Learn the language! It’s not as easy as one would think.
I don’t usually post writing by other people, but this series of articles by my friend By Edgington speaks for us expats as we navigate the joys and challenges of living in another country, and I think it’s well worth sharing.
When I copy/paste the link it does weird things in my browser, so just in case I’ll try this too https://link.medium.com/a5KuCJVX7V
By and his wife Mariah previously lived in Panama, and now they are in Colombia, both of which are Spanish speaking countries. You can get by in Panama with only English, especially in places full of expats, but (if you’ve read this blog for a while, you know what I’m going to say) but why? Why come here and hang out with only gringos? You can do that back in the USA or wherever you are from. Why miss out on this life from a Panamanian point of view?
Learning another language is a challenge, of course, but so worth it. You don’t have to be perfectly fluent, far from it, but if you can carry on a conversation you can have local friends, learn about the life, the culture, the food, what they value, and their sense of humor (which I especially enjoy). I have found the Panamanian people super helpful too. If you need a good plumber, the route to someplace, what is this fruit, or a multitude of other questions they will be happy to help you. I have found them very appreciative of my efforts to learn the language and endlessly patient in helping me along. We also have a repertoire of jokes about my missteps – you go to the canal to see las esclusas (the locks) not los esclavos (the slaves) and jugo de araña (spider juice) is not served for breakfast. (sounds too much like naranja = orange).
I am very happy living in Panama and for me, the biggest part of that is my friendships and interactions with the Panamanian people. I have been treated so well, and have been made to feel so included in their community and lives. None of that would have happened if I couldn’t talk with them. I give thanks every day to the friends who have helped me along the way, and to my very much loved teacher who patiently pounded quite a bit of Spanish into my thick head before I arrived. http://yairatutoria.com
It takes persistent effort over time, and using your new language every day at every opportunity, and the ability to tolerate frustration when it doesn’t work but little by little, a new word today, a new phrase tomorrow, it will get better. Buena suerte! 🍀 (good luck)