Expat Article #5

My friend By has been writing a series of articles on being an expat that cover the points he has found most important or challenging in his experience.

View at Medium.com

In this one he offers a few points of advice. Of course his experience is different from mine, and it will be different from yours but there are also common threads and ideas for all of us to consider.

To summarize…..

  • Don’t put a lot of “should’s“ on yourself. Give yourself time for the adjustments and don’t expect so much of yourself.
  • Expect to be out of your comfort zone and be ok with that, even welcome it. Expect that there will  be things that aren’t available, or that won’t work like they did back home. (Our experience with our on demand water heater was similar, and we find the “suicide shower” much easier)
  • the snowbird option – considering dividing your time between there and here if your lifestyle, preferences, and finances  allow. (We aren’t snowbirds, but we have found that maintaining a US address makes a lot of things much easier. Consider asking a family member or trusted friend for help in this)
  • “Stuff owns you”. I wholeheartedly agree. Life is simpler and there is great freedom in not being attached to stuff. I have seen the suggestion to put the stuff in storage for a year if you are having a hard time letting it go. After a year you’ll have an easier time determining if you still really need and want it.
  • Cultural differences and idioms can trip you up. (I have found people very understanding and patient while I learn. I have had trouble convincing people that’s it’s fine and helpful to correct me though)
  • Personal space, or lack of. (I have not found this to be a problem, but I’m also from NY and familiar with being packed into public transportation like a sardine. I’m not a touchy, huggy, kissy person though, so the custom of greeting friends with kisses on the cheek, and good friends with many hugs and kisses has been an adjustment for me. Some expats also want to hug everyone which has been hard for me as well)

By also mentions washing dishes in cold water, which we have always done here and never thought about it being a problem. The dish soap here is made to cut grease in cold water since hot water is not the norm.

Bugs, as in germs – We haven’t been sick much, and the most likely time is when traveling. I’ve read some info lately about the microbes that naturally live on and in your body and how important they are to health, and I wonder if we have been colonized with better microbes here which has helped our general health, and is part of the almost miraculous improvement in my dental health. The lack of freezing weather definitely affects the diverse insect population but I’m not sure what affect it’s has on the microbes, except freezing weather keeps people indoors or bundled up so they share less.

“Vale la pena” = It’s worth it. In my opinion yes, most definitely, and I haven’t found it any more difficult than moves I’ve made in the US (except for the language barrier).

As they say, YMMV (your mileage may vary). But, there is no place, no life that is free of hassles and problems. My husband likes a saying – “is the juice worth the squeeze?”  Yes, for us, most definitely.


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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4 Responses to Expat Article #5

  1. MEBE in Medellin says:

    Much appreciated response, Kris, thanks a lot. I considered mentioning the suicide shower but decided against it. They do actually work better than the on demand things, which I consider pretty useless. Good point about folks not correcting us. We’ve found this, too, and it really is a big cultural difference. People will not criticize here, regardless. That must have been mystifying to you as an east coast person. ‘I’m walkin’ here!’ Thanks again, and hola to Joel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our in demand heater isn’t working (and may cost more to repair than replacing it) and we like the suicide shower. The only downside we know of is the power consumption, a concern for a big family with members who like long showers.
      We understand you! Don’t worry *sigh* but I want to speak correctly.
      Happy Mother’s Day! Always. Ice to see you pop up 😊


  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    I lived in France for three years and knew nothing of the language when I got there. Believe me the French have NO PROBLEM correcting you when you goof up their language!


    • Hmm… seems like that would be helpful. Here, did they let your mistakes slide? The only one who corrects me is my teacher, though everyone will always help when I ask “how do you say that?” “What is the word for that?”


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