From Florida to Chiriqui: The Panama Adventure
Hi, I’m Kris. My husband Joel and I have retired and moved to David, Panama in the beautiful Chiriqui Province. I’m originally from NY but we were living in Florida before moving here. I was a nurse. Joel was born in MA but has lived in many places. He’s a musician and construction – “I can fix or build anything” kind of guy.
1. Why did you move abroad?
We were looking at our retirement options. We quickly realized that if we stayed in the US we would have to work until 70, and even then it would be financially difficult. We were also ready for a new experience, a new adventure.
2. How do you make a living?
We are retired.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I have two busy daughters and a new grandson, so there have been a lot of phone calls, emails, Facebook posts, text messages, and video chats. They also keep up with our activities through my blog. Technology is a wonderful thing! I especially love the video chats where we can see each other, “eat lunch” together, have a tour of the house, or whatever else we wish to share. We are usually in touch at least weekly, and sometimes more often than daily if there is a lot going on.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Panama?
About being an expat, or about Panama? About being an expat – I’ve never been a conformist so I like doing something a bit out of the mainstream. I’m really enjoying this experience of another country and culture. I think it broadens your thinking. About Panama – my favorite thing is the kind, loving, laid back people. They have made us feel so welcome and at home here.
The worst thing about being an expat in Panama?
Maybe the airline tickets cost a bit more when I want to visit family.
The worst thing about being in Panama? Maybe communication since my Spanish isn't as good as I wish it was. But, I had to think a while to even come up with these since I'm quite a happy expat in Panama
6. What do you miss most?
GPS. I could get a smart phone here, but it hasn’t seemed worth the cost. As someone who can get lost in my own neighborhood, I relied too heavily on GPS back in the states. My husband misses the mail service (even if you pay extra for a mail service here it’s slow and expensive)
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Just be open and talk with everyone you encounter. It is so easy to make friends here. Before you know it you’ll have friends all over town. That is the nicest thing about being here.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I’m trying to think of something and nothing is coming to mind. Of course some things are different. I wouldn’t call them strange though, just different. And, there are usually good reasons for why they do what they do.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
It’s a third world country, more backward than the US. The (fill in the blank – healthcare, infrastructure, shopping, lifestyle, crime, etc) is going to be a big problem. There are some third world aspects and areas of course, but we do not feel like we are lacking anything and many things are better than we had in the US.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Our costs have been about 1/3 of what they were in the US. It has allowed us to retire much earlier and have a much better quality of life on our available funds.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Learn the language. Even a little makes a difference. The locals appreciate your efforts, it will be easier to get things done, and you will have more friends and feel less isolated. Be open to differences and go with the flow. Some things can be new and confusing at first. Remember that this is part of the process and it will get better in time. Bring a happy, friendly, and respectful attitude and people will respond in kind.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started around the time I left the US. There were quite a few friends and family who wanted to know how I was doing and rather than write everyone individually, I could write the blog. I would also have the photos and stories to keep for myself in an organized format. Over time, the blog has grown and attracted a wider audience. Many others are investigating their options, or are planning moves, or have already moved. Someone contacts me with comments or questions almost every day. I’ve also made new friends, many of whom I’ve also met in person. The blog has turned out to be more than I imagined when I first started!
Kris's blog, The Panama Adventure
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