Warm, Friendly Panama

Panamanian Laid Back Weather

One of my all-time favorite songs is “Summertime  … and the livin’ is easy!” from Porgy and Bess.

For Panama it is virtually always summertime and surprising to some, a constant summertime is not as boring as many “four season” lovers would want you to believe. Quite frankly, I don’t miss the four seasons. Sandals, shorts and a T-shirt suit me fine all year long. Except in certain sections of the country such as the mountains and along some parts of the Atlantic Coast there is really no major “rainy season”. Along the Pacific Coast, where we live in Coronado, it usually rains for an hour or so every 3-4 days from May until to mid-December. As a Canadian, average daytime temperatures in the mid to high 80s (with occasional low 90’s) and night time lows in the low to mid 70s is ideal.

The ocean temperature at Playa Serena beach in Coronado has a variance from 79 to 82. It would be impossible to guess the month of the year just by going swimming in either the ocean or in our pool. Panama is definitely not Southern Florida where ocean swimming stops in October to resume in about March/April.

Almost Everything is Better Than Expected

Everyone will experience some disappointments and unpleasant surprises in Panama as they will virtually anywhere in the world. For example, in Panama there is more “visible poverty” than one might have expected although on further analysis it is not as grinding as you might imagine. I have driven through very shabby areas in major cities in North America and Europe including sections of London, Montreal, New York, Paris and Singapore. Panama is no different.

For example, a typical experienced Panamanian construction worker with a wife and two kids lives reasonably well for a full month on two weeks of income (typically $300 to $400). He will in most cases own his own house without a mortgage and not own a car (the bus service is excellent and very cheap). He will generally have few if any debts. In contrast, most construction or “blue collar” workers in North America with a similar sized family would considerable difficulty living for a month on 2 weeks of wages. In fact, it appears that many tend to spend about 4.5 weeks of wages each month.

Roads in Panama are generally not as good as they are “up north” although the road infrastructure is rapidly improving. However, I distinctly recall that many major roads in and around New York City were frequently filled with potholes.

Customer service in Panama is generally less than expected compared to North America but overall most surprises are on the upside. When was the last time you could honestly say that?

Most of the food in Panama tastes much better than you might expect. Food is not shipped thousands of miles before it lands on your kitchen table as in most parts of the USA. Even in Iowa, the “Great American Food Basket”, the average food item on your table has traveled 1500 miles.

Panamanians are genuinely very friendly. In fact, Panama won the top award as the friendliest and most optimistic country for 2013 as reported recently in the Huffington Post.

Work gets done faster than you might have thought possible at a much much lower cost. In fact many wage rates are only 10% of the rate for North America or Europe. A skilled construction worker charges about $30 to $35 per day NOT per hour.

Victimization rates (crimes against the person) are considerably higher in North America than in Panama although homicide rates are much higher in Panama than up north. If you stay out of the Panamanian “red zones” and do not involve yourself in drugs, prostitution or money lending you will have few problems in Panama.

There are fewer serious accidents on the highways than you might expect given the driving style. Another phenomenon difficult to believe is the large number of $50,000+ luxury automobiles on the Panamanian roadways. Litigation is very rare in Panama.

Medical services in Panama are very good with modern sophisticated facilities, equipment and English speaking doctors. Prices for medical procedures are often 25-40% of North American prices.

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