Etiquette in Panama

Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, Panama is home to 3.6 million people.

Panama is a Unitary presidential constitutional republic, with a president as head of state and government.

The official language is Spanish, but because of heavy U.S. influence, most people in Panama are bilingual in Spanish and English.

Religious affiliations are not officially collected in Panama, but it is estimated that about 75-85% of the population is Roman Catholic and 15-25% are evangelical Christian. Many other faiths are represented in small communities.

Both Balboa and the United States dollar are accepted currencies.

General Etiquette

Although not strictly adhered to in daily living, punctuality is expected in a business setting, especially with foreigners. On the other hand, if you are invited to a party, never be on time. It is acceptable to arrive at a 1-on-1 social function up to 30 minutes late, a small dinner party 1 hour late, and a large gathering as much 2 hours late.

Many Panamanians may speak English very well, but reading may cause some difficulties for some. Have business cards printed in both Spanish and English  and use graphs and other visual aids in presentations.

Good topics of conversation include sports, travel, and local cultural events. Avoid discussing the Canal Zone and local politics.

Because of the long-standing U.S. presence in Panama, most North American gestures and insults are understood.