Moving to Boquete, Panama? Flexibility is crucial in adapting to the new country (You are not in Kansas anymore!!!)

BLOG BY Terry Richmeier

So you have been researching and reading and hearing a lot about retiring or moving to Boquete, Panama, and you are getting excited as you learn more about living the life of an expat! You hear the cost of living is less and your money can go farther. You hear healthcare is economical and you like what you hear. You read about the perfect weather and the tranquil lifestyle of a peaceful community. The more you read, the more you get excited and you plan your trip to visit Boquete. You come down loaded with more questions and even after all you read, your mind continues to produce more questions…

So we here at Casa de Montaña bed and breakfast want to ask you a question. How flexible are you? Are you aware of cultural differences and can you adjust to those differences? How about the night life of Boquetenians, and the availability of products you are used to? We want to create an awareness that you may have to make some adjustments and are you able to be flexible when you move here.

Most likely the first adjustment that you may have to make is about the language barrier. Now, unless you are blessed enough to have had Spanish lessons or grew up learning Spanish, you may experience anxiety and stress just trying to communicate your needs. Manzar and I took a real basic class of Spanish for travelers offered by the community education center where we were living at the time. That was it. Then we had to throw ourselves into learning a new language just as soon as we arrived. It is an adjustment but very workable! Here in Boquete, there are a lot of English speaking ex-pats who are registered in classes either at Habla Ya or Spanish by the river or they hire private tutors in order to learn Spanish. They are getting what they need and Spanish competency will come eventually. Here in Boquete, Panama, many locals also speak some English and as long as you try speaking Spanish, the locals are really impressed and work hard to understand what you are saying. The words you need become easier to access and of course, smart phones offer Google Translate, which always helps. I learned about food first and foremost as I felt this as the most necessary aspect of learning Spanish!

The next struggle for me was getting the items I needed. Here is an example: I use a Sonic Care toothbrush and much to my surprise, the replacement toothbrushes were not available in Panama. Well, as you may know, these little “annoyances” are opportunities to find a solution. I, like many others, shop on Amazon.com and have the stuff delivered that we cannot find here.

Some cultural differences that can take an adjustment on your part are easily resolved if you let yourself undergo a change. Adjust to the culture and practice understanding. We are in the Panama world and we are the ones that have to adjust to the life here, not the other way around. We here at Casa de Montaña bed and breakfast struggled and still do with the “tranquil and peaceful life”. This seems really great as far as you can see with your heart right? The problem happens when you are told that they will come and hook up the cable or internet tomorrow, which can mean anytime between tomorrow and a month from now, just NOT TODAY!  This is part of the tranquil lifestyle and you must be able to adapt to.

In Panama the people are peaceful and non-confrontational. Boquete has dogs that talk to each other all day and night. There are roosters that cock-a-doodle-do throughout the day and night.  Panama celebrates loudly their holidays and independences (from Spain and Colombia). Panamanians are proud of their heritage and it shows!

You may have to go to 5 different stores to find what you are looking for. And you will have a hard time parking in front of the store you wish to visit. These are all adjustments that you can turn around and make a learning and peaceful resolution. Acceptance is key. Learning to ask precisely what you need will replace the confrontations. Wear ear plugs when trying to rest with help with the barking dogs and the rooters. When there is a big celebration, you take the time to vacation somewhere else. Spend your holidays with your family and friends. Take a whole day to shop and don’t be in a hurry. Have someone wait for the people to show up so you are not locked into sitting and waiting.

When we came down here to Boquete, Panama, we fell in love with it right away and we began our journey to building our bed and breakfast. And we

were thrown into the adjustments process almost immediately! It’s really do-able, you just need to be flexible and ready to make adjustments as well.

The journey is worth it! If you have more questions or feel you would like to know more about the culture here in Panama and in Boquete, please send us your questions  and schedule some time while you’re here to come and visit. Check out our Boquete Overview Tour  while you are here looking at your potential new home! See you soon.

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