How to Make Panamanian Friends

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How to Make Panamanian Friends

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The expat bubble - where all your dreams of integrating into a new culture and fully immersing yourself in Spanish remain just a wish - is easy to fall into. When I first moved to Panama (alone), I realized that making friends once you’re out of college is harder than it looks. Not only had I moved to a place where I didn’t speak the language, but I was unaccustomed to the culture in Panama as well.

I soon realized that Panamanians were tightknit, maintaining friendships and relationships that began in grade school. As an outsider, it can be intimidating to break into their circles and make local friends. However, I was determined not to move to Panama and learn Spanish just to hang out with other expats.

Making friends here was a slow process. It was almost like the first day of school all over again. I went out alone occasionally to coffee shops, bars, or cultural events and struck up conversations with strangers whenever the opportunity arose. This might sound intimidating to some, but Panamanians are generally so friendly that someone would always come over to me with a welcoming smile. Those trips out paid off in the end. The first time I was invited to a soccer game by someone I’d met in a coffee shop that turned into a friend, I couldn’t contain my excitement!

Come to learn #Spanish. Take home friends from all over the world.

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Posted by Habla Ya Spanish Schools on Tuesday, January 3, 2017

If you're learning Spanish in Panama and want to make friends while you’re here, here are my recommendations on how to do just that:

1. Go Out to Local Events and Interest Groups

There are many groups and events specifically for expats to network. The pitfall of these groups is that, while they’ll provide you with a sense of home and community, you end with speaking to people who speak the same language as you, reminiscing about things back home. Instead, venture out to areas where there are few foreigners present: Panamanian owned bars, cultural events, art shows, music events, and even interest groups.

I joined a Panamanian facebook group for photographers that have monthly outings. That way, I met people who share the same interests as I do while doing something I enjoy.

Doing what you love to do with others is always a great way to make new friends anywhere in the world.

2. Speak Spanish and Don’t be Afraid to Make Mistakes

You'll make mistakes while speaking Spanish. Don’t worry, no one will laugh at you. On the contrary, I’ve found that people are very patient and willing to listen even when I can’t quite find the words. At times, some Panamanians will respond in English (even if they only know a few words) to make foreigners feel more comfortable.

While it would greatly simplify my life to just speak English to everyone and hope they understand me, I always politely ask people to only speak Spanish to me, and feel free to correct me when I make a mistake. I’ve found that people appreciate it when foreigners make the effort to speak Spanish and are much more willing to open up to you.

3. Get a Roommate

There are Facebook groups online as well as websites like Encuentra24 and OLX where you can find ads for people looking for a roommate. Next to doing a homestay, having a roommate - a Panamanian your age that you can get to know personally - is a great way to getting into more inner circles and making new Panamanian friends. Your roommate can be your link to other Panamanians and Spanish speakers, share information with you about what’s going on around town, and provide you with the opportunity to improve your Spanish by speaking consistently. My roommates were my lifelines when I moved to Panama City and had information and insight that made my adjustment to Panamanian culture much easier. Choosing the right roommate can lead to lasting friendships and meaningful connections.

I have made friends here in Panama by stepping out of my comfort zone and getting to know people in a natural environment. I think what’s made learning Spanish in Panama such a great experience for me is that I’ve been able to connect with Panamanians while I learn.

FIND MORE ABOUT CULTURAL IMMERSIONS & LEARNING SPANISH IN PANAMA... »

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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