“Common sense is not so common.” – Voltaire
Unfortunately this is true all too often.
Usually I boycott online forums and discussion groups. Lately I have been thinking it would be helpful to get more involved so I’ve gone back to them a bit. Then I am reminded of the things that bother me and made me stay away. They seem to fall in two main categories.
1. Believing the hype, unrealistic expectations, and not doing homework
“Paradise” By now, just seeing that word makes all my red flags go up and I think oh no, they believe what they read and don’t do their own research. “I am going to come live in paradise”. Variations on this come up all the time, followed by – “I just have a few questions” Then the truth soon becomes obvious. The person has never visited, has done minimal research, doesn’t intend to learn the language, and expects… well who knows what they expect. Paradise, I suppose but whatever it is, it isn’t going to be reality.
When you come here to live, you are not on vacation. You are not a tourist. Sure, it’s nice to have this beautiful country and all it offers. But, you also have to manage daily living – the electric bill, car repairs, shopping, why is the water off again today? People hear about the eternal spring of the mountains, the beauty of the beaches, the low cost of living, the vibrant expat community (see below for more on that!) and forget that this is only the frosting. Who cares about the frosting if the cake doesn’t work for you?
I think it takes a certain kind of person to make a successful move. First -someone who knows their needs and wants, does their homework, and approaches it with a big dose of common sense. Second -someone who wants to experience a new country and culture, and has the flexibility and patience to deal with the challenges. If you only want to get away from something and are not drawn to this new experience, it may not go well. (see Joel’s posts here) I can spend time trying to explain reality of living here, but is it really going to make a difference? I’m usually just the bad guy trying to rain on their parade, and they don’t want to hear it.
2. Bad manners, the ugly American
We were at the pharmacy yesterday. There was a man and a woman ahead of us. The woman had an insulin pen and the needle was bent, not working, and she wanted to buy more. The pharmacy didn’t have them. Another customer tried to suggest other pharmacies. They had already driven down from Boquete and she didn’t want to drive around any more. She became more and more angry and finally stormed out. The man turned out to be someone only helping out because she spoke no Spanish, and he was left apologizing for her and thanking the staff for their help. (Don’t ask me why someone on insulin wouldn’t have a decent supply of needles already on hand!) I am so embarrassed when I see other gringos behaving badly like this.
This is nothing compared to the behavior I have often seen online. People tear each other up! I know it happens everywhere online. When you are behind a computer screen instead of talking to someone’s face it is easier to say things you’d never say otherwise. But, that you say such negative things whatever the circumstances, what does that say about you? What it says to me is that these are people I do not want to associate with. I do not want to live where they live, or spend time with them. Unfortunately the few who behave badly color the experience for everyone, including all the good and kind people in the group. I think this negativity online is much more serious because it’s there forever, for the whole world to read. I cringe when I see expats saying derogatory things about Panamanians because I know Panamanians also read these forums and groups, and I can imagine how it makes them feel.
Is it a good idea to spend time online in these groups and forums? Probably not, not for me. Joel tells me more than I want to know and alerts me if there is something I might respond to, some particular information I might be able to offer. In general though, I have other things to do. This blog is under my control and unlike the groups, I can remove mean and negative people.
Joel often repeats a quote he heard – “Do not associate with negative peoples!” He is so right. I don’t need that kind of energy. We have worked long and hard to get our lives and our relationship and our experience of living in such a good place. So, if you rarely see me on line in discussion groups or forums, that’s why. If I don’t hang out with many other gringos, that’s why. If I don’t know what’s going on in the news either, that’s why. I’d rather fill our lives with the positive energy that is all around us, and spend time with happy Panamanians!