Panama: The Good…And The Bad. Part II

April 29, 2010 by:
Panama: The Good…And The Bad.  Part II

Panama:  The Bad.


Hard to Find Healthy Eats
. The pervasive local diet is filled with high carbs and deep fried foods.  Words like “Healthy” or “Organic” have yet to enter into the mainstream Panamanian culinary lexicon.

Possible remedy:  Go to go to the grocery store more often.


eop-evan-headshot1Social and Racial Divide. Growing up, my friends consisted of the poorest students as well as the richest in school.  Income inequality was present, but not a major issue.  In Panama, both economic and racial bigotry are significantly more pronounced.   You’ll VERY rarely see someone from high society mingling with a member of the working class.

A semi-observant person could fairly accurately predict a Panamanian’s social-economic standing within a few moments.

The social and racial divide is a mark of an uncivilized society.  It’s unbecoming of Panama.  Especially, for a country that strives to be considered first world.

Possible remedy: Who Pulled Up The Social Ladder

Gringo Price(tax on Caucasian foreigners). In my experience, cab drivers are the most egregious abusers of the Gringo Price.  Frequently, cabdrivers will try to charge me double or more for a cab ride.  This even after I’ve demonstrated long term status in Panama, and while accompanied by locals.

Gringo Price for foreigners is fairly widespread in Panama.

Possible remedy:  Practice negotiating skills.

Answering Cell Phones At Inappropriate Times. At the movies and in business meetings are among some of the inappropriate places cell phones are answered.   Not only are calls answered, in fact, it’s likely people will carry on a conversation.

Digicel, Mas Movil, and other communication companies would do a public service by handing out a “Cell Phone Etiquette Guide” with every cell phone.

Possible remedy: Give people the “what-the-hell-are-you-doing” face.


Cutting In Line
.  Maybe I am too passive. I’m constantly getting cut in front of while waiting in line by everyone; young and old, rich and poor, male and female! It’s annoying.

Possible remedy: hold feet and elbows wider apart and be more human roadblock-esque.

Littering. Public littering is widespread.  For evidence, attend a public event like Jazz Fest, parade, or protest.  Wait until everyone clears out and heads home. Left behind are mountains of trash.

Possible remedy:  Install more trash cans.  Also, utilize the special public servant Panamanian mimes who promoting good environmental practices.

Short Sightness. Here is an recent example to illustrate my point:

A buddy of mine goes to a restaurant.  There is confusion about an order of rice.  My friend believed the rice was included in the meal.   He doesn’t want to pay $7.95 for a small dish of rice.  Instead of saying, “Sir, sorry about the confusion.  Surely, we’ll remove the charge from your bill,” the manager insists on the payment.  So, my friend paid for it.  He left a disgruntled customer.

This is an example of the short sightness that plagues the Isthmus.  Sure, the restaurant made $7.00 extra that day.  However, it lost a potential long term customer.  That customer would have spent much more than $7 in the future.  Not only will my friend will never return,  he has told at least 10 people of his negative experience.  The restaurant jeopardize potential business his friends as well.

If you gave me an hour, I could list 50 more examples of business short sightness.

Possible remedy: ?



So, to answer the question “Do you like Panama?”, the answer would be yes.  Is it perfect?  No.  Are there things I wish I could change?  Claro! (of course).  But, is it a cool ass place to live?   YES!!!

Evan Terry Forbes

Evan Forbes 122 post in this blog.

Evan Terry Forbes is an Author, Entrepreneur and Hall of Fame Traveler. He writes entertaining books about how travel has changed his life. In so many beautiful ways. Currently, Evan is traveling with his retired mother for 1 year through Europe and Asia. This book will be called, Travels With My Mother - How Travel Transformed A Mother-Son Relationship. Read his books here.

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3 Comments on "Panama: The Good…And The Bad. Part II"

  1. Charla on Thu, 29th Apr 2010 8:09 pm 

    I to have a hard time answering the question, ” Do you like Panama ” There has to be some attraction or I would not be here right? Is it the daily challenges of living here that maybe I feel I lack back in Canada? or the unlimited business potential as you mentioned? or, maybe is those damn latinos! Whatever the reason we are drawn to Panama, as I sit and watch the sun go down over the beach with my 63 cent cerveza, life aint so bad round these parts…. algo dias!

  2. Jesse Choquette on Fri, 30th Apr 2010 1:54 pm 

    Here’s the thing (for me at least)-

    While we all bitch and complain about how hard it can be to accomplish small tasks in Panama- how the bureaucracy and paperwork to get something simple like a bank account often makes it impossible to do (especially compared to North America)- would it be nearly as entertaining of a place to live without these occurrences? I mean, the pace of life, even in the city, is a fraction of the rushed-and-late lifestyle of our counterparts in much of North America. What do you HAVE to get done today in Panama, really?

    If you are being honest with yourself, the answer is- nothing. We can bitch and moan about the mañana mentality all we want, but we all secretly love that little bit of cultural imperialism we get to lord over the rest of Panama. “God, why is this so difficult?! This is so easy back in The States/Canada!” You know what i am talking about, even if you don’t say the words out-loud.

    I am not disparaging Panama by bringing your attention to these realities. I love this place (and I say that while living in Seattle, Wa right now). I delude myself in my dreams and waking fantasies that I am still there. The harsh reality is, and this could be true for just myself (doubtful), that you don’t really know what you have until it’s gone (cliché). I actually knew what I was leaving when I made the decision to return to the states, which made it that much harder to actually follow through with.

    When(if) you leave, you will miss the weather, the cheap taxi rides, the pace of life, the cost of living, the community and camaraderie that are so open and accepting. You will miss the exotic nature of being a “visitor” in a new land, and all of the perks that comes with (regardless of the few hoops you have to jump through in return).

    Just thoughts.

    With love from up north,

    Jesse Choquette

  3. Ellen Ring on Fri, 14th May 2010 11:45 pm 

    I agree with Evan on ‘what do you really have to get done today?’ It’s taking me FOREVER and EVER to get things going, but part of the charm is in knowing I’m still on the ground floor with most everybody else. There are tons of niche markets, and the other pioneers are my age, with similar values etc etc. So there’s lots of opportunity for alliances rather than competition. At least that’s how I see it.
    And I secretly LOVE the option of being a lazy fuck if so inclined.

    And on customer service. Let me tell you, I L_U_V living in Chiriqui, the northern region, in terms of customer service. People are more real, less desensitized, and I intend to help protect that. When I’m approaching broke, I go to the same cook every day, who appreciates what I stand for, and that I care about her- so she even gives me DISCOUNTS on her amazingly ALWAYS delicious cheap food. Breakfast for under $2 is A-OKAY by me. Same thing for my favorite restaurant in Boquete. Smiles, great food, CHEAP, and consistently great.

    In fact, I’ve virtually stopped cooking this month so as to preserve money, get away from my American hording- super size me, bulk buy mentality, And to help support my community instead of major private foreign grocery stores.

    I think as long as you’re not being an invasive asshole, and realize that they have something to teach us- and that you’ve got something to learn- you’ll be okay.

    However, I must admit that I’ll bitch out a taxi driver, throw money at him, tell him I’m no Pendeja (dumb ass), and always carry 20 $1 bills with a purse full of change.

    And I’ll take my time to tell the waitress that I would have left her $3 if she’d smiled, given me a drink, checked on me, or waited for instructions before walking away without giving a fuck.

    But that’s also because I’ve learned Spanish.

    If you’re not going to learn to communicate on their terms, you MUST understand that your shitty patience level is your problem to deal with and that they have a right to look at you like ‘stupid foreign bastard! learn the language!’. We’d do the same thing in our country, wouldn’t we!?

    Do I love Panama, fuck Yeah!
    Every day is an adventure and you’re in the drivers’ seat!

    Grab a Gear at: http://www.CheapPanamaVacation.com

    Peace in the Middle East,
    Ellen Ring
    Personal Panama Concierge
    Cheap Panama Vacation

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