Close

Why we really left Boquete...

It's my turn to write about what happened. It is helping me to deal with the anger and the loss.

We had such high hopes when we came to Panama. We wanted to live simpler, lower-cost lives. We also hoped to build something here, something that would grow over time and produce good incomes for a number of local Panamanians. We knew that no one had any fully escorted cultural immersion tours of Boquete and Bocas del Toro so we set out to develop those tours with the help of a local. It was my fault however that I chose that local unwisely. Mike never trusted this person. Nor did he think this was the right type of person who would come through for us. Nevertheless, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I also sought to prove that we were not like many of the other expats who come here to Panama, those that come here and live behind gated walls and have nothing to do with the locals. Our other mistake was that we had a very small circle of people to draw from to build these tours. Thus, we relied on this one local instead of building this dream on our own. In hindsight my advice would be to not begin any venture in Panama, or elsewhere, until you have met a lot of people and you have a wider circle of people to draw from. I trusted this person too much and thought he was someone other than who he really was. It is most unfortunate because so many people got excited about the possibilities of what we were creating. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be.

No matter how much I worked on the tour some aspect of it failed to come together. In fact, over time more and more of the tour was beginning to fall apart and we couldn't get vendors to respond or even want to be part of the tour. I should have known then that we had a problem. But I wasn't listening and I kept plugging along trying to make things work.

What caused the final rift? When a pre-planned excursion to see a potential tour addition did not happen the local we were working with demanded that we pay for the tour. At that moment we knew that we had hit a wall. He said it was his reputation on the line. What reputation? Very few people outside of his own city even know who he is. It did not matter to him that the tour provider had not given us the information in advance that if we canceled he would still demand payment. It did not matter that this tour operator canceled our appointment time because he had a larger group book with him instead so he needed to move us. The only thing that mattered was that we had to pay because we had to save this local’s reputation. We knew then, with this small incident, that the local we were working with was not someone who would put the welfare of the company first. He would never put what was best for Panama ahead of his own ego.

In our last two weeks of living here the locals who we were renting from decided that we did not even exist. They tried their best to ignore our existence. There was no more ‘hellos’ or ‘good mornings’. They turned their heads in our presence and ignored us. This only further cemented our feelings that we were trying to help the wrong people and that it was time to go.

Do we have any unrealistic expectations about Cuernavaca? I don't think so. We have learned to take our time and to be cautious with who we trust and who earns our trust. And we have learned not to put all our eggs in one basket.

Travel is about learning, and my education continues...I hope you will join us.

I still intend to monitor the Panama forum and when I see blatant misconceptions I will respond.

Panama is a beautiful country and we are glad we gave it a chance.  But life is short and there is too much to see and too many other people to meet.

Oh no :( I'm so sorry this happened to you. Indeed, a bad thing with one man has turned your whole world around, and your whole Panama experience. It seems to me that you came here with the best of intentions, with a good heart, respect for the people here, and everything we would hope for from an expat. I guess I can see why the locals would shun you if they feel they have to choose between you and a local Panamanian, but I wouldn't want to stay under those circumstances either.

I still think this is a wonderful country and Panamanians are warm and generous. Unfortunately there are bad folks everywhere, including Panama, and you had the terrible luck of getting tangled up with one of them. Now I realize that applecore is your husband, and I appreciate you filling in the rest of the story. I can understand why you are hurt and angry and upset.

Best of luck with your move. I hope that you have more than used up your share of bad luck and the path ahead is filled with good fortune.

I also tend to give people the benefit of the doubt until they do something bad, where my husband can size someone up very quickly. I'll take this as a reminder to listen to him. Still though, for me, I'd rather be generous and giving (even though it's burned me before and probably will again) than be closed and stingy. I hope this experience doesn't dampen your kind and generous spirit either.

Kris

Kris - thanks for the note. 

No it hasn't soured me on Panama.  The country is beautiful. And many of the people we met are very nice and I will continue to help them.  I do every day on Trip Advisor. 

But living in Panama wears on your after a while. Also, the threat loomed. You see we heard of a hairdresser living in Boquete who was cutting the hair of the expats.  Well, the local hairdresser found out and told her to stop or she was going to turn her into the Panamanian goverment because the expat didn't have a work permit to do hair and so she stopped cutting hair. Things are not all rosy between the expat and the locals in a lot of areas. The longer you live somewhere the more you will learn. I didn't want to live with the threat from this local that he would disrupt my business any more than he had or even bad mouth it to people I didn't know.  It just wasn't worth the risk.  Leaving was easier.  There are so many beautiful places to go and see and explore.  That's what retirement should be anyway.  I have never suggested to anyone to buy property in Panama (that's a whole different set of problems).  Rent only.  Then and if you can't deal with living in a third world country find another.  Heaven knows there are so many places to go.

We are just beginning to explore Cuernavaca and so far we like what we see.  Mike posted a new entry on his blog just last night about it, I hope everyone will read our new adventures; http://globalexplorerclub.wordpress.com

Good luck in David.

Florence

I am sorry you had such a bad experience here in Panama trying to get your business running. Unfortunately, you are not alone.....my husband and I also had an excellent business idea that never materialized once we got here (was a trucking business). What's even worse is that my husband is Panamanian and thought he knew "his people", but after 16 years of living in the States had forgotten how opportunistic and unreliable people here can be. On top of trying to get our business up and running, we also had our two young daughters to worry about (school...etc.).

We had paid to have our own Freightliner Semi truck shipped in, which was not cheap, in hopes that a "descent" truck would bring in good money for us, eventually increasing our fleet. But, reality slapped us across the face....We had vendors cancel their services, but not bother telling us until AFTER my husband showed up for the job....thus wasting our fuel and time. We had an experience with untrustworthy driver (who we thought was reliable at the beginning) that we had to fire. We were constantly worried that someone (a driver or other person) would strip the "good" US parts from the truck and replace them with crappy replacement parts, then sell our "good" parts for their own profit......a common practice here in Panama. And, the truck maintenance was costing more than the income it was bringing in. Needless to say, after many broken promises, no shows and attempts to collect money not owed from us we decided to call it quits. With heavy hearts, we sold the truck....we had so many hopes, time and money in that truck. We are still living in Panama, it's been 2 years now, but are planning to return to the States by mid year.....we decided to send our daughter's ahead of us in March to live with my parents in the States because there's a lot of things here we didn't like about the schools and culture toward young girls....but that's a whole different topic.
My husband was fortunate enough to get a great job with the Panama Canal and I've been teaching English in a couple of different school....although great experiences in their own right, it's not the plan we originally had of being our own boss of a successful business.

Carez,

Wow.  Thank you for sharing. 

Sorry about your venture not taking off.  I know more stories like ours are out there, maybe more people will share their stories so that people who are thinking of going to Panama to find their 'dream' will learn from our mistakes.

Have a good trip back to the US.  We are now in Cuernavaca, Mexico and will most likely begin living in Europe next year.  We will return to the US in two or three years time.  Want to travel as much as possible while still able.  :)

Best,

Florence

I am sorry you made a poor decision on how to immerse in Panama. I have been in Boquete for more than six years and have heard many stories good and worse than yours from all around the world. Good luck where ever you go but remember the lesson, follow your bliss and gut. Never rely on anyone to provide it all.

Auntie Flo!  Sheesh.  I was out of the loop.  I knew that "applecore" was leaving Panama, but I didn't know the two of you were connected.  I wish you all the best in your new adventures.  You were of wonderful help to me when I was getting ready for my first trip to Panama, and you have provided a wealth of information and insight!  I will let you know how our adventure goes (next trip is in March), and wherever life takes you, I wish you all the best!

Your experience Auntie Flo, sadly, is not unique.  Without getting into all the reasons (some of which go down to the DNA level), differences exist and expats have been on the receiving end of some bad and dishonest dealings.  I too have had a friend's selfishness end a relationship in a surprising and disappointing manner.  So, the advise often given in Panama is that less contact with the locals is better - not because they're mean or angry, just that they are disinterested, mildly dishonest and more self-centered in personal relationships than one would expect.

Not to highjack the thread Auntie Flo, what are your thoughts generally on Ecuador, including as contrasted with Panama.

Hi Florence,

I am sorry to hear about your experience in Boquete.  I'm sure you have learned as I have, that all mis-steps are lessons well learned.  As I prepare to begin my expat life, I try to remind myself that it may take longer than normal for me to really get to know people; especially when away from "home."

I have some folks that are wanting to visit Panama and I have agreed to attempt to put the "tour" together and was hoping that you would be willing to share some of the contacts that you made for car rentals, shuttle services and hotels that you would recommend.  I am also interested in renting a property for a couple of months so any contacts there would be great.  Also, do you have info about affordable advertising.  It would be good to give business to those that have earned it.

I'm new to this forum but hope to follow more posts.  Getting my own business off the ground here in AZ is time consuming as you know.  But, learning from those who have tread where you are about to go is so important.

Good luck in your new travels.  It sounds like things are going well already.  :)

Hope to hear from you soon,

Karen

SawMan,

We have heard good things about Ecuador and we have friends living there who love it.  I think every country in Latin America should be explored.  I found wonderful places to live in just about every country (including Nicaragua!) and we would have no problem going back to them.

Cost of living is basically the same and because the expats havent' overrun it (as in Panama) the relationship between the locals and the expats does not appear to be as it is in Panama.  They get along well. 

But you are only allowed to stay 3 months at a time on your regular visa.

It's worth checking out.

Best,

Florence

SawMan :

Not to highjack the thread Auntie Flo, what are your thoughts generally on Ecuador, including as contrasted with Panama.

Karen,

We did take what happened as a learning experience and due to the changes happening in Panama we are actually grateful.  Everything happens for a reason and we are very happy here in Cuernavaca.  We have also started a new enterprise based on what happened.  Check it out;  https://sites.google.com/site/the6monthers/

The website is still a work in progress and I have several marketing avenues to work on but what we learned was never to trust anyone and if you want to work, gather the resources yourself and then do it.  Don't rely on anyone else. Not in any country. 

Okay, contacts.  I'm happy to help those in Panama that I trust.  Contact jose[at]goldenfrog.net for shuttle services, hotel info in PC, help with dealing with Air Panama, general info on Panama.  Jose speaks English and he's a good guy who will actually drive you from PC to Boquete if you wanted.  Don't know pricing, that's between you but give him a shout.

You don't say what parts of Panama you are going to explore.  I have contacts in Pedasi and Bocas and also in Boquete.  I can also warn you about places to eat and other things.  You need to live in Panama 6 months in order to see if you can really live in Panama.  Vacationing in Panama is not the same thing as living in Panama.  And living like a local will wear on you after a while.  I figured out why all these months later.  It's because we don't have to live like that in the US, even on $1500 a month so living like that in Panama is tiring after a while.

I don't know what you mean by advertising.  I've done a lot for my contacts because I'm a top contributor on Trip Advisor and I mention them every time someone needs something.  And I know its working because they have all told me that their businesses are growing and the people who are using them are mentioning my name.  Which is why I use my real name everywhere and not a moniker.

I do know what it takes to get a business off the ground.  It's not easy and it takes hours.  What type of business are you building?  Maybe those of us on here can help somehow?

If you tell me how long you and your friends will be in Panama I can get you started on a plan and a trip itinerary of places I think you will enjoy seeing.

Best,

Florence

klw :

Hi Florence,

I am sorry to hear about your experience in Boquete.  I'm sure you have learned as I have, that all mis-steps are lessons well learned.  As I prepare to begin my expat life, I try to remind myself that it may take longer than normal for me to really get to know people; especially when away from "home."

I have some folks that are wanting to visit Panama and I have agreed to attempt to put the "tour" together and was hoping that you would be willing to share some of the contacts that you made for car rentals, shuttle services and hotels that you would recommend.  I am also interested in renting a property for a couple of months so any contacts there would be great.  Also, do you have info about affordable advertising.  It would be good to give business to those that have earned it.

I'm new to this forum but hope to follow more posts.  Getting my own business off the ground here in AZ is time consuming as you know.  But, learning from those who have tread where you are about to go is so important.

Good luck in your new travels.  It sounds like things are going well already.  :)

Hope to hear from you soon,

Karen

Thanks Florence,

What a lot of information.  I'm excited already about moving forward when things settle down a little here.
 
In Arizona, my company is tour & event planning company, Sonoran Excursions.  It was created to provide tour experiences for visitors to the Valley as well as for full & part-year residents.  We customize group excursions throughout AZ and into neighboring states.  I am now venturing into offering group trips to some Caribbean islands and to Panama (and later Costa Rica.)  I would love to tap into your wealth of knowledge as I will be new to Panama.

My group will be in Panama for 10-14 days.  I plan on being there for 2-3 months.  If things work out well, I hope to visit Panama annually, enjoying both locations.

I have come across goldenfrog so I will contact Jose for sure.  I hope to travel from PC to Chiriqui and determine the spots to visit.  I am thinking about visits to El Valle, Coronado, Pedasi, Las Tablas, Santiago, Volcan, Bocas del Toro and David.  I'm aiming to give a good taste of the country.  I totally agree with your suggestion.  I will have to scout out things myself and won't rely on someone else.  I won't mind pushing the date back in order to organize it properly.

I checked out your new site.  Your videos look great!  (I'll have to up my game :-)

Keep up the good work. I'll keep checking in.

Karen

Flo,

Just curious, why did you choose Cuernavaca to relocate?  Where ever my wife and I decide to live- additional income or minor/grown children will not be an issue.  Social interaction with locals and expats from around the world would be the desire.  Also, why and where would you move onto in Europe?

We chose Cuernavaca because there are over 40 Spanish language schools here and most of the students come from the US.  We have been on many excursions with some of these students through the Cemanahuac School. The guy who runs it is an American expat himself.  Charlie has been here over 40 years.  Our landlord Jim is a retired college professor from NY and he's been coming to Mexico over 40 years.  He owns a four level home here in the mountains of Cuernavaca. 

There are also a lot of expats here in Cuernavaca because it is close to Mexico City and its beautiful.  In fact the Newcomer's meeting that they hold the first Friday of every month has some of the youngest expats I've ever seen in any country we've been too.  Young families with young children and even teenagers.  It's wonderful.  I have chatted with the leader of the Newcomers Meeting in Mexico City and she reports that the same thing is happening at her meetings, the newcomers are getting younger, not older. 

The cost of living here can be good but food costs around what we spend in the US.  But we are renting a place for $650 a month (with all utilities and unlimited wireless internet) and food is the balance of our budget and we try to stay under $400 a month. 

Panama does not have a hold on all the expats leaving the US.  There are so many places to go.  :)

We leave June 28th for Perth, Scotland.  We will be there 6 months.  We then are leaving for the Costa Blanca region of Spain.  We will be there 6 months.  Perth is smack dab in the middle of Scotland, has a good transportation system, good rents (we can stay under $700 a month for a place to let) and food is good.  We will be living in a new place every 6 months from now on. 

Did that answer your question?  If not I can give you more data.

Florence

El Cid :

Flo,

Just curious, why did you choose Cuernavaca to relocate?  Where ever my wife and I decide to live- additional income or minor/grown children will not be an issue.  Social interaction with locals and expats from around the world would be the desire.  Also, why and where would you move onto in Europe?

Flo,

You answered everything. Always on the look-out for a good place to settle down and of course avoid the pitfalls.  I am convinced where ever we go it will be lease situation until we are positive about staying. Good luck with your future travels.

Flo knows!

Wow, Flo, you are living the life. I've always wanted to go to Scotland. I wish you the best of luck in your adventures. Man...you're gonna have a blast.

Thanks Michael.  If you want to keep up with our take, and our travels around Scotland, I have been asked to write for a new tourism site that highlights the best of Scotland.  Here is the url; http://www.great-scotland.com/ - it should be an exciting time.  The talk of Independence for Scotland from the UK is growing louder as the day for voting gets closer and its interesting to see what the real people of Scotland think about it.

My first article should be posted in a week and then every two weeks thereafter.  They want to follow us on our Six Monthers adventure as we tour and learn more about Scotland.  I've been receiving lots and lots of exciting off the beaten path places to visit and explore.  What we have learned in every country we have been too is that when you tell a proud people that you want to see the best that their country has to offer they tell you all the best places to go.  If we make it through all the pubs it will be a small miracle!  :)

I'll be seeing you...

CMichael :

Wow, Flo, you are living the life. I've always wanted to go to Scotland. I wish you the best of luck in your adventures. Man...you're gonna have a blast.

Flo,
Is it safe there in Mexico where you are?  I was considering Mexico but have chosen Panama.  Boquete, in fact.  What happened to you there is what has been happening to me constantly in the US.  I am a nurse practitioner and have had several MDS screw me out of several paychecks.  I have lost about 40,000 since becoming an  NP.  When you try to sue them, the lawyer takes your money then runs off with it (happened 2 times).  It seems like landlords, even so called "friends" are always trying to screw me out of my money.  I don't trust anyone either and I have been a loner and very independant all of my life.  I would be happy with my dog, cat and horse just living out in the country (have been doing that for years in Texas.) Anyway, I am ready to leave here, there is nothing to stay for.  So please keep me informed of good places to live.  Would Cuernavaca be a better place to live than Boquete?  Is there drug gang activiy?  You are smart to keep moving.  If I didn't have my animals I would do that also.  Julie

Flo,

Now that a few months have passed, what is your current opinion on Scotland?

Wow! A Panamanian hairdresser threatened to report an expat, for not having a license? How dare she! The expat, has the right, to enter Panama, start a business, compete with Panamanians, while not meeting the requirements. Yep! It's written in Panama Law--read it! And your worker! What nerve--wanting to be paid and not embracing your dream with his heart. And the neighbors had the nerve, to shun you, for not paying! These people must not know of your birth-rights. Thru the computer screen--I'm loving Panamanian people. btw---I think Scotland is an excellent choice for you. Good luck.

Hi Flo...

Sorry about you experience. Unfortunately it seems that you have "jugar vivo" just like the rest of the local populace in order to get around. During my Army stationing thee (92-98) I too had several business ventures but ran into some serious political brick walls. I wanted to build a marina in Portbelo bay and open a restuarant but as I was trying to find out info, I realized that there was a lot of grease-palming involved so I dropped it like its hot. I purchased two small freezer trucks (like the good humor ice-cream trucks) to transport frozen foods and we're doin semi-well. There are a lot of buyers who want to test the system by trying to establish credit (FIAO) but it ain't happening since I tell them straight off that I am not "ahuevao"....it is kinda' tough maintaining a business. best wishes!

H

most new businesses fail in the US also.  usually under-capitalization or just bad planning.   I think it is just human nature to blame others for our problems.

At least in the US/Canada and some nations in Europe your small business dream in not threatened by corruption and prejudice

it's not disinterested it's envy and hate
do something which no one else can do
and never rely on others

This thread is really really old

people never change

Well, In Panama many foreigners visit stay a few years and they go back.
Reasons---Mostly it is difficult to establish any business in Panama because the Govt laws are all protecting the workers. You have to pay them social security, Liquidation, health, yearly allowance, and many more.
This makes the workers think that they are doing a favor to the foreigner by working for Extranjero. They directly show that you are not wanted in their country. Mostly they like foreigners visiting Panama and spend lavishly, empty their pockets and return to country of origin.
Visiting foreigners or temporary resident permit holders  or Residence holders are NOT allowed to work in Panama.
They do not have Equal Rights as the citizen of the Panama. THIS FACT makes it a worst decision to be in Panama.
Initially all rosy pictures are shown about Panama but very soon you get disappointed. Well, if you do not want to work in Panama or do not want to do business and ONLY SPEND YOUR PENSION MONEY AND LIVE---Fine ..you maynot have any problems. However if you are ambitious and want to work---You will not get any jobs because whenever you apply for a job...Nobody calls you for the interview because you are a Extranjero (foreigner) and they throw your application in the dust bin. Another aspect of doing business--as a foreigner Residence Permit holder you can not run any business on your own. You have to take a Panama partner---who will eventually rob all your business. Initially the Panama business partner will help you to get set the business and then he will stab in your back once you invested all your money.
Well you will say How come Chinese businesses are flourishing---Well I will answer--somehow Chinese manage to get  Panama Cedula and mostly almost everywhere they have Hardware and Grocery stores. Why they succeed...because the Hardware and Groceries are run by Chinese family members...Only for cleaning and loading and off loading purposes they will hire a local Panama worker. Keeping the business restricted to Family Members only. On the other hand if you come from North America, Europe or Asia and start a business on Panama workers--You will soon lose everything.
Panama is very beautiful, Good climate, Beautiful and friendly ladies, law and order Fairly Good but Lawyers are most cheat, dishonest and robbers. Lawyers when dealing with Foreign Panama Residents--must go bankrupt. Well I request Panama Government to be Honest and do Justice to all the foreigners by giving them EQUAL RIGHTS AND STATUS AS THE ORIGINAL CITIZEN OF THE PANAMA. AND LO AND BEHOLD PANAMA WILL PROSPER.
Otherwise if Panama indulges in DISCRIMINATION----Soon nobody wants to visit Panama.
Foreigners may invest in Ecuador as Ecuador Govt gives full rights to the Foreigners holding Residence Status.
Well, I believe if Panama Govt stop Extra Protecting the workers---and ask Business people to pay on qualifications --Soon you must see--Panama Workers Performing very good---Otherwise they will never work with honesty and integrity. Well I will end my letter by Saying I LOVE PANAMA---but difficult to make money in Panama and difficult to get a job as a foreigner residence permit holder. Business wise taking Panama partner will be a mess and loss.

@ nelson333
there is no slavery like in the US and none of this hire fire attitude
nobody like these dumb big mouth gringos
be nice behave integrate and you will do good where ever you go

the nicaragua canal is coming
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-30584559
things will change

Concur with Nelson...I'm trying to establish a business and am taking my sweet time doing it carefully with a deceptive "if you betray me, you'll end up on the cover of El Siglo" attitude. It seems to be working quite well since I'm not into making friends til AFTER my agricultural busniness is established. Fortunately for me, My Panamanian wife is the President of our Sociedad Anonima and it will be family run. The workers will be the actual campesinos who will have their own land and produce what i need for a price...no seguro or gov't interaction there...thank goodness!

Thank you for your post, Brownsand. I was starting to get concerned that I was the only one getting the flagrant ignorance. I’m pretty sure that ‘good-for-nothing’ Panamanian hairdresser is a dear aquaintance of mine through a dear friend. Unfortunately, the situation in Boquete has gotten increasingly complex given all the expats that have moved there—in particular the ones that cloister behind gated communities, don’t bother to learn a lick of Spanish except to complain that something costs too much, and who won’t socialize with the people native to the beautiful Pueblo to which they moved. Gentrification is seriously harmful to locals who can no longer afford living in their own hometown or province. It’s so much wiser to be sensitive to ones potential adverse impact on a place and people than to turn a blind eye or worse, to blame someone or people being hurt by the manner in which you’ve moved into their homeland. I’m immensely grateful for my wonderful Panamanian friends in Chiriquí, and my expat friends who are not your typical expat. I’m also grateful to have been referred to by Panamanian people as ‘not your typical gringo.’ Thank goodness!
Yes, oh my, how ‘rude’ of the local tour man with a well-established business to not want his reputation ruined in the very small town in which he lived and made his business. And how ‘rude’ of the Panamanian hairdresser for reporting illlegal business activity of an expat setting up her unauthorized hairdressing business. Are you kidding me, Auntie Flo or whatever your name is? Also, did you ever ask the local Panamanians if they want or need your help? Or is this yet another example of a white person savior complex? It can be so helpful to truly consider the other petson’s perspective, and in this case, the greater perspective of the community upon which you’re imposing yourself. I’m sure your experience feels valid to you, Auntie, and I’m also sure the experience of dealing with you is equally valid to the person you trusted who probably also trusted you. Sounds like you both ended up feeling screwed over by the other. Auntie, I’m glad you’re happier out of Chiriqui. It’s a wonderful province with Panamanians who’ll give you the shirt off their back. Of course as with every single other place in the world, there are a mix of all types of people, including people native to an area and expats who hide behind gates. Thanks again for your post, Brownsand!

Hello Purpleavacado  22 February 2018 07:45:06

Purpleavacado :

Thank you for your post, Brownsand!
Brownsand 14 August 2013 18:09:44

Just wanted to point out you are responding to a post made by someone in 2013. They may not be listening anymore... it's up to you, but I always look at the dates so as not to waste my time...

Hi, and you're welcome. Yes, I've read the ignorance--it's pitiful- but,  I'm glad the indigenous people have pride and don't bow down to  menacing expats. I see you're looking at Costa Rica. Have you been there or Panama?

New topic