When it comes to the world of smart phones, the apps just keep on coming.  This makes life easier for not only toursists in Panama, but full and part-time residents as well!  There are a few apps that I owe a lot to, and I know you will love as well.

 

 

1)  WAZE

 

 

My number one most used app is Waze.  Waze is a navigation/social tool that allows you to check traffic, plan routes, navigate, and check for oncoming traffic problems.  In fact, the social aspect of the app not only allows you to communicate with other users, but to warn them of police speed traps, accidents, hazzards, heavy traffic, and bad weather.  It has a great map system, and actually allows users to edit the map should they run into a changed or incorrect route.  For this reason, the map stays very current, even with road closures, and the hectic pace of construction here in the city.

 

Whether you are new to Panama, a tourist, or have been here for years, this app always has a use while you are driving.  Even if you know the route perfectly, Waze can redirect you in the event of a traffic accident, and warn you if you are approaching a radar gun.  For you tourists, make sure you have an unlocked phone, pick up a sim card at the airport when you arrive, and boom, you're in business!

 

 

2)  JIBBAGO:

 

 

Your all too important voice or text translation app for a country where very little english is spoken.  That's right folks, not many people here in Panama speak english, so you can either page through a spanish/english dictionary, or download a translation app.

 

There are a lot to choose from.  iTranslate, google translate, etc. but they all require live data (internet) connections.  Not Jibbago!!  The entire dictionary downloads to you phone, and it does a fantastic job.  No data, no problem!!

 

3)  WHATSAPP

 

 

WhatsApp is a free texting service that not only outreaches borders, but allows you to share any sort of media and even exchange voice memos.  Everyone in Panama uses this app, and I have heard that it is quickly becoming the largest social networking tool out there.

 

WhatsApp is actually very similar to the blackberry messenger system in many ways, where you have a picture, status, and can see when your message has been received and read.

 

One of the greatest features is that as soon as you make a new contact, WhatsApp instantly picks it up, and if your new contact also uses WhatsApp, you instantly become whatsApp contacts.  It's more useful in Panama than it may be in North America because the texting packages sold with your telephone here can be expensive, and WhatsApp remains a free app.  It also allows you to text and send media free to anyone in the world that also has the app.

 

4)  Life360

 

 

Not unlike WhatsApp and Waze, this is a bit of social networking mixed in with a useful application.  The app offers messaging and the uploading of photos, but also introduces global positioning of your contact's telephone, and panic buttons in case of an emergency.

 

Leaving my family two and a half years ago wasn't easy, but the dream of living in the tropics for me was really compelling.  If you are in Panama with me, you can without a doubt relate.  It's hard though.  I've left everything I knew, and so much that I never thought I would miss, I do.  Especially my family.  So any piece of technology that I can find to help me feel closer, and help me more easily communicate with them is welcome.

 

That's not all this app is useful for though.  Younger and younger families are making the move to Panama.  Back home, we feel that we have a close network of neighbors, friends, and family that keeps us all safe.  In Panama, we can sometimes feel a little isolated if we haven't learned the language, and if one of the youngsters go missing,  or doesn't call home, it would surely be a frustrating experience.  I like this app, because I can keep tabs on my offspring, family, and friends, not only in Panama, but in various time zones around the globe. 

 

5)  Duolingo

 

 

Learn the language!!  You owe it to all of the call center workers you have cussed out ;)  

 

Now get out there and explore!!

 

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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.

 

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