Growing up in East Germany gave me a sense of security. The state never published crime statistics, though crime existed, and apart from persecution by the state, most citizens felt safe from personal attacks.
When I moved to West-Berlin and later to the US, I still felt safe. Switzerland with its mandatory gun ownership, Spain, the UK, these places cast no doubt they were secure. Put aside any stereotypes the media loves to perpetuate in the news about Mexico, for example. Here is an interesting TCI article about Safety in Mexico. But let’s talk about safety in Panama, and how I go about assessing safety concerns as a prepat.
When I evaluated my options for a move to Central or South America, I needed to do my homework. My friends expressed concern that I would consider Panama as my expat host county. They had heard so many bad things about Panama. But I started my research with a clean slate. No pre-conceptions. Just facts. My primary criteria in terms of safety were:
Panama’s Safety and Security
Were there frequent protests, riots, assassinations of politicians, and kidnappings?
Panama showed to be stable internally with a sound Constitution and a democratic form of government. Food supplies, medical care, general infrastructure, all had the hallmarks of an up-and-coming western nation.
Was the country involved in brewing conflicts with other nations, or was it even in an active war or border tattle?
Since the ousting of Manuel Noriega on Dec 20th, 1989, with the invasion of the US, the country has come a long way. No conflict with its neighbors, Colombia and Costa Rica. We are a peace-loving nation that respects the sovereignty of other countries.
Was the country left, centric, or on the right?
Panama is a politically centric country.
Its flag, the red, white, blue, signifies the balance of different political ideologies represented equally in government.
Was the country internationally accepted, or was it sanctioned, particularly by the U.S.? Did it have friendly visa programs with other nations?
Panama has such agreements with many countries, which makes it easy to immigrate.
2nd Amendment-Type Laws
Can I own a firearm?
It was important to me that citizens and residents had a right to bear arms. Panama allows gun ownership.
It isn’t the 2nd Amendment, but I can legally own and open/conceal carry a firearm.
I love going to the range for target practice.
A citizen or legal resident can apply for a firearm license, which requires filling out a mental health questionnaire and submitting to a drug test; sensible measures.
Crime Statistics/ Personal Safety
Despite gun ownership, or perhaps because of it, crimes committed with guns are low in the country. Panama City’s crime statistics are comparable to safety records in Berlin, Germany, and far lower than in Chicago, IL.
I feel safe during daytime, even when going out at night. Sure, there are areas in the city that I would avoid, just as there are in Berlin and Chicago. Common sense applies.
Two Ways of Research
Numbeo.com is a great research tool. It draws most of its data from in-country residents who submit their data to the site. Apart from offering safety statistics, it also gives numbers on the cost of living, quality of living, health care, traffic, pollution, and many other useful data. It’s perfect for a triage of expat host countries you might have in mind.
TCI Transition Concierge International
But nothing comes close to having in-country, reliable, verifiable, personalized eyewitness intelligence. This is what we here at the TCI Alliance do. Our expats can answer questions relevant to you, and our responses will always be current. Many general internet blogs are outdated, but our research and advice are always current.
In conclusion, Panama is a politically stable and safe country. Its citizens have come a long way, transforming decades of dictatorial tyranny to a Central-American jewel closely resembling western nations. I am happy here, and I feel safe. Am I on my guard? Always, as I would be anywhere.
If you have questions regarding any aspect of expat living, join TCI for expert advice. We’re here to help.
by: LP Wirth