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Rainelda Mata-Kelly of Law Offices Rainelda Mata-Kelly – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The reality is that the business culture in Panama varies.    
 
Panama’s economy is mostly fueled by the services industry and international services are a very important component. 
 
So, if you are dealing with businesses or professionals who have experience with or are geared to assisting international clients, you should expect business to be conducted in an efficient manner. 
 
Some Panamanians, though, tend to be informal and as a result many of the local businesses will be imbued with a sense of “mañana”.   As a result, it may be hard to pinpoint exactly when a delivery will be made or a repairman will show up.  Dealing with public officials can also be a bit of a challenge. 
David Whittington of Tucan Golf Club and Resort – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Representives from Tucan Golf Course and Resorts  promoting their property as a yearlong golf destination at an international convention – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingPanamanians tend not to be punctual, even the lawyers and other professionals.  We’ve had appointments in the office scheduled with lawyers who call two hours after their allotted appointment and tell you they can’t make it. The lack of punctuality here is something you have to accept. 
 
Also, from a North American perspective, there is a lack of follow-up and adherence to process in Panama. 
 
Given these two issues, if you can speak the language and get involved in business here with a North American attitude, there’s a lot of potential.  
 
(Representatives from Tucan country club and resort  promoting their property In Panama as a yearlong golf destination at a tourism event, pictured.)
Neil Flemming – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Bicsa Financial Center, Panama City, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe business culture is diplomatic here in Panama. This is Latin America. You need to remember that. For example, when somebody says that a meeting is going to start at 3 PM, it’s probably going to start at 3:30 PM. Europeans and all sorts of nationalities get a little bit frustrated with that. When they come down here, they find it to be too informal. I suppose that’s the way to put it.
 
Comparing Panama’s business culture with those of different business cultures, it’s completely different. Americans want to have prompt service. They want to get value so they like to negotiate. The Germans are very direct. The Latinos are extremely informal, laid back. The British are quite formal. They’re all different in their own different way. It goes to the national traits, stereotypes almost, that these different countries have. 
 
To do business in Panama, get yourself a good lawyer, and I mean that. Find a good one. Unfortunately, that’s the key. You want somebody who is going to have good follow-up and be professional. Have a good lawyer and get good advice on any business deals you do here. That’s the key.
 
(Bicsa Financial Center, Panama City, Panama, pictured.)
Duncan McGowan of Punta Pacifica Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama City, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingPanama has a great business culture; very dynamic. It’s a country of entrepreneurs and business people that attracts people from all over the world to come here and open up their businesses and get established in Panama.
 
It’s very easy to open a business in Panama. The country itself is very pro-business, very business-friendly, and encourages people to come up and open their businesses in Panama. It’s a constantly growing and evolving culture and as we continue to receive more and more expats into the country and the variety of businesses and offerings keeps expanding and growing as well.
 
The advice I would give someone doing business in Panama is to get a good attorney to review the processes. You’re going to require an attorney anyways to set up a business and to register. There’s a lot of paperwork that needs to be done which has to be done by an attorney. My advice is to find a good attorney who speaks English well because some attorneys doesn’t speak English very well and then you find expats coming down trying to work with these attorneys because of a lower fee and they have communication problems. I would definitely go with one of the fluent English-speaking attorneys.  There are many in Panama City and I would make sure that they’re reviewing everything what I’m doing. It’s quite straightforward to open up structure businesses in Panama.
 
(Panama City, Panama seen from Panama Bay, pictured.)
Denise Patrick of Panama Roadrunner Secure Transport – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panamanian President Varela monitors the application of the price control in front of a sign that reads “everything under control.” – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe economy in Panama has grown at 8.5% per year for the last eight years or better. There is very little unemployment and the economy has been growing very strongly. There are endless opportunities here but there are certain things that expats are not allowed to be involved in. There are certain professions that are restricted for Panamanians only.
 
The business culture in Panama is not the same as in Canada. Customer service here is not something that Panamanians necessarily understand like what us North Americans would. You can go into a store or a restaurant and really there is no urgency to help in many places. Some places are really good, but I think it is just a different mindset than what it is in North America. It’s okay to talk on the phone or not to acknowledge the customer until you are kind of forced to. That’s how I would say customer service is here in Panama. Even in the banks, you could be sitting there talking to customer service and the phone will ring and she will be on the phone talking to somebody else. It is just part of the culture you have to adapt to.
 
If you are being a “Type A” personality, you have to let it go because nothing is going to happen like you want it to. We are all used to doing business on a rush basis in North America, but it doesn’t happen here. For Panamanians, this is not rude. For them, this is just how they do things, so you have to make certain that you are not insulted because they are not intending to insult you or be rude to you. 
 
(Panamanian President Varela  examines the price and quantity of eggs that are under price control, pictured.)
Charles Conn of The Visitor – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The business culture in Panama is interesting.
 
In large part, business in Panama is based on who you know. If you are a friend of a friend, then you are in. They call that a “palanca” (which translates into "lever," like how people use the slang word “pull”). If you don’t have good palanca then you are less likely to make things happen, but if you have good palanca or good connections, then you can get a lot done.
 
The business culture of Panama is very much modeled on the American way of doing things. Even the way of appropriate attire and conduct (apart, sometimes, from punctuality), it is practically the same as the US. Suits are worn even if it is 100 degrees out.  A lot of business lunches and meetings take place and deals get struck over a lunch or a dinner, or during rounds of golf.   
Terry Bradford of Origen Real Estate Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
There is a lot more business harmony here In Panama than what we have worked with over the years. I think there is even more business harmony right now compared to what there was when I was younger and had companies. People here in Panama are not judgmental. They are more accepting, so you have more harmony when you work together.
Wee-Yiong Fung of Prestige Panama Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The business culture in Panama varies depending where you are in Panama.
 
The more you go away from Panama City, the closer you are to see a very informal business culture including people who only speak Spanish, employees who don't wear uniforms and look like customers. So you might need help in a store and the person next to you is an employee but you think is a customer.
 
If you are away from Panama City, it is better if you approach people in a store for help, because the employees might be afraid of having to speak English and might hide from you. 
 
 
Pedro Fabrega Jr of Hotel Los Mandarinos – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Respect for someone else’s time is not a priority in Panama. You can expect someone to arrive an hour late to an appointment at your office or a mutual location. If an appointment is at their office you may still wait in the lobby for a long time.  Many people expect you to call to confirm an appointment a couple of hours prior to it, even though you made it very clear that you would show up. Expect a light excuse but no apology. “Traffic was awful” is a local favorite.
Elizabeth Vance of The Gringo Guide To Panama: What To Know Before You Go – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The business culture in Panama is more formal than in the U.S.  To do business in a government office, you still need to wear pants (versus shorts) to even go in.  In the banks, you'll notice that all the employees wear uniforms.  Men wear ties and suits, even in the heat of the tropical climate!  Women wear a lot more skirts.  It's kind of like stepping back to the 80s, in that respect.
 
This is sometimes a shock for many North Americans who move here, but it's important to respect the local culture if you wish to make this your long-term home.

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