Lessons from the “Llamada Perdida”

March 11, 2009 by:
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 what?”

“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.

Dr. Hazard

Doctor Hazard 2 post in this blog.

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4 Comments on "Lessons from the “Llamada Perdida”"

  1. John on Wed, 11th Mar 2009 9:28 am 

    That’s called a “Panamanian Page” and is typical of Panamanians of all ages, socioeconomic classes and genders.

  2. Frederic on Wed, 11th Mar 2009 12:23 pm 

    Very true, some of the locals have a tendancy to think that we should be the ones spending money on the call because we supposedly have dinero (not a very healty sign when starting a relationship/friendship, etc…). Happens to me evey now and then, and very seldom will I return the call, unless I deeply know that he/she is not taking advantage. I am afraid this is not going to change anytime soon, and when meeting a local guy or girl, you will have to expect it to happen to you at some point of time. Then you can make your own decision whether you want to play the game or not and pay for the call! My humble experience has taught me not to in most cases…

  3. kristin on Thu, 19th Mar 2009 4:13 am 

    I think “missed call” is a better way to say this that “dropped call” as that refers to the line being dropped due to bad connection, etc.

    As a woman, I have not experienced this much. Mostly from friends (usually gringos like me) who just ran out of minutes and have not yet gone to the store for a new card. It seems to be something the guys get a lot more.

  4. Guillaume on Tue, 30th Jun 2009 7:44 am 

    get connected to the right people. A llamada perdida =energia perdida. have some dignity and errase those people from your network.

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