Expat Life in the Internet Age

We are very fortunate to have so much technology at our disposal. I know it can be misused and make you crazy sometimes, but overall it’s really useful. I just discovered on line library features, which got me to thinking about all the things we do on the internet.

Many of us leave important family and friend relationships when we move. For me, internet access was a “must have”. I wasn’t living close to my kids before so that wasn’t a big adjustment, and I actually saw more of them on video chats than I had when we only used phone calls. Now that I have grandkids and can’t visit because of COVID, these video chats are more important than ever. We also have a Facebook messenger family group that we use every day. It’s amazing that you can communicate with anyone, anywhere, instantly, any time you wish.

Internet shopping is another thing. Yes, you can still shop and get things sent here, but it will take longer, cost more, and involve a mailing service if you don’t want to keep going to the post office to see if your package has finally arrived. Gone are the days when you click and expect your package at your door in a couple days, or even a few hours! But this makes you think more seriously about what you buy. Do you really need it? Can you get by without it, or with something available locally? We tried to downsize our life when we came here so for us, this has been a good thing.

Maps and navigation have been a huge help. When we first arrived paper maps were the thing for finding your way around. What a pain! Our first visit was to Panama City and I don’t think we ever, not even once, found our way somewhere without getting lost. The city is confusing! Then, we discovered WAZE which was a huge help. Now google maps works also, and we’re so spoiled by the “map lady” that I never want to go without her, even if I’m only going downtown.

Google translate is also permanently running in my browser and installed in my phone. There is always a new word, something I don’t understand, or something I don’t know how to say. I carried a dictionary for literally years, but now that I’m able to explain my way around most needs, google translate is my go to thing.

We also have information from around the world at our fingertips. My banana has a flower. How long until we should harvest the fruit? What is this snake? Is it dangerous? And news! We can access news sources from anywhere in the world. With the fires in my daughter’s CA city, I log on to her local newspaper 2-3 times/day to see what’s happening (she’s OK, thank goodness, but life is still far from normal)

Groups and forums – Facebook has become the place for so much. There are groups for expats in Panama, for expats in David, Boquete, or whatever location interests you, where you can ask questions of people living there. There are also other websites with similar forums, and other forums on any subject you can imagine can be found out there somewhere.

Panama seems to run on WhatsApp, and groups are also possible there. I’m in a group for our neighborhood. There are prayers, jokes, stories, and news. Is your power out too, and did anyone report it? Or, someone has a question, or needs help with something. If you visit here and nobody knows who you are, a question will probably go to the group to find out if you belong here!

And of course, there are many other things we do on the internet. We can email lawyers, banks, pretty much anyone with a click. You can see movies, videos, museum tours, and a multitude of other things. Now, especially in this time of COVID, many people are working on line and kids are going to school on line. It’s hard to imagine life without the internet!

And, my most recent discovery, libraries!! You can get a library card on line with the Broward County Library (Miami area), and with that you can access countless eBooks, audio books, and movies, all for free! It’s fantastic! I’ve been a huge fan of audible.com for many years, but I’ll be spending less now that I have access to libraries. I find the library movie sections much easier than Netflix to explore and we’ve been watching some great movies. Thank you, Facebook friends, who introduced me to on line libraries!

How is the internet in Panama? That depends a lot on where you are. Internet probably isn’t 100% anywhere but here in David we’ve found it very adequate. It stutters occasionally, especially at high traffic times, but it rarely goes out. We are able to stream movies and do everything we need. We have a mid price plan for about $38/Mo and I think we pay for 7mg, but a speed test just said we’re getting 14+mg at the moment (It’s Sunday morning, 9am right now)

People in more rural areas may have slower internet, and/or need to pay a lot more for it. If you are moving here and internet is important, always ask about the internet in the location and the home you are considering. Things may be different from one block to another depending on equipment and where they have run cables.

We have become so dependent on the internet, and it has become a part of our lives in so many ways! It’s almost hard to imagine life without it. Just think though, what was it like for people in the past? People took off across oceans, never to see their families and friends again, and they were lucky if a ship brought them a letter that had been written months before. Or, what would it be like to watch your kids leave, never to see them again, and maybe not even know if you had grandkids? No… no no. We are SO fortunate! We can talk with our loved ones as much as we want, and video isn’t exactly like being there but it’s pretty close. We have so much to be thankful for.


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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6 Responses to Expat Life in the Internet Age

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    A couple of things…
    If you can get over the e-books vs books printed on dead trees, Amazon Kindle has a best seller list of 100 books, a paid list and a free list. I’ve downloaded hundreds of free books off and read them on my iPad with the Kindle app. There’s also a Kindle app for Windows computers, too. A lot of the free books are trash but I’ve found some amazingly GOOD authors, too.
    Then there is, as you know, Audible.com where someone will read a book to you. Got dozens and dozens of those.
    Panama is incredibly wired. There’s free wifi hotspots everywhere. In David at the central park or the bus terminal. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) if you’re going to use one of these sites. It encrypts your work from being peeked at.
    Many towns, like Boqueron, Pedrigal, and Bagala (between David and Boqueron) have government-funded “InfoPlazas.” I used the one in Boqueron a lot when I was writing my book. Their motto is “Closing The Digital Breach.” In Boqueron there, open six days a week at the town hall, they had a dozen computers. Not state of the art, but not bad, either. If there were a lot of people wanting to be on line you were limited to one hour. If nobody was around spend as much time as you wanted. AND IT WAS FREE! Kids were always in there doing homework of spending Facebook time. And there was also free wifi which I used extensively. I used to work inside on my Macbook Air because of the air-conditioning and the fact that the girl in charge was cute and had fantastic, as we used to say in France, Oooh lah lahs. Alas, she got married and moved to Dolega.


    • Yep, I’ve been a huge fan of audible for many years. I can listen while working around the house and yard, or doing whatever. I have kindle on all my devices too and probably more books than I’ll ever read, almost all of them free. I own some dead tree books but it’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to read one. The ones I have here survived the move because they have some special meaning for me.



    Amazing ! In ten minutes I had my virtual Library Card , and I was watching Great Movies ! Thanks for the Broward Public Library information . Camilo Quelquejeu


  3. David says:

    Hi Kris i’ve been trying to access your health care page but nothing comes up when I put in healthcare in the box more to the point I’m trying to get in touch with the clinic next to La Raina’s Department store in Boquete I think the name of it is Boquete Medical


    • Ahh yes, I don’t have an actual health care page, only some posts about experiences with doctors and dentists. I don’t know anything about a clinic in Boquete either. I don’t live there and don’t have much experience with what goes on up there.


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