Canadians flock to Panama for slower, more affordable lives – .

Canadians flock to Panama for slower, more affordable lives – .

The Amador Causeway in Panama City. Panama is a popular destination for Canadians looking for a slower pace of life. It is also known for the ease with which it grants full-time legal residency to foreigners.

LUIS ACOSTA/Getty Images

Chantal Poulin and her husband, Eric, have lived a hectic life in Quebec. They owned two art galleries. They were earning high incomes. But they wanted more. No more money – but more life.

They now live on a four-acre property in Panama near the mountain town of Boquete, where they spend their time tending to a pack of rescue dogs. “It was stressful in Canada,” said Ms. Poulin. “So many people are up against what they have and they always want more. We wanted to get away from it.

Panama, which borders Costa Rica and Colombia and straddles the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, has long been a favorite retirement destination for Canadians seeking a slower pace of life, a different culture, and a warm climate. The country is known for the ease with which it grants full-time legal residency to foreigners.

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But this summer, the Panamanian government announced stricter requirements for its friendly country visa. Under the new regime, applicants would either have to sign an employment contract with a Panamanian company, purchase at least $ 200,000 of Panamanian real estate, or make an equivalent deposit in a Panamanian bank. Potential expats from Canada and a number of other countries rushed to enter before the change.

Marcos Kraemer, Managing Partner at Kraemer & Kraemer, a Panama-based company immigration law firm said Canada generally ranks among the top three points of origin for people seeking residency in Panama, along with the United States and the United Kingdom. A legal assistant at the firm told me in June that he had processed more applications for residency in Canada that month than he had in a typical six-month period.

Why more and more people are going gray and love it, turning your wallet into a dialing machine and why so many retirees are moving to Panama

Anyone considering relocating to Panama needs to be on board with the Latin American vibe. Even in the big cities of the region, life tends to move at a slower pace than in Canadian cities – a potential frustration for people accustomed to a fast pace of life. But culture has social benefits. For example, it is common for people to greet each other when they board elevators or public buses. In small towns, foreigners usually greet each other on the street.

Panama’s relatively low cost of living is also attractive to many expats. Although the country has one of the most advanced economies in Latin America, its gross national income per capita in 2020 was about a quarter of that of Canada, and the price of basic necessities is set in result. Medical and other professional services are inexpensive (a doctor’s bill can be as high as $ 20), as are general labor.

Panamanian real estate, in particular, may seem like a godsend – at least from the perspective of a retirement age person with home equity in Canada. A 1,000 square foot condo with one bedroom, two bathrooms and a shared rooftop patio with pool and ocean view in Panama City typically costs around US $ 280,000.

A larger 2,000 square foot, two bedroom, two bathroom oceanfront condo was recently listed at US $ 429,000. In Boquete, where the Poulins live, a 1,000-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment went up for sale for US $ 165,000.

Panama’s two mountain ranges offer varied climates. For example, Boquete, in the interior, is about 4,000 feet above sea level. Temperatures there year round are similar to those of Victoria, British Columbia, in the summer. Those looking for warmer weather may live at lower elevations, near one of the country’s two coasts.

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Linda Downey and her husband, Doug Howard, chose the latter option. They live in the city of Coronado, on the Pacific coast of Panama. The couple sold their home in Penticton, British Columbia, and retired two years ago. “We enjoy a country club lifestyle that we couldn’t afford in British Columbia,” said Howard.

Panama’s appeal to retirees is compounded by a system of statutory rebates for older residents. Women over 55 and men over 60 are entitled to a 50% discount on films, theaters, concerts and sporting events; 50 percent off closing costs for home purchases; 50% reduction on hotel stays from Monday to Thursday; 30% reduction on hotel stays from Friday to Saturday; 25% reduction on restaurant meals; 15 percent off dental and eye exams; and 25 percent off airline tickets.

But not everyone who moves to Panama does so to retire. The Friendly Nations visa allows foreign residents to work, and the country does not tax residents on foreign income – a boon for anyone telecommuting in their home country. (Panama recently launched a short nine-month digital nomadic visa to encourage exactly this type of visitor.)

Jay Dgé, 46, and his partner, 47, Eva, recently took advantage of the high-flying real estate market in Canada to sell their home in Montreal. After getting a Friendly Nations visa, they bought a house near Coronado. They built a swimming pool and turned the house into a four bedroom resort which they named Casa Swell. Now they run their own hospitality business.

Mr. Dgé likes Panama’s overall security and the fact that the country uses the US dollar. But he cautions anyone considering moving to the countryside to spend a lot of time there first.

“Some people come here for two to three weeks and quickly make the decision to move,” he said. “But that could be a mistake. It’s easy to enjoy a vacation in a rental condo. But living in Panama comes with challenges.

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For residents who don’t speak Spanish, basic things like shopping, hiring contractors, or solving Internet problems can be difficult. The slower pace of life also frustrates many Canadians.

“In many ways, the way of life is the opposite of what it is in Canada,” said Ian Flint. He worked at TD Securities in Toronto before moving to Panama in 2009. “Here in Panama,” he says, manana [tomorrow] does not always mean tomorrow. Sometimes it means the day after tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

Panama is not for everyone. But Ms. Poulin made a compelling case for this: “If aliens decided to choose a place on Earth to live, I’m pretty sure they would choose Panama over a place where there is snow and snow. ice, ”she said.

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