Costa Rica forums too. And, we are sure, there are some not-so-nice expats in Panama (although we’ve not met any yet) but we are talking in general and, of course, our own experience.

So, we would say expats in Panama are exceptionally nice.  We especially appreciated the expats we met in person, while we were visiting Panama last November – both expats from USA and Canada. And we appreciated the many folks we met online and some later in person. For the most part, everyone was helpful and offered assistance free of charge. Amazing!

The attitude toward Americans and the attitude of the local expats is very important to us and we will definitely keep it in mind when making the final decision on our country of choice.

What has your experience with expats been like?

Do you find them nicer in some countries? Or even parts of a specific country?

You may also like our posts on Different Types of Expats in Latin America and Why They Return Home and Featured Post On Why Would Anyone Want to Retire in Latin America.



About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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