Coming to Panama

Dylan writes …
My husband and I would like to visit Boquete as prospective Pensionados. We are looking at July 10 – 17th. Is there a way to fly directly to David? Do you also recommend hotels. I have lung issues and a friend who lives in Boquete who indicated that the mountains and the cool air would be beneficial. Will you be touring that area?
Dylan, I’m glad that your friend has enjoyed the cool, clean air of Boquete.  Unfortunately David airport only offers local flights inside Panama with the exception of flights to San Jose, Costa Rica.  So coming to Boquete  via David airport you have to fly into Panama City’s Tocumen International.  If you book your trip on Copa/United you can book to David airport [DAV] on one ticket, or you can just book your flights into Panama City [PTY] and then transfer to Gelabert/Albrook national airport eor a short flight to David.  The timing is a little tricky and can involve an overnight in Panama.  You can also fly to San Jose and then get the flight to David.

The Panama Relocation Tour would be an excellent way to evaluate Panama and not just sight see but meet with expats and get the straight scoop about living and retiring in Panama.

And,of course, you want to read my book!

37% is quite remarkable

Jackie Lange of Panama Relocation Tours said the other day that of all the people who’ve come on her tours over the past four years, 37% have actually moved to Panama within a year after taking the tour, and overall 57% of those who have taken the tour have moved to Panama! Many have moved to the very same areas of Panama we’ve visited on the tours, and many more are actively making plans to ESCAPE TO PARADISE.

Someone had posted this quote on my Facebook page and it struck me as one of the best reasons to move to paradise. Why just visit on vacation. If you love where you’re at and the life you’re leading, fantastic! Live life and enjoy it! But if it’s not what you want, why not make a change?

Really, what is stopping you? It’s YOUR life! You only go around once [with apologies to some of my friends who believe in reincarnation]. Why not make the most of the time and life you’ve got? A lot of folks get stuck in a rut which someone has defined as a coffin with both ends knocked out.

There are lots of reasons why people do the same thing over and over even if it’s something they don’t like. Sometimes you are just stuck … for the moment. Sometimes folks don’t imagine another way or write it off as “impossible” without really checking it out.

There are three chapters in my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE that people over and over say were the most helpful. The first is “Running The Numbers” … how to look at and analyze where you are at and where you would like to be and how to dream about what you’d like to do even if, at the moment, it seems “impossible.” The second chapter folks mention is, you guess it, “Dare To Dream.” How to figure out what you really want in life. “If money were no object what would you really want.” And the third, “Finding Paradise” is how to sort through the possibilities and find your “paradise.”

Face it. Life is not perfect. We are not perfect. And there is no place on the planet that is perfect. That includes Panama. Better to find that out upfront than after you’ve picked up, invested and moved without understanding what it is that you are getting into. For us, Panama has been fantastic! But it’s not for everyone.

So how do you know? I talk a lot about that in the book. It is important to do your “Due Diligence” … another chapter! Read. Research. Study. Talk to as many people as possible. Talk to other expats who will give you the straight scoop. Visit. Visiting as a tourist is one thing, visiting as someone considering living here is something different. There are lots of companies who have developed very profitable businesses selling folks on relocating and retiring to various countries and destinations. Some of them bring you to Panama for an expensive seminar sitting in a fancy ballroom in Panama City and hearing presenters, who in many cases have paid to participate, telling you about “opportunities” or, sometimes just blowing smoke. Carefully prepped expats will share their wonderful experiences in paradise. Other real estate tours take you around the country where you are a captive audience seeing only their listings.

Why I like the Panama Relocation Tours by Jackie Lange is not just that they use my book as a textbook, although I like that and so do the folks who come on the tour, but that they show you the real Panama. It is a boots-on-the-ground tour with a small group of like-minded folks who are interested in Panama as a possibility. Nobody is selling anything. It is not a real estate tour. You visit some of the places expats like to call home, meet formally and informally with real expats who share their experiences and give you the real, honest facts about their lives in Panama.

Some folks have taken the same tour two and three times. Why? Because each time they learned and experienced more about life in Panama. And most of those folks ended up moving here, first renting and trying it out, and then moving here permanently.

I enjoy meeting the folks who come on the tours, who usually visit our home and with whom we have dinner when the tour is in Boquete. Sometimes I tag along on the tour just to meet folks and share about Panama. I did that on the April tour [picture below] and will do so again with the May tour later this month. On the April tour we had a fantastic group of folks from England, China, Canada and across the US.

So instead of dreaming about the next vacation, maybe you should really think about setting up a new and different life.

David Lane, a loyal reader of my blog who has found his paradise in Florida writes …

Radically altering you life and jumping to full time vacation mode is but a dream to most people. People get trapped in life styles that include vehicles, homes, jobs, family obligations, extended family obligations,worries about pensions and 401ks and a steady secure jobs. Most people are trapped where they are in life and the expat lifestyle just isn’t for everyone and really just for a small fraction of the population. We are a society based on steady income and a secure job. When people reach the point where expating could be possible they are usually older, kids are grown, their parents need support, and one of the spouses really doesn’t want to leave. The gamble and the radical change is just not in the books. Might be better to consider life in another place for a period of six or eight weeks, stay in an apart hotel and live like the people there–try it out first before entering into a lease agreement or making purchase of property. Maybe try this arrangement in a few different locations and even different countries. From what I read now or heat from expats in the many blogs is that people decide to return lock stock and barrel to their US or Canadian homes. Costs are going up and rules are tightening and it becomes more stressful living in newly adopted lands. Many leave for healcare affordability reasons. Well, the U.S. is changing its healthcare programs and making coverage available. Many people will consider returning to the U.S. then. Many are finding that Florida U.S.A. which offers a subtropical climate is really easier and more cost effective especially in central Florida in areas like Polk County and allows you far greater flexibility.

Responding to David’s comment, Robert wrote …

David. You are basically right. I am Dutch and an expatriate for 26 years. 2 years in Nigeria, 13 years in Spain and 11 years in St. Lucia ( Caribbean). For Europeans it is easier
to expatriate. Few hours drive in Europe, different language, culture and food. This summer will will move to Panama, as the economy in St. Lucia is quite stagnant and we want a change. What is very important is to learn Spanish. Accept things how they are in Panama or any new country. Invite your relatives to Panama for holidays instead of going to the USA. I have never been back to Europe in 11 years, as I have seen most of it.

Certainly learn Spanish already when you still live in the USA. I do not bother anymore
about big cars, large tv flat screens etc. Just enjoying outdoor living, nice friends and good simple healthy food. Of course a couple of good wines a day. Enjoying nature, birds, and of course our four dogs that will also expatriate to Panama. Me and my wife like hiking a lot.

Regarding the question of whether health care is more affordable in Panama, Jason Howard wrote …

The tables have turned with Subsidized Affordable Healthcare law in USA. People with lower income should stay put in the USA as Uncle Sam will now pay over 90%!

Jackie Lange of Panama Relocation Tours wrote …
I love that quote by Seth Godin. [ He is my favorite author when it comes to learning about marketing.

It’s true that some people have dug a hole so deep in their current life that it seems impossible to “escape to paradise”. But it IS possible if you want it bad enough.

Being an expat does not have to be forever. You may decide to live in another country for 6 months or a year. Or explore a variety of countries before you make your final decision. Or sometimes you find a place so magical that you can’t wait to live there.

People of all ages become expats. Many have learned how to make money online, or they have rental properties which provide enough cash flow to live comfortably. Of course, some live off Social Security or another pension. Some sell their crafts at local markets to make extra income.

During the PanamaRelocationTours we do not try to convince people to move offshore. We have nothing to sell either. What we do strive to accomplish is educating people about what life in Panama is REALLY like (in a variety of different areas) so you can make your own decision to give Panama a try… or not. By the end of the tour most people will know one way or the other.

Regarding the question of whether health care is more affordable in Panama, Jason Howard wrote …

The tables have turned with Subsidized Affordable Healthcare law in USA. People with lower income should stay put in the USA as Uncle Sam will now pay over 90%!

So here’s the bottom line …

Expat living is not for everyone.

Panama is not for everyone.

So, how do you know?

1. Start by reading my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA. Reading my book and doing the exercises I offer will help you decide what it is that you want and how to find it. It will give you information you need to know about the possibility of your liking Panama.

2. Talk to as many expats as you can. Get the real story about expat life … whether in Panama or someplace else. One of the great things about the Panama Relocation Tour is that you get to meet a lot of expats and get their unfiltered take on expat life.

3. If you’re thinking about Panama, sign up for the Panama Relocation Tour.  This is a boots-on-the-ground tour that will help you decide.  You’ll get lots of information.  Whenever possible I go along on the tour.  You’ll visit some of the places in Panama expats like to call home.  You’ll get to talk to a lot of expats.  By the end you will have a pretty good idea if Panama is for you.  And you will make some great friends.  Thinking of Ecuador?  A friend of mine, Nathan West, operates a similar tour for Ecuador.

4. You can’t ask too many questions!  Do your due diligence and you’ll make an informed decision.  I’m as interested in why people leave Panama as in why they come.  I have a whole chapter in my book about “Leaving Paradise” and the reasons why people leave after living here for a while.  But there is another type of person who comes … and leaves quite quickly.  Usually they haven’t done their due diligence but just jumped on a whim maybe out of some desperate desire to change their lives.

Working in Panama

I get a number of comments and emails that are similar to these …

Lesley asks …

How would an English-only speaking experienced computer systems analyst find available jobs in Panama? I have looked online over the past couple of years and cannot find any jobs listed that require a high skill level. I would be very interested!

Robert gave a pretty direct response when he commented …

Lesley please. Wake up. You have to be also fluent in Spanish if you want to have a job in Panama. Same applies when you want to work in the USA or the U.K.

Actually Panama has more jobs available than qualified people to fill them. However, this is a Spanish-speaking country so … guess what?  Most companies are going to want someone who is fluent in Spanish AND English.  And, Lesley, you’ve probably already concluded that the reason why a lot of companies hire IT folks in Panama to do their work is that wages here are lower than in the US.

Panama’s “Friendly Nations” visa makes it possible for you to get residency in Panama and work here as well.

“I am a Canadian Journeyman Electrician and wanting to move, live and work in Panama. After a few visits and reading your book, I wonder if you could answer some questions for me. Is there a need for electrical contractors in the area (I do everything from houses, commercial, industrial, newspaper and printing presses, generators, solar, data, alternate energies, UPS….anything electrical)? My wife who works in the offshore financial industry, would she be able to find work (she has a law degree)? Shannon”

Shannon, What if a Panamanian electrician wanted to relocate to where you are living? Can they move right in and start working? Probably not. Probably the person would have to jump through lots of hoops. Assuming you were fluent in Spanish, you might be able to find work, but forget about perks and salary of “Canadian Journeyman Electrician.” The electrical engineer who does my routine electrical work is a Nicaraguan married to a Panamanian. Although he is a trained electrical engineer he has a hard time getting major work because he’s not Panamanian and so is “shut out.” He does keep busy working for expats, since he’s good and speaks English, but he doesn’t make what he could make if he were a Panamanian working engineering big jobs. My best advice would be to come down and start asking questions.

In terms of your wife, the fact that she is an attorney in Canada is interesting, but mostly irrelevant, unless Canadian expats have issues to address in Canada. Panamanian law, unlike North American law, is not based on English common law but mostly on old Spanish law which depends heavily on judges and not necessarily case precedent.

Panama’s “Friendly Nations” visa excludes most professions.  Panama, like most places, wants to protect certain occupations from outside competition.  A physician in India wrote asking me about relocating to Panama and practicing here.  I must have inadvertently deleted his question on my email, but I’ve gotten several similar questions.  Medical doctors are specifically not allowed to practice here unless they do a residency in Panama, jumping through the Panamanian hoops.  Martinelli, whose term as President expires July 1st, tried to find a way to get medical specialists into Panama and make it possible for them to practice.  The reason is that Panama is building all of these new hospitals but can’t find Panamanian specialists who are willing to leave Panama City to practice elsewhere.  That proposal resulted in loads of protests and demonstrations by Panamanian medical folks.

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