10 Things I Miss About the US While in Panama

Last month I visited to US for the Thanksgiving Holidays, and realized that while I love Panama, there are plenty of little things I miss about life in the US. It inspired me to have some fun and make this like of 10 things I’ve missed about the US while living in Panama.

1. Amazon.com


I miss online shopping as a whole, but I especially miss ordering pretty much everything I needed off of Amazon.com, and having it magically show up on my doorstep 2 days later. Sure, I can get things shipped to a mail forwarding address in Miami and have it sent to a box in Panama, but the pay per pound shipping costs I incur make most things not worth it to ship to Panama. In the weeks leading up to any of my trips home, I always ship a ton from Amazon to a family member to have waiting for me to take back with me to Panama.

2. The US Postal Service


“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” definitely applies to the US Postal Service. Not just for package delivery, but I definitely miss all of daily mail delivery. Being able to pay bills by dropping a check in the mail instead going to a store to pay it was definitely nice. As was magazine delivery. Heck, I even miss junk mail. While I’ve been told that Panama has some sort of national P.O. Box to P.O Box mail service, it is not widely used.

3. Free Refills


Panama is affordable for many things, but fountain drinks at restaurants are not one of them. Free refills on beverages is not the norm here in Panama (but filling glasses full of ice so you get less drink is). Nothing is more frustrating than paying a couple of bucks for 6 oz of soda, and then having to pay more for a refill.

4. Bagels


Mmm… Bagels. A good bagel can be hard to find outside of the Northeast, but is almost impossible in Panama. There is one good shop, New York Bagels, in Panama City, but even then, their bagels are just okay. But if you want good bagels for your home? Forget it. In supermarkets, if you’re lucky, you’ll have to settle for the awful Thomas frozen bagels.

5. Fast Internet Uploads

Screenshot 2014-11-30 00.12.17

Home internet download speeds are decent in Panama. You can get 25mb at a somewhat reasonable price. But good upload speeds? Forget it. Unless you want to pay $100s for dedicated service, the best you can expect, even on a high end plan, is about 1mb of upload speed. If Verizon Fios ever came to Panama, I think I would cry tears of joy.

6. Consistent Hot Water Pressure


 Everyone who lives in Panama learns how to master the Panama shower. Where you wait two minutes for it to warm up, get two minutes of warm water, step back as the water turns cold again for two minutes, then finish showering once it gets warm again. I miss the long, consistently hot showers I can take with strong hot water pressure in the US. But I should consider myself lucky. Some of my friends live in buildings that have gone without gas for weeks at a time.

7. Great sushi (sin queso crema)


You can find some pretty good sushi places in Panama, but you can’t find great sushi, particularly if you are trying to just eat the fish without all of the cream cheese and sauces they throw into rolls here. My mother insists all the cream cheese they put in the sushi here is akin to sushi blasphemy. Sushi is usually always my first meal back when I visit the US.

8. Wide lanes/fast speed limits


Traffic in Panama feels like it moves fast with all the crazy drivers, but in reality, it moves slowly. Even on the highways, you are lucky to get up to the 60 mile an hour speed limit. This is partially because the roads are never more than a couple of lanes wide in each direction, so even in low times, there are enough cars to keep you from going very fast. In contrast, in Florida, our legislators actually debated if our current 70 mile an hour speed limits are too low, and if they should be raised. And on wide roads, people are regularly going 80-85 miles an hour. Amazing how much quicker you can get everywhere in the US.

9. Good Service


Panama’s poor service is fairly legendary (and talked about frequently on this blog), but when you experience really good US style service, it just reminds you of what you’re missing. You mean to tell me there are restaurants where the waiter will come over to you, ask you how your day is going, explain all the specials on the menu, happily answer your questions, and give service with a smile? Crazy.

10. Diners


Diners are another American institution that you can’t find most other places in the world. Those wonderful 24 hour restaurants where you can decide at 2am if you want to have an egg omelet, fried ravoli, or a filet mignon and lobster tail dinner. Literally hundreds of food items to choose from.  Don’t get me wrong, you can all of this food in Panama, but you can’t get it all at one restaurant. 


Posted in While You're Here.


  1. Although they don’t have Amazon, they do have Price membership stores, which used to be part of Costco. If you’re not a member, you may want to join. They may even let you buy by mail from their Panama web site.

    When I moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, two of the first things I bought were Mexican Costco and Sam’s Club memberships, because they were even cheaper than Walmart. And although I lived in three different spots in the state of Jalisco, I was never more five miles from a Walmart.

    Walmart has several stores around Costa Rica and Colombia, and last I heard, they were looking eagerly at Panama.

    Are there any Walmarts – or equivalent – in Panama now?

    Lisa W.,
    Los Angeles, USA

  2. Love what you wrote.
    I am now also an expert in the art of taking a hot shower in Panama, and you are right, lucky are the people not having gaz and /or heater breaking down too often…If you have been used taking hot showers since you are born even in a hot country it is not pleasant to get a cold one….
    Well also considering mail issue, it took me several weeks not to think each and every day: “I haven’t checked mail today, I will do it it on my way back..” And then thinking to myself too: ” Nope ” not a chance ! Lol…
    Internet orders for anything you could think of and especially things you don’t have the time to go to the store for….
    I have been ordering here from price mart and linio, went fine at the end but because for me the idea of internet is to make it simple I am not sure I will do it again soon unless the offer is really worth all the complication…at some point I always thing living in Panama is like living elsewhere europe or US like 30 years ago even more for some issues, but on the other hand that is also what makes Panama attractive for me… Have a nice day!

  3. Love all of these comments. It is funny to see how people keep on comparing countries when the first step in moving to another country is setting your mind that you in fact are going to live in another country. If you can’t accept that, then don’t move. Nothing is ever going to be the same in two different countries. Just saying……………

  4. looking forward to living where I don’t need those things!!!!! Bagels? fast internet? that’s what we use in the US to take our mind off the traffic, sirens, constant money pressures, etc.

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