For the last several months, we have had an influx of new residents in our little pueblo. We’ve heard that as many as 200 families may be moving here because ….. Well, that’s a good question. Why are they coming? Few are of retirement age so do not qualify for a pensionado visa. They brought their young children. I’ve heard of several that brought their 45 foot containers with them on their move without visiting first. Most, it appears, have had some religious intervention and been sold a bill of goods to flee the US quickly. Some left family members behind without a word that they even arrived safely in Panama. The whole thing has many of us apprehensive about their future.
Because they arrived so quickly, the housing market is stretched to its limits. This is driving rent up and up, which will make it even more difficult as they continue to live here. They apparently were not told by their gurus that they cannot work in Panama without a work permit, which takes time and more than a little money. The point of this is, we have lots of new people who have no idea what they are doing but thought moving to a foreign country was a good idea. Actually, it was mortal men who told them and those men had only been in Boquete about five minutes before encouraging these people (for profit) to drop everything and come to Panama.
Now many are here, so what’s new? First, they can’t make a living here. It is illegal to work without a permit, which takes a few months and several thousand dollars to complete. Next, no one can work in professions that compete with Panamanians. You can open a new business and employ Panamanians, but not other expats. Several have started to advertise their skills but will be turned in quickly to the mitradel for prosecution. Now they are offering services for “free”.
Second, they don’t know how things work. I don’t mean things like the pump on your tanks of water. I mean like “Don’t drink from the tap”. So they and their children are getting intestinal parasites which causes vomiting and severe diarrhea. It’s bad enough being gullible enough to fall for this scam yourself but when it harms your kids, you’ve gone too far. But they only listened to their gurus instead of talking to locals, reading blogs or just asking a few questions on some of the expat sites. I say to their leaders: When you market yourself on the internet as a ‘We Can Help Gringos – for Money’ service, telling your naive flock about the water should be a top priority.
As much as they complain about the impure water now, wait until they have none during the dry season. Many areas do not get much public water from January until rainy season begins in May/June. People who know better have tanks.
Because they do not have a verifiable, monthly income, they do not qualify for a permanent visa. They must do border runs every six months. This means going to Costa Rica, spend the night or two and then return with a new passport stamp. People who want to drive with their US license must do this every 90 days or get a temporary Panamanian license. Thankfully, we only had to do this once and that was way more than enough.
The reason for this rant is that the complaining about Panama has begun and they want to blame Boquete and Panama rather than themselves and lack of preparation. They made a hasty decision. They didn’t do research on their own or ask people who live here how things work. This is not the fault of Boquete or Panama. It is their fault but they are blaming Panama. This is a developing country – it is not Chicago, or Memphis or St. Louis. We don’t have a modern infrastructure. The difference is that most people know that before they move here.
What happens when one of them gets sick enough to be hospitalized? What happens when they run out of money? Or their children do not learn any marketable job skills? They can try a GoFundMe site (like some of their leaders did) but they shouldn’t be surprised if it’s not successful.
What should people do before uprooting themselves and their families to another country? First, visit and spend some time here. Take a tour or two, buy some literature written by people who live here, talk to locals (not people who just want your money). Come back and rent for a while. Learn the area. Some areas will meet your needs better than others. Learn about the availability and costs of water, electricity, television, internet, roads, proximity to transportation and town, medical costs and other things that are important to be known before moving. Because moving back will be a lot more expensive.