Everyday Greetings

It is always interesting to go back to the US and see how it feels. I think the longer I live in Panama the more I notice the differences because Panama has now become my”normal”. What differences struck me the most this time?

People in the US still seem really tall. At first I had to remind myself to speak English. Everything is expensive. I thought imported items cost a lot here but they seemed even more expensive in the US – not that I buy a lot of anything that isn’t local so I’m no expert, but just daily costs of living are much more. Everything seems neat, tidy, manicured, and cared for. There are generally no holes in the roads and sidewalks, the grass is neatly trimmed, farms are planted in rows, cities are zoned, and there are no chickens running through the neighborhoods.

Most of all, I miss the greetings. People in the US generally don’t make eye contact, don’t greet you, and are a bit startled if you greet them. It just isn’t the way things are done. When you live where everyone greets everyone, all the time, everywhere, you feel like a welcomed part of the community. That is very easy to get used to. Funny how such a simple thing can make daily life feel so different.

In the US, things feel easier. I am totally fluent in the language. Even in an unfamiliar city I have a general idea of how things work. Google will navigate you through bus transfers and roads are clearly marked. In Seattle, all traffic stops if you try to cross the road! But, easy is not what I want. I want the challenge of a new country, culture, and language. I want to see how others think, how they live, how they feel about their world. And, I want to be part of my new world. I want the everyday greetings. My trip was a wonderful and very precious time with important people, but it is also good to be home again. There is a tranquility, an openness, and a joy of living here that I really love.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
This entry was posted in culture, Panama, travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Everyday Greetings

  1. Welcome back to your “home”…

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  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    What? No chickens? That’s totally unacceptable!

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    • Shhhh… don’t tell. There was a chicken, a rooster actually next door to my daughter in CA. They kept him inside though so you could barely hear him. They didn’t want to bother the neighbors.

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  3. Sunni Morris says:

    Kris,
    I’m glad you found your Utopia.

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  4. Robert & Helen Berding says:

    hi Kris. We know that feeling very well as we are expats for 26 years. We finally closed the sale of. our house in Saint Lucia. In September we will come to Panama for the paper work and looking for a home. after that we will go back to Saint Lucia to collect our dogs and arrange paperwork to fly with them via Trinidad to Panama. Our Dutch passports are expired and have to arrange for new ones in Trinidad where the Dutch Embassy is. Looking forward to see you and Joel. hasta pronto y un abrazo fuerte.

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    • Where in Panama are you going to be? We will probably miss you in September but we’ll catch up with you for sure later on!

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      • Robert & Helen Berding says:

        Hi Kris. First will will so paperwork in Panama City. then we will stay in David in a hotel and ask Eduardo Horna to show us around. We found also un unfurnished but fully equipped 1,500 sq ft and with a garden of 12,000 ft. Santa Lucia in Boquete. coincidence? We are living now in Saint Lucia. The was build by a Dutchman and sold to people from Texas as an investment. We are used to the heat and humidity, so somewhere nearby David might also be an option. As you know I’m fluent in Spanish and would like to teach Spanish to foreigners.

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  5. Comments like this, is what makes a Panamanian feel greate and proud about our country. And that´s the idea: to make visitors feel welcome, warm and safe in this little, but charming place. Enjoying simple life, loving interacting with locals, beautiful weather, and best of all, at lower expensive quality life.

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    • Best of all are the people here! Living here has been a wonderful experience for all the things you mentioned, but it is the people who make me feel so good on a daily basis.

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  6. Kris, reverse culture shock affects us, too when we return to the states. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about missing the greetings. I like the convenience of doing business in the states, shopping, and visiting with family and friends. But, I hate the traffic and the complexity of life. It’s so much easier here.

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    • It will be interesting to see your area and what you have available. I don’t lack anything here except I’m too big for Panamanian clothes and shoes. I have become too accustomed to the way of life though to want to live back in the US.

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  7. Rona True says:

    Well said Kris. WIth all the ease of the US, living in Panama feels like home now.

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  8. Hugo Ernst says:

    Reading the comments on this article, is almost as informative as reading the article…(I would love to get my nephew’s son to come down and visit, once we have made the move, he is 6′ 9″, walking down the street, he will probably stop traffic.) I also agree with oldsalt1942, how can we in the states function without our own egg and meat supply running around…No refrigeration needed!

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    • 6’9″? Yes, he would stand out a bit 😀
      There are places in the US that are starting to allow chickens in urban areas, but that’s not quite like chickens everywhere being normal, including the roosters. No wonder Panamanians tend to get up early and are rather oblivious of noise in the street.

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  9. John & Susan says:

    Your last sentence said it all:
    There is a tranquility, an openness, and a joy of living here that I really love.

    Another very well written perspective.

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  10. Beth Dahleen says:

    I love Seattle, but I note there the people there are different…more reserved, less likely to look up and say hello. I live in Georgia for over 10 years…totally different. More friendly. I lived in California for 10 years prior to that…people generally are pretty friendly there, too. I had a family member living in Seattle and also a good friend lives there now — both separately felt lonely there and mentioned people weren’t very friendly. Not sure if it’s fact, but it’s the rep Seattle has.

    So glad you are happy in Panama! I can’t wait to get visiting there in a few years. Waiting till my young sons are a little older.

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    • I feel it everywhere I go in the US. People generally don’t talk to strangers. I didn’t either until I moved here where the customs are different. I hope you can visit Panama soon! There are many expats living here with young children, and I think travel is a wonderful experience for kids and teaches them things they could never learn in books or classes.

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