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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Penenome, Panama


What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

before.. business dealings so I knew what to expect

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

Took classes in Spanish but not fluent.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?


How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Frustrating even though I knew what to expect but not to this extent.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Going through unecessary red tape on just about everything

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Frustration due to lack of customer service. Panama is at least 20-30 years behind developed countries. It seems to have grown too fast and services can not keep up to speed.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Beauty of the country-cost of living

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Not being able to find everyday conveniences I am used to.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Be well prepared to hold your anger in check.

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Comments about this Report

Feb 9, 2011 13:07

If one lowers their expectations, their level of frustration will be lower as well. Understand before arrival it takes time, and lots of it. Expect it, and you won't be so hostile to it. :)

Jun 30, 2012 15:34

The city name is misspelled, the writer means Penonome (just for other people who may read it) a small city in the interior about 2 hours west of Panama City and a regional hub. Sure agree that customer service is not to North American standards and red-tape is confusing. It is quite a challenge to figure out how to get things done. It is a country where, in my experience, you MUST speak the language, Spanish, in order to make progress on almost anything. The International Living type articles are totally unrealistic to me, Panama is nothing like a developed Western country it is a rural based, under educated beautiful country with fine people who live life very differently than North Americans. EXPECT a different type of life and rules, don't come here looking for a cheaper North American lifestyle. And as the writer says, Be well prepared to hold your anger in check until you get in tune with the local ways!

Oct 17, 2012 17:46

I sympathize with the writer. To get my SUV out of Customs at the Colon Container Terminal my Panamanian wife, brother-in-law and I, a native of New York, departed Panama City at 10:30 am. We figured three hours most. One to get there. One to process all the paperwork. One to return. We got back to Panama at 7:30pm. And I was with two Panamanians. If anyone's interested I will provide details of our day in Colon. Bob Morsut

Oct 26, 2012 17:38

very well said and very true...I have been to PC twice previous for 6 months plus time. Enjoyed 90% of the time but def had to slow down for locals and establishments. Still love it but heading to Boquette monday for 6-7 months in cottage in Volcanite area. Too hot and humid for me in PC. Time will tell if next trip a move

Apr 16, 2014 16:22

We just returned from a two-week visit to Penonome. The author is 100% spot-on with their assessment.

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