Customs and traditions
Panama, like other Latin American countries,
is characterized by its American origin, Spanish
heritage and influences from the rest of Europe and
Africa. In addition, more than other countries in the
region, Panama is strongly influenced by the US
dominating the country for so long.
Panamans prefer to use professional titles when
speaking, as a way of showing respect. You call a doctor
a doctor and a teacher can be called a
professor or maestro. Licenciado
can be used for a lawyer - or anyone with a university
education. Don or doña, followed by
the first name, is a more general form of expressing
Overview of the capital city of Panama, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
The most common way to greet someone you do not know
is by shaking hands, regardless of gender. Women would
otherwise like to greet each other by embracing each
other and with cheek kisses - one on each side, and
rather in the air than actually on the cheek. Men
usually shake hands if they do not know each other very
well. A very firm handshake can be perceived as
aggressive. A slight movement of the arm or elbow may
also occur, but Panamans often do not touch each other
unless they know each other well.
Eye contact is important during a conversation, the
person who does not see a conversation partner in the
eyes can be perceived as false.
A common greeting phrase is buenas - a short
variant of the more complete buenos diás or
buenas tardes / noches (good day and good afternoon
/ evening). You are more often greeted by strangers than
is usual in Sweden - when you walk into a store or pass
someone on the street. The most common parting phrase is
adios, but ciao also occurs.
To point to something, Panamans often use their lips,
one makes a "pussy mouth" and head movement towards what
Keeping up with times is not as important as in
Sweden, except for business contexts. In social
contexts, one can come a long way after the appointed
time without being perceived as being unfair. For those
who are invited home to someone it is advisable to bring
a bottle of wine or perhaps a souvenir from their home
The upholstery is generally western. In business
context, the suit or skirt / dress applies. In other
contexts, jeans are common, but they should like to be
whole and clean - for many Panamans it is important to
look clean. The men normally wear long pants, even if it
is damp and hot, if they are not on a beach. It is
forbidden by law to move in an urban environment without
having anything on the upper body.
The food attitude can be said to be like the rest of
the country - it exhibits features of various influences
but is also strongly Americanized. Beans and rice,
usually cooked with coconut, are central elements just
like in neighboring countries. A dish with yucca
(cassava) and plantains (food bananas) as well as some
meat and vegetables is often called casado
(which means "poison" - as in a marriage, not as
something deadly). Sancocho is a stew with some
meat, often chicken, and vegetables, preferably root
vegetables and corn. Arepas is a flat bread
made of corn, often with a filling. Seafood is common.
Panama celebrates its independence twice: one from
Spain in 1821 and one from Colombia in 1903. The
independence from Colombia is noticed for several days;
November 3 is Independence Day but then also follows a
Flag Day (November 4), Colóndagen (November 5) and a day
to celebrate the uprising in Los Santos, November 10.
Independence from Spain is celebrated on November 28 (or
in connection with a nearby weekend).
Martyrs' Day falls on January 9 - or in conjunction
with the weekend - in memory of riots in the 1964 canal
zone when over 20 people were killed (see Modern
New Year and May 1 as well as Mother's Day on
December 8 are also holidays, as well as Good Friday and
Disputed team package is abandoned
After discussions with the trade union movement, the Government withdraws a
disputed legislative package concerning labor law and environmental legislation.
The package was adopted in June but was put on ice in July, after extensive
protests with violent clashes. In the province of Bocas del Toro, three people
were killed and hundreds injured when police clashed with banana workers. The
legislative changes were considered to weaken environmental protection and the
position of unions. New laws follow, in separate parts, but without the
Jail for Noriega
Manuel Noriega is sentenced to seven years in prison for money laundering by
a court in Paris.
Decreased self-government for indigenous peoples
President Martinelli, through a decree comarcan (see Political System),
deprives Ngöbe-Buglé of much of the autonomy granted to the area in 1999.
Critics believe that the purpose is to appoint a regional government that does
not oppose the government's plans for mineral extraction and dust projects,
something that the indigenous people oppose.
Public apology for the dictatorship's crime
The government presented a public apology for crimes committed during the
military dictatorship 1968-1989, in a ceremony in memory of those who
"disappeared" or were murdered.
Protest against tax increases
Around 10,000 people take part in protests against new tax laws, which have
included a VAT increase from 5 to 7 percent.
Ex dictator Noriega transferred to France
Panama's former dictator Manuel Noriega is extradited to France from the
United States, where he spent 20 years in prison. In France, he is sentenced in
July for money laundering to seven years in prison.
Controversy surrounding foreign policy
President Ricardo Martinelli draws sharp criticism from the opposition when,
during a visit to Israel, he praises the country as "guardian of the world's
capital" and thus seems to depart from Panama's traditional stance on strict
neutrality in foreign policy. Martinelli has already teased the opposition over
neutrality, by declaring a military alliance with the Colombian government in
the fight against the Colombian Fargo guerrillas. The government defends
cooperation as part of the fight against crime.
Ex-president in house arrest
Ex-President Pérez Balladares is placed under house arrest (see