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Manzar Lari  of Casa de Montaña – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Expats gift a tree to Casa de Montana, Boquete, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingMy experience with the expats in Boquete is that, overall, they are very friendly and welcoming.  They’ll give you information if you’re a new person here. You can ask anybody on blogging sites or in person. They will talk to you for as long as you need to talk to them for any kind of information. So that’s the first level of it. 
 
The second level of it is of course there are people here from all different beliefs here, including political beliefs and religious beliefs, so it’s a microcosm of the world around us. As a result, you will be able to find people who have the same kind of mindset and belief system that you may have and maybe they are the kind that you can be friends with, so it’s easy enough to find people to be friends with and to relate to. 
 
One of the other things I’ve noticed, especially in the last two years, is that we are getting not only the retiree population, but we’re getting a lot of the younger people. I know people in their 20s and 30s moving here who have young kids. A lot of them are either sending their kids to the international school here or they are home schooling. There are people who are in their 40s and 50s like my partner and I, and others who are opening up businesses. 
 
A lot of the expat businesses are doing a lot better on average than the Panamanian businesses.  The reason is that they have a different approach, so as the emphasis an expat will put on customer service and being able to setup and follow processes. People coming from the US, Canada, and Europe have historically just been better at those kinds of things. Panamanians are at a disadvantage as a group and they’re trying to catch up but they haven’t quite caught up to it yet.  
 
(Expats gift a tree to Casa de Montana, Boquete, Panama, pictured.)
Philip McGuigan of Chiriqui United, an Association of the leading humanitarian organizations in the Chiriqui Province of Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Path to meeting at Valle Escondido, Chiriqui, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingAs a percentage of its population (20%) Boquete has the largest ex-pat community in Panama -- 5,000 ex-pats in a community of 25,000.
 
As a result, Boquete is something of a hub for ex-pats in Panama.
 
Even though I live in Boquete, I have also gotten to know a number of ex-pats in surrounding communities, particularly those living in David, Volcan, Coronado, and Bocas del Toro.
 
The following story of the development of a Partnership to transform the lives of a wonderful and welcoming Ngobe community of 350 people in Bocas del Toro through the installation of a 22 kW solar generation system is a good illustration of how our ex-pat communities work together.
 

Valle Escondido meeting in Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingOn August 24, 2015 Kieron Baudains, Manager of Islas Secas Resort (“Islas Secas”) and a resident of Boquete, contacted me asking whether Fundacion Amigos de Boquete (“Amigos”) would be interested in helping Islas Secas to find the most appropriate location for a 22 kW Solar Generation System, complete with Panels, SMA Inverters, Batteries, and a 17 kW Diesel Backup Generator that they wished to donate to a Community.
 
He added that Islas Secas would pay for the transportation, as well as installation of the System by Victor, the gentleman who installed the System at Islas Secas.
 
We had two false starts in the Ngobe-Bugle Comarca adjacent to San Felix.
 
Then GLOBAL Bank proposed a Turtle Preserve and Research Station in Bocas del Toro.
 
As soon as I got the Turtle Preserve Proposal, I contacted Amigos’ Strategic Advisor, Joshua Haarbrink, to seek his advice.
 
Floating doctors on small doc in Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingJoshua used to live in Boquete and is a trusted partner of Amigos.
 
Joshua said he would check out the Turtle Preserve, but that Floating Doctors would be the best Partner for the Project.
 
His recommendation was immediately supported by Dr. Dan Evers, an ex-pat veterinarian who used to live in Bocas del Toro and accompanied the Floating Doctors on their travels so that he could treat animals while the floating Doctors treated people.
 
On December 10, 2015, Kieron, Jack Bute (President of Amigos), Cary Trantham (Treasurer of Amigos), Jack's wife Sofia, Carrie's friend Karen, and I traveled to Bocas del Toro to meet with Dr. Ben La Brot (President of Floating Doctors), and Joshua to see the Floating Doctors new Headquarters on Isla San Cristobal and to visit Isla Valle Escondido, the Ngobe Community that Dr. Ben recommended for the Solar Generation System.
 
Floating doctors in Panama on second story of headquarters building – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe new Floating Doctors Headquarters will accommodate 60 volunteers and enable floating Doctors to significantly expand the scope of their work. In this regard, with only 25 volunteers in 2015 Floating Doctors treated 10,000 patients in 25 communities in a 7,000 square mile area in Bocas del Toro.
 
After our tour of the new Floating Doctors Headquarters, we took the five minute boat ride to Valle Escondido.
 
When we landed at Valle Escondido we were welcomed with genuine warmth and asked to join the Community Leaders and available Valle Escondido citizens to discuss the Solar Generation System Project.
 
The Meeting began with a statement by the Senior Community Leader that they would very much appreciate the Solar Generation System and had agreed as a Community that modest payments would be required from all recipients so as to provide funding for maintenance, repairs, and replacement parts.
 
She added that the Community had agreed to limit the amount of electricity used by each house so that the greatest number of Floating Doctors'  1st Dormatory – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livinghouses could be accommodated in addition to the Community Rancho.
 
After some discussion, it was determined that the System could provide electricity for the Community Rancho and approximately 40 houses given limitations on usage.
 
The Community Leader further stated that the Community wished to participate in any way that they could with the installation and maintenance of the System.
 
Dr. Ben responded that Floating Doctors was committed to surveillance of the System and to coordinating with Floating Doctors’ solar partners to train the Community Members, particularly with the help of Gregorio a resident of Valle Escondido who has proved himself very capable with another solar project.
 
Kieron then stepped in and stated that Islas Secas would provide the electric transmission lines, lights, and electric outlets for each of Floating Doctors'  Dormatory – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingthe houses on the System. He requested that the Community Leader provide him with quotations for the necessary materials to complete that part of the Project.
 
It was thus that the Partnership among Islas Secas Resort, Floating Doctors, and the Valle Escondido Community was born to create and maintain the First Community Electric System within 7,000 square miles of mountain and mangrove islands in the Bocas del Toro area.
 
One of the great joys about living in Boquete is the camaraderie that members of the ex-pat residents of Boquete enjoy not only with each other, but also with other ex-pats throughout Panama.
 
 
 
Giselle Leignadier of Hacienda Los Molinos – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Horseback riding available at Hacienda Los Molinos, near Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingMost of the expats in Boquete are from the US and there are some Canadians, too. We are seeing more and more Canadians coming over to Boquete in the last 2 years. There are still more Americans but the difference between the number of Americans and Canadians in Boquete used to be a lot but now the numbers are getting closer to each other. There are also some Europeans.
 
If you live in the center of Boquete Town, you will be around Panamanians and then there are some gated communities like Los Molinos where you would mainly be around expats. However, Los Molinos also has different phases. Phase 1 is focused on the expat market. In Phase 2, we are also receiving expats but as the market changes, we are now also getting local people, people from Panama City who want a second home, or people who live in other areas of Boquete but did not get all the amenities that Los Molinos has to offer, or those people who live in Boquete but do not have a good access to town and they are somewhat isolated. In Boquete, you can find places that have facilities such as electricity, water, telephone, but it is in the middle of the mountains so you would be technically in the middle of nowhere. If you want to buy bread, you have to drive and look for a store. In the gated communities such as Los Molinos, you would be in a good location where you have access to grocery stores, good roads, and all the amenities and activities.
 
Some expats choose not to live in gated communities. In Boquete, you also have the access to single-family homes in a non-gated area if you choose to.
 
Here in Panama, you will see a lot of houses that have bars on the windows. That is one of the things that my expat clients always ask me about. They say, “Why do you have bars on the windows if it is a safe town?” Having bars on your windows here in Panama is more a cultural thing rather than a security measure. It is not that you feel unsafe but it is a cultural thing to put bars on the windows.
 
Overall, living in Boquete gives you a choice of living in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, where everything is more spread out, or you can live in the middle of town, or in the gated communities, and your neighbors would depend on where you choose to live.
 
(Girls horseback riding at Hacienda Los Molinos, near Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama, pictured. )
Wee-Yiong Fung of Prestige Panama Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Typical expat  home in Los Molina, Boquete, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThere are three types of expats in Boquete. There are 1) expats who get involve in the community; 2) there are expats who only want to be with other expats; and 3) there are expats who hate other expats. 
 
The expats that get involve in the community are usually those who have businesses. This group has a better understanding of people, which is why they want Boquete to flourish. Boquete is just a small town and it's not like in the US where you have all this infrastructure. So these type of expats try to gather once a week to talk about different agenda items to make Boquete a better place, such as conducting an operation to spay or neuter pets to help reduce the number of strays and unwanted animals in the streets or how to handle trash in the community. These are what some of the expats get involved with because most of them have done business in the States and they understand. 
 
Then we have the gate-guarded expats in Boquete who only interact with fellow expats. These are the expats who speak in English all the time and say that the US is the best and that don’t interact with the Panamanians. They like to be away from everybody. 
 
And, we have the expats who hate other expats. These are the expats who complain that more and more expats are coming to Boquete and that they're ruining it. 
 
(Pictured: typical expat  home in Los Molina, Boquete, Panama.)
Lissy Lezcano  of Lissy Lezcano Attorney & Mediator – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Chiriqui United Logo – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe expats that I know in Boquete are very polite, well-educated, and most of them are retirees so they do not work. They are really nice people. The expats in Boquete are very close to each other. They interact with Panamanians but it is sometimes hard for the expats to mix with the Panamanians because of the language barrier.  
 
Expats in Boquete are involved in non-profit organizations. There is a non-profit organization in Boquete that is geared to help stray dogs. There is also one that is focused on helping children and there is one cleaning the environment and recycling. I think they also have a theater group. Expats are also involved in the church. So overall, expats are involved in a lot charitable activities in Boquete. 
 
(Pictured: logo of Chiriqui United, one of the leading charitable organizations in Boquete.)
Georgina Chanapi  of Lucero Homes, Golf & Country Club – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Bibliotheca, Boquete, Panama lending library – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingExpats in Boquete are friendly all the time. They love to learn and understand our culture. If they don’t know how to speak Spanish, they try to speak Spanish. They go to a local Spanish school and they try to prepare our local food.  We do not have any problem with the expats here.
 
In Boquete, there are a lot of charity organizations that were organized by expats to help the children. They buy books, they give free Wi-Fi connections to schools, and they gave tablets to the public school so the children can learn more about technology. Expats in Boquete have done good things for the community.
 
We welcome the expats to Boquete and they give back to us by helping out in the community. Organizations such as Bid4Boquete, Amigos de los Animales (which helps spay and neuter dogs), and Biblioteca (Spanish for "library"), have helped a lot in the community in Boquete. Biblioteca is a foundation that provides Wi-Fi so students can go there and learn on the Internet. They have donated tablets in three schools, they have English and mathematics programs, and they have also given the school two years of free Wi-Fi. The children who go to these schools are the children of our workers and they did not know how to use a tablet, so we also gave them some training on how to use it.
 
The expats have also provided uniforms for the football team here. As a personal example, the lady who takes care of my son has a daughter who goes to a public school here in Boquete. I saw her recently with a small yellow bag with four books in it, pencils, and other school supplies. She received these as a gift from the expats. The expats in Boquete have been giving back to the community in many ways.
 
(Biblioteca, Boquete, Panama lending library and educational assistance program, pictured.)
Lola Braxton of Services Toby – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Being an expat myself here in Panama, I have enjoyed meeting so many people from around the world.
 
I’ve have had the pleasure to meet a lot of expats here in David (the closest large city to Boquete, less than 40 minutes away by car) and also in Boquete, and have not run into anyone who has not been supportive. Everyone has been so wonderful and a joy to get to be friends with.
Penny Barrett of Fundacion Bid 4 Bouquete – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

The expats in Boquete are usually Americans, Canadians, and Europeans from all over the world. It is a wide variety. I would say the common denominator among expats here is they tend to be a bit more adventurous than the people who stayed home. A lot of them have interesting backgrounds and exhibited some out-of-the-box thinking, unusual choices, professions, and so on. Other than that, they are just a normal cross section.

I came from Western Michigan, where people tend to be born, raised, and die in the roughly the same place. In these types of places there is homogeneity among the population. Here in Boquete, however, you will see every nationality and every lifestyle because Panama has always been a crossroads for the world.  This makes living here and interacting with the expats very interesting.

For example, the other day, I was having happy hour with some friends.  Out of my group of six people, there was only one other US citizen. There was a Canadian and an Austrian. These are my neighbors and their ages range between 24 to 80 years old. That is what makes living in Panama unique.

Linda Jensen – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
When you walk into a place in Boquete, if there’s only one person in the room and they hear you speak, they’ll say “Oh, where are you from?”  It’s been so easy to meet people and make friends here.  We’ve made many, many friends here in Boquete.
 
Many of the expats here in Boquete are similar to my husband Arne and me.  They come here to get away from all that stress, and they come here to live a quality of life they can’t afford in the US.
 
Even though the largest percentage of expats in Boquete are from North America, in addition to those, there’s expats in Boquete from Germany, Italy, certain countries in Asia, Australia, England, etc.  There’s expats here in Boquete to represent probably close to every country in the world.
Frank Stegmeier of Rio Encantado – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
First, let me say that I have been in PanamaBoquete Tarzan Line Frank Stegmeier – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Living since 1994, living and building houses and running a business. Those were the real good 'ole days; cheap, no crime, big welcome by all of the locals and in all of Boquete there were probably no more than a dozen expats.
 
In those days all of the expats were real adventurers, many here to get away from something, attracted to the freedom of secret banking, great climate, environment, cheap labor, building where and what you wanted.
 
Today, 2014, I live on the Caldera River, and I am the only person living on the river downstream from Boquete. I have a 100-acre nature resort, complete with pool rancho, cottages and now a tree tower tree house. (That's me in the picture on my Tarzan Vine.)  Taxes, labor, style of living; all of this I could not have in the US, Canada, or Europe unless I was a multi-millionaire, not to mention the climate and being able to swim every day in the river or my pool.
 
I write this so you understand my background and the fact that I am not by any definition a typical expat. The expats today are 100% different than when I arrived.  They flock together in gated locked in communities, do not speak Spanish and for the most part, are naïve, vulnerable, gullible and very soon many realize that this is not for them. Now of course this does this not apply to all expats, but I rent my pool and cottages and get to meet and know many new expats, and over these many years, only 3 have moved to this area, building and living on their own, and not to a gated community.
 
There are many expats here in Boquete who do a lot for the community, but the bottom line is, we are different, stand out, and will never truly be Panamanians. 
Paul McBride – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The expat community in Boquete doesn’t fit a specific profile since there is so much diversity in the population.   One of the common misconceptions about Boquete is the exact number of expats that live here.  As I’ve mentioned before, the municipality of Boquete is quite large and the community is spread out over several districts and neighborhoods.  I estimate that there are probably around 1,000 expat households in the greater Boquete area with a total expat population of 1,500 to 2,000 individuals.   The latest census (2010) showed that there were just over 21,000 people living in the municipality of Boquete so expats represent just under 10% of the total population in the area.
 
Although a majority of the expat community comes from North America (the US and a large number from Canada) there are residents from all over the world living here.  I personally know people from the UK, France, Italy, South Africa, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, China, Japan just to name a few.  Most of the expats are retired couples but we’ve seen a growing number of families with children moving into the area in recent years.
 
You’ll find that the expat residents here are fairly representative of the overall populations from the countries that they come from.   There are doctors, lawyers, business owners, former captains of industry, contractors, firemen, policemen, nurses, teachers, writers, artists…… people from just about every walk of life you can imagine.  Politically, we have conservatives, liberals, moderates and libertarians.  No single philosophy or political affiliation stands out.   We have golfers, sport fisherman, nature lovers, bird watchers, gardeners, actors, community volunteers and just about any other interest group you can think of.
 
In short, there’s no “typical” expat in Boquete and you’ll find an incredibly diverse group of people and personalities living here.  However, the expats do share one common characteristic – regardless of background, politics, wealth or education everyone here has a strong sense of adventure and a desire to experience new things.   That’s the thread that ties the community together.

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