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  • Writer's pictureCari Mackey

The People of Panama - A Country Full of Smiles.

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

I miss smiles, I miss hugs. But, if you or anyone else might be in need of a smile, you can be sure to find one in Panama. 

"Smiles are contagious because when you see one, it will make you smile too." 

It's hard to see under a mask...:)

Maybe that's the secret sauce for the Panamanian people and why they have been voted the happiest on the planet more than once.  Remember those feelings of anxiety, fear, and stress, you had from an international trip you took? Not knowing the language or the culture was exciting, right? The best part is that sense of accomplishment felt from the experience becauseyoumade it happen.

Some day you will feel that trepidation again (hopefully not just to go to the grocery) when you get to Panama or wherever you plan to go. One thing is for sure in this part of the world, as soon as you exit the airport and surround yourself by Panamanians, your smile will shine as brightly as theirs do. 

As you leave the cosmopolitan city in the rearview, and head for the "interior" you will take notice around you of a simple lifestyle; maybe a horse instead of a car, a dirt floor instead of shiny marble, and a simple palate of food instead of a fancy truffle dish. 

So, what's the gig? Why are they so chill and so happy? This video answers that for you...

I know you were thinking money and believe me, I know some happy rich people but here, it's quite the opposite.

The foundation of their food culture is really based on what is easily grown or gathered. Their most popular and delicious dishes are rice with chicken, a broth soup made with chicken / yucca / cilantro, and beef with sauce served with rice and lentils. There are a few others but those are the most common and very much loved. Imagine no heating bills? This simplistic lifestyle of low to no bills, no need for fancy clothes and things helps to reduce a lot of stress. Not all Panamanians live as the video shows you; life in the city is very Cosmopolitan and a stark contrast to the interior where you will find a mix of natural homes like in the video and simply built cinder block homes or government supplied housing. 

The family bond is central to life and it is common for several generations to live under one roof where they work hard to take care of each other. With grandparents in the home to help raise children, the parents have more flexibility to work and provide food. The machismo way of life is still predominant here in defining family structure and household roles. It works in this simple way of life but changing...slowly. A home without a mortgage, no taxes, and very little utilities makes it pretty easy to afford. Less financial burden means less stress and more time together with family. 

7 tribes make up the indigenous people of Panama, 12% of total population: Ngäbe, Buglé, Guna, Emberá, Wounaan, Bri bri, and Naso Tjërdi. They are spread throughout the country on tribal lands or have moved away into their own homes in search of a different life. In our area you will see the people of the Ngäbe-Buglé in their typical colorful dresses. They are part of the largest population of indigenous cultures in Panama. Who wouldn't be proud of a country the size of South Carolina or Ireland with so much diversity - pristine beaches, 2 oceans, mountains, rivers, and the Panama Canal. Panamanians are proud of their country and love to share it with others. That to me, has been the best part of living here and sharing with our guests. It's all about "Passing on the Stoke" which makes for the kind and welcoming experience the Panamanians are know for. We are sending you so much love from Panama, and are really looking forward to seeing your smiles as soon as possible. In the mean time, let us know what is making you smile these days. We would love to hear from you!


Turtle Conservation Tip: 

Who doesn't love a beach bonfire?! Me too but what many people don't know and I too recently learned from our local biologists is that beach bonfires are deadly for turtles. Mostly, the light disorients nesting females and hatchlings from making it to the ocean, and the heat kills the incubating eggs. Make sure to learn when your nesting season (our is June through February) is so you can avoid this fatal mistake.

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