First of all, don't be scared. I know
First of all, don't be scared. I know it's a foreign country and everything is a little bit different, but in Panama at least nobody is going to attack you or assault you at least in Boquete and actually most of the interior and even Panama City is pretty safe with the possible exception of Chorillo or some of the rougher parts of town late at night. Most Panamanians are God fearing Christians and very non-confrontational, so you have a better chance of being killed by an American than a Panamanian and I personally feel you are most at risk dealing with a lawyer here than at any other time. I only know two or three lawyers that I really trust and they are all women.
Second of all, most expat communities are like a college mixer where everybody is new, nobody was born here and everyone is a little unsure and uncertain about things and you find some people who become your friends and some you may not like that much. It might be better not to get too drunk and insult everybody, but almost any and every behavior happens and we seem to be pretty tolerant in our old and middle age.
There are all kinds of cool and experienced people in Panama so just relax and be nice and if you listen carefully you will be able to pick someone that will be a good friend and you may join some group that does something like castrate dogs. As a matter of fact there is a group in Boquete that has spayed and neutered over 5,000 dogs and we don't have starving dogs and packs of violent dogs roaming the streets and the Panamanians that thought we were all nuts when this all started years ago now see the benefits and are bringing their dogs and cats to the clinics held on the last weekend of the month.
Living in Panama is easy, there are some differences, but don't worry about a traffic stop where some of the police carry machine guns. Just show them your passport and don't act like an idiot and smile too much. Just be respectful, treat the officer as you would a strange policeman in America and if you haven't done anything wrong you will be driving down the road in no time. If you don't have your passport or were speeding the officer might suggest you settle the matter by paying the fine to him. This used to happen a lot more frequently and everyone used to carry $5 to buy some instant justice on the side of the road. These days you usually get a ticket that the policeman writes on his cell phone and you have thirty days to pay it in the district you are cited in.
Try to be tolerant and understanding. You are in a country that is changing rapidly. Most people took the bus a few years ago and now almost everybody drives even if they have never heard of driver education or rules of the road. Just remember, any car can do anything at any time. Be prepared, keep your eyes open and expect the unexpected.
I have lived here for ten years now and survived quite nicely. Try to behave, be nice and be cool and when you are confronted with something totally different from what you are used to try and understand that this is their country and fifty years ago it was probably no different in America. If possible don't do anything you are going to regret or be ashamed of tomorrow. Most of all have fun and make some memories that you will enjoy sharing with friends and family back in the States.