Back in 1991 when we moved Jolie Aire, the boat I was running, from France to Spain we moved from one culture to another. It’s a fact that the French are different from a lot of other countries, but I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of that here. But in Spain we ran into a lot of people who would go out of their way to help each other, and strangers, too. One of my French girlfriend’s favorite expressions when someone would help us with a problems was, “This wouldn’t happen in France.” My stock response was, “You’re right. This is the real world out here. People do things like this.”
One of the big complaints one hears from the expat community here is that customer service is non-existent in Panama. There’s a little bit of truth in that, though it’s not as pervasive as many would like you to think it is. Take this morning, for example. . .
I needed to go into David to pay my insurance bill at Hospital Chiriguí. I was 75 yards of so away from the bus stop when a bus passed my street. No big deal. I always leave the house with my iPod and rather enjoy sitting at the bus shelter listening to a book and watching the passing scene. There’d be another bus along in 20 minutes or so.
But then, at the edge of the tree line, the back of the bus appeared. The driver had spotted me as he passed. (They all know me now after two and a half years living here.) Not only did he back up the main road he then proceeded to turn, backwards, into my little street and back to where I was so I could catch a ride into town. I could hear Florence say, “This wouldn’t happen in France.” I replied, “I know, Florence, it wouldn’t happen in the States, either.” And the amazing thing is, folks, the driver did this for a 60 cent fare. No, it wouldn’t happen anywhere else I’ve ever lived but its happened to me several times here and I’ve seen it done for others, too, over the time I’ve been here. It’s what customer service is all about. It’s what Panama’s about.