My name is Karen Ann. I’m from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. We spent about a year researching different countries before we decided on Panama.
My name is Karen Ann. I’m from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
When and how did you decide to move to Panama? Is it complicated to settle down there?
We spent about a year researching different countries before we decided on Panama. We first visited in October of 2011. We decided upon our return to Canada that Panama would be a good place for us to live and that the Azuero area was the place we liked the most.
It’s surprisingly easy to move to Panama. We didn’t find our move much different than when we moved across Canada. We obtained our temporary residency in March 2012 and were able to bring a small container of goods into the country duty free.
Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?
I’ve never lived abroad before but my husband lived in Germany for a good part of his childhood. He’s also been to several more countries than I have due to his military career. I have visited approximately 12 countries.
What do you like the most about Azuero Peninsula/Panama?
There are several things I like most about the Azuero area but among the top three would have to be the proximity to the ocean and beaches, the friendliness of the people and the weather.
How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with Canada, your home country?
I wouldn’t call it “cultural shock” as much as a “lifestyle transition”. My philosophy is to keep my expectations low and hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised which was the case with Panama. The first six months were the most trying and busiest of our transition period. This is the time period where a lot of the “firsts” occurred; our first driver’s license, first time setting up utilities and the administration that goes with buying a house etc.
The largest difference is the language of course. We’re still learning Spanish by taking lessons every week. It has been a marathon not a sprint for us but we didn’t want our learning process to “schedule” our lives. Dealing with the “mañana” lifestyle was a transition. Now we know to build in extra time if we want to get anything accomplished and usually are pleasantly surprised when we get something done earlier or easier than we expected.
Do you miss anything from your homeland?
If I had been answering this question six months into our journey my answer would be different that it is today, two years down the road. Now I can honestly say that the only thing I miss is my family.
Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?
I don’t know that we have any “worst experiences”. Some of our best memories have been with the expat friends that we have made here. It’s been unfortunate that some of them have left during our two years. We’ve also enjoyed some of the cultural events such as Carnaval, Desfile de las Mil Polleras, Gran Desfile de Carretas etc. with our local town folk.
I think among my favourite experiences thus far have been the satisfaction I’ve had from volunteering in the community. Along with other expats and locals I help with a sterilization group for the animals in the district, a neighbourhood watch group and I volunteer teaching English to some of the local children.
What does your typical day as an expat in Azuero Peninsula look like?
Our days aren’t that very different from any other retirees in North America. No one day is ever the same but most days it begins with having our two cats wake us up at around 6:00 a.m. I let them out in the yard and then feed them. I make a fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie (often with papaya from our own trees) to have before breakfast. We’ll both often read and I have the Edmonton Journal delivered to my Kindle. At times I will work out to a DVD before breakfast or we’ll go for a bike ride together. After breakfast I usually read emails while I drink my coffee and reply to comments on my blog. If I am posting something then this is also the time I will work on writing or if we have a Spanish lesson that morning we will go to our lesson for an hour. We’ll do housework or yard work which sounds simplistic but even our small yard needs constant tending and because of the heat we can’t wear our clothes two days in a row, not to mention that the bedding and towels need changing more often. Many days my spouse will have a project going on in the house or he’ll be helping a friend with something. Some days we’ll go to the beach for a walk, occasionally we will take a drive to visit friends, we’ll do errands in town and other days I’ll spend time doing lesson planning for the English class that I volunteer teach.
We have lunch together most of the time out on the back patio and take a rest during the heat of the day, usually in the hammock. After a break my spouse is usually ready to get back to whatever he has been doing and we will also start thinking about what we’re going to have for supper. On days that I volunteer at the language school I will bike or drive over around 2:30 to get set up. By the time I get home it’s time to sit on the back porch and listen to the afternoon news on the radio, have a cool drink and watch the birds flying across the back field.
Sometimes we’ll meet friends for dinner but if we’re staying in supper is usually around 7:00 p.m. and by that time it is dark. If we’ve stayed in we’ll watch a bit of television and I’m usually in bed by 9:00 p.m. reading.
When did you start your blog? For what reasons?
My blog was created about a year before we moved while I was taking a web design course at the university I used to work at. I never really did anything with it other than using it to learn a bit about HTML. When we moved I was giving weekly updates to our friends and family on my Facebook page and it was getting a little unwieldy to keep doing it that way. I opened up my old blog site and started playing with it. I made it public so that our friends and family could access it and surprisingly more than just people that we knew started reading. It’s evolved into a way of telling people about Panama but also to expressing my opinion on topics that interest me. I particularly enjoy contrasting Pamanian life to how people live in Canada.
Did you make new friends with your blog?
Yes, I have made several new friends through my blog. Some are fellow bloggers that live in Panama and some are readers who have visited and asked to meet me.
Why did you register on expat.com and what do you think of the website?
I registered on expat.com because the website was one of the tools that we used for our research. I noticed that there wasn’t any bloggers that lived in the Pedasi/Azuero area and thought I might have something to contribute to other people who are thinking about expatriating to Panama. I also thought that it was important for people to have a truthful point of view and not just “fluff” from people that are actually living in Panama.
I think the website is a great tool. I appreciate the honesty of the forum members and the thought that is put into some of the questions and answers. I’ve also found some other great blogs to read there. I like that the site isn’t selling anything and that it is available to everyone.
Which advice would you give to the other Expat blog members who would like to settle in Azuero Peninsula (or Panama)?
I’ve seen many people come and go in our two years here. My number one piece of advice is to make sure that life in a small town or the countryside is what you are looking for and that your significant other is in agreement. If country life wouldn’t be suitable for you in your home country then the campo won’t be suitable for you in Panama. It’s best to think long and hard about what kind of lifestyle you want to live and what kind of amenities you need around you to maintain that choice, don’t compromise on your “wants” and “needs”.