Nearly every expat of retiree age has said it to me: Panama sneaks up on you. The people, friendly and fun loving at first, seem even warmer and kinder when you really get to know them. The culture…so much richer than the cosmopolitan city suggests.
And speaking of Panama City, the bustling streets can seem chaotic at first, but the large number of expats here is a testament to the capital’s ability to draw you in.
It’s growing, and though there are growing pains aplenty, it’s exciting. New restaurants are on every corner…budding artists are taking over the romantic old quarter…and lots of new groups and associations are holding “green” events and raising awareness and making themselves heard. Soon, you find yourself a part of it all…and loving it. I did.
The city isn’t the only place growing here…the whole country is in infrastructure flux. The Panama Canal is being expanded, the nation’s first metro line is well under construction, the roads and traffic-light system have gotten a complete makeover and even the much reviled “red devil” buses…with their extravagant paint, portraits, and even flashing lights…have given way to a neat fleet of city metro buses.
All this growth is helping fuel Panama’s economy—one of the fastest-growing economies in the world since 2007. It’s all good news for entrepreneurs. And that’s the other way Panama sneaks up on you. Nearly every expat “retiree” I’ve interviewed over the past six years has come here, seen myriad possibilities and niches to fill, and given up on the idea of staying retired.
Panama is often ranked one of the region’s best places to do business—and not just because there are so many niches to fill. In Panama, it’s all about the overall picture: the excellent communications systems, the solid infrastructure, and the business friendly environment. As one entrepreneur—today owner of one of the most popular expat hangouts on the Pacific Coast—told me: “It kind of hits you in the face, how convenient it is here!”
Rosalind Baitel is an expat who started her own business in Panama. She saw a niche to fill in all the fabulous clothes of Panama’s elite. And today, she runs a well-known charity boutique called Promises.
The work has helped many and it has enriched Rosalind’s life. As has Panama’s rich social fabric. Rosalind has found it easy to mix and make friends.
“People here welcome foreigners into every level of society,” says Rosalind. As foreigners are generally accepted and liked here, you’ll find that people go out of their way to get to know you, socialize with you, work with you… Yes, Panama’s sneaky that way.
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