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Although we’re ecstatic about this new adventure we’re embarking on, it’s worth noting that there are some downsides of moving to another country.
That’s right – in just a couple of months in August of 2019, we’ll finally be making our move to Panama. It’s exhilarating and just a little scary at the same time.
We’ve been preparing for this for several years now, but wanted to reach FIRE before we made it happen.
It’s crazy to think that this big leap is right around the corner. This is the last month on our short-term apartment lease before we’re “homeless.”
Then, about a month and a half later, we’ll be on a flight to Panama! We’ll stay at a place we booked for a month on HomeAway while we find our long-term rental.
Obviously, we’re excited and I love to talk about some of the points of moving to another country that we’re looking forward to such as:
- The cost of living in Boquete, Panama is about 40% cheaper than it is in Cleveland. Cleveland is a pretty inexpensive place to live in general so that’s insane! The ability to stretch our dollar that much further is incredible!
- The weather in the mountains where we’ll be living is 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. No, not just a few months out of the year, but every single day. No heat or air conditioning needed. I don’t want to live in air-conditioning and I hate the snow so this is a great scenario to allow us to be outside every day.
- We’ll be just 45 minutes away from the beach. And as we head down the mountains, the temperature will now be in the 90-degree range – perfect for swimming in the ocean.
- The country’s landscape is so amazing. Whether it’s the lush greenery, the mountainous landscape, or the country’s beaches, there is so much to explore and enjoy.
- A lot of the complexities we have here in the U.S. just aren’t a problem in Panama. That can be in regards to healthcare or the craziness with politics, for example.
Now, all of that is well and good. However, I thought it would only be fair to talk about the downsides of moving to another country. The grass is always greener on the other side, right?
The language barrier
Let’s start with the most obvious downside of moving to another country. If you don’t know the language, it absolutely has the potential to make you feel like an outsider.
We’re all cracking down on learning Spanish individually here in between running around. But there’s no way we’ll be even close to fluent when we arrive.
With as friendly as everyone was there the last time we visited, I don’t anticipate this being an end-all-be-all. However, living in a place where everyone speaks your native tongue is something we take for granted.
When you’re in a grocery store looking for something here, it’s not a big deal to ask someone an employee where the apples are. But in Panama, it takes a little more effort – not a lot, but still a little.
I believe the whole phrase would be:
Disculpe, ¿puede decirme dónde están las manzanas?
But I do think I could get by with:
Disculpe, ¿dónde es las manzanas?
We’re pretty open-minded so I don’t see the language barrier as too much of a downside (especially with the help of Google Translate!). However, it does add to the complexity of some day-to-day activities.
In Spanish, the word “mañana” means “tomorrow.”
In Panama, the word “mañana” can sometimes mean “eventually.” And by that, I mean that family comes first in Panama and work comes second (this is a good thing).
That’s not to say that Panamanians aren’t hard workers – far from it. But rather, everything moves at a much slower pace there… much slower.
If you’re having work done on your house and the contractor tells you he’ll be back mañana, you might not see him for another week. It’ll get done, just probably not at a pace you’re used to.
Service, in general, is slow in Panama and for a Type A personality, that can be a little trying. Imagine going to a restaurant and no one comes by to even get your drink order for 20 minutes.
It’s not laziness, it’s just a big cultural difference. And when moving to another country like Panama, it’s the norm.
This can be considered a downside if efficiency is important to you. It’s going to be a huge adjustment, particularly for me. I like to get things done right away and very efficiently and that ain’t happenin’ there!
I’m sure Lisa (Mrs. R2R) and Faith will be able to swing that much better than I will. But I’ll adjust – I need to remember that that’s what I signed up for – a simpler lifestyle. Plus, I’m retired now so why am I in a rush?!
Leaving friends and family
Huge downside here. I don’t care if you’re the most sociable person in the world, it’s still hard to make new real friends. Relationships take time to build and it’s hard to reminisce with folks who haven’t shared the same memories with you.
The same goes for family… in fact, it’s much harder to acquire a new family! Haha, a little sarcastic, but you only get one family in most cases, right? So leaving the one you have can be tough.
Sure, everyone and their brother will tell you that they’ll come visit. But they won’t. Ok, a couple might, but you can’t really expect everyone to drop what they’re doing and fly to another country to see you.
We already know that and we’re prepared, or at least trying to be.
Technology makes this somewhat easier. No more international calls with high rates anymore. We’ll use Google Voice to keep in touch with friends and family regularly and this setup should make it much more streamlined.
Then there’s always video chat functionality through Hangouts, WhatsApp, or whatever software app we decide to use. That wasn’t something you used to be able to do (at least not efficiently) a decade ago.
But regardless, it’s still not the same as spending an evening out with friends or having dinner together with family. So this one’s going to be tough. It might be the toughest one for us to overcome.
I’m not going to dig too deep into this trainwreck again, but selling all your crap is a real pain in the @#$. It takes time and energy and it gets old really quick. On top of that, how do you decide what to keep?
Another option is to get the biggest storage unit you can and stuff everything in there, but that cost is a tough pill to swallow.
Or you can pay to ship everything you own. It’s true. You can ship it all, including your car, via a giant shipping container. And for the low, low cost of only $10k-25k. Um, yeah, not this guy, but go for it if you feel it’s a good fit for you, feel free.
It’s rejuvenating to get rid of most of your stuff, but it’s still a mammoth task when you’re moving to another country.
Is moving to another country the right thing to do for Faith?
So for us, this is the biggest downside. It’s the feeling of questioning your decision.
Believe me, Lisa and I talk about this all the time. This will be a great experience for our daughter. Really it’s one that most kids will never get the opportunity to have.
And homeschooling? The chance to ensure your kid gets a one-on-one teacher to student ratio? This should be a fantastic chance to be able to expand our daughter’s education even further!
We’re not goofball parents (Ok, I’m a little goofy, but you already know that!) and Faith is an extremely bright kid. This will likely be a wonderful experience for all of us.
Nevertheless, it’s not the norm. Moving to another country plus homeschooling your kid? This is highly irregular.
That doesn’t make it wrong. In fact, I truly think this will be awesome and is the right thing to do.
But anytime you go against the grain of what others do, you question yourself. There’s still that little nagging feeling of “is this the best thing for our daughter?” in our heads. And we think it is the right thing, but only time will tell.
Faith is our top priority and always will be.
Will there be enough kids for her to befriend and live as a “normal” kid? This is important to us – we’ll be keeping an honest stance on whether this is the best thing for Faith or if we’re being selfish.
So this little question mark in our heads will probably continue to be the source of an ongoing conversation. That’s a good thing because we know we’ll adjust if needed, but it’s still something we’ll always have on our minds.
Moving to another country is going to be different
Personally, I think this is going to be a pro, but I’ll throw it in here just for discussion anyway. Moving to another country like Panama is almost always going to be different.
If you plan on becoming an expat and expect it to be the same as it is in your home country, you’re probably going to be very disappointed. Other cultures can be dramatically different and Panama is no exception.
We’ve been talking about this from the onset and we’re a little excited about this aspect. We want to experience the differences.
We don’t plan to live like Americans there in a lot of ways. You can find Americanized grocery stores and restaurants there, but you’ll pay a lot more for them. And what’s the point of going to a completely different country if you don’t want to experience some of the ways the local people live.
I’m not saying a juicy burger from Mike’s Global Grill isn’t going to be on our agenda from time to time (best burger I’ve ever had!). But for the most part, the cultural differences add to the experience and that’s what we want to be a part of.
And Panama’s much easier than a lot of places. A lot of countries have different currencies (Panama’s Balboa is interchangeable with the dollar) and other factors that can make the transition even harder.
If Panama’s on your radar as a possible place to retire to, check out Retire in Panama Tours. It’s a first-rate way to see different parts of the country, learn about the pros and the cons of living here, meet other ex-pats living here, and gain a lot of the right resources to make the transition easier (immigration attorneys, for example).
Oscar, Rod, and Megan are great people, too. They have the knowledge to guide you through Panama, answer your questions, and ensure that Panama’s the right place for you. Check out Retire in Panama Tours for more info!
So those are the biggest downsides we’re finding on moving to Panama. But as you can see, there’s nothing on this list that seems like a dealbreaker. The way we see it, the upsides are even stronger for why we want to be there.
Would any of these points be a dealbreaker for you in considering moving to Panama? It’s Ok to spill the beans – I know that what we’re doing isn’t something most folks would ever consider doing!
Thanks for reading!!