Eight Years in Panama

Today, eight years ago, I arrived in Panama. Has it been good? Oh yes! It has worked out better than I ever imagined it would.

I don’t have that feeling that I’m in a *gasp*… foreign country any more. I know my way around, I know how most things are done, and I have warm relationships with many people here. The language has been the biggest challenge but I can finally understand most of what is said to me, and I can say what I want to say most of the time.

But, there is still always something new and that keeps life endlessly interesting. There are the people, their lives, culture, humor, their ways of thinking. There’s new food, plants, birds, bugs, and new places to explore. And, there are also my non Panama specific interests – learning to play bass, books to read, things to study, biking, blogging, painting, photography, and other interests that I never have enough time to do. I’ve often been asked – now that you are retired, what will you DO all day?? Ha! Not a problem.

I’ve come to look at getting older as a huge blessing. If you are healthy and financially OK, you can be free! You don’t have to work. You don’t have to answer to anybody. You have to do very little that you don’t want to do. Your time is your own. You can sit in the yard all day and watch the birds fly by, or you can study nuclear physics. It doesn’t matter if what you do brings in money. You can do what you like just because you want to do it.

It’s been very interesting to see my home country through the eyes of others. How could some little country in Central America compete with the USA, the best and most powerful country in the world (or so we are raised to believe)? But, what is “best”? The priority here is family, friends, and enjoying life. People work, often for long hours for little pay, but they don’t seem as stressed, as pressured by the “time is money” mentality. Everyone has a hammock and there is no shame in using it, or in just hanging out with family and friends. Those studies that determine that happiest countries in the world, that list is always topped by many Latin countries.

I feel so much kindness, inclusion, respect, and friendliness here. I’m very different in many ways, but the people have welcomed me as one of their own without judgement. I don’t worry about having enough to pay the bills, or worry about affordable, good quality, rapid health care if I need it. I don’t worry about natural disasters. I don’t worry about needing help and not getting it. I don’t worry about loneliness among these friendly people. Even in the middle of this pandemic, I don’t feel like I have much of anything to worry about.

People sometimes ask if I will return to the USA to live at some point. No, not by my choice. Give all this up? for life there and all the stresses that go with that? Are you kidding? No. I think not. We wake up every single morning giving thanks for this life 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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18 Responses to Eight Years in Panama

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    More and more I view my repatriation as a big mistake. Two of my three brothers are rightwingers who believe that the U.S. is the greatest at everything despite all evidence to the contrary. I tell people “I have lived outside the country for a dozen years. Three in France, eight in Panama and a year of floating around. And when you actually LIVE in another country as opposed to VISITING another country you gain a completely different perspective on this place.”


    • Nothing is done that can’t be changed. You can always come back here. Or, maybe things will change for the better in the US. But yes I agree, the experience of living somewhere else changes you, and you get that experience through living somewhere and having relationships with the people there. (being friendly with the resort staff doesn’t count. ha)

      Liked by 2 people

    • hutegger says:

      I guess, if one doesn’t know anything else and nothing is threatening one’s life, it’s very easy to get complacent And think we’re the best.
      It seems to me, that the US lately is the world-leader in only military spending and power, resource consumption per capita, waste production per capita, ignorance despite literacy, prison population per capita, gun fatalities – and that was so even before our latest&greatest chief. So sad! The US used to be leader in technology, human rights, opportunities for its citizens, education, standard of living, and so much more… so sad, that we’re not able to realize our potential as society! 😥😢😓

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I know what you’re saying 😦 I hope we have gotten so far off track that enough people and power will be motivated to turn things in a better direction, though it will be a slow and difficult process. I may not live there but my family does and it’s still my home country so it matters a great deal to me.


      • hutegger says:

        Just came across this interesting site: the global peace index:

        Click to access GPI_2020_web.pdf

        Basically, a ranking of 163 countries in the world based on how peaceful life is in that country.
        The US ranks at 121 (of 163). In other words: 3/4 of all countries in the world are more peaceful than the US!
        Something to consider when wondering how dangerous it is to be (travel, live) in another country!
        Panama, BTW, is in position 56…


        • Interesting! Thanks 🙂
          Panama, like anywhere, has safer and more dangerous areas. Where we are we feel minimal worry. Of course nowhere is 100% trouble free but most of the world is just good people living normal lives. Without first hand experience though, the unknown can be scary especially if that’s what you’ve always been told.


  2. hutegger says:

    I moved to the US 27 years ago. Never felt i was living in a „foreign country“. Rather, that i finally am where i was supposed to be!
    Since then, i have moved a lot, lived in many places all over the world. I’ve come to understand, that people are „nice“ and „kind“ everywhere. That all of us have the same basic wants and needs: be loved, safety for our children to grow up, able to make a living and make a difference with our lives… as long as i approached people as a friend I’ve not seen for a while – with joy, love, and without judgement – people have been very nice to me anywhere i had gone.
    So now, if you ask me where my home is, I’ll feel it is somewhere on the third planet from our sun… 😊

    Glad to hear that you were able to pick up enough Spanish to get by. The language is the biggest concern for me too! It helps to hear somebody else who felt the same way was able to get beyond it! Thank you! For sharing your experiences, and providing great inspiration to us! 😊👍🏾😊


    • I never had the experience of living anywhere else, and minimal experience even traveling when I moved so it’s been quite an experience. Yes I agree people are basically the same everywhere with the same wants and needs, but how you feel living with them is not the same at all. I never felt at home anywhere I lived in the US like I feel at home here. Go figure.
      Spanish…It has been a battle against my head of stone filled with holes! (languages aren’t my forte) I had 6 months of intense study before I arrived, and more study off and on since. Almost all of my friends don’t speak a word of English so I’m forced to use it every day. But it’s been so worth it. And, they say it’s great exercise for your brain. I have a great teacher, if you need one http://yairatutoria.com/


  3. Phil Bennett says:

    Congrats on your 8 years. I also love it here, and you were one of the people who influenced my decision to come here. Absolutely no regrets


  4. Phil Wilson says:

    I am just now starting my research into retiring to Panama and I am so glad I found your blog. My wife and I are about 4 to 5 years away from being able to pull the trigger, but my brother is about a year away from that decision. We, along with another friend are planning to take a trip there sometime between April and June of 2021 with the intention of visiting some villages between PC and David, with an eye on Bouquete in particular. I look forward to learning more from your blog about what looks like a great place to live out the final years of our lives.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your blog Kris. My husband and I hope to make it to Panama to visit in February, depending on the covid restrictions. I love to read your views on living in a different country. Originally from Colorado, we have lived in Qatar (Middle East), Bangkok, and now I live in Brazil with the hopes that my husband will join me next year. I’ve been able to provide my sons, now 21 and 19, with incredible experiences living in foreign countries and getting to know people and cultures outside of the US. I completely understand the language issues; I had hoped to move to a Spanish-speaking country in South America, but the opportunity here was too good to pass up, so now I am trying to lean Portuguese. I hope it translates easily to Spanish since we hope to eventually retire in Panama, or Central America. I’m a teacher, so covid has made the transition to a new country particularly challenging with distance learning, but I hope to be in the classroom with my students later this month with LOTS of precautions for social distancing. Thanks again for posting on your blog. I enjoying reading about other ex-pats who have made the jump and who realize that the world is an amazing place, and there any many people and cultures to meet on our journeys.


    • Oh wow, what experiences you have had, and what a great education for your children!
      I hear Portuguese and it sounds like Spanish, but I can’t understand anything. I don’t know if it’s easier or harder to transition to Spanish because of that. I know I couldn’t study Italian and Spanish at the same time because they were too similar. But then, I’m not good at languages so learning is a tedious process.
      Thanks for the kind words about the blog. Best wishes in your work in this crazy time, and for your family and your future plans.


  6. Barbara Jackson says:

    Kris, thank you for your thoughts. I have postponed my dream of relocating to David because of COVID, but I am seriously considering taking the leap anyway, and sooner rather than later. Could you provide your thoughts on the COVID situation there at the moment? I would land in Panama City: is it safe to take a public bus to David, in light of COVID? I will not drive . Are the hotels/guest houses open in David? Restaurants? Any thoughts gratefully appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would rather be here than in the US. They are doing all they can to keep everyone safe. I am home so I don’t have first hand knowledge of busses, hotels, and restaurants, etc. but it is my understanding that the busses are running at reduced capacity, and restaurants are also open at 50% capacity (take out has been also available for quite a while). Hotels are supposed to be open but it’s best if you contact the hotel you want directly. You need a COVID test to land at the airport or they will give you one on arrival for $50. Masks are required for everyone, everywhere.


  7. Wow, I’m always impressed by people who dare to change thier lives and move abroad. Even better when the new home is an improvement in the way of life 🙂


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