A potential expat will, understandably, spend vast amounts of time scouring the internet for useful facts and tidbits of information that will assist them with this faithful leap into the unknown.
Included in what these potential expats will find when doing their research, are blogs of course, and social pages like Facebook and Yahoo. Great places to interface with people who are already with feet on the ground here in panama and learning the ropes.
But like pain, there are things that cannot be properly expressed in an article, or potential expat's "guide". There is no way you can put into words, how much it hurts when you hit your head on the cupboard door you left open, on the way back up from kneeling down to pick up that dropped knife in the kitchen! Often a good analogy for the trials you will face here in Panama!
You will read the posts from some of the grumpy expats living here, that just cannot stop complaining about the small things that are unchangable, at least in the short term. I'm not sure if these people had "poopy pants" back home, but some are finding it difficult to adjust.
Your experience living in Panama will vary greatly on a couple of things. First, the area you choose to call home will obviously be a very important factor in the "quality" of life you are going to live. I could write forever on that topic, but not in this blurb. What I'm talking about here is attitude!
Panama. Beaches, mountains, blue waters, islands, lower cost of living, very north americanized, familiar US currency, advantageous tax laws, ease of immigration, lots of fellow countrymen, drinkable water, beautiful latin people, parties, warm weather, predictable climate, one could go on and on.... and on! Then why is it that so many people move to Panama from another country and can do nothing but gripe? That is the question, and to answer it, you have to understand the differences in our cultures.
I recently gave the best real estate tour to a couple from North America. We had spent a wonderful, sun-shiney morning up in El Valle, looking at a few area and houses for sale, and taking in the local market. We decided to stop in for lunch at one of the quaint restaurants that line the main road through the town. Now me, having lived here for a couple of years now, settled in. I ordered a cerveza, and two more for my guests, leaned back and shifted to relax mode. To make what could be a long story short, the food came out in a typical Panamanian time frame (45 minutes or so), but at the 20 minute mark, my clients were bouncing off the walls! You are going to wait a lot in Panama, for everything.
There are long lines at the supermarket, at the red lights, at the green lights, at the place where you get your license, at immigration, at the till in the mall, and just about everywhere else. And nobody moves fast. I sometimes count the seconds between the beeps at the check-out in the grocery store. I swear the cashier is actually moving in slow motion. I'm not joking!! Her arms swipe each item across the scanner at half speed. If you're in a hurry, people, it's agonizing!
I could go on and on here with "things that make you go hmmmmmmm" experiences, but I digress to the point. If you are the type of person who cannot relax and needs to live life at a full 100 Km/hr speed limit, Panama is going to either defeat you, or change you fundamentally.
I'm telling you now. You are not going to change ANYTHING here. No more than a Panamanian is going to get off the bus in Toronto and ask if everyone could just slow the heck down! This is a cultural machine that demands it's cogs to move in key with all of the rest, and if you cannot slow down, and take things as they come, you may live out your time here in the proverbial poopy pants, and no one likes a poopy pants.