We hadn’t even been served our appetizers by the time they asked.
“They” were a young Canadian couple- early 30’s and freshly hitched. We had just spent the day touring properties, several of which they found all too easy to picture themselves in.
Now, as we sat down for a well-deserved lunch at the Coronado Country Club, I could see their minds buzzing. Could they really move here? Could they make it work? What would they, could they, do for a living?
Ever since Panama started making headlines as the hottest economy in the Americas, I’ve seen my client pool slowly shift from retirees and second homeowners to entrepreneurs and executives. In Panama, the opportunity for advancement is extreme- and irresistible for those smart enough to recognize it.
Still, it can be daunting to jump headfirst into an unfamiliar workforce- even one as inviting as Panama’s. I’ve compiled list to help you get an idea of what your possibilities may be.
Panamanian schools consider English courses as indispensable as math or science.
Anybody in (or trying to get into) a well-paid position is expected to have at least basic English skills, if not total fluency. As Panama’s economy has continued to globalize, even adults are now seeking language classes.
As a result, there’s a huge demand for English teachers in Panama.
I was as surprised as you will probably be to hear that you needn’t be fluent in Spanish in order to teach English. For many schools, being able to communicate in basic Spanish is enough- especially those teaching higher levels of English, wherein it’s the only language allowed in the classroom.
While it’s not likely you’ll get rich teaching English, it’s a great option for those looking to get their foot into Panama’s door. Plus, considering the cost of living in Panama- even a salary on the lower end of the spectrum will allow you to live quite comfortably.
If you work in a creative field such as writing, graphic design, web development, or photography, you could make a small fortune as a freelancer.
According to the “creatives” I work with, freelancing in Panama is more plausible than in North America. There is less competition, as you’re not going to find as many creative professionals as are bred in American and Canadian universities. And since the economy is thriving, there’s more demand for creative industries- especially those that help to grow a business.
Start a Business
Many of the most successful businesses in Panama have been started by expats. Several that I know of were started almost unintentionally- by freelancers whose clientele grew exponentially, or restaurant owners who just wanted “a new place to hang out.”
Panama makes it easy for expats to start their own businesses. Thanks to its Foreign Investment Protection law, foreigners enjoy the same investment rights as nationals do. And since North America developed earlier than Panama did, we’re often able to visualize opportunities or approach solutions in ways that Panamanians would be less likely to do.
Landlords (and ladies) and Property Managers
Panama’s real estate market is thriving, and so is short and long term tourism. Many expats in Panama make a great living by purchasing properties and putting them up for rent.
What’s unique about Panama’s rental market is that it’s made up of many different “types” of tenants, and all of them are in abundance. There are the countless tourists visiting Panama every year, looking to enjoy its perfect weather and many attractions. There are those considering moving to Panama, but want to try before they buy. Finally, there’s the entrepreneurial crowd that work in Panama but aren’t yet ready to purchase.
The landlords and property managers I know love what they do. Often, their “jobs” amount to socializing, as tenants become friends over a round of margaritas at sunset. This is especially true for those owning properties that were designed to be easy rental units- such as these unique beachfront condos at Royal Palm.
Expats also have the ability to scout out a position within a Panamanian or international corporation. With so many businesses expanding under the red-hot economy of the last decade, many of them are forced to reach overseas to bolster their workforce.
This is especially true when considering that Panama is home to a smaller breadth of specialties than exists in North America. While Panamanian universities tend to produce traditional professions such as medicine and law, some of the more modern fields remain understudied. This is where expats have an advantage.
There is some red tape for expats working within corporations. Panamanian corporations must have a certain number of nationals employed for every foreigner they bring on board. International companies (i.e those which originated elsewhere but have bases in Panama) have a bit more wiggle room, though again it depends on the size and type of company.
Corporate positions are most often found through networking or through Google searches around the term “jobs for expats/foreigners in Panama” or “__(enter field type here)___ jobs in Panama.”
Remember: The best part about moving to Panama is that it’s the perfect atmosphere in which to reinvent yourself- and the wheel. If none of these options appeal to you, don’t be discouraged! Carve your own path; create a demand for whatever it is you have to offer.
I promise, if you’re good enough at it, Panama will want to pay you for it.