Five Years in Panama

Tuesday, Oct 10, five years ago was when I arrived in Panama intending to make it my new home. Joel followed in November after wrapping things up in Florida.

I came with few expectations. I figured there would be problems with the language barrier (there were). I knew there were comfortable homes and stores that sold pretty much anything I would need so I wasn’t worried about setting up my new life. The people we had met on visits had been nice so I wasn’t worried about getting along. I figured I’d just move forward and just let things unfold.

I never expected it would be this good though. I never expected to feel happier and more comfortable here than I ever did in my native country. How could that be? Why is that?

  • People accept and respect you as you are. Nobody cares about your religion, politics, net worth, appearance, relationship status, how you spend your time, or any of the things we judge people by in the US.
  • Of course no place is 100% safe but we worry much less about our safety and property than we did anywhere in the US.
  • There are no hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, or other weather disasters. After living in tornado alley and hurricane prone Florida, it’s a great relief to be here.
  • It’s warm. I do not like to be cold. I am very happy at 80+ degrees in shorts and t-shirt.
  • It’s affordable. It’s a relief and peace of mind to have enough for everything you need and most everything you want.
  • As one of the uninsured for most of my life, it’s a huge relief to have competent and affordable health care available.
  • We live with happy people. Greetings are genuine and smiles light up like sunshine. People don’t get upset  and life unfolds at a relaxed pace. So, the water isn’t on today, or there are weeds in the yard, or potholes, or the neighbor is blasting music. The strongest reaction is probably an eye roll. It can feel inefficient and messy at times but I’ve come to love it.
  • Panama is a gorgeous country with mountains, beaches, and everything in between. There is always a new bird, bug, fruit, story, recipe, remedy, or cultural belief to learn about so it’s endlessly interesting.

Of course there are downsides. No place is all rainbows and unicorns or the paradise some publications promise it will be. You have to be prepared for many things being quite different, and sometimes confusing and frustrating. But if you can just go with it, it can be a great experience. It’s one of those things you have to experience to understand fully but now that I understand, I definitely plan to stay.


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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25 Responses to Five Years in Panama

  1. Laureen MacDonald says:

    You’ve summed it up quite nicely Kris. Pretty much the exact same things apply to Mexico. I love the warn and friendly culture. It was so strange being in NYC a couple of weeks ago and not having folks greet me as we pass on the sidewalk. Or diners leaving a restaurant and saying “buen provecho” as we started to enjoy our meal. Yep, no perfect place, but this is as close as it gets!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know! You almost feel rude not greeting people in the street, but if you do they look at you like you are nuts. I think it’s the Latino culture in general. I’ve had it explained but didn’t really get it until I came here.


  2. Was Panama your top choice and did you consider other countries too?


    • We considered Costa Rica at first, but my husband’s research led him to Panama as a better choice. We didn’t proceed as generally recommended but only visited Panama, once in Panama City and once in David before we made our decision. We figured if it didn’t work we could look at other options, but that hasn’t been necessary.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike deangelis says:

    Congratulations on this milestone anniversary, five years..I have been following you since your blog started and I raise my glass to you and Joel, I admire your peserverence, courage, and your sense of adventure. May the next five years bring you more health and happiness as you continue to live your lives the way you chose.
    Mike DeAngelis
    Portland, Maine
    Siena, Italy


    • Wow, thank you so much. Italy actually made this all possible. I went there with my daughter some years back, totally scared to be in a “foreign country”! We had a wonderful time and it totally changed my thinking about the possibility of living in another country. Thank you to your country and the wonderful people who were so good to us. I hope to go back again.


  4. Hey Kris and Joel — Congratulations on your Panama Adventure five years later! Tomas and I experienced many similar things in Morocco. We’re happy to be where we are now, though, among happy, smiling people in a affordable housing, with health care and beautiful surroundings. Happy Trails as you move forward, Alia


  5. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris and Joel,
    Congrats on the anniversary! If you want rainbows, ya gotta go to Boquete, they get them almost everyday up there now. LOL As for unicorns, there were times past when I thought I had seen some, usually after attending someone’s quinceanera?
    The biggest key to successful living anywhere is to get to know the folks that live there. The scenery is nice but the folks are the real treasure. It helps that the pace of life always makes it possible to stop and chat for a minute. I like that best. Looking forward to the next five years.
    jim and nena


  6. Karen says:

    Five years WOW….You made this work for yourselves and it warms my heart you are so happy. 🙂


  7. Great post, amiga! We agree with you 100 percent! Going on three years for us – hard to believe.


  8. Laura Wilson says:

    HI Kris! I am so proud of you guys!! Your adventurous spirits and willingness to learn are what allow you to be so successful in making this huge transition. And just so you know, you’re missed here in Florida! I think of you guys every time I drive by your old neighborhood. Tell Joel I said hello!


  9. panamax007 says:

    Just found your blog, I enjoy your writing. Saludos!!


  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi Chris ,I know what you mean when you say time goes by so fast, on the 25th I’ll be leaving to go back to the states, been here 3 months to see if it was suitable for retirement, and I love it, when I left USA it was a mess and its only gotten worse, I never thought I would say this but I’m not looking forward to going back, yes I miss family and friends, but they feel same as I do about USA, only they are not retired I am , my three months here have been completely stress free, and I made a few friends along the way, its a totally different world here, I’m from las Vegas, and I was here when all the shooting happened thank god , so I will be going back to a city in shock and turmoil, . Here I have experienced 3 months of complete stress free bliss, real food, and veggies from healthy soil not saturated with chemicals, you can drink the water from the tap, food and lodging is more than affordable, and the country is soooo beautiful, and green, and since I’ve been here I have not seen not one argument, or fights ,among anyone, just smiles and people going about their business,, I will be back that’s for sure, .David.


  11. David says:

    Hi Kris, you are soooo right , time does fly when you are enjoying your surroundings and life in general , I’ve been here in Boquete now for almost three months , came here in last part of July, from Las Vegas ,to give it a try as a retirement possibility, I’m sooooo glad I did , all you have mentioned about this place is spot on , yes the water is off sometimes , and the power go s out once in a while but always comes back on in a minute or two, I got here in I guess the rainy season , it has rained here almost everyday since I’ve been here sometimes all day sometimes just a few showers, but when it rains it’s not a cold rain or windy , it’s just rain, sometimes it comes down really hard , drops the size of 50 cent pieces , I’ve noticed that the Main Street along the park central , all the buildings have over hangs or cover from the rain if you will, and when it rains really hard, you see all the people lining the sidewalks under the cover of these awnings, just crossing the street in that kind of rain , by the time you get to the other side you are completely soaked if you don’t have a umbrella, and it’s like a meeting place , funny cause everyone is having a good time dispite the rain, and the fresh fruit and veggies, straight from soil that has not been depleted by chemicals and pesticides, you can drink the water from the tap , it took me almost a month to get used to that I was buying water here until I realized I could drink the water !! . And the health care blew my mind, I got a referral, to the social security hospital from my doctor at the clinic I went to for X-rays of my foot they took like 8 X-rays of both feet and put it on a disc so I could give it to my doctor , all cost less than 60 dollars!! I was in a delightful shock, all done within 2 hours because the hospital and clinic are within walking distance from each other. And everything is green with streams almost everywhere you look. And I’ve made a few friends here also that speak both English and Spanish, I speak a little enough to order a meal, and get by but those that speak only Spanish really try hard to understand me when I’m at a lost of words, I have not seen , not one person angry or arguing or fighting since I’ve been here, just smiles , the locals in their traditional attire with the cutest little kids that stare at me and smile when I make funny faces. I’ll be leaving here for Las Vegas , on the 24th and for the first time in my life I don’t really feel happy about going home , sure I have missed my friends and family members and being able to get around in my own car, when I left the states it was bad and it’s only gotten worse , and thank God I was here when all the shooting happened , but now I must return to a place where the people and community are still in a state of shock , and the country itself and its people are falling apart , and the politicians in office don’t care one bit, and on top of that you can’t believe anything you hear or see on the news you don’t know if nuclear bombs will fall or your city or state will be under Marshall law, this is what I’m going back to after being here in Boquete in a totally stress free atmosphere for three months , to say the least I’m having many mixed feeling right now as I write this , take care Kris ,


    • I so understand what you are saying!! It’s hard to explain but once you have experienced it, there’s no going back. I love seeing my family but I also count the days until I can come back to Panama. I’m glad you had such a good time and got to experience so many of the things I also love about this country.
      I’m so sorry for your people in Las Vegas. What an awful thing. Yes it seems everywhere you turn there is stress and suffering, and the current administration is determined to take away the most from the people who have the least. But there are also tons of wonderful people and I hope their energy and efforts will help turn things around.


  12. David abbott says:

    Hey Kris, I passed 5 yrs in July, single and lovin this place


  13. Happy “anniversary!”. I love that you used rainbows and unicorns to explain your time there. I used kittens and rainbows in our wedding vows 😉 hahahaha


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