Hearing What You Want

Several years ago University of Illinois psychology professor Dolores Albarracín, led the study, later published in Psychological Bulletin, the journal of the American Psychological Association, that analysed data from 91 studies involving nearly 8,000 participants, focused on seeking a definitive answer to a longstanding debate. “We wanted to see exactly across the board to what extent people are willing to seek out the truth versus just stay comfortable with what they know.” Or one might also say, “what they think they know.”

Not surprisingly the research found that people were in general twice as likely to select information that supported their own point of view as to consider an opposing idea, with two-thirds going for supportive views as opposed to a third going the other way. Some people, particularly those with more close-minded personalities, were even more reluctant to expose themselves to differing perspectives, opting for information that corresponded to their views nearly three-quarters of the time.

Sante Fe Panama beautiful but ... Panama Relocation TourIt is my opinion that many times people are so anxious to find the “paradise” that they believe Panama to be, that they accept only what they want to hear, what confirms their existing beliefs. Now I am all for Panama as “paradise,” after all it’s been our experience, and I wrote the book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA. But … BIG BUT HERE … some of the organizations who promote expat living in Panama selectively offer information that glosses over the realities of life in Panama. And of course they do a very profitable business.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat I try to do is give the REAL story and encourage people to move ahead cautiously, checking out things as they really are, spending time actually in the real Panama, not just a fancy hotel room somewhere, with boots-on-the-ground. If you do that there is a good chance that your will decide moving to Panama is right for you, but you’ll know what you are getting into. We all know you take a big risk when you leap before you look, yet it amazes me how many people will pick up and move to another country, usually one that’s hyped as the latest, greatest place to retire, without doing their own due diligence. In the end they head back home embittered, frustrated and having lost lots of money in the process.

Those who do the research and carefully check things out are the ones who come to Panama, love it, and thrive on the adventure!

I didn’t say these things, but here’s what others have to say about THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE, and if you doubt it, just check out the comments on Amazon.

The Most Beautiful House in Boquete, Panama FOR SALE 12 A good honest outline of what Panama is Really like. I was very impressed with this book, very well written and very informative. Having lived in Boquete, Panama for almost 6 years, travelled around the country and worked here, I have never seen such an honest, complete and straightforward representation of what it is like to live here. Richard writes the truth about subjects that many won’t, and shows very little bias throughout the book. In all of his chapters explaining life, real estate, services, construction and retirement in Panama, he hits the nail on the head and isn’t afraid to outline the fact that Panama may not be for everybody.” Conner

“5.0 out of 5 stars worth every penny, Well written, and informative.” Big Al

“What a fantastic resource from someone who has been living in Panama and knows the eccentricities and nuance of the culture. Whether considering Panama or anywhere else to retire abroad, Richard provides a lot of food for thought. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Richard!!” khfitz6311

“Great Job Richard!“I could hardly put this book down, even though I’ve lived in Boquete for seven years. Richard tells it exactly like it is … how I wish this wonderful tool were available before we moved here. It would have saved a lot of frustration trying to figure it all out for ourselves. This is an awesome book for those thinking of retiring in Panama.” Kathy Donelson

“5.0 out of 5 stars Must-read for anyone contemplating a move to Panama – Richard once again “nails it” with his straight-shooting comments, No rose-colored glasses here – Panama is not for everyone. If you’ve never lived outside the US before, particularly in a developing country like Panama – don’t even think about making a move without thorough research. Richard’s book is one of the best. Extremely valuable advice – take it to heart!” AKD

“Great book! This book is like reading a letter from a good friend who answers the most important questions you would ask if you were thinking of moving to Panama. Like a good friend, he gives you honest answers.” Jubal Atencio

“Reading Richard’s book paralleled the thoughts we were processing trying to determine where to retire and if Panama is a viable option. His book answers the questions about affordability and the mind shift needed for a life outside the USA, and the sacrifices (really just tradeoff’s, good/bad) we’d need to make if we chose to live in Panama. I don’t think there’s anything he missed in his book! From obtaining a Visa, to moving with a pet, to finding the best for an Expat place to fit in and live in Panama. It’s a big book but a fast read. I couldn’t put it down. A must read if retirement in Central America is on your mind.” Margie Casey

“I have to say that what and how you laid out the details is outstanding. You covered the reality of pros and cons. It is by far the best book out there for folks that want to relocate to Panama. We will arrive in April and rent for a year or so.” John & Susan Pazera

018The New Escape to Paradise is an updating of one of the best books about moving to and living in Panama. Detrich has lived in Panama for a decade and he still thinks of it as paradise. The New Escape to Paradise is a pragmatic and thought-provoking guide if you seriously contemplate moving to a new land. After researching living in Central and South American for more than fifteen years, including some tourist visits, I thought that I knew a great deal of things. As it turns out, my impressions were superficial. If you have plans to live in Panama you certainly should be prepared with this book!” James Fletcher

“This is a comprehensive, boots on the ground book about what it is like to live in Panama. The only way to learn more is to come here and stay awhile. I can’t think of anything Richard didn’t cover.” Judy Sacco

“A must read: great book, especially helpful if you are considering moving or retiring to Panama. I loved all the insight to their experiences and can’t wait to experience the country myself.” Joan Egizili

“I gave this book 5 stars because it answers all the questions about living and retiring in Panama with the pros and cons.” Gillberto Smith

“Excellent. An outstanding, insightful book about the author’s experiences in Panama. It is a very sobering look at his and his family’s experiences, both the good and the not so good. The reader can tell they’ve landed in their paradise. My wife and I are considering relocating to Panama and we’re using Richards book as one of our primary sources of information for an anticipated visit to the country next year. Because Richard does not sugar coat life in Panama, rather he tells it like it is, we feel like we have a more realistic expectation of what life is like in Panama. He most definitely has us studying up on the many aspects to be considered.” Daniel Bridges

“I enjoyed reading your book! It’s very illuminating and entertaining. You have an ability to communicate and have an enjoyable writing style.” Doug Tyler

“Richard really knows what he’s talking about. Down to earth, no sugar coating. The book lays out both the good and not so good of living in Panama. I highly recommend it.” Steve McVicar

“You provide a lot of useful information. Overall it led me to decide against Panama, except maybe as a tourist for a month or two. Too bad! I had high hopes.” Ida Freer

The New Escape to Paradise is a must read for anyone thinking/dreaming about retiring to Panama. We’ve been researching for two years and will be retiring to Panama in six months. The information in this book is highly informative, current, and down to earth. Richard tells it like it is about Panama and retirement in Panama, and, I enjoyed reading about his life and his family.” Allison Guinn

“Part philosopher, part psychologist, part historian, part travel guide, and part economist, all describe Richard Detrich as he weaves his tale of life in Panama. He tells it ‘like it is’ without the hype. The New Escape to Paradise is a must read for anyone who is considering relocating to another country whether it’s Panama or somewhere else. Interactive exercises will give you insight into what you want out of your life and your next adventure.” Kristin Stillman

“Extremely helpful. No bunnies and rainbows here, both sides of the coin are exposed. Like any country, Panama has it’s issues and beauty and Richard gives insight to the reader/expat on both so we don’t arrive and end up shocked to find bugs in our paradise. Good job.” Dorothy

“What a wealth of information. This is the perfect book to read if you are considering a move to Panama or just want to know all about Panama from an insider. After living in Panama for just a few months, this book addressed aspects of life here that I am experiencing or will experience as times goes on, giving me insight as to what to expect. For my friends who live in Panama vicariously through me, I have highly recommended they read this book.” Lorelei

“This book has everything and more than original book had. It is so current, that you will think you are reading the morning newspaper. If you have the original book, now is the time to upgrade. The book itself is also much improved over the original book with very few typos left for us nitpickers to pounce upon. Once you start reading this book, it is extremely hard to put down until you have finished it. If the book wasn’t so entertaining to read, I would say that it should be considered as the text book for Relocating to Panama 101. Panama is not for everyone, this book may save you thousands and thousands of dollars down the road. Get it! Read it!” Larry H

“Besides almost living in Panama for ten years, building a home in Panama and owning a business in Panama, Richard has traveled extensively lecturing about Panama on cruise ships. His second book, an updated version of the original, has more insight into the good, bad and sometimes even ugly about expats living and retiring in Panama as well as wonderful stories about his life along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very useful in regards to my future retirement to Panama. Highly informative, entertaining and a great read!” Allison W. Gunn

“Thinking of moving to Panama? Read this book first! It could save you a lot of time, money, trouble, and worry. Not only is the book entertaining, it’s full of really important information for people considering making a move of this magnitude.” E. Bolton

Mr and Mrs Claus Come To VisitTHE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE is an updating of one of the best books about moving to and living in Panama. Richard Detrich has lived in Panama for a decade and he still thinks of it as paradise. His book is a pragmatic and thought-provoking guide if you seriously contemplate moving to a new land. My wife and I researched living in Central and South America for more than fifteen years. Once we chose Panama as our future home this was the book, more than any other, that we relied upon for both its information and its anecdotes. (The Ambulance Ride Story could almost have come from the Canterbury Tales, but it drives home the point of the differences in medical care between our countries.) If you have plans to live in Panama you certainly should be forearmed with this book!” Jim Fletcher

“Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask regarding the Panama experience. RichApr 3013 Panama Relocation Tourard has endured the trials and tribulations, the discovery and the rewards of life in Panama, and candidly lays it all out for you.” J. Sacco

“He’s amusing and informative. He doesn’t write seriously, yet covers all necessary ground to give us an accurate picture of life in Panama without blinders. All pertinent questions are covered informatively and accurately, giving you a clear understanding of the reality you would experience.I strongly recommend The NEW Escape to Paradise. It’s a great read!”Doug Tyler

Is Panama For You?

Yes, it is paradise!

But there is a lot you should be aware of if you are considering living in Panama.  It’s why I wrote the book  THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA.

Panama isn’t LA or Miami or Milwaukee.  It is different.  A common phrase you will hear gringos [In Panama “gringo” is not a derogatory term, just a descriptive term of a generally Anglo  person who does not speak Spanish.] use is, “This is Panama!”  That phrase describes a lot.

As one expat put it,

What do I think of Panama? My local Chinese doctor said it best. There is a certain energy in Panama. If it suits you, you are happy here. If not, you are not happy. No one follows the rules, no one even seems to know the rules. When asked what the rules are, everyone gives a different answer. My friend the libertarian loves it. Me, I prefer Chile. The rules there are well defined. Everyone knows them. If you do something wrong you get caught quickly, and released quickly. Here the rules have lots of different interpretations. Almost no bribery, just different interpretations. Panama is great for some, not so great for others. It all depends on who you are. Remember “This is Panama

How do you know if Panama is something you should consider?

First, THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA is a great place to start!  I’ll share our experience.  I’ll show you how to figure out what you really want, how to sort through countries and decide what’s best for you.  I’ll tell you what I love about living here, and what I don’t like.  Here are things that you must know if you are considering picking up and moving to Panama!  This book can save you from spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and making a big mistake!  Here’s why people come to Panama and why they leave.  Here are some of the comments about Escape to Paradise.

Why the “New” book?  Simple: we’ve lived here for ten years and over those ten years have seen a LOT of changes!  What was true seven or four years ago, isn’t true today.  MUCH of what you read on the Internet is outdated information!  The “New” book is loaded with current information that you need to know!

Second, as part of your due diligence, consider taking the Panama Relocation Tour It’s not my business, but a project of a friend.  I’m not paid to recommend it, but it is the best boots-on-the-ground tour of Panama that I know of.  No one is trying to sell you anything!  You aren’t captive to real estate promoters.  You are actually traveling around Panama, seeing what life here is like, meeting with expats who will give you honest answers.  This is not a “conference” where you sit in a fancy hotel ballroom in a grand hotel in Panama City and here paid presenters describe “opportunities”.  You’ll meet real Panamanians, talk with real expats, meet with an attorney, learn how to open a bank account, stay in luxury hotels and in typical Panamanian hotels, eat at “gringo” restaurants, and eat where locals eat, visit shopping areas and see what is, and isn’t available.

Third, before you sell all, come to Panama, rent a place in the area you think you’d like to live.  Actually live here for three to six months, not just as a tourist, but as a resident to see what life in Panama is really like.

It’s not a quick fix!  It takes some investment and work!  If you want to be successful in a new life in Panama you don’t just wake up one day and say, “Let’s move to Panama!”


About Panama’s Pensionado Program

The Big Joke: Panama’s Pensionado Program

There are lots of “big jokes” when you adopt an expat lifestyle.  That life will be easier and less complicated – generally a big joke.  One of the biggest “big jokes” about Panama is something everyone pushes when promoting relocating to Panama.  Look at about any Web site about Panama and you will find the “pensionado” or retiree discount program being promoted as a wonderful incentive to move to Panama.


And that’s just page 1 of a Google search on “Panama pensionado discount” but you get the point.

Yes, it IS the law! And it goes like this, courtesy of International Living:

In Panama, qualified pensionados or retirees are entitled to:

  • 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, theaters, concerts, sporting events)
  • 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
  • 25% off airline tickets
  • 25% off monthly energy bills
  • 30% to 50% off hotel stays
  • 15% off hospital bills*
  • 10% off prescription medicines*
  • 20% off medical consultations*
  • 15% off dental and eye exams*
  • 20% off professional and technical services
  • 50% off closing costs for home loans, and more…

*Unless insurance applies.

And here, for the record, is the Panamanian law (in Spanish) and an English translation from Don Winner’s Panama Guide: Pensionado & Jubilado Discounts (Translation of Panamanian Law)

So how does it work in practice?

Yes, you do get a minor discount on energy and phone bills.

Prescriptions: yes, you do get 10%-20% off.  Generally at Rey’s it is 20%.  Locally with some items where there isn’t even a 10% markup, you might not get anything off.  And since medicine costs about the same in Panama as in the States, 20% off is a good deal.

25% off airline tickets – right!  You may save a few bucks, but not 25%. for 15 years we had travel agencies, and as a travel agent I could get 50% off.  Good deal?  No!  Airlines have scores of fares.  The 50% off was off the “Y” fare which I don’t think anyone has actually flown on since deregulation.  It was always cheaper just to buy a regular fare excursion ticket that anyone could purchase.

Doctors and hospitals usually tell you “the discount is already figured in”.  Whether it is, or isn’t, you’ll never know.

I’ve never tried the entertainment.

Hotels like the airlines have more rates than you can shake a stick at, and there are lots of ways around this for the hotel.  My gringo friends who’ve been here a long time and who are fluent in Spanish say the way is to go ahead and book it at the lowest fare you can get and then show up at the hotel and demand the discount off the fare quoted, if necessary pulling out a copy of the law in Spanish.

Restaurants is where it really gets dicey and downright awkward.  If you know the restaurant owner do you ask for a Pensionado discount, or do you assume that the owner, being a friend, would give it to you without asking . . . or just assume you want to pay full tariff?   A lot of gringos will judge the restaurant, look at the prices (to see if the discount has already been factored into an inflated price), or if it’s really a local place struggling to survive, just pay the check and forget the discount.

I used to like an Italian restaurant up on the loop road above Boquete.  The food was good, the restaurant was cute, and the folks were nice.  The prices, originally, were high, but the rest was good.  When this gal up the price of a Hawaiana pizza (which in Panama city with the discount was $5) to $21, I decided it was time to pull out my Pensionado card and she gave me the attitude that I was taking food out of her kids’ mouths.  She gave me the discount,  and I gave it all back to her in a tip and have never gone back.

Today we went to a new restaurant that’s opened since I left for months ago for the ship.  Rustic, Panamanian, on the way to David, called, maybe appropriately “Ruins”.   Like many of the restaurants in town that haven’t closed since I left,  this one has a new owner.  Young guy from New York who was working in a deli on Madison Avenue when he was sixteen.  I’d heard they had great fish and chips.  And they were!  Pricey, but good.  $8 for fish ‘n chips is about what I’d pay for the same lunch in Ventura, California, little place on Seaward.  Understand in Boquete $3.50 maybe even, stretching it $5, is what you pay for a good lunch of fried chicken, rice, beans, and salad.   So the food was good, greasy, but hey . . . fish ‘n chips are greasy.   The food came out quickly and . . . a first for Panama . . . both of our lunches arrived at the same time!  One downside: they tried to pass off Coke Zero (foul stuff!) as Diet Coke.   So the check came with, get this, a 10% tip added in for really mediocre service.    At $8 I figured the Pensionado discount had already been factored into the inflated price, so I asked for the discount.   Sure, it’s the law, but . . . like a lot of restaurants in Boquete . . . no discount.

I realize it’s a tough call for a restaurant.  Obey the law, or don’t.  Hmmm.  Wonder how that applies to health codes?  I would think part of your business plan would be to consider your potential clientelle, and knowing you might have a lot of retired gringos wanting to use the Pensionado discount, price accordingly, which is what I thought the fish guy had done.  Is that fair to your other customers?  Are you pricing them out?  Maybe.  So to me the obvious solution is to issue a Frequent Dinner club card that get’s punched for every dinner and the fourth or fifth one is free, but, like all these offers, the offer is “not combinable with any other discount.”   So the Pensionados get their discount, and the others get their cards punched which keeps it all even, legal, and builds repeat business.

Bottom line: retiring to Panama isn’t about the Pensionado discounts.  There are lots of other, really good reasons to think about retiring in Panama.