Panama Culture and Traditions

Customs and traditions

According to Abbreviationfinder, 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 respect.

  • Countryaah: 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 one intends.

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 country.

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).

According to Countryaah, 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 History).

New Year and May 1 as well as Mother’s Day on December 8 are also holidays, as well as Good Friday and Christmas Day.

Panama Immigration Statistics



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 controversial elements.


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 September 2009).

You may also like...