23 September 2016

Nanette Witmer - Expat in Panama

Nanette Witmer - Expat in Panama

We’ve had the chance to talk to Nanette Witmer, 59, an American expat who has moved to Panama alone. Ms. Witmer who has been living there for four years, now works as a freelance writer.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Denver, Colorado.


Q: What made you move out of USA?

A: Retirement and wanting to live somewhere within my budget with warm weather.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I live in David Panama. I chose Panama because of its easy residency program and the benefits that came with it. I also chose Panama because of its infrastructure, stable government and friendly people.


Q: How long have you been living in Panama?

A: Four years next month.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live alone.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I don’t miss the United States at all.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I love the locals. They are always patient and helpful.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Panama? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: Yes, I mainly socialise with other expats here and found that it was fairly easy to make new friends. I also have several Panama friends as well.


Q: How does the cost of living in Panama compare to your home?

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: 50 cents.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: $3.00.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: $25.00.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine about $6.00, don’t know about cigarettes and don’t know any expats who smoke here.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Panama?

A: Yes, prepare for the process to take about a week or longer, it is not spontaneous. Also, there are new rules with respect to people who are from the United States.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Everything here takes time and more time than they say it will take. Plus the processes change frequently. So the best thing to do is just let it happen when it happens.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Panama is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: I love the healthcare in Panama. Doctors give you their time as you need it. We have two excellent hospitals in David, Mae Lewis and Chiriqui Hospital. Both have good doctors or staff who speaks English.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the US or Panama? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: This is a subject I have a passion for as it was the field I was in before I came to Panama. I have a plan that costs me $262 a month, BUT it pays 100% for ANY reason I would have to be checked into a hospital. I pay no co-pay for a hospital stay. There are other discount plans through hospitals here. They are cheaper but don’t pay more than 70% for any surgery. Therefore I know many people who are still looking at a hospital bill of $30,000 or more out of pocket. I prefer to pay a bit more a month for full 100% coverage. People assume that healthcare here is cheap. For regular doctor visits that can be true, but for major health issues, it can become expensive fast.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Panama? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: The most memorable thing about moving was that we did it right. We only shipped personal belongings, no furniture or extras. You can buy everything you need here so no need to ship. To be honest, I don’t remember the company that moved us.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Language, and it still is. That is the first challenge. Plus when you are not fluent, it makes getting used to new customs and daily differences harder to handle. In many ways it always continues to be a challenge, it is just finding ways to deal with it in a positive manner that makes the difference when you have been here awhile. Those who don’t find ways of handling the challenges move back. Almost 75% of them do move back just because they can’t handle the differences.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Panama?

A: The positives definitely are more than the negatives. I love the weather, people and cost of living. I have a much closer group of friends than I have ever had before. We support each other and take care of each other. The downside is the daily challenges that continue moving forward. Also being single here is very different from those who come with spouses. They have each other to bounce frustration off of or discuss frustration with. Those of us single must deal with challenges and decisions on our own.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: I love living in David for many reasons. I am about 30 minutes from the beach where you can make great day trips to and enjoy a resort. I am also about 30 minutes away from Boquete which has a big expat community. They have many activities including classes, live music, charitable events, a local community theater and a Tuesday artisan market. In addition, David has two movie theaters, lots of great shopping and restaurants. So there is plenty to do here.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: No, why would I leave paradise?


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Go with the flow.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Panama?

A: Okay, not to brag but I have my own. www.anewlifeinparadise.com, I also like www.chiriquichatter.net, www.chiriqui.life and the Gringos in David Yahoo Group.