If you’re thinking of moving to Panama City, there’s no time like the present. Living in Panama City is made pleasant by the host of cool, cute cafes to frequent, the pretty colonial buildings of Casco Antiguo to admire, and the ready availability of everything you could need in the new town.
What’s the best part of moving to a new city? Tasting everything for the first time? All the new smells? Moving into your new place? The exhilaration of moving to a new city can rapidly be dampened by the lack of a social network. There are so many new things and places to be discovered, seen, eaten, photographed, touched and appreciated, but in some cases, no one to share it with. Feeling isolated can impede on your level of enjoyment and not to mention, is detrimental to personal wellbeing. Fret not however; as there are several efficient ways you can significantly bolster your social life when you move to Panama City.
How to meet people when moving to Panama City
1. Work Remotely
Panama City is being heralded as THE hot spot for digital nomads in Central America. With a slew of co-working spaces popping up including Workings and My Office, you’re sure to bump into other expats who are living in Panama City temporarily or longer-term. The old town of Casco Viejo is also littered with a plethora of cosy cafes and coffee shops where you will find yourself sandwiched between graphic designers, and architects working on their blueprints and burgers. Our personal Casco favourites are Super Gourmet and Café Unido at The American Trade Hotel.
My Office Panamá, Torre Inteligente Credi Corp. Piso 8 Oficina 802, Calle 50, Panamá, Panama
Workings, locations in Punta Pacifica, Obarrio and Costa del Este
2. Take a Walking Tour
There are several companies in Panama City offering walking tours, however Panama Detour stands out among the rest. This tour is run by American Expat Joey Bonura who moved to Panama City from Kentucky just shy of a decade ago, and is now a respected, bonafide local, and founder of online magazine Pty.life. The tour is billed as “an urban walk through the real Panama city” and is unlike majority of the tours you’ve been on: there is no tour bus, no big umbrellas and no rigid structure. Joey will find out what each group’s preferences are from the start, and tailor the day accordingly.
On the day we took the tour with some students, someone wanted recommendations on where to get great coffee. Within minutes, Joey had recalibrated our route and started us off at Mentiritas Blancas, a quaint coffee shop off Via Argentina where we got to try the world famous (and relatively pricey) Geisha coffee, which Panama is steadfastly becoming renowned for.
By the end of the day, we had thoroughly traipsed through the neighborhoods of El Cangrejo, San Francisco, Punta Pacifica, beautiful Cinta Constera, and even made the picturesque hike up to Cerro Ancon for cascading panoramic views of the city in its entirety. We munched on delicious ceviche at the fish market (Mercado de Mariscos), had Dulce de Leche popsicles and Argentinian Choripan at a food truck a stones throw from Parque Omar. All food and drink is included in the price of the tour as well as multiple forms of transportation to see how real people get around, and learn how to use the public transportation ourselves. Our group was wholly multicultural with a Nigerian, Costa Rican, two Americans and one Canadian. Numbers swapped and sufficiently fed, it was time to return to our beautiful Casco, with fantastic memories to boot.
Panama Detour: $60 per person for 5 hours and includes a guided tour, food sampling & drinks, umbrellas during the wet season, and public transportation costs
Mentiritas Blancas, Local 2B, Edificio de Mar, Calle Gaspar O. Hernández, Panamá, Panama
Walking along stunning Cinta Costera in the early evenings, you will notice that it becomes a mass outdoor gym with joggers galore, and exercise classes taking place al fresco. There are also free aerobics, cardio dance, yoga and Zumba classes held every single day in Parque Omar Torrijos. Going to a class regularly is a great way to meet like-minded people with mutual interests. In Casco Viejo, it’s certainly worth paying a visit to the friendly folks at Casco Yoga. Doors open 30 minutes prior to each class, so arrive early and get chatting to your neighbour. You might have even more in common than working out.
Parque Omar Torrijos, Ent via Porras, Av. Belisario Porras 44, Panamá, Panama
Casco Yoga: Calle José D. de la Obaldía, Panamá, Panama
4. Go on a Pub-crawl
Panama Bar Crawl is a fantastic event run by two Belgian entrepreneurs who themselves know a thing or two about uprooting your world and moving it elsewhere. The ladies have been living in Panama City since early 2017 and have rapidly set up a strong relationship with Casco Viejo’s hottest nightlife establishments including Malibu, Zaza, Casa Jaguar, and fabulous rooftop bar Tantalo. Tickets cost $25 and include a drink at all 5 locations, as well as entry into theatre-turned-nightclub, Teatro Amador. The tour more than pays for itself. The ladies have literally thought of everything and anything needed to break the ice, and even incorporate games to get to know one another, with funky props and themes coming along for the ride.
Panama Bar Crawl, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays from 8pm. Call/ Whatsapp +507 6959 9811
5. Use your Social Networks
Make sure everybody you know is aware of your impending move to Panama. Utilise your old social network to build your new one. Social media defies location boundaries, so the fact that you don’t know anyone here yet, doesn’t mean that one of your current friends won’t. If your extended social network doesn’t happen to include people in Panama, the Expats in Panama Facebook group is a great place to post meet ups and other event ideas.
6. Listen Up
Hear someone speaking your language? Dart toward them and ask where they’re from. Finding common ground is the easiest way to create strong bonds.
7. Attend a Networking Event
Group socialising sites such as Meetup.com and Internations are full of people just like you: new to the city and actively looking to expand their social network here. Eventbrite is also useful to see what the upcoming free and paid events are in your area. First Tuesday is also a networking event and presentation held monthly on the first Tuesday of each month at various locations. The event brings together entrepreneurs and expats to pitch ideas and swap business cards over canapés and drinks. The presentations are held in Spanish, and might help you sharpen your listening skills.
8. Take Spanish Classes
Our most popular Spanish class here at the Casco Antiguo School is the Small- Group Intensive class, which contains a maximum of four students. Though we offer private lessons in the evenings and weekends for students who can’t take a half-day or full week off, many opt for group classes as a means to meet new people, while benefiting from the curiosities and questions of others. Enrolling in a class is a great way to spend quality time with new faces when you’ve just stepped foot on Panamanian soil. Read a testimonial from one of our past students here.
Here at Casco Antiguo Spanish school, our students want more than just a Spanish class, therefore, we offer a host of activities for you to be able to experience the city with others, because life’s better when shared, right? There are free volunteering opportunities for all students, and a healthy schedule of extra-curricular activities, which commence in the evenings at 5pm- also free of charge. Tuesday is happy hour at one of Casco Viejo’s finest rooftop bars, craft beer breweries or even a rum distillery. Wednesday is salsa class, taught by a professional dancer, Thursday is a sunset bike tour and Friday is beach volleyball. There’s an activity to suit all tastes and take advantage of this scenic city of ours.
See you in Panama City!