Keeping Perspective on Panama
Presented with permission from Bob Adams of Retirement Wave
In the last eight and a half years, I’ve received thousands of emails from people all over the world interested in visiting and living in Panama. I’ve met with over 400 of you when you’ve come down and I’ve had the time available when you’ve contacted me and we got together to chat.
There are certain things that come up frequently. One of the most common categories of concerns is from people who haven’t even come down yet: the comments and criticisms they can read about Panama and Panamanians from other expatriates on the Internet. Now, these comments and sometimes very severe criticisms may be justified by experiences for that individual, but you’ve got to keep these things in perspective.
You know, it reminds me of some years ago when I was first visiting here in Panama and spending half time here and half time in Bethesda Maryland in the United States, where I had my business, so I was back and forth constantly. I rented in Bethesda and eventually I got this note from the apartment house saying that they were going condo, so I either had to buy my apartment or find another one. I was not at all interested in buying then and very thankful that I did not given how things worked out, so I went out to look for an apartment, which I hadn’t done for several years.
I found a website with comments from people who had lived in apartment houses in Bethesda with what they thought about the management and so forth. And I thought, good, this is a good place to get an idea of where I want to go and look. And I was very surprised to find that apparently, every apartment house in Bethesda was a terrible place to live. I finally got around to looking at the comments about my own apartment house where I had lived for several years, and I was stunned. It turned out that our staff were terrible, they were non-responsive, problems didn’t get fixed in time, there was this and that, there were so many very bitter and unpleasant criticisms, and I sat there and said "This is ridiculous. I know the staff he or she is talking about, and they’re perfectly good people. They’ve always been good to me, I’ve always gotten good service, and in fact, I think this is one of the best apartment houses I’ve ever lived in, and I’ve lived in a lot of them."
I was just amazed, but it taught me a basic lesson. It taught me that when people are happy and things are going well and they’re busy in their lives, they don’t go out on the Internet and tell everybody that they’re happy and busy in their lives, but when they have a serious problem and they’re unhappy and they’re angry, they very often will do that, and that is exactly what happened. I discovered in my search for an apartment in Bethesda that I had to put all of that aside and get out there and visit, and look at the apartment houses. And that’s exactly what I did and I found one that was just fine, moved into it as my last place before I moved down here permanently, and I was perfectly happy. But I didn’t get there until I turned aside and away from these negative comments that were constantly coming in over the Internet. The same can be true here in Panama.
So what I’m suggesting to you is to read the comments. Many times, they will be legitimate I’m sure, but the key point is to recognize that they’re from an individual’s given circumstances and what happened to them; it might never happen to anybody else. You cannot judge an entire country and an entire people on the basis of that one person’s comments, and that incudes mine. You have to make your own judgment.
So, don’t worry too much if you find severe criticisms. The overwhelming majority of us here live quite happily, quite successfully. We go about our business and we don’t rush out to tell everybody that every day. We’re too busy.