In Panamá Nobody Pressures You About Anything

I don’t recommend that Americans move here. The culture shock would be too much. Too bad — it is a comfortable tropical paradise.

Fred Ermlich
3 min readOct 19, 2021


Image by jorono from Pixabay

Not clickbait. Both assertions are true. Or all 3, depending on how you count.

I’m tempted to list examples, but it seems like listicles are so passé anymore.

Well, hell. Let’s see how it reads.

  • Nobody Pressures you.
    The neighbors start partying on Friday evening, drinking cases of Soberana beer and playing loud Panamanian music. They party through the night and finally go to bed Saturday morning. Saturday evening they start partying again — all the way until Sunday noon. Nothing happens — nobody complains. It’s Panamá.
  • Culture shock for Americans.
    Nobody’s ever in a hurry. You go to pay your electric bill. There are 4 people waiting on the sidewalk to be let into the office. There are 5 customers in the office, and 2 clerks at their desks. You wait and you wait. Everybody is polite and patient.
    You finally get to the desk, and it takes 20 minutes for the clerk to input all the information from your passport and your input about your address, etc. Finally it’s done, and you ask how much your bill is. She shows you and writes down that it’s $14.
    You take out your cash but she says, “No. We don’t accept payment here. You go to Rosa or to Banco Azteca to pay.” Mind you, Americans, this is all in Spanish. Nobody speaks other languages here.
    Wherever you go, whether it’s the grocery store or the dentist, you are going to wait a long time for each and every stage of whatever you’re doing. All the Panamanians are completely calm and patient — they aren’t bothered by sitting or standing and waiting.
  • Life in a tropical paradise.
    Dead center of the Tropic of Cancer, life is good. The climate is mild and comfortable, and has not been subject to global warming to the extent that occurs in northern latitudes.
    It might take a North American some time to acclimate to the humidity, but there are only a dozen days a year when it’s both hot and muggy. Those days even native Panamanians are fanning their faces and are obviously uncomfortable.
    The past few weeks I’ve been getting cold at night. I cover myself with a sheet for warmth. Some nights I also put on clothes to get warmer. There is no heater or air conditioner in my home, which is fine with me. Tranquilo.

I’d love to host an American or two here. I just think it wouldn’t likely work out. You’d need some Spanish for starters, and also to have a lot of patience.

Costa Rica is similar in climate, and they seem to welcome international visitors or even residents. I’m not positive about this — I’ve never been there. But how different could it be — only a day or two driving distance from my home.

Take care, and thanks for reading.
… Fred Ermlich



Fred Ermlich

Living in rural Panamá — non-extractive, non-capitalistic. Expat USA. Scientist, writer, researcher, teacher. STEM mentor +languages.