Panama’s Dating Dilemma: Gringa or Latina
My dating life in Panama has a dilemma. Should I date a Gringa or should I date a Latina? So far, my results with both Gringas and Latinas have been mixed. Let me tell ya about it…
We’ll start with Ms. Luna. I met her at Relic’s Pull Pork Sandwich station. The bright yellow wristband and spring dress with flip flops are a dead giveaway that she is a guest of Luna’s Castle. Her hair has that I-haven’t-used-a-hair-straightener-in-weeks natural curl to it. I lean over and recommend my favorite BBQ sauce combination.
Me: “Try mixing Carolina Daddy Mustard, Sweet Jack Daniels, and Spicey Balboa Tang all together. They’ve been designed to work together.”
Ms. Luna: “You seem to know these sauces well. How long have you been staying at Luna’s Castle?”
Me: “Nah, I’m not staying here. I live around the corner.”
Ms. Luna: “You live in Casco Viejo!”
The conversation starts from there. Being a young American abroad for the past 5 years makes my personal story interesting inside traveler’s circles. Most Luna’s Castle guests are shoestring backpackers traveling from 2 weeks to 2 months. While they’re on the road, most travelers will ask themselves, “I wonder what it would be like to leave in this place?” Especially in a place like Casco Viejo. The neighborhood has so much cultural texture to it. I’m that traveler who actually stayed.
The conversation with Ms. Luna continues to flow easily. We share many commonalities: She is from the West Coast. She went to a Pac-12 university and participated in Greek life. She listens to Notorious B.I.G.
Ms. Luna tells me that she flies home tomorrow. This means that I don’t have much time, which is fine for me. I’ve become accustomed to compressed relationships while on the road.
We take shots of rum and dance. Afterwards, we bar hop around Casco. Ms. Luna and I see eye-to-eye on our philosophy that paying cover fees for the privilege to buy drinks is silly. So we skip over nightlife hot spots like Tantalo and Havana Panama.
The night takes us to Plaza Herrera. We share a park bench under a flickering street lamp. There something about Spanish colonial plazas that makes them conducive to kissing. I realized this while living 6 weeks in Antigua, Guatemala. Ms. Luna and I are smooching within minutes of sitting down.
The night is nearing its end. We make one last stop at Mojitos (sin Mojitos). Over national beers, Ms. Luna and I talk about topics like our favorite entrepreneur self-help books, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and how rewarding it is to dance Gangnam style. I try to pick up our bar tab. But she refuses to let me pay. We’ve been going dutch all night.
At this point, being direct with Ms. Luna seems very appropriate.
Me: “I think it’s a good idea that you stay with me tonight.”
Ms. Luna: “Really? And why do you think this?”
Me: “A couple reasons, actually: A) It’s your last night in town. This relationship only has until daylight mañana. B) You’re sleeping in a dormitory with 5 other smelly backpackers. On the other hand, I have access to a restored colonial apartment containing many leather bound books and that smells of rich mahogany.”
Ms. Luna buys my sales pitch. She stays the night, and we head straight to bed (my mother reads/writes for this blog).
The following morning we wake early enough to allow time for pillow talk. We can talk forever. Ms. Luna tells me that she wants to move. She lives in San Francisco, but is considering a career change. Austin and Brooklyn are her top relocation city choices. I’m pretty sure that Ms. Luna makes more money than I do. I’m for damn sure that she has a higher IQ score than me. Not being the breadwinner or the smartest partner in a relationship does not threaten me. I see it as a positive.
Me: “We gotta go. Your flight leaves soon.”
Ms. Luna: “(sigh) I know… You don’t have to walk me to the hostel. I’m totally independent.”
Me: “Spoken like a true sorority girl. But, I will walk you to the hostel. My mother would be disappointed in me.”
Yes, mom, I walked her home.
We exchange Facebook information at Luna’s Castle doorstep. Then she leaves on a jet plane. History has taught me that there is a 83% chance that I will never see Ms. Luna again.
As I walk back home, I think about the good and bad of the previous night. The good is that I felt a great connection with this girl. Generally, I prefer to date girls who like to travel because they are resourceful and optimistic. They also value experiences over material items. These are all respectable and sexy traits.
The bad is that the relationships end too quickly. Ms. Luna’s case was the extreme example – a one-night stand. However, other Gringa girls in Panama do not stay long either. These Gringas come down here on internships, Fulbright scholarship or work relocation. They stay for 6 to 16 months. Eventually, their internship or contract expires. The novelty of living in a foreign country wears off. Their underlying desire to return home is exhausting in a committed relationship.
Dating Gringas is natural and easy for me. However, they leave me with a re-occuring feeling of unfulfillment.
Dating A Stable Gringo
Dating A Stable Gringo
Lately, women have looked at me differently. Ladies who once seemed out of my league – too mature, too cool, too cute – are now kinda flirting with me. Sure, I still get shot down often. Just with less frequency.
I agree, it could be my new haircut. Out, is the sporty spiky little boy hairdo. In, is the slightly shaggy look. It’s much more mature and damn sexy.
However, I believe women are flirting with me more because I’ve put down solid roots in Panama. I partially own an apartment-hotel in Casco Viejo. My mother (who has become more popular than me) recently retired to Panama. In fact, a good local female friend informed me, “Evan, ahora tu eres un gringo estable. Esto es bien importante.”. Apparently, stability is attractive.
Remember, Gringos have a negative stereotype in these good girl circles. Naira said basically that well-to-do females view most Gringos as fickle, uncultured bruts. Definitely not dating material.
***My good girl definition: An educated, ambitious, down-to-earth, bubbly, and emotionally stable girl with a photogenic smile. Panama has a plethora of physically attractive females. Yet, a shortage genuinely good girls.
There’s more: Young Gringos carry a negative reputation of being party animals. Too much pre-pago sex and cocaine. Older Gringos have the reputation of trying to find a wife who will care for them as they grow old. They’re more interested in a caretaker with an occasional sexual favor instead of a real relationship. If you don’t believe me, read the comments on this blog’s Panama dating articles.
Also, realize that Panama City is small. Words and reputations get around fast. A good girl doesn’t want to be categorized as a Gringo chaser, nor does she want to invest time and energy into a relationship that abruptly ends because her fickle Gringo packs up and leaves. No vale la pena.
For all these reasons is it difficult for Gringos to date Panama’s good girls. Showcasing stability appears to help…. or maybe it IS just the hair.
Part 2 – Panama’s Dating Delimma: Gringa or Latina?
A strange fact is that I have dated more Latinas than Gringas in my life. Spending the better part of my promiscuous 20’s in Latin America has facilitated that.
Maria is my girlfriend for this story. We’ve been dating for a few weeks by now. I met Maria through a mutual friend on a chiva party bus. One weekend she invites me along to San Blas to camp with her and a group of friends. I will be the only Gringo there.
Our group of 10 people arrive at San Blas in a couple 4x4s. Lanchas captained by an elder Kuna man take our group and its camping supplies to one of the few remaining island spaces. The national holiday has packed San Blas with PTYers.
My first order of business in this tropical paradise is to set up Maria and I’s 2-person tent under a palm tree. While I’m setting up, Maria’s girlfriends lay out beach towels in a picnic style circle. The guys begin juggling a soccer ball on the beach.
Maria ask me to help her apply sunscreen. As I rub the SPF 8 tanning lotion in between her shoulder blades, I can’t decide if I’m more aroused by her rich mocha colored skin or her bootylicious backside.
Out of courtesy, Maria invites me to tag along with her group of girlfriends (and the one gay best friend). She knows that I don’t know any of the guys juggling the soccer ball. I decline her offer. I need to at least attempt to friend these guys.
American football was my sport in high school, not soccer. I would jump at the chance to toss around the pigskin with a few of the fellas. Yet, I hesitate when it comes to juggling a futbolito. I’m not that good at it. After 30 minutes of embarrassing attempts to juggle, I retire from futbalito for the day. Lets try chit chatting with the chicas.
The girls are discussing the latest bonchinche (gossip). Even though I have zero frame of reference regarding their conversation, I listen attentively. I see this experience as an extended Spanish immersion class. If it were offered at a university, it would surely be called, “Panamanian Spanish 401”. I understand about 77% of it.
Maria: “Ebans, que te pasa mi amor?” (Evan, what is wrong my love?)
Me: “Me? Nada. All good.”
Maria thinks I’m bored. This is because I’m laying on the outside of the circle with my head resting in my Panamanian sombrero. I am not bored – far from it. Underneath my closed eyes, my mind is active. I’m keeping score of who says the Panamanian’s favorite transition word “Osea” the most. The race is close between Maria’s gay best friend and the most princesa girl I have ever met.
After Maria mentions something about my being bored, I sit up. I feel an urge to contribute to this conversation. Groups that speak only Spanish turn me into a wallflower. This is because the conservation moves quickly and is loaded with cultural references.
Living in Panama for 5 years, I feel knowledgeable in some areas of Panamanian culture. I’m knowledgeable about local politics because I read La Prensa. I’m knowledgeable about Plena (hip-hop) music because I have met the rapper El Boy C. And, I’m knowledgeable about the national soccer team because I can say with certainty that Blas Perez is the best player and dances “Movin like Bernie” after he scores a goal.
Sadly, these are not the topics of conversation. Maria’s body language is telling me that she is starting to regret inviting me to San Blas. I know this feeling. I feel the same way when I invite her to Gringo dinner parties in Full English.
With Maria’s regret weighing on my mind, I motivate myself to speak up. This is not going to be pretty, but here goes nothing:
Me: “Oh yeah, Gringo-Spanish, Gringo-Spanish, Gringo-Spanish.”
There is an awkward pause. Maria’s friends all have confused looks on their faces. They turn towards Maria in order to translate my heavy accent. She is accustomed to deciphering my garbled Spanish. The awkward pause combined with not being clearly understood makes me feel like an elementary kid with Downe’s syndrome.
The sun starts to set on San Blas. Our group’s small boombox gets turned up (way too loud). Maria brings me a bien fria pinta (cold beer) without being asked. I slip her a kiss on the lips. Her body lotion/hair product fragrance is intoxicating. Her thrown-together bathing suit wrapped in a colorful sarong flatters her womanly figure. Maria has been swimming in saltwater and sitting in sand all day, yet she always has a distinctly feminine appearance.
One beer turns to three or four. I’m convinced that my Spanish improves with alcohol consumption. I am speaking Spanish with passion. The group’s attention has centered on me. Not because of my improved Spanish, rather because everyone wants to show off their English. They all learned it in grade school. Spanglish is the language for the rest of the night.
At dawn, I wake up with a splitting headache. It feels like someone has shoved a sword into my skull. The last thing I remember clearly was plotting my midnight romantic rendezvous with Maria in our tent. Then Maria’s guy friend interrupted us. He had been eyeing her all night (I’m used to guys hitting on my girlfriend). He tells me, “Chupa el guaro, Gringo!” (Chug this, Evan!) as he hands me a bottle of warm rum. The night was all downhill from there.
Burying my head in the sand like an ostrich seems sensible in order to rid me of a hangover. I softly un-spoon Maria in the tent and sneak to the beach. Minutes later, she sits next to me and gently rubs her fingers through my hair. In her other hand, are two painkillers and a bottle of the most quenching water that I have ever had.
Maria frequently takes care of me without even being asked. For example, she will stay the night at my apartment. When I leave for work in the morning, she will stay and straighten up. I tell her that she doesn’t need to do that. I pay a maid to come twice a week. She tells me that is just part of her personality.
Maria is 26-years-old and still lives at home. Everyday her father comes home at 5 PM. Maria gladly serves him a tall glass of milk and two slices of toasted bread. Indeed, being attentive to men in her life is just part of her personality.
In Maria and my’s relationship, the gender roles are very distinct. I am the male. This makes me provider and protector. I have paid for the entire San Blas trip. When we go out to discos, I pay for all the tabs. In a crowd, I’m expected to protect her bubble butt so stranger’s hands can’t take a squeeze.
On the other hand, Maria is the female. Her priorities are her vanity and my needs. Maria always looks pretty. She takes pride in organizing/supporting my life. Maria outwardly states her loyalty to me. On multiple occasions she has told me, “soy tuyo” (I’m yours). This strictly defined masculine/feminine gender role relationship is old-fashion to me. I’m just starting to warm up to it.
I’m not sure why Maria is attracted to me. She doesn’t share my interest in traveling. Maria doesn’t read my blog or book. To be honest, I think Maria is only interested in me because she is attracted to fulitos (white boys) and my eyes. Everyday she will say, “Me encanta tus ojos verdes” (I love your green eyes).
My lack-of-depth relationship suspicion will be confirmed in a few weeks. Maria and I will break up. She will say that I’m demasiado frio (too cold). One re-occuring frustration for Maria is that I do not call her enough. This is true, I’ve never really adapted to the Latin relationship norm of multiple phone calls a day. I thought entrepreneurs would be given more slack.
If you have not discovered by now, both Ms. Luna and Maria are fictional characters. I created them to help me accentuate the dating differences between the Gringas and Latinas in my dating life (To be politically correct, not every Gringa is nomadic and independent, and not all Latinas are dependent, shallow and feminine – so chill out on the comment box).
Ms. Luna and I’s one-night stand highlights the easy way in which I build rapport with Gringas. We share a common first language, culture and interests. The drawback is that these roaming Gringas don’t stay in Panama for long. It’s hard to construct a long term future with someone who leaves the next day, next month or next year.
The successful Gringo-Gringa relationships that I have seen usually see Panama as a chapter in their life. Panama is not their final destination, rather just a stop on their long road together. They’re travelers/expats – staying still is not in their DNA.
While Maria represents an uber feminine Latina. Maria is a local that will be in Panama long term. My physical attraction to her is tremendous. And immersing myself in the local culture and language is good for my personal development (travelers underestimate how hard local immersion is). The drawback is that Maria and my’s relationship lacks depth. This isn’t helped by my inability to fully articulate myself in her native language.
Successful Gringo-Latina relationships that I have seen place a priority on mutual cultural participation. Each partner participates (or at least tries to) in their partner’s native culture. This includes holiday trips to visit Panamanian relatives in the interior as well as beers with the Gringos while watching Monday Night Football.
As for me, my success with women remains mixed. The romantic relationship road has been diverse and educational. Now if I can just find that elusive bi-lingual, independent, optimistic, family-oriented, feminine girl that dances salsa, well then I would be content. In the meantime, my journey continues…
Get Used To Guys Hitting On Your Girlfriend
Get Used To Guys Hitting On Your Girlfriend.
Some random discoteca in San Salavdor, El Salvador.
“Oye, yo pensé que era tu chica?”. (Hey, I thought she was your girl) Mi amigo turned to me and asked.
“Yeah, I thought so too.” I replied just as I downed another warm shot of whiskey.
At the time, my “chica” was dancing with some random Salavadorian dude. He had invited her to dance bachata because I could not. She wanted to dance. Not a big deal, I thought. One dance never hurt anybody.
Quite the contrary, what started out as a classic Latin dance of bachata morphed into a booty grinding session of reggaeton. Mr. Salavador’s hands, which started kindly up around her upper back, slowly crept downwards towards her gyrating hips. The dirtier they danced, the stronger my drinks became. I went from nursing the occasional national beer to pounding straight shots of room temperature whiskey.
After the near fornication on the dance floor, my date re-joined me at the bar. She sensed my disgruntled demeanor and asked, “Ebans, mi amor que te pasa???“. (Evan, what’s wrong baby). Witnessing my chica booty grinding with Mr. Salavdor had made me a bit jealous. The Whisky shots had made me a bit dramatic. So, I told her, “Ohhh don’t even start with that “mi amor” crap.” as I was getting ready to leave.
That night in San Salavdor I was 22 years old. I had been traveling through Latin America for 2 months on a 12 month trip. It was first time that I had noticed that Latino guys always seemed to hit on my girlfriend. It didn’t matter if it was a semi-serious relationship or chatting up a new girl, some random dude would inevitably hit on her.
At first, I found guys continuously hitting on my girlfriends baffling. To me, it was a clear violation of Guy Code. Guy Code (I thought) states that if you demonstrate the girl is with you it was sufficient to ward off other guys (i.e; arriving at an event together, excessive flirting, etc). I quickly discovered that in most parts of Latin America this was not the case. Guy Code had a much looser interpretation.
To illustrate my point, here are a couple brief examples of guys hitting on my (or a friend’s) lady of interest during my year traveling in Latin America and my subsequent time living in Panama:
Surfing lessons in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. A voluptuous ex-college girlfriend had flown down to meet me while I was traveling in Nicaragua. We had decided to take surfing lessons. Let just say her lesson was much more “hands on” than mine.
Hiking in Peru. A Latina girl and I had decided to do a hiking trip together while I was backpacking in Peru. The guide had been kind enough to offer her a helping hand in the difficult terrain. Yet, the helping hand quickly became the permanent hand. He insisted that they hold hands throughout the entire hike, even the flat parts.
Barging into the bathroom. My American friend brought his Colombian girlfriend to a house party. Within minutes of leaving her side, an Argentinean guy had sat himself next to her on the couch. After a short conversation, she briefly excused herself to the bathroom. As she entered the bathroom, the Argentinean guy tried to slip himself into the bathroom with her.
Bohemian Bar in PTY. A Panamanian girlfriend and I had been partying with some friends. We had arrived at the party together and publicly demonstrated some affection. Nonetheless, a Panamanian friend of the group tried to kiss her while my back was turned.
Las Haciendas in David, Chiriqui. I had been chatting up a local girl at the bar. We mingled and danced a little typico. When I briefly excused myself to the bathroom, a random Chiricano swooped in. To salvage the situation, I had to have my local friend run interference.
A Mid-Day BBQ. I had invited a potential girlfriend to join me at a friend’s birthday party. I was introducing her to a new social group and had encouraged her to meet everyone. Big mistake. Within minutes, an Italian guy (similar aggressive male dating behaviors as Latinos) introduced himself with two sexually suggestive kisses on each check. They were practically centimeters from her lips. She was mesmerized and it was all down hill from there for me.
That fact that I am a Gringo exacerbates the feeling that guys are always hitting on my girlfriend. Being Gringo in the land of Latinos automatically classifies me an outsider. Psychologically, categorizing someone as an outsider makes it easier to justify violating social norms. In this case, Guy Code. Moreover, some Latinos don’t like to see Latinas dating Gringos. It’s like they’ve switched teams. As an American guy once explained to me on a beach in Brazil, “It’s like when that white girl in college started dating black guys. She never came back.”.
Furthermore, Latin culture is more sexual than Gringo culture. They touch more at coffee. Latinas dress more feminine. The construction workers whistle louder. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that most Latinos give it more gusto when going after girls. Sometimes, it really doesn’t matter if they are “spoken for” or not.
It is interesting to note the difference in behavior of Latinos and Gringos at the bar. Latinos protect while Gringos pout.
Latinos know damn right that most fellow Latinos at the bar are dogs. They’ve developed protective shielding practices against random guys hitting on their women. By their positions, they tend to box-in girls. They situate the girl against the wall or closed off in a group of friends at bars and clubs. Any place that limits the girl’s ability to engage in conversation with strangers.
Another form of protection is being demonstratively physical. Physically, Latinos are quick to put an arm around a girl’s shoulder or slip their hand lower on their girl’s back whenever other guys are around. Some form of touching that clearly demonstrates that the girl is taken, so back off!
Latinos have learned that they have to play defense to protect their women from more than just Gringos.
Gringos have a different approach. Instead of protecting, we pout. My San Salavador story is a perfect illustration of a Gringo pouting. I, like most Gringos, was not accustomed to Latin America’s more aggressive dating behavior. I did not properly “protect” my chica. As a result, Mr. Salavdor swooped and stole her. So, I pouted by getting drunk and dramatic.
You’ll also notice that Gringos become quiet when pouting. We get jealous. In order to leave, we make up excuses by saying, “this party sucks”. This is how Gringos pout.
My time in Latin America has conditioned me to expect that anytime, anywhere, some guy or guys are going to try hitting on my girlfriend. Now that I know the rules of the game, I get less upset when they try. It’s almost a compliment like saying, “yeah, she is a cuttie, cierto (right)”.
Understanding El Gringo Frio
Understanding El Gringo Frio.
I was in Guatemala the first time a Latina girlfriend told me, “Ebans, tu eres frio.” (Evan, are you cold). At the time, were we sitting in a local coffee shop in Antigua, Guatemala sharing a cafe con leche (coffee with milk). She was surprised that I was not sitting beside her holding her hand. To her, boyfriends usually sit on the same side of the table. To me, it was awkward.
That day was the first time I was called “frio” by a Latina, but it certainly would not be the last. Different Latina girlfriends from different Latin American countries would periodically label me as frio. I was not sure why. In the States, I had semi-successful relationships with Gringas. Some of my ex-Gringa girlfriends would happily recite a laundry list of my imperfections, but being unromantic probably wouldn’t rank among their complaints.
Being labeled frio made me a bit self-conscious. Was I indeed acting cold and unromantic? If so, how could I become more cariño (affectionate) in the eyes of Latinas? Being considered El Gringo Frio (the un-affectionate Gringo) by Latinas would be fatal to my Latin dating life.
In order to rid myself of frioness, I tried to mimic some of my Latino amigos. I stocked my Itunes music library full of romantic songs by Marc Anthony, Tony Dize, and Luis Enrique. I adopted more affectionate Latino embraces and puppy love phrases. To top it off, learning to dance to Latino music became a top priority. I did not want to be El Gringo Frio any longer.
The results were mixed. While dancing to Latin music definitely helped, reciting romantic lyrics from Marc Anthony or other romantic songs made me feel incongruent. Something was never quite right about a green eyed Gringo whispering, “Suavemente besame, que quiero sentir tus labios” (Gently kiss me, I want to feel your lips).
Then, one day I read about an interesting study. Researchers from the University of Florida observed couples from around the world having a cup of coffee. In London, couples rarely touched each other. In Paris, 110 touches were observed per coffee. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, it was 180. A person’s culture greatly affects their dating behavior.
*** More on this topic: The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement
For the sake of simplification, Gringo dating culture is closely related to the seldom touching Londoners, while Latinos would be similar to fellow Puerto Rican Latinos. After reading the study, I finally understood why my Latina girlfriends perceived me to be frio.
Generally speaking, Latin culture is more romantic and loving. Latinos warmly contact lovers and loved ones more, both physically and verbally. Physically, this can be seen in their greetings. They kiss on the cheek instead of shake hands. They are also more willing to publicly demonstrate affections (think 180 touches per coffee). Latin dances are often performed “bien pegados” (super close). Latin culture is truly a culture of contact.
Verbally, Latinos have more contact with their lovers and loved ones. They are more likely to refer to them with terms of endearment. It doesn’t matter if you are Gringo, it will not be long before you are called, “Mi amor” or “Mi vida”. Latinos also have more contact with their families. It is customary for a Latina daughter and mother to talk multiple times a day on the phone.
Even though it is very apparent, the majority of Gringos are slow to notice this cultural difference. I sure was. Thus, we are confused when our love ones directly or indirectly point out our perceived frioness. To Latinas, we are acting cold and unloving, while we think we are behaving perfectly normally.
It is important to be cognizant of a person’s dating norms. For example, a Gringa might consider you needy if you called her three times a day. While, many Latinas would expect you to call at least that often. A Gringa might consider you touching her 180 times at coffee or on a park bench as too touchy-feely for a public setting. While, a Latina would probably consider you a cariño (a sweetheart). Successful dating relationships require you to adapt to (or at least recognize) your partner’s dating expectations. Most people do not.
Yet, I want to be careful not to oversimplify. Gringos Frios, who are unwilling to change, may have dating success with Latinas. There are a number of Latinas who are fed up with Latino men. They complain that their romantic behavior is short lived because they get too comfortable in relationships too quickly. They stop caring. Worse yet, some have a tendency to cheat with other women (sometimes with other men, as the inside joke in Panama goes…). As one of my amigas put it, “Osea, Gringos are a bit frio. But at least they continuously try to be a little romantic and they don’t cheat on me.”.
It has taken me a long time to understand El Gringo Frio. I still don’t completely act like a Latino when dating a Latina. Yet, I try my best to understand their dating expectations and try to be less frio. In truth, It would probably be best if all of us Gringos were a little less frio.
Avoiding Panama’s Princesas
Dear Gentlemen, Amigos, and Causal Observers,
Avoid princesas (princesses) in Panama. No vale la pena (it’s not worth it). I know they’re cute. I agree that their heavily Victoria Secret moisturized skin smells delicious. I understand that she might be the most physically attractive girl you have ever dated. Ever. Yet, amigo, you need to leave them. You gotta get over it. It will be harmful to your upbeat personality as well as your psychological and financial well being. Trust me.
For definitional purposes, UrbanDictionary.com describes a princesa as a “A girl that has been pampered, sheltered and spoiled her whole life to the extent that she has no friggin idea about the real world.”
Every country and culture has their own princesas. Princesas, here, hail from other Latin American countries like Colombia and Venezuela. There are also local princesas from Panama City, as well as girls who migrate from smaller pueblos in Panama’s interior.
My hypothesis (totally unproven by science) is that a rigid class system and a paranoid culture are the main contributing factors to Panama’s own brand of princesa. Let me explain…
In many parts of Latin America, there remains a large gap between the rich and the poor. Social class standing is supremely important in an individual’s socialization. Adolescents from wealthy families grow up with a sense of superiority over people from the perceived lower class.
High status Latinos typically are extremely paranoid about being accosted or kidnapped. It is common for Latin American families of status to construct tightly secured living compounds to isolate themselves from poverty and crime. Simply drive to the beach community of Coronado or any other wealthy neighborhood in Panama City to see an illustration of this point. This paranoid complex manifests itself in Latino dating culture. Males are expected to not only be dating partners, but protectors from the perceived dangers of the outside world.
This sense of class superiority combined with the expectation of the protective Latino male greatly influence Panama’s own brand of princesa.
Financially, in order to please your princesa, you’ll take on unsustainable levels of debt. Personal credit cards will be maxed. Frivolous expenses like imported luxury hand bags, frequent trips to the beauty salon, and oversized sunglasses will start to be everyday purchases. Furthermore, your standard bottle of whiskey while clubbing on Calle Uruguay will be replaced by Grey Goose. Taking a cab is strictly forbidden.
Psychologically, you’ll try to meet unrealistic expectations. You never will. No matter the social event they are invited to attend, the gift they are given, or beach they are brought to, they’ll be sure to inform you that they’ve had better. In time, you will find yourself doubting your own self-worth.
Undoubtedly, you’ll ask, “Evan, how do you identify princesas?” It’s simple, look for the signs.
- Loves to spend other people’s money. A person’s level of hard work directly correlates to their level of frugality. Princesas, by definition, have been pampered. They undervalue hard earned money. Spending someone else’s money comes easy.
- No plan in place. There will be lofty dreams of being a famous actress, model, or other glamorous figure. Yet, they have no tangible plan to accomplish their goal.
An example of a legitimate plan would be “Today, I’m going to school to study _____. Afterwords, I plan on working _______ to gain experience in the industry. From there, my plan is to ______….” That’s called a plan with tangible goals. Success in real life requires a plan.
- Eagerness to quit their job. Don’t be surprised if at the beginning of the relationship your princesa is more than willing to abandon her job. Sitting poolside or spending days at Multi Plaza mall sounds much more appealing.
Ultimately, we guys are to blame. We’re cursed with a short term dating mindset. We overvalue physical beauty. If a girl is “hot” enough, we overlook major personality flaws like the princesa mentality. Not until it is too late and we are too entangled (a dog, shared home, children, etc) do we admit to ourselves that the relationship was doomed from the start.
Few of us guys realize that successful long term relationships start from solid friendships first and foremost. Purely physically attraction wears off over time.
The good news is that people change. Princesas can grow up. They can grow out of the act. So, there remains hope for stubborn guys who believe that their princesa will change. My advise is, don”t bet on it. Look for a good girl in Panama. Where do you meet them? No se (I don’t know). That is one of Panama’s greatest mysteries. I’m still trying to solve it ;)
The Do’s and Don’ts of Panama Dating
There are rules to dating in Panama. A different language and cultural norms is often to the novelty of inter-cultural dating, but can also be the source of constant frustration. If you master these rules, you will create lovely and long lasting relationships. If you do not, you’ll be doomed to dating disappointments here in Panama.
1. Do learn Spanish. Learning Spanish is a sign of respect. Even if the girl speaks English, learn a couple words and phrases in Spanish. She will love it, and so will her friends and family.
2. Do learn how to dance Latin music. You don’t have to be a Latin dance professional like Marc Anthony, but you need to learn the basic dance steps of Salsa and Merenge. Your Panamanian girlfriend will ALWAYS want to dance when she hears Latin music. You have two options; either you can dance with her, or watch another, rico-suave dude spin her around the floor.
3. Do call her the next day. Unlike Western dating culture, calling a girl the day after a hookup is mandatory. If you do not, you will be considered “frio” (cold) which is no bueno.
4. Do say sweet nothings. Spanish sweet nothing pet names and phrases like; mi amor, mi reinita, mi corazon, should all be incorporated into your daily vocabulary. Try to interject Spanish sweet nothing phrases frequently and use them jokingly. If you feel corny, get over it.
5. Do find bilingual friends. Bilingual friends are assets! Their ability to speak both languages allows them to communicate with everyone in Panama. If you go on group outings be sure to bring one or more of your bilingual friends.
6. Do pay. There is no concept of going dutch in Panama. For the most part, guys always pay, even the female’s taxi cab fare. ***** This does also depend on the females economic situation. But, typically guys pay for dating activities.
7. Do manage expectations. Panamanian relationships can get real serious real fast. If you are not looking for a serious relationship, you must be proactive and honest. Tell her your intentions early in the relationship to avoid future headaches.
8. Do hang out with gay guys. Latin gay guys are a straight man’s best friend. They are typically surrounded by packs of beautiful women. If they think you are cool, then they will introduce you to their surplus of hotties. Subtly state that you’re of the heterosexual persuasion by commenting on a nearby pretty girl, or referring to an ex-girlfriend story. This will tastefully clarify your sexual orientation, and will allow to you start mingling with their ladies.
Panama Dating Rules — Don’ts
1. Don’t wear shorts. Always dress-to-impress when going out with a Panamanian female. See article.
2. Don’t be cultural-centric. Statements like “Services in the US are so much better”, or “I like to food in France a lot more”, and “Panamanians are stupid” will never go over well. This is referred to as “The Grumpy Gringo“. Don’t expect to rag on Panama in front of a Panamanian and have a positive response. (For the record, we do not believe any of the aforementioned statements)
3. Don’t go on the first date with her friends. You will be a wallflower. Once again, see article.
4. Don’t be surprised by cell phone interruptions. Answering your cell phone and having a long conversation while in a business meeting or on a date is not considered rude in Panamanian culture. I, on the other hand, find it extremely disrespectful. My advise is to politely ask them to let the call go to voice mail and continue on with the date. Destroying her cell phone with the heel of your boot mid-call should only be a last-ditch option.
5. Don’t cheat on her. Infidelity is rampant in Panama. Males cheating on their partners is so deeply ingrained into the culture that some of my Panamanian girlfriends actually expect to be cheated on! Hold yourself to a higher standard — be monogamous with your Latin lover.
6. Don’t piss off the mother. Family relationship are extreme strong in Latin cultures. So, strive to make not just a good, but a GREAT impression with the family and especially the mother.
7. Don’t be a pussy. You cannot beat around the bush. Indicate your sexual interest right away. Panamanian females are accustomed to very sexually direct Latin men. Thus, you must grow a pair of balls and go for it.
8. Don’t have sex on a first date. Be forward but not too forward. Meaning, if you like someone and are interested in getting to know them better (and possibly having a relationship), sex on a first date will likely ruin everything. It’s much too soon, it’s not romantic, and it communicates to the other person that you’re more interested in their physical characteristics than in finding out who they are.
Spanish Sweet Nothings
Spanish Sweet Nothings
Want to learn the local lingo? Add a few Spanish sweet nothings to your growing language skills. It’s amazing what sprinkling in Mi vida (my life) or Mi amor (my love), can do. If said in a playful, joking manner, these terms of endearment will help make you the funniest foreigner to land on the Isthmus since….. well, me.
It’s helpful to understand Caribbean influences on the Spanish language. Spanish in Spain is noticeably different from Spanish spoken in Caribbean countries; Cuba and Puerto Rico or countries that partially border the Caribbean Sea; Colombia and Panama. The Spanish spoken here has a flirtatious, flamboyant flavor to it. Maybe it’s the heat? Maybe it’s the rum? No sé (I don’t know) but a close Latina friend put it best, “Caribbean Spanish is just mas rico (more rich or spicy)”.
Let’s begin the Using Sweet Nothings in Panama lesson. Use your sweet nothing at the beginning of the conversation. Smoothly insert your choice of a sweet nothing after your greeting, but before beginning the general conversation.
For example, (Greeting) Hola (Insert sweet nothing), blah (General Conversation), blah blah….. Gracias (Again, insert sweet nothing)
Got it? Let’s go through a few examples together.
Male to Female
Buenos dias mi amor, ¿como andas?..blah, blah… Gracias, mi amor.
Good day my love, how have you been doing?…. Thanks, love.
Female to Male
Ohhh mi gordito, ¿cómo te va?
Hey my little cubbie boy, how’s it going?
Sweet nothings don’t always have to be romantic. They can also be used to show affection for your same sex friends.
Male to Male
Hola papa, ¿cómo ha sido?…blah, blah… Bueno, papa, hasta luego.
Hey pops/dad, how have you been…. Cool, pops/dad, see you later.
Female to Female
Oye nena, auydame con esto por favor ……
Hey girl, help me with this please.
List of possible Spanish terms of endearment:
Male to Female
Mi Amor – My love
Mi Vida – My life (personal favorite)
Mi Reina – My queen
Mi Corazon – My heart
Jovencita – Young girl
Mami/Mamacita – Sexy mama
Flaquita – Skinny girl (personal favorite)
Female to Male
Carnio – Sweetheart
Gordo – Chubbie
Papi/Papito – Sexy Daddy
Mi Amor – Love
Mi Vida – Life
Male to Male
Primo – Cousin
Tio – Uncle (popular with Spaniards)
Hermano/Brother – In Panama, more people use the English term “brother” with a Spanish accent.
Papa – Dad or pops (personal favorite)
Mi Hijo – My child
Female to Female
Chola – Country Girl
Nena – Girl
Mi Hija – Daugther
Guapa – Pretty Girl
It’s important to remember to whom, and in what setting, you are using these sweet nothings. It is generally not appropriate to call a young lady “mi amor” in a business meeting. Basic common sense still applies.
I still call, and get called, mi vida by Latina grandmothers. It is a term of endearment. Additionally, it is not unmasculine for a father to refer to his son as mi amor. It is not sexual, just being sweet.
Beyond the basics. If you want to spice it up a little more, use the diminutive form cito/a-ito/a. Cito is a suffix used to denote endearment. Use this to give your conversation a more personal touch. Cito is often used when speaking to kids. Guys also use it with their romantic interest.
Otro Nivel (To the next level): Want to elevate your Spanish to the next level?
First, combine the guy’s/girl’s nationality nickname in the diminutive form.
Nationality Term Romantic Female Interest
Bogota, Colombia Rolo/a Mi Rolita
Venezuela Chamo/a Mi Chamita
Chiriqui Province in Panama Chiricano/a Mi Chiricanita
Chinese Chino/a Mi Chinita
Secondly, alternate two different Spanish sweet nothings in the same conversation. The first time I heard this in real time, it threw me a communication cruveball. I overheard a local guy use it while I was waiting in a local bus terminal. I thought to myself “This can’t be. He must be mistaken. There is no way he could be that suave.” From that day forward, I have never looked back. Using differing Spanish sweet nothings is now my standard speak.
My personal favorite duel sweet nothing combo.
Bueno, mi vida, me puedes …blah, blah… Bien. Mil gracias, mi reina.
Hello, my life, can you …… good. Thanks a lot, my queen.
Foreigners have often said to me, “Evan, saying sweet nothings is just silly. It’s pointless and makes you look stupid.”. Quite the contrary, there are tangible benefits:
1. Reduce your risk of price discrimination. Being overcharged for products and services solely based on skin color (white) and country of origin (North America/Europe) is a daily occurrence. It’s frustrating.
Yet, magically, using sweet nothings with people from store clerks to cab drivers demonstrates (or fools) locals into believing that you have been in Panama for a long time. Practically a local. As a result, your odds of receiving a fair price will dramatically increase. Hurah for savings!
2. More effective. An example from Panama’s daily life; My friend was calling IDAAN (water company) to turn back on his water, which had been mistakenly shut off. With a touch of anger in his voice, he explained the situation. She fired back by basically saying “Not my problem, buddy.”. Needless to say, my friend had another dry day.
My advice to my friend was to lighten up a bit. The average worker in Panama is not well- motivated. They are paid peanuts. They have no real incentive to go out of their way for you. In order to get things done, try sprinkling in a sweet nothings greeting, maybe even a combo.
It’s difficult to snarl while saying mi amor. If you are playful and calm, yet assertive, maybe that unmotivated worker will say to themselves “Geez, this Gringo is kinda strange, but funny. I think I’m going to help him out today.”. If it didn’t help you become more effective, I wouldn’t recommend it. It works for me. It will probably work for you too.
Limited Spanish Dating
Dating in a different language is difficult. Both language and cultural differences exist. At the beginning of a different language relationship, it’s a novelty. Even, if your vocabulary is limited to a few basic phrases, it’s fun, it’s new, and a it is the best way to learn a language.
Yet, as time wears on, the novelty wears off. Your inability to communicate will become awkward and frustrating. Communicating in another language is difficult for all but the most fluent. Here are some basic tips that I hope will make your entry into the local dating scene less stressful and more rewarding.
First, remember the differences between men and women. For females, attracting males with limited communication is easier. Simply stated, males are much more attracted to physical features. On the other hand, females tend to place a higher importance on intellectual and emotional connections. To illustrate my point, look no further than the female display manikens with totally disproportionate double D breasts in Panama’s shopping malls. The ability to verbally communicate with the woman you desire is critical to your successful dating experience.
Understanding the importance of communication, you can see the difficulty in dating when you have limited language skills. This is not to discourage my fellow amigos. However, it is crucial that you acknowledge the limits of your Spanish and adjust accordingly. Pinpoint your level of Spanish and incorporate some of the tips below.
No Spanish (20 words or less) – First and foremost, learn more Spanish! If not, go to places where it is so LOUD it’s nearly impossible to talk (Beiginns, Hard Rock Café, People, Zona Viva). Have good, positive energy and communicate with body language.
Your homework: Learn more Spanish!
Beginner (20 – 100 words). Dancing and language tips. Ask for help with Latino things like help with dancing Merenge (Salsa is too difficult, don’t even try) or how to say something in Spanish. A little Latino tutelage will be considered cute.
Your homework: Try to learn 5 new Spanish words a day and watch No Words Spanish video. Start with phrase like; how do you say – “como se dice”, you look pretty – “te ves bien”, and the verb to dance – “bailar”. Additionally, listen to 15 minutes of Salsa and Merenge to acclimate yourself to the beat.
Intermediate (100 – 300 words). This is my current level of Spanish. Don’t get too confident. Avoid large groups of her friends until you are comfortable in the relationship. I refer to it as choosing your battlefield. With multiple native Spanish speakers, the conversation will be too fast. Your silence will be taken as anti-social. No bueno.
Additionally, learn the chorus to popular Latino songs. Being able to sing along will be impressive for a foreigner. Also, inject funny Panamanian slang terms and common phrases and have her explain the meaning to you.
Advanced (highly conversational). At this level, speaking Spanish one on one or in group setting is not a problem. A deeper understanding of both local Panamanian and broader Latino culture is in order.
Your homework: Learn local political matters (read La Prensa), travel to frequented Panama destinations (Chiriqui, Carnivales in Los Santos, and Decameron), familiarize yourself with movies and TV shows (Chance and El Cartel de los Sapos), and the larger Latin culture outside of Panama (CNN en Espanol).
Most importantly, once you have reached an advanced level of Spanish, stop talking. Be an active listener. In economics it’s referred to as the 80- 20 rule. It applies to dating too. She talks 80% of the time and you speak the other 20%.
Be an interested attentive listener. Show her that you care and you’re more interested in her than merely sleeping with her. Having a shared connection is central to dating chemistry. Good chemistry is the difference between a temporary fling and having an ongoing dating partner.
Above all, don’t ignore what you already know. An attractive Panamanian woman is not fundamentally different from a pretty woman back home. Good manners, not being creepy or socially awkward, and respect go a long way no matter where you are. Being in decent physical shape helps too. The fact that you try to communicate with a woman with whom you do not share a language is already a point in your favor. Most of the time, the effort will be recognized and appreciated.
Entering a totally new dating scene is never easy. When you don’t speak the language, your task is even more challenging. However, don’t be intimidated. You will have fun. You will learn. If you are lucky, you might even meet that special dating partner. Suerte Amigos!
Nice Guys Finish Last in Panama
Nice Guys Finish Last in Panama. Part I
Late night in Casco Viejo, Panama City.
That night at Tequila Bar we all sat in a semi circle and chatted. We were a mixed international group of about 10 people. Half Latinos, half Anglos. In the group, was a late 20-something good looking couple. The guy was a Spaniard. She was an well-to-do Venezuelan ex-pat that had recent immigrated to Panama.
He lived in Spain, but would come visit her in Panama as often as he could (approximately once every 2 months). His visits to Panama were brief. He didn’t know many people in Panama. As a result, their group outings were with her and her predominately Venezuelan friends.
Throughout the evening, the Spaniard was making genuine attempts to be affectionate. Without being asked, he continuously refilled her drinks. Around strangers, he praised her professional accomplishments. With her friends, he would consistently attempt to initiate new conversations. Finally, he would put tremendous effort towards giving her attention. In my mind, he was a pretty decent boyfriend.
Yet, she did not devote nearly as much effort to him. She was rarely affectionate. This was evident in her body stature continuously leaning away from him. Additionally, she excluded him from the evenings conversations by repeatedly chatting about local gossip amongst her friends. She was so unenthusiasatic about the relationship, that unless you were directly told, you would have no idea that they were a couple.
It was clear that he was becomingmore and more frustrated. The tension between the couple increased as the night wore on.
Seemingly, the last straw occurred when a favorite Salsa song was being played. She wanted to dance. However, rather than asking her boyfriend to dance, she asked a fellow Venezuelan friend. He declined, but she persisted. Presumably, her friend felt awkward dancing at a informal party setting. Most importantly, he felt awkward about dancing with another man’s girlfriend. This would have broken a major tenant of “Guy Code”.
After a few minutes, the girl gave up on her insistenceon dancing. She returns to her seat next to her boyfriend. Instead of receiving a warm, loving hand to hold, she found an angry Spaniard who was ready to leave.
From her point of view, she believed that her boyfriend was jealous. He was mad because she asked another guy to dance (stereotypically, Latinos are much better dancers than Spaniards). Yet, this was only partially true. She was neglecting the sequence of events that fueled his anger.
If I had to guess, I imagine his thoughts were something like this:
“- I paid $700 plus for this ticket. And, more than $2,000 a year to come see this girl.
- I bend-over-backwards to chat-up her friends. More often than not, I’m excluded from their conversations.
- I’ve been trying to be a gentleman by refilling her drinks, paying her tabs, and showing her public affection. For what? In return, I’ve gotten a limp hand and a cold shoulder.
- Finally, she once again neglects my feelings by dancing with other guys in front of my face.
Ayala vergaaaaaaaa, estoy harto con esta Chama. Me voy! (Fuck this shit. I am fed up with Venezuelan girl. I’m outta here!)”
The night ended with them leaving in a fight. He had a flight the next morning and who knowswhat happened to the relationship.
The moral of the story is this: Ladies, reward good behavior!
My dating blog is filled with female rants about the shallowness of men in Panama (both local and foreign). Yet, as this story highlights, and many of us guys say amongst ourselves, that being a nice guy gets you NO WHERE. Nice guys finish last. This story is testament to that belief.
In my opinion, this is what the Venezuelan girl should have done?
First, genuinely say thank you when he picks up your tab. Very few of us are made of money. He is probably occurring massive amounts of debt on his credit cards for these little trips to Panama.
Second, make your guy feel secure in the relationship. Naturally, he is uncomfortable hanging out with only your friends. Consistently include him in the conversation as well as give him plenty of affection. If not, you’ll deepen his feeling of insecurity.
Third, ALWAYS ask your date to dance first. I don’t care if he is the WORST dancer in the world, let him be the one to decline the offer. Afterwords, if he is mad that you danced with another guy, you can remind him that you asked him first :)
The point of this article is really quite simple: REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOR. It may take a while, but ultimately it is always true. Men will behave as they perceive you want them to behave. To use a rather simplistic analogy, treat men like puppy dogs. When a puppy poops in the house, you scold it. When a puppy poops outside, you give it a treat. Just like training a puppy, you have to be consistent and you have to have patience.
Panama’s Beautiful People
One of my favorite activities is people watching. When I travel, I always set aside time just to watch people. People watching is one of the few activities that is both fun and educational.
Urban Dictionary’s definition of “People Watching”: “A Hobby in which you go out and watch people. They way they act, dress, && talk. Like bird watching except with people. Very entertaining.
I went people watching this afternoon.”
People are complex. They are interesting. Whether you travel internationally or whether you travel to different regions of the same country, if you watch you will learn. You will see how different elements of a community interact with each other. You will see the differing fashion trends. You will think about the differences between what you see and what you previously thought. Most importantly, it just plain fun to do.
People watching is quickly becoming a worldwide phenomenon for both travelers and city dwellers. Whenever I travel to a new metropolitan area, my friends (both guys and girls) and I scope out the best places to people watch.
If you are an international traveler, here are some of my favorite places to watch people:
Seattle (my hometown)
Weekend mornings and afternoons sitting on Victoria Steinbeurk Park next to Pike Place.
Ko Sang Road sitting in plastic chairs in front of a roadside drink vendor.
New York City
Almost any bookstore in lower Manhatten. The best bookstores for people watching have
large windows. First for you to look into and second for you to look out through.
Outdoor cafes in the fashion district of Palermo.
The park steps at night in Parque Lleras.
Panama City has some fabulous places to people watch. Here are some of my favorites:
Tequila Bar, located on Avienda Central and Calle 3 in Casco Viejo, has great local and foreign foot traffic. Be sure to snag one of the coveted street side seats between the hours of 4PM to 7:30 PM. In addition to great people watching, you will watch a beautiful sunset and enjoy the cool ocean breeze. Personally, I call Miguel (6615-6930), he speaks both English and Espanol, to reserve prime seats. They go fast. Also, you feel kinda cool reserving specific seats rather than settling for a random table.
Parque Omar, During the week, some of Panama’s most beautiful people exercise at the park. Join in the excercise or just grab a cup of coffee and a seat on a park bench with a friend.
Multi Plaza, The crowd here is a bit pretentious, but quite good looking. Someone on my face book suggested “Saquela in the Fashion Avenue”. I’ll have to check it out. However, I recommend a table at Tony Romas along the rail in front of the Multi- Plaza entrance. I don’t like the restaurant, but the location is unbeatable.
Remember, people watching is a skill as well as an avocation. Groups of males have to avoid gawking. Be discreet. Only focus on an individual for a few seconds. Female people watchers have more leeway. Generally, they can stare as long as they want without generating any negative reactions.
Panama’s Perfect Date
How do you plan a perfect date in Panama City? The answer to this question has eluded me for years. It has been even more difficult since I’ve been living on the Isthmus. I can tell you which dates do not work. A traditional dinner and a movie which is boring and awkward. Usually, you are seated across from your date. This makes small talk difficult. A great dinner is also likely to make your date drowsy, not exactly what you intended. Second, going out to a bar with ear bleedingly loud music is a real loser. Communication is absolutely impossible. Third, group bowling at a swanky lounge overlooking the city puts you on the outside of the group looking in.
Scrap those stale oldies and try my date idea. It has worked for me and I am certain it will for you as well. This is a tried-n-true strategy which just maybe near perfect. My one caution is that I do not recommended it for the first or second date. Rather, it is a dating strategy should be used to spice up a relationship that is becoming dull or to move a relationship to the next level. Although I represent a male’s perspective, females could by all means employ the same strategy. It is after all, 2010!
Here are the main steps:
Step #1: Mid-day phone call to partner.
Rather than simply directly calling your partner with the uncreative “Hey, you want to do something tonight?“, this date will set the stage for creativity from the start. I recommend employing a third party. Ask a friend or an associate to assist you. He/she will need to call to your girlfriend and pretend he/she is your assistant. Here is an sample script that I have used. However, you do not need to use a script, just understand the jist of the conversation.
Maria Reyes (mi asistente falsa): “Hola Sra. González. Mi nombre es María Reyes y yo soy el asistente de Evan Forbes. Sr. Forbes quisiera saber si le gustaría que lo acompañe esta noche?”
Ana González: “¿Es esto una broma? Evan no tiene un asistente.”
María Reyes: “Sra. González, esto no es una broma, pero el Sr. Forbes gustaría reunirse con él esta noche.”
Ana González: “ahhh …. ok.”
Maria Reyes: “¡Excelente! Se le recogerá a las 8:30 de copas en el Casco Viejo. Por favor, será una gran noche y deberá vestir de acuerdo a la ocasión.”
Maria Reyes (my fake assistant): “Hello Ms. Gonzalez. My name is Maria Reyes and I am Evan Forbes’ assistant. Mr. Forbes wanted to know if you would like to accompany him tonight?”
Ana Gonzalez: “Is this a joke? Evan doesn’t have an assistant.”
Mary Robinson: “Ms. Gonzalez, this is not a joke, but Mr. Forbes would like to meet with him tonight.”
Ana Gonzalez: “ahhh …. ok.”
Maria Reyes: “Excellent! Mr. Forbes will pick you up at 8:30 for a drink in the Old Quarter. Please, dress nice.”
Step #2: Drinks.
Definitely drinks and not dinner. Having drinks with somebody is urbane and hip while having dinner with a friend or significant other is out-dated. The other advantage of buying drinks instead of dinner is that you’ll save a bit of money and the alcohol will loosen up the night.
Head to Casco Viejo and a restaurant called “Antigua“. It has a upstairs balcony with seating for two that over looks the plaza. Sexy view. More importantly, you can get your hands on a nice bottle of wine, served in the appropriate wine glasses, for under $20.
Tip: Order the Alamos Malbec for $18 and watch the Wine Library TV embedded below. The host, Gary Vaynerchuk, passionately breaks down the underrated Alamos Malbec for the common man. Use this new found wine knowledge as a entertaining dinner conversation topic.
Step #3: The Kiss.
Once inebriation has set in, stroll arm-n-arm down to the Make Out Point (Panama’s best). See map for the suggested route.
You’ll notice that the route is not the most direct, keen observation. This route is recommended for two reasons: First, it’s the scenic route. Second, and most importantly, this track is just long enough to fatigue the both of you. Thus, when you ask “Hey honey(love, baby, sugar bear, etc), lets rest over here for a quick second.“ it comes across as part of the natural flow of the evening, instead of previously rehearsed.
The Make Out Point is located right next to the Club Union. It has a spectacular view of The Bay of Panama. The two of you should be as near the edge of the pier railing as possible. The cool breeze off the ocean will be reminiscent of the Leo and Kate’s kiss in Titanic. How can you get more romantic than that???
Some would ask “shouldn’t the kiss wait until the end of the evening?”. Absolutely not. A mid-date make-out session is hot and will only increase the sexual tension the rest of the evening.
Step #4: Casco Viejo’s Nightlife
Now the two of you are tipsy and sexual energized, it’s time to boogy. Shimmy on down to one of Casco Viejo’s bars. Pick a environment that you’ll both enjoy. Here are a few of my favorites:
Indigo Bar and Restaurant: Less than 300 meters from the Make Out Point, Indigo is a high-end restaurant that typically plays lounge music. However, on the weekends past 10pm-ish, it plays some of the best electro/house music in Panama.
Relic Bar: Considered by many, foreign and local, to be the trendiest place in Panama. Expect to hear upbeat rock, reggae, and a bit of pop music.
Mojitos: Has a tastefully decorated outdoor bar area and occasionally has live music.
Habana Panama: The best Salsa club in Panama, hands down. Go to dance or to watch live music.
Step #5: Finally, getting home.
Although it is becoming easier, finding a cab in Casco Viejo at night can be difficult. It would be wise to have a couple cab driver numbers or the number of a cab station handy, so you will not be stranded. Nothing kills the romantic mood quicker than waiting 30 minutes for a cab.
Here is the number of a cab service that I have used. But, do not expect a warm greeting on the phone and they kinda suck: 221-1932
Recap of Panama’s Perfect Date:
Transportation for the evening: $7
Bottle of wine and appetizers at Angitua restaurant: $30
Drinks at the bar of your choice: $20
Having your significant other believe that you are a entertaining, imaginative, and ultimately a sexy person: Priceless.
Panama’s Cougar Movement
Panama’s Cougar Movement
To begin, let’s make sure we are all on the same page, here is UrbanDictionary.com definition of a “Cougar” female:
“An attractive woman in her 30′s or 40′s who is on the hunt once again. She may be found in the usual hunting grounds: nightclubs, bars, beaches, etc. She will not play the usual B.S. games that women in their early twenties participate in. End state, she will be going for the kill, just like you.”
We can trace Cougar origins back to the days when we lived in a hunter/gather society. In our more primitive days, the primary purpose of mating was to successfully reproduce in order to spread our genetic seed. For females, males that exhibited high status characteristics (Alfa males) were considered more attractive because of their perceived superior ability to provide for offspring. For males, the youth and fertility of females were an indication of the ability to provide offspring.
In that society, time would only increase a males sexual attractiveness because time allowed for him to accumulated a greater social standing in the tribe. On the other hand, time would have the opposite effect for females. Time, aka “biological clock” was a depreciating asset for female reproductivity.
Even though we live in a modern society, many of those hunter/gather human sexual thinking processes are hardwired into our brains. For example, males have the tendency to leave their older wives for younger girls. My evidence? Remember “First Wives Club“? It’s a movie entirely devoted to males leaving their wives for younger females. Need more evidence? Read this book on human sexual evolution called “Red Queen“.
However, the good news for Cougars, they’re “in” right now. They’re trendy and they are SEXY. My generation of early to late 20 year old males can’t get enough of them. I’m not sure if it’s because of the movie “American Pie” or music videos like “Stacy’s Mom“, but lately hooking up with a older woman is fashionable. Even more fashionable then hooking up with her younger daughter. In Panama, the Cougar Movement is gaining mainstream popularity among many younger males, both local and foreign.
Why young guys LOVE Cougars:
- They’ve got their shit together. They have a career and probably kids, both of which require a higher level of responsibility and accountability.
- They get straight to the point. You don’t have to play all the B.S. games like you do with girls in their early 20s. Cougars know what they want and get straight to business.
- They demand less commitment. Early on, younger girls tend to over commit in relationships. On the other hand, older women know the dating game inside and out, and will have the guys chasing them.
- They are highly experienced sexually. Years of experience definitely pays off in the bedroom.
- They’ve got plata (money). Have you heard of a sugar daddy? A sugar mama is even sweeter.
Even though cultural differences exist between Panama and the US or Europe, Cougars females still exist here for three reasons:
1. Infidelity rates are much higher here. More cheating husbands = more Cougars.
2. Latin culture typically places a high value on a female’s exterior beauty and appearance. As a result, Latina older women hold their age very well.
3. Vacationing western woman come here seeking their young, rico suave, Latino lover.
Panama City, Panama is the only place in Panama in Panama for young guys to meet Cougars. If you are looking for Cougars try one of these:
Platea; An upscale Salsa and Jazz bar in Casco Viejo. Fellas, if you are looking to meet these woman, you better bring your Salsa dance steps with you.
Decapolis; A swanky sushi/martini bar off Avienda Balboa. Although, be careful not to mistake Cougars for hookers.
Beauty Salons; Skip the barber shop on the next haircut, head to the beauty salon.
Plaza Bolivar at night; A lot of very good looking older women dining outdoors in the plaza at night in Casco Viejo.
Local Events; Events like art exhibits, pub quizzes, sushi nights, etc. always have a higher number of older, educated women. Check out EyeOnPanama.com’s events page.
Older woman dating younger men in Panama is still only a small slice of the dating pie. However, it’s growing. There’s a movement, and it is called “Panama’s Cougar Movement”.
Choose The Battlefield Wisely
The place you go on a first date will make or break you. This location my friends and I jokingly refer to as the battlefield. Choosing a date location doesn’t seem like a profound decision — sushi or coffee, movies or a bar, but make no mistake it is. Most of the time, us guys are so giddy just to HAVE a date that don’t think much about where to go. However, choosing this critical location is often what determines dating success or failure, especially in inter-cultural dating in Panama.
Let me specific, there are three distantly different types of dating battlefields:
1. Home Turf. These are locations that give you home field advantage and you are comfortably in your element with friends. In this date scenario you bring a date to meet your friends at a favorite watering hole or party.
2. Neutral Territory. At this location neither person has the advantage and is most likely new to both of you.
3. Away Game. This is your date’s home turf which likely means you are out of your element and surrounded by people she knows but you don’t in an unfamiliar environment. It may also mean that much of the conversation is in a language that is not your first language.
Here are some personal examples to illustrate my point:
1. Sky Bowling in Multi-Centro, Panama City — Battlefield: Away Game.
I was invited by a cute girl that I had been flirting with to join some of her friends at Sky Bowling alley. Bowling is typically a great group date location. The vibe is non-threatening. The mood is swanky and energetic. Plus, I am a badass bowler :) Skybowling with the cutie had the makings to be a entertaining, successful first date.
However, the evening was a complete disaster. Her friends were all local, hometown buddies from Chiriqui Province in Panama. My Spanish was proficient, but was no match to join the conversation with a bunch of life-long friends telling inside jokes about people I never met. They reminiscenced with each other the entire night, while I sat quiet and clueless. And although far from a wallflower by nature, the group dynamics of the evening ostracized me. Needless to say, the cutie from Chiriqui stopped calling.
By not carefully choosing a more advantageous battlefield, my date resulted in utter failure. The Away Game battlefield had me trying to speak a language that wasn’t my first, with a close group of friends that I didn’t know. The result was I was left out and seemed to be shy, uninterested, and socially awkward. I was not surprised I a second date was turned down.
2. Relic in Casco Viejo — Battlefield: Home Turf.
A bubbly little fox and I were planning a second encounter. This time having learned a lesson, I suggested that she meet me and some of MY friends at Relic in Casco Viejo. Relic is a very familiar territory where I know practically everyone, indeed I feel like I had a hand in building the place. This is my Home Turf.
The evening went well. My mix of Gringo and Latino friends keep a lively conversation in both English and Spanish. This allowed my date to mingle in her native language as well as practice English intermittently. After Relic, we bounced to a couple dancing jaunts on Calle Uruguay before heading home. It was a great night.
The advantageous battlefield made all the difference in the world. This time I was in my element at familiar locations surrounded by people I knew which allowed me to relax and showcase my more attractive attributes of being energetic, funny, and a hell-of-a-dancer.
Gentleman: Learn from my example. Choosing a battlefield wisely is a major factor between success and failure in dating. Your guiding principal should be to always set your first dates on YOUR at Home Turf or at the very least on Neutral Territory.
Here are some common scenarios in Panama, and how to tip the scale in your favor (this goes for paid or unpaid dates):
You’re a tourist and a local girl wants you to join her and some friends to show you around: Obliviously, you can’t say no. You’re here for a limited time and have to act quickly. Plus, you get to party with locals which always kick-ass.
Advice: Bring a friend that speaks your language. This way, you always have someone to talk to and aren’t left looking socially awkward if being left out or can’t keep up with it with rapid Spanish of their conversation.
You invite her to join some of your friends and she wants like to bring a friend. First off, the girl is uncomfortable. Typically, girls bring a female friend when they are not yet completely comfortable with you. However, you must avoid the female friend. She will be a third wheel which is rarely a good idea and creates a no win situation.
Advice: Tone down the date. Instead of going to a evening dinner or a club, go for a afternoon coffee or something during the day on Neutral Territory. This will increase her comfort level because an afternoon activity has far less sexual connotations than a evening one and can put you both at ease.
In Defense of the Cave Dude…Panamanian or Otherwise!
I am not the person you would expect to stand up for the average dude. If you knew me (and I guess some of you do) you would know that I’m as prone to teasing and bringing guys down to earth as I am to self-deprecation. But lately I have been feeling increasingly sympathetic of my guy friends. Men, it seems to me, get lambasted from every end. They can’t win.
Everyday they receive as much conflicting information about how they should behave as females do. However, maybe because females have had it rougher for longer, we seem to be standing up to it better. Or maybe it’s because for the last few decades the message to women (ignoring all fashion mags) has been rather empowering. For men the message has leaned more towards all their wrong doings. Furthermore, their role in society has been transforming to a point, that I think a lot of guys have stopped trying to figure out what it is exactly.
The man as provider is passé. Women in the western world have achieved greatly in almost every field and many don’t expect or want a man to provide for them. However, men can hardly expect to be provided for. The stay at home dad is still a pretty new concept and many people don’t accept it at all. As I see my friends today I wonder at the role of men and masculinity today. As likely to share their feelings with me as they are to sleep with two girls on the same night these strange creatures I call buddies seem to me an evolution of sorts.
They seem thrust into a limbo of self discovery, a meta-fight between the hardwired and the media driven. So the young, urban, professionals I mingle and play with in the evenings (all very kosher my dear friends) move physically from metro sexuality to rugged Malboro-ness with ease; but in substance, there are so many expectations pressed on them by their female counterparts… that they seem somehow hopelessly untogether. They have lost their essence somewhere along the way… and don’t seem to have another niche into which they can fall. This has led to some really insecure men.
These insecure males are out there trying to mate. Now, in the world of the Alpha male, the provider male; the “look at-look away” flirt move was usually enough to get a man to approach you. But what is one to do in these confusing times of empowered females, who flirt as sport (I’m on the varsity squad. Starting.) with timid men who don’t know if what awaits them is a playful touch on the arm or a diss powerful enough to burn the stink off a skunk (odds are: the latter).
With female roles now decidedly more aggressive it seems to me that males are increasingly waiting to be approached or just play the field as friends. But the irony is, the more gutsy girls get, the more attractive male confidence seems to us (I’m speaking for myself and a couple of others) and the rarer it gets! As a girl who dishes way more than any one human being should ever have to take, I melt when I guy not only stands up to it, but dishes it right back and holds his own. Sadly confused modern male is not equipped to react to this. He knows that we want everything from him (yes we do want you to stare longingly into our eyes, but also take out the trash) and in the face of such an unreasonable demand he shrinks, instead of calling us on it.
So this is my defense of all things male. Classically male mind you, not recently male. These are the things that all women bitch about incessantly (me included), but without which you might sometimes feel like you are surrounded by chicks everywhere. Having until recently been living with a significant other of that noble gender, I had a “close enough to wince” view of male idiosyncrasy and honestly it’s very different from the girly version, but still uniquely beautiful (oh jeesh… I’m getting poetic here, I gotta lower my dosage). Now while I am all for feminist power, gay power, metro power and anybody else who might get offended power… I like masculine things and think we should give guys who exhibit hard wired “boy” traits a break. Obviously the below traits are stereotypical and don’t apply to everyone and in some cases apply to women as well; but I’m going to ask you to bear with me for the remainder of the article. I’m sympathizing here!
Before I say anything else here is my message to men overall:
We like you and we want to be with you… even if you smell less than desirable sometimes. Now grow a pair and bring it!
Men Don’t Need to Say Everything
People rib on many a man’s poor communication skills, but as someone who communicates way too much (believe me, I invented TMI and awkward moments) I have always admired this. He REALLY does not feel the need to share everything that happened at dinner with his friends (the horror). In fact if he really embodies the strong, silent type it will often seem like he lives in a land were words are rationed. Probably cause his significant other depleted half the world’s share!
If you ARE going to bring up issues you are having at work or “Jenny from accounting’s” marital problems, expect him to come back with solutions. Now you don’t really want solutions do you? You want empathy. This is something men are just not good at: if they hear you whining they don’t want to whine with you; they want to develop a taskforce and get to work on the issue. This can do attitude can be as annoying as it is endearing. Just bitch with me please!
They Love Projects
Old school dudes love projects. It might be on the computer, it might be your kitchen, the patio; wherever it is, they have a solution. And sometimes they have the dangerous tools to implement that solution. It’s best to just stand back and watch. Results will come in two types: cheap to fix and disastrous.
They Tease About Everything
Guys can be brutal when teasing each. It seems awful and devastating but I have noticed that it is actually quite good natured. I think its like the evolutionary equivalent of group grooming. In any event I much prefer it to the muted hostility we often engage in as females in which we slowly corrode each others self esteem with doubt. AND no matter how much they tease each other… they never let anybody else diss their friends.
They Can Be Protective
Feminism be damned, there is something very comforting about curling up in bed with a guy. Regardless of how much of a fantasy it is (as in half of the men I know will run from a decent sized spider), it just feels nice if only for a second, to think that maybe you don’t have to be the do-everything, fear nothing female of the 21st century. And a man’s hand on the small of your back guiding you away from a perceived danger (cheesecake!) can be genuinely knee buckling. Just don’t expect me to quit my high power ninja position just yet.
And they love it in a way that says that the dinner table is an altar. Calories be damned, there are no zones… they go at it like this may be the last plate of food they will ever see. In as much as many women have complicated relationships with food (complicated, nicely worded) it is beautiful to watch the simplicity with which males regard it. Its there, its cheap, its tasty… then its gone.
Stubble and five o clock shadows…
Alright you knew it had to get physical eventually. So I figured I’d set it off with something I think it is a truth universally acknowledged. Five o clock shadows RULE. For me its facial hair in general, but seriously day old stubble is the best. This varies by male and honestly some dudes do have the tear your skin off type (you gotta shave this, sorry), but for those with pleasant scratchiness going… go for it. Maybe it’s all those Grey’s doctors walking around with scruff, but I haven’t heard many girls speak out against some facial growth :D
With, physical stuff… the list would be so long… from broad shoulders, to big hands (dear god!), to those infamous prominent pelvic bones in board shorts (personal favorite)… what’s not to like?
A “Sorta” Local Chick Speaks
So Evan’s astute article got me thinking. Now, thinking is not something I engage in often so at first it took me a while to adjust, but when I came back to earth I realized that while he was right in some instances about the dating scene here in Panama City he just didn’t have the full perspective because: he is still treading in foreign waters (a few more years and the Panamanian in him will have him clubbing women over the head with his sex appeal “ha.ha.”) and he is male. Both of these things, while not flaws, definitely cloud his perspective in my opinion, so I decided to broach the topic from within the clicky co-ed nightmares…
First of all people in Panama City (locals) don’t date. Not in the way dating is thought of in most of the US or Europe. Although in recent years the whole dating thing has come of age in certain circles (the dreadfully named Cosmopolitans being one of them), dating; as in met a guy at a bar, bookstore, coffee shop and give him my number dating, is just not done. So, how are people hooking up you ask? You see them on the street together. They are even procreating. The answer is an intricate referral system to which sadly international types, unless well connected, are not privy.
I’ll give you some examples. Here is the process through which I acquired my last boyfriend. When I even got an inkling that I liked him (inkling meaning, wow not only does he enjoy European cinema, but he looks really good without his shirt on) I proceeded to enter his name into the “social network” that are my friends ´n family and basically got the background info and potential date-ability before I even went out with him (I asked him out btw, before you guys start thinking I’m just so UN-worldly). Out came info such as the school he went to, who his friends were, who his family was, who he last dated, fact that he wasn’t a date rapist, axe murderer, etc. Months before he was to meet my mother I knew that his grandmother went to the same high school as my grandmother. His referral was impeccable. Nice, huh? Scary? A little bit, yes. Especially if you are a foreigner and none of these things check out.
Another example: close friend of mine meets boyfriend literally referred by close friend of hers “You will like this guy”. A guy who comes with a direct referral is automatically kosher. You feeling me? (For the record I would have dated my last BF even if he was related to the Unabomber, but that’s me and it’s beside the point).
So how does this translate into the bar scene? The co-ed group dynamic that Evan observes is spot on. BUT, when we go out in groups, we don’t only do it because we want to be protected, but often because girls in these groups are NOT looking to be approached by strange males. This may sound horribly discouraging, but these girls are probably interested in some male in the group who they already know in some way or are being referred to them that evening. Or even crazier they are actually out to have a good time and go out with people of both sexes… they have no intention of picking up a guy regardless of knowing them or not, but the presence of their male friends does assure that when any persistent unwanted guy does arrive… he is forced to skedaddle (I have actually had friends assist with this and I think its great, screw feminism, nothing like a really mean looking guy friend in a time of need). These girls have no intention of picking up anyone in a bar because the people they date, they meet through referrals.
Now international types are in a special predicament within our dating scene (if we insist on calling it that). Until recently most foreigners in Panama were of the G.I. variety. While I have the greatest admiration for people willing to put their lives on the line for anything, most of these fellows were lower class, uneducated Americans. While these boys were very white (oh yes, it does matter here, lets not pretend otherwise), they could be anybody. How was a family to know who their daughter was dating? All they saw was an enlisted soldier without any remarkable credentials. So essentially a “good” family would be concerned if their daughter was dating some foreign dude. And thus a manner of stigma began to circle the “gringo” (anyone white) and the girls who dated them.
You are not only out of the referral loop but you are facing a stereotype. You are in a market in which apparently the more desirable girls are picking their dates based on a complex system you are not privy to. This brings me to a comment someone blogged on the article I wrote about hookers. The man alleges that there is a shortage of datable women in the country that has driven him to the use of pay per use lady friends (kudos on that! The multiplier effect of your contribution should be beneficial to the entire economy.) Of course as a chick, who while average looking and excessively opinionated still considers herself very datable, I took slight offense on behalf of my fellow singles ladies part of the Panamanian dating pool. I don’t think there is really a shortage of intelligent, beautiful, well bred local women… I just think they won’t date you (not the guy who made the comment, I mean you Joe the Plumber foreign guy without credentials). Sound mean? It shouldn’t. It’s the reality of Panama today. Young, urban professional women in this country, unlike their US counterparts, rarely date people they meet in bars (they might shag them though).
Now I realize a lot of you are going to disagree with me on this. Or say that I’m being a bitch. But, since I hear these things often, I will remain impervious and hold to my sociological claims (very un-researched by the way, aside from the occasional drunken discussions with mates). More importantly it doesn’t really matter if you agree or not, what matters is that if the problem to breaking into the “dating” scene is the lack of credentials, you need a solution. What you need is to build yourself a network. Now while this is moot for those of you here for a weekend it’s important for those of you who are making a life down here, in more ways the one. (I’d say if you only have 2 days you are obviously looking for a shag, not a date so aim for the sistas with the payment plan or the I Really Want to Meet A Foreign White Dude types, these girls do exist and while discussing Kierkegaard’s existentialism might not be their specialty, they will get the job done. Ask one of your expat friends to point them out. They are the ones with the signs saying, pick me!)
The majority of the expats I have had the pleasure of meeting (loads of my good friends and a lot fascinating people) tend to hang out with other expats. While this makes for great parties it does very little to create your Panamanian identity. Having lived as an expat in a land far far away I realize that making local friends is not an easy chore, but its definitely not impossible. Many Panamanians speak English and have a western mindset in many respects… so it’s not like you are trying to befriend the Bushmen of the Kalahari. The only way to become truly datable is to insert yourself into the social groups of the people you are looking to date. Like Evan points out talking to the guys is a great idea and a good way to break into a group on bar night. BUT ideally you are set up way before bar night comes along. You get introduced into the group with references. Now you are in the pool of guys these chicks are checking out.
Those who have been here long enough have already developed these references.
I have two good guy friends who have successfully navigated this system. They are dissimilar to a point where you can exclude personality being the reason they were successful in entering the Panamanian stratosphere (although I have to say they are both hilarious in their own ways). They now have gossip pertaining specifically to them by name travelling from different directions. That is a good sign. Although talking to the guys in the clique, on the average night out, might get you an in, my recommendation for establishing a permanent Panamanian score card is to get a good Panamanian girl friend. A chick who isn’t into you, but thinks you are cool and knows enough about you to introduce you to her group… which will get you intros into other groups… and if the Keynes theories holds true in sex as well as in money, your love life should surely multiply. Your girl friend should be able to say, “That is Evan. He works in so and so, he is a friend of so and so.” To which someone will reply “Oh, right he was at so and so´s party, doesn’t he do so and so on Friday’s” “Yes… Ad Nauseam.” Got it? You are suddenly somebody and probably cock-block free, since those girls we speak of as protected are more than capable of saying to an overzealous male friend “Back off, this dude is kosher and I’m into him.”
Ok that’s my bit on this. Quite dense and extensive now that I have a look at it, but hey nothing like the timeless art of seduction to get me started. I have a dream that one day there will equal opportunities for everyone to get laid. And btw Evan’s look-look away-look is an absolute classic and should be used liberally in all flirting situations. Isn’t it amazing how many guys are oblivious to this? Or maybe it’s just me.
More on this in my next article “In Defense of the Cave Dude: Panamanian or Otherwise!” Stay tuned.
I love your comments people, agree with me, disagree; bring it!
Notes: My judgment like everyone’s is clouded by context so consider this when reading… although I’m Panamanian, some might not consider me 100% local and I speak from the experiences I have had in determined social circles only.
Panama Dating: Where do you meet good girls in Panama?
Where do you meet good girls in Panama? This is a question that has baffled me my since I have arrived here in Panama. Going out to nightclubs to look for single females is frustrating; Calle Uruguay is too clique-y and Casinos have too many “working girls”. Plus when is the last time you heard someone meeting their soul mate while randomly grinding on strangers listening to Reggaeton?
To assist my fellow good guys here in Panama find good girls, I have compiled a list of best places to meet the elusive “nice girl”. A nice girl is classified as someone who you would feel comfortable introducing to your mother:
1. Supermarkets. Sounds strange, but supermarkets can be a single man’s best friend. Your competition is low because few guys wonder to the grocery store, and the amount of nice single females is plentiful. A wise man once told me “attack where the enemy is not” and the enemy (other competing males) is no where to be found in supermarkets. In Panama City, I recommend going to the El Rey on Via Espana or Riba Smith in Bella Vista. Stay away from Super 99 in Punta Pacifica or Costal Del Este because the shoppers there are a bit YeYe. YeYe is usually synonymous with snobby. Once inside, try heading towards the vegetables section and ask the first eligible looking female shopper for assistance. You’re cooking a big dinner for friends and you need help picking out ____ (fill in the fruit or vegetable of your choice). This will get the conversation started.
*Warning* be prepared to buy said produce.
2. New York Bagel. This quaint coffee shop off Via Argentina in El Cangrejo is Panama’s yuppi Mecca. Numerous educated, English speaking female frequent “The Bagel”. For meeting good girls, stay away from the tables and head for the couches. People congregated around the couches are typically glued to their computer screens. Try asking for the password or a bagel recommendation to break the ice.
3. Ancon Guild. Theaters are great places to meet good girls in general, however, Ancon Guild is a gold mine. It’s the only exclusively English speaking theater in Panama. So right off the bat, potential girlfriend material is going to be sophisticated, well rounded, and speaks English. Get there a bit early to hang around the large social area and cheap bar.
4. Pollo Asado. Located right directly below an English Language Center, Pollo Asado is a great place to meet good girls. The small Panamanian style restaurant offers cheap dishes and plenty of college students eager to learn English. Striking up a conversation is easy and both the guys and girls are very down-to-earth, nice people and jump at the opportunity to practice English. It is one of the City’s best kept secrets.
A lot of people suggest that good guys and good girls no longer exist — Bah-humbug. Panama is a great place to date both locals and foreigners, you just need to know where to look and exercise a little patience.
How to Penetrate the Group
The frequent number of clicky, co-ed groups is due to a Latin cultural norm. In Latin societies as compared to Western societies, men play a greater role as the provider and protector. They are looked upon as the breadwinners and guardians of their women. This is because a large part of Latin society is still very machismo.
In a nightclub or bar setting, unknown men are considered threats to attractive females because they typically are drinking alcohol, at times consuming other types drugs. As a result, partying in co-ed groups is a manifestation of perceived danger rather than a reflection the women’s dating status. Trusted men in the group provide the women an enhanced level of security and they are not necessarily husbands or boyfriends.
Critics of my observations would counter, “Evan, I think you are wrong because I see girl only groups at night all the time.”
True, this is sometimes the case. Girl only groups are visible in Panama and other parts of Latin America. But, typically they fall into one of two categories:
Category 1: Cosmopolitan Types. Those independent minded women who disdain their machismo cultural legacy. They hate the fact that Latin culture still believes their place in society is in the kitchen rather than the workplace. I would disdain it too. More often than not, these women have spent time in parts of Europe and/or the States. If not, they probably watch to Cosmopolitan inspired shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Sex in the City. Cosmopolitan Types are frequently found at places like the Indigo, the Havana, the Prive, or the La Casona.
- Chat up the guys. This seems counter-intuitive, talking to guys when you want to meet girls? However, unlike Western countries where talking to a guy at a bar might provoke a fight, Latin guys are easy to approach. Latins are interested in people from other Western countries.
- Second. it is viewed as a favorable status symbol for Latin men to be rubbing elbows with Western guys. Avoid the possibility of being considered gay by telling a story about an ex-girlfriend or commenting on the attractiveness of a particular girl.
It is critical that you win over the guys. If they do not like you, or do not know you, you will be perceived as a threat. A threat to the group and a threat to the very women you want to meet. If they like you they are much less likely to cock-block you.
Once you have successful befriended the males, find out what the relationships are. This is vital because you have to know who is off limits; who is married to whom, or who is dating whom. More importantly, you will find out who is available: friends, cousins, co-workers. Afterwards, slowly proceed to initiate a conversation with the girl who originally attracted you over to the table. You are on your own from there.
- First. Put yourself in an approachable position. Instead of sitting in the middle of a group, sit at the end of a table. Some place that you are not surrounded by people flanked on either side.
- Second. Instead of making glancing eye contact, or even awkward prolonged eye contact, try this. Try making initial eye contact. Then look downward, and slowly raise your eyes upwards again. This second initiation of contact is a clear indication of interest. It’s pretty damn sexy. If the guy is not totally oblivious, then he should come over to chat.
- Third. Get out of your seat. Go to the bar and order some water, or even go to the bathroom several times. Just make sure you are moving around. This will increase your chances of “bumping” into someone. Moving around the club and meeting people is more exciting than stirring your drink over and over, judging the other girls at the bar, and pretending to “love to dance” all night.
The Blackberry Is The New Benz
You’re chatting up an attractive female that you just met by the side of a swanky bar.The conversation is flowing smoothly as the two of you comfortably build rapport through exchanging introductory stories.She is showing legitimate indicators of interest; fingers playing with her hair, body posture tilted forward, and picking up the conversation when it begins to die.Time to swap numbers right?Yet, as you pull out your basic $10 pre-paid phone to execute the personal information transaction, the mood suddenly changes.Her shoulders sag downward, she leans back in her seat, and her general demeanor is that of disinterest. She gives you her number, but not a second encounter.
What transpired in the closing moments of the aforementioned courtship was something all too familiar to me. I have personally experienced it several times as well as witnessed it countless more.Simply stated; the BlackBerry has become the new Benz.
The conventional wisdom is that owning an expensive car, like a Mercedes Benz, is essential to “getting chicks”.A nice car is the ultimate status symbol.From the
kids in high school pulling up in their parents’ new Cadillac Escalade, to the young professional peeling out in his Nissan 300Z outside a trendy nightclub, society tells us that owning an expensive car is critical to having a great sex life.
This is because financial status is a more desirable trait for females than males when seeking a partner.The importance of financial status in Panama, and in all of Latin America, is more pronounced than most parts of the Western world.It stems from the fact that the wealth in Latin American countries is more concentrated than in any other region of the world.The very few people that are wealthy, are very wealthy.So, from reading my previous article “Do yourself a favor, lose the shorts”, you already know that being perceived as wealthy for guys in Panama City’s dating scene is vital.
Owning an expensive car still has its attraction abilities.However, I will argue, especially in Panama, that what type of cell phone you own has become more important than what car you drive.Here are the following three reasons:
First, owning a car in Panama City is the definition of stupidity.The traffic congestion makes Southern California rush hour feel like Sunday driving, parking garages have obviously not been invented yet, and taxis cost $2 almost everywhere.As a result, many successful professionals do not own cars here (especially foreigners).Thus, trying to determine a persons financial status by evaluating their car is not always possible.
Second, your phone, not your car, is one of the first points of contact when meeting new people.Like making a good first impression with your girlfriend’s parents, what type of cell phone you own greatly defines the impression that you will make at the bar.A car, if you get that far, is usually showcased too late to significantly alter those first impressions.
Finally, and most importantly, a phone can (and does) convey your professionalism.Simply put, cheap pre-paid phones are for boys, and smart phones like the BlackBerry are for men.No serious professional can operate without a phone connected to the internet at all times.So revealing anything less than a smart phone is announcing to the world that you aren’t to be taken seriously- neither in business, nor in the world of dating.Instead it states, as a former girl I used to date so eloquently put it, “that you are a boy—a little boy.”
The opposite is true for females in the dating world.A female who has an expensive phone conveys that she is high maintenance, materialistic and snobby, where as a less expensive phone says care-free, non-needy, and approachable.I recognize that this is a double standard and is quite sexist, but I didn’t make these idiosyncrasies, I only report them.Let’s face it, Panama, even though it’s progressing, it still has a very machismo culture.
Lets compare cell phones to cars: A $10, older Nokia with the green back-lit screen would be the equivalent of a rust bucket 1983 Chevy Monte Carlo; an $18 color LG is comparable to a 1994 Honda Civic hatchback without power-anything; a BlackBerry Curve is a new C-Class Benz; and the new iPhone 3G- a Bentley.
In a previous article- “Priority #1 in Panama: Buy a $10 Cell Phone”- I said it is imperative to buy a cheap phone immediately.This is true.You need a cell phone for short term stays and to be able to access the social network here in Panama initially.But if you are in Panama on a more indefinite period of time, please consider upgrading.
Buying a BlackBerry is not automatically going to “get chicks,” nor is any single one of my advice articles on dating in Panama.However, taking into consideration some of these ideas, or at least being cognoscente of them, it might help you make sense of some of the cultural differences in Panama’s dating scene.I am always interested in hearing opinions about my articles from my readers, and would like some ideas about future dating topics.
Lessons from the “Llamada Perdida”
“That’s kinda quick.” I said as I glanced down at my $10 pre-paid cell phone. The call was from a local Panamanian girl that I had just exchanged phone numbers with no less than 4 hours ago.
“I guess the 2 day rule does not apply in Panama,” I thought to myself. As I go to answer the phone, the call is dropped. “Why does this always happen? Local girls always hang up before I can answer their calls.”
My roommate, a seasoned 4-year veteran of the local Panamanian dating scene said, “Dude, you just got a ‘llamada perdida’.”
“Llamada perdida translates to a drop call in English. It means the person on the other line wants you to call them back,” he explains.
I proceed to find out that a llamada perdida is like a free page. If the person making the call can quickly hang up prior to the phone being answered or going to voicemail, then the caller is not charged for it. However, if the call is answered, then it will be charged to the caller. Therefore, the object is to let the phone ring once, and then hang up. This notifies the person on the other side that you want them to return their dropped-call immediately, because they do not want to sacrifice their own minutes. Llamadas perdidas are common among both guys and girls alike in Panama.
Reasons for using a llamada perdida include; a person might be out of minutes, or the caller does not want to waste his or her minutes on you. The latter is the most common. In fact, it is part of the local dating culture here in Panama. Local girls, especially from the interior of Panama, consistently give me a llamada perdida. They see me as a Gringo, which is associated with having money. They do not want to waste their valuable minutes when they can simply execute the dropped-call. I don’t blame them. A typical wage in developing world countries in much less than in the developed world and people must find resourceful ways to cut cost.
You can also infer some insightful information from a dropped-call:
First, it is a complement: The fact that the girl is proactively calling you needs to be appreciated. Second, through this action, you can usually infer what the girl’s social-economic standing is. A rich girl, aka a “yeyecita,” will rarely llamada perdida. She either earns enough money to stock her phone card or her parents pick up her cell phone bill. A poorer girl, however, will make dropped-calls because they don’t have the necessary funds to replenish their minutes.
Finally, the amount of time in between exchanging numbers and receiving a llamada perdida is a foreshadowing indicator. A llamada perdida in the same day that numbers are exchanged is a HUGE red flag. This indicates that the girl is a little too obsessed with the idea of dating a foreigner, and that she will be a major cling-on. You will be uncomfortably smothered, and irritated at the intensity of the relationship. On the other hand, this might just indicate that the girl is excited at the prospect of having a relationship with a foreigner and could blossom into something beautiful. In any case, proceed with caution when experiencing premature and excessive llamadas perdidas.
For my own purposes, I have developed a useful metric for handling llamadas perdidas. You are welcome to use this for your own dating sanity.
- Only return the call if it’s a friend – regardless whether it is a guy or girl
- I will return the call if I am actively dating the girl
- Initiate a llamada perdida “off”, continue calling back to see if the recipient calls you back.
- I will call her back only once I have become Facebook friends (an article on that to follow)
Now, when I receive a llamada perdida from a girl who I am friends with on Facebook, I will respond back with a message through Facebook. By refusing to play their games, and utilizing the cultural and social phenomenon that is Facebook, it is my hope that we can guide these individuals to no longer use the llamada perdida, and ultimately break the annoying culture of this incessantly irritating Panamanian dating practice once and for all.