Here is an interview I did for ExpatsBlog.com, a very cool site featuring expat blogs from around the world.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Panama but we moved away when I was only 2 years old. I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and moved to California to attend Stanford for college. I lived in California until I moved to Panama.
In which country and city are you living now?
Panama City, Panama
How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I moved here in June 2012 and right now I don’t have any plans to move back to the States or to another country.
Why did you move and what do you do?
In April 2012 my mom fell and fractured her hip; immediately I flew to Panama to be with her. Coincidentally, I was looking for looking for work at the time since I had just completed a one-year contract as an attorney at Google. Yes, working at Google was interesting, but eventually my experience became the same as with every other corporate job I’d ever had — totally boring. Plus, due to the long commute, every day was a long day. I was in the rat race and wanted out badly. And so, after a few weeks of job hunting, I finally gave myself permission to create my ideal life. I would only consider work that appealed to me. I would stop doing what I think I “should” do and start doing what I wanted to do.
Everything happens for a reason. But for Mom’s accident, I would not have considered moving to Panama. Without her support, I would not have had the courage to create my ideal life which now includes starting my own business, becoming a professor and teaching myself to trade foreign exchange.
Did you bring family with you?
Yes! My dog Billy and my cat Maven.
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition has been fun and challenging at the same time. Since most things are different — the language, the climate, the customs and the people — it really forces me to take a look at my expectations and consider compromising when they’re not met.
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I’m lucky that my parents have a number of long-time family friends and new friends in Panama. Through them I have been successful in meeting others. Expats groups and other interest groups have been really good for me to participate in as well.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The best things to do are outdoor activities like going to the beach, cycling and visiting areas outside of the City. I love, love, love the beautiful Olympic size swimming pool at Power Club Howard; I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes to swim to check that out. I would also encourage folks to visit Bocas and San Blas since those areas have some of the best beaches in the country.
What do you enjoy most about living here?
I really think Panama is a country of possibilities. I enjoy all of the opportunities available to innovative and motivated people committed to creating something new. I enjoy my new found freedom and love the warm weather. I was always so cold in San Francisco and here I wear sundresses and sandals all the time, which I love. I also appreciate being close to my family.
How does the cost of living compare to home?
The cost of living is lower than San Francisco, but perhaps not as low in the City as some might imagine Latin America to be.
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The biggest negative for me is the traffic. Right now, they’re building a subway in Panama which means a lot of the streets are either closed or blocked off. This leads to frustrating traffic jams at most times of the day and in most parts of the City.
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Give yourself time to adjust. I’ve only been here about 5 months so far and think I might not be fully settled in for about one year. Also, learn Spanish. It will make living here a more robust and fun experience.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I write my blog as a way to process my experience here. My agenda is not to champion Panama over the States or, on the contrary, to use is as a platform to whine about things I don’t like. I’m committed to transparency and to sharing my thoughts and feelings in an honest way.
How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I respond to all comments on my blog so that’s a great place to contact me. http://www.panamaguy.wordpress.com