Four Years in Panama

October 10th, four years ago, I boarded a plane for Panama to start a new life. I was excited and looking forward to the future but I had no idea what a good life this would turn out to be!

It’s interesting that after four years many things are still new. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see something for the first time, learn about some aspect of life here, learn a new word, see a new bug… it’s always something. But, this has also become my normal life. Daily activities are no longer new. I have friends and relationships here. This is home in every sense and it feels good.

I’m very comfortable here. I feel a strong sense of community and acceptance. I love how people greet and acknowledge you even if they don’t know you. I love how easily people make friends. In the US you are judged by so many things – religion, political affiliation, economic status, race, appearance…. we think we are accepting of everyone but in reality we have a ways to go. Here though, religion and politics are personal choices. No one seems to care if you are light or dark (though the men are fascinated by women with white skin and green eyes). No one cares if you are big or small, or where you are from, or how much money you have. They only care if you are kind, respectful, and friendly and will return your kindness many times over.

Do I plan to stay here? Oh my YES! I would be heartbroken if I had to leave. We came because we can live comfortably on our limited income and it’s great to not worry about money, but the benefits have been so much more than that. On surveys of the happiest countries in the world, Panama is always close to or at the top of the list. Happiness is contagious! If I need a dose of happiness all I have to do is hop on my bike and enjoy the greetings and smiles of everyone I pass.

Everyone has their own experience in Panama and it doesn’t work for everyone. People leave for health reasons, because they miss family, but also because they just haven’t found the happiness they thought they would have here. There are challenges of course, but I have found them so minor compared to the benefits. I am thankful every day for the life I have here.


About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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29 Responses to Four Years in Panama

  1. Robert & Helen says:

    We live in a Panamanian neighbourhood 8 minutes drive to Boquete. We like it and have good contact with our neighbours. For most expats the language barrier is a problem. Yesterday a guy started to ask me questions about Boquete. He was a handy construction man from Nicaragua and thought that I was a Spaniard as I pronounce the c and z as th as it is done in Spain.


    • I’m not good at languages so it was and still is hard, but it’s SO worth it! I’m sure the experience of living here would be so different if you didn’t speak any Spanish. The Europeans have the right idea of teaching other languages from a young age.


  2. Kat McKay says:

    I agree! Because of the year round wonderful climate I can walk out of my house and enjoy my garden at any time , and that makes me VERY happy!


  3. Congratulations on 4 years! We feel the same as you. The Panamanian people are wonderful. We are not great at Spanish but we always try as best we can when ever we have the chance.
    Practica es importante!


    • Thanks! I’m lucky to live down here where I have to use my Spanish with pretty much everyone. I still make lots of mistakes but it gets a bit better every year. Si, mas practica, todos los dias!


      • Robert & Helen says:

        Do not worry about mistakes. Read also La Prensa y La Estrella daily online. Helps a lot.
        congratulations being happy in Panamá. We are planning to visit for a week Medellin in December. Same climate as Boquete. They got from Singapore the 1st price for development and city eco greenery.


  4. ME BE in Panama says:

    Happy anniversary, Kris! We’re enjoying the same aspects of Panland that you are, the weather (of course), the common courtesies and the community. I see how some folks either don’t fit in, or leave for the reasons you mention, but Mariah and I already feel like it’s home. We’d be sad to have to leave as well. For one thing, we have no idea where we’d go!

    Hi to Joel


  5. oldsalt1942 says:

    Yeah….What SHE said!!


  6. Jim stancik says:

    Reading all I can about panama and the people
    Looking to move their . Was in Costa Rica 10 years ago but everyone tells me panama. Learning a lot from your blog thank you


    • We also looked seriously at Costa Rica. It’s a beautiful country and I love it there. But, for living, Panama (outside the city) is less expensive, better infrastructure, less crime, and I think a more peaceful life. And, we are close enough to Costa Rica that we can visit easily.
      Glad you find the blog helpful 🙂


  7. Dale Boyd says:

    You and Joel are still my heroes. Be well and tell Joel I said hi.


  8. Laureen MacDonald says:

    I know Chiriqui would have worked for us too, but we ended up in Ajijic to help family, and it has turned out to be a win-win for all of us. I think Mexico is similar to Panama with the same friendly Latin American culture. Most people greet you when you walk down the street or even other restaurant patrons and saying “buen provecho” as they pass your table. I look forward to hosting you in our new home country one day Kris, and the cyclopista lanes are much wider than the space to pedal down the Oregon coast!


  9. Marilyn says:

    Congratulations, Kris! So happy you’ve found your place in the sun. 🙂 And as always, I so love your wonderful feedback! Please keep up the great work!


  10. Sunni Morris says:

    Glad you are happy after four years there. That’s important. Congratulations.


  11. Carole says:

    Congratulations on making it 4 yrs, time has flown by. Glad you still are enjoying your life in panama. We are still selling our things in preperation.


  12. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    Happy Anniversary!
    Panama, like everywhere else, is not perfect but once adapted to the pace, it is enjoyable living. I can actually get “slowed” down faster than Nena during our visits. I look forward to the mañana way of doing things while Nena is still trying to get Panama on the USA schedule. I have actually pulled her out of the street while she is yelling at the drivers for not allowing pedestrians to pass. The orderliness of the USA gets to be the norm quickly for those not born there.

    We spend almost all our time with her family so I escape the hectic USA lifestyle quickly. I don’t know if we could do Panama long term (Nena says NO), but for a month or two, it is a wonderful diversion.


  13. Congratulations on still being happy in Panama after four years living there Kris. May you and Joel enjoy many many more equally happy years ahead of you there.


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