Escaping TO Not FROM

Every government has red tape, but at least you know the red tape where you live now.  Every human government struggles with corruption and ineptitude, but at least you know that where you live now.  Laws, systems, and philosophies of law differ.  Many people thinking of adopting an expat lifestyle in Panama come from countries whose system of law is based largely on English common law.  Panama’s legal system is based on a combination of old Spanish and Colombian law.  As I mentioned before, the legal devil you know may be better than the legal devil you don’t know.  Yes, it’s difficult to sue in Panama: a nice plus.  But it’s difficult to sue in Panama and cases can drag on perpetually without resolution: a big pain.

Governments and politicians come and go.  Nothing lasts forever!  No world power is a world power forever.  Things change.  The government or head of state you detest now will be different in a few years.  If you are fed up with your government, change it, or get out and forget it.    When we moved to Panama 16 years ago there were many who thought George W. Bush would be the death of the United States as we knew it, but Bush moved on to a quiet retirement and the Union survived.  I’ve had visitors from the States show me a list of Bible verses proving, or so they claimed, that Barack Obama was the Great Satan and Antichrist. So love him or hate him, the Union survived.  And now we have the era of Donald Trump, and probably we’ll survive him as well.

Believe me, government in Panama isn’t perfect!  Talk to any Panamanian and they will detail the corruption of the political party that they didn’t vote for and conveniently ignore the corruption of the party that hired their brother-in-law.  Panamanians understand politics.  Politics in Panama isn’t a matter of expensive TV campaigns but a local matter of who gets what patronage after the election.

Panamanians have a handle on politicians.  While they enjoy the political soap opera they don’t take it seriously.  Panamanians say that politicians are like vultures, the giant birds, AKA “the Panamanian Air Force,” that circle overhead and keep the roads remarkably clean of road kill.  People say, “During the day the politicians fight over the same road kill, but at night they all go home to the same tree to roost.”  They belong to the same prestigious families, social clubs , party together, and intermarry.  When the current Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli went to Rome to meet with the new Pope Francis, he took along his wife and … Mireya Moscoso, the oft-pilloried former President and head of the competing Panamenista Party.  So in politics, in Panama as elsewhere, things are not always what they seem. Of course when  Juan Carlos Varela became president the first thing he did was convince Pope Francis to visit Panama, and almost immediately began investigating the corruptions of Martinelli.  And since in Panama the President can only serve one 5-year term, without sitting out ten years, there is more turnover than in countries like the US.  So now, with recently leaked Varela emails, the administration of the newest president, Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo, can invesstigate Varela.

Escaping to … not from

 You will have a much more enjoyable and successful expat life if you are escaping to a better, more vibrant and adventurous lifestyle than escaping from something.


Just escaping to a new location isn’t going to change things if you are bored or in a dying relationship. If you are unhappy where you are now, just changing the scenery isn’t going to suddenly make you happy.  If you are tired of the stress and pressure, know that moving to a new and different culture creates massive stress and pressure.  Wherever you go, you take yourself with you!

Depending on where you are coming from, Panama may be cheaper, but not necessarily so.  You can probably live a lot cheaper where you are right now if you adjust your life style.

The reason to come to Panama is not to escape the high cost of living at home, but to escape to what I consider to be  a healthier and better lifestyle.

If you decide on Panama you will enjoy it most, and others will enjoy you, if you leave your political baggage behind and just explore and enjoy a new culture and life style, which, I admit, at times can be very challenging and demanding.

We see some folks who come to Panama because they were fed up with government and life back home.  They brought their “color” loyalties with them, not in the sense of color of skin, but color of politics, i.e. for those from the States either “Red” or “Blue.”  Once they got to Panama, rather than jumping in, exploring, and struggling with the local culture, they chose a self-contained existence only associating with other expats of like mind, instead of trying to speak Spanish and associate with locals.  They are angry, uptight and as unhappy here as they were back wherever.  They could be in almost any country for all they know or seemingly care about where they  are actually living.

Such a shame!  Everyone has something to share and contribute.   We all have things to learn.  Yes, the culture is different, and may be at times frustrating, but that’s what makes expat life interesting!