Panama Culture and Customs
I know that we as outsiders and “gringos” will never fully be able to know about the Panamanian people. However, from what we have learned up until now has deepened my affection for this country and its residents.
There are several hidden customs that you only find out about when you experience them yourselves. Let me share some of what we have learned.
Panama people have generous big smiles and everyone without exception will say as they pass you, “Buenas Dia” or good day. This is everyone from kids to adults. There is a politeness to it that I haven’t seen in the United States in years. Here it is done without thought. It is a recognition of another person and wishing them a good day. Then there is the waving. When we are walking anywhere and a car passes, a hand will usually come out of the drivers window and wave. We now wave first and receive a wave back. In our walk to the highway each morning, we pass by a home where a man sits on his front porch every day. It is now our custom to say Buenas Dia to each other. We seem to now be friends because of it. Even our neighbor next door whom we did not know, stopped us last evening on our walk home to give us a ride the rest of the way. It is these small things that I notice that make this a really pleasant place to be.
In Boquete, having as many tourists as they do, you will not notice the Panama customs as much as going to a big city, like David. In Boquete the general customs are overlooked for the tourists sake. In most of the rest of the country, women do not wear shorts out in public. Women in public here dress up. Women wear high heels, nice dresses or pant outfits. They are always looking businesslike and professional. If you enter any public or government building, a woman must have on pants or a dress that covers her knees. This was experienced by us first hand two days ago, when our friend in David was helping us with getting things done in David we could not do alone because we don’t know Spanish that well. He suggested that Kevin and I go and get our drivers license. When we got to the building, the guard let Kevin in but would not let me in because I was wearing shorts. So, Kevin got his drivers license and I will go back on Monday to get mine when I am wearing pants.
Actually being in David as much as we have recently, I feel funny wearing shorts. Women here do not. So when our shipment comes with more of my pants, I will also dress appropriately.
I actually find this appealing and nice for a change. It is actually nice to see men and women dressed nice. I have never seen a sloppy dressed man or woman. Even all the teenagers dress with care. They take great pride in their appearance and I find that refreshing.