Here in Panama one sees a lot of young backpackers traveling on their parents’ credit cards – tall, lanky guys in baggy khaki pants, adorned with blond halos of long hair and not-yet-full beards, their arms around short attractive young ladies without bras, out to see the world from the road. By and large these are a pleasant sort to chat with. They seem to have some respect for the local cultures, are unafraid of a stiff hike in the back country, and more likely than not speak a reasonably serviceable high-school Spanish. With their height they seem to float above the general population as they stride on long legs through the shopping districts and up the mountainsides.
Tourists older than they generally stay close to coastal resorts or mountain-country spa hotels where they feel safe from the rather frightening local population. But many middle-aged foreigners are are here to put their vast sums of money into mega-mansions that would have cost them a lot more back home, or else to escape bad debts or legal trouble. Still, some of the gringos I meet are quite nice people. In a visit to Boquete I chatted in German with a visiting Swiss couple, Bruno and Renate, in French with a delightful young man from Haiti, and finally in French and Spanish with a quite interesting man who had lived for many years in Montréal.
Gringos who settle here, however, often cannot be bothered to learn to speak Spanish.
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