Home Special Report Richard Foster: “We love living in Panama and really look to...

Richard Foster: “We love living in Panama and really look to help others have a similar experience”

Historically, Panama is a country that offers opportunities for people from all over the world to stay and live. Since the Spanish colony, the construction of the Transisthmian railway to the Panama Canal, thousands of foreigners found their new home in the isthmus. However, a key element when starting to live in a new country is the process of adaptation, which can be quick when the destination has people who help new residents understand their new environment.

Richard Foster attending a local Celebration in Pedasi

This is the reason why this Special Report features Richard Foster, a Canadian born in Northern Ontario, who worked for 20 years as Vice President of a multinational retail company and who since 2021 decided to move with his wife to Pedasi. An Expat who knows very well what it is like to adapt to a new country and who today supports new residents who arrive for the first time. His work is key for the new adventure of living in Panama to start in the right direction, and on this occasion he offers an exclusive interview to talk about this topic in depth.

When you were evaluating places to live outside Canada which places appealed to you and why Panama stood out from the rest? 

“I love analyzing, we did an extensive search on possible countries to relocate to. We listed everything that was important to us, and prioritized those factors. We signed up for several blogs, newsletters and seminars so we could learn about the countries that met some of most of our criteria. We spent most weekends pouring through emails and information, the process took us about 18 months to land on Panama as our choice. We originally had Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica as potential contenders, Panama just kept rising to the top of our list.”

Hombres de Accion Group helping the local community

Which challenges you faced when starting to live in Panama and what triggered you to create a group that helps newcomers? 

“Upon arrival we stayed in Panama City for 2 weeks to get our bank accounts, apply for residency and buy a car. After the residency process was started we drove around the country for a couple of weeks staying in different towns and climates to see things first hand. We knew all about these towns due to our research but we wanted to see things for ourselves. We lived in David for a year (due to its proximity to many desirable sites) and began more extensive travels from there. On our original trip around the country we both like the Azuero, particularly the area from Pedasi to Cañas, where we now have built our home. Our challenges came in all shapes and sizes, despite doing our best to understand in advance what we may face here. Language of course was one, sometimes the speed in which to get processes started or completed is another. None of the challenges we faced were game changers for us, they just taught us to be more patient and understand we are visitors here, we had lots to experience and be grateful for. I am surprised when people get overly frustrated because things here are not the same as where they came from, not sure why they expected it would be. I try to stay connected to to social media to understand what is happening here and why, it also gives me the opportunity to answer questions and support others with answers that may make their lives (or transitions) easier. We love living in Panama and really look to help others have a similar experience. I do not find it a burden to clarify, enhance or even correct communication about living in Panama, I think potential newcomers should just have a clear picture, I really enjoy helping others without seeking personal gain for the advice.”

Hombres de Accion during an Christmas event for local kids

What is the mission of “Hombres de Acción” and why is so important for destinations like Pedasi to have a group like this? 

“Thank you for asking about “Hombres de Accion” (Men of Action), it is very important to our membership. Hombres de Accion, is a group of now 40 men, ( of all heritage and nationalities) that come together to improve the lives of area residents through a project proposal process. We hold fundraisers and use those funds to help the most in need in our community. Recently we have focused on water systems proposals for residents in need as water can be very scarce, especially during the dry season. We have helped many families to have water available in times where that was not possible previously. We have also done electrical work, new roofs, beach clean ups and school initiatives. We believe we are changing the lives of people in this area and are happy to do so. Members all volunteer their time, they really are a special bunch of men.’

In Pedasi, expats tend to meld with the local culture . Do you think this makes life more interesting for residents and people who are considering to go live there? 

“It is very important for those new to Panama (or Pedasi) to not live a sheltered life here. We chose Pedasi because it has a great vibe of Panamanians and new residents working together, socializing and learning about each other. The key to anyone respecting others is to understand them, their lives, their cultures and traditions. We all become more tolerant when we understand the history behind different cultures. We love learning and participating in Panamanian events like the cart parade or Mil Polleras for example. They are beautiful displays of history and their love for the country, we are very humbled to be accepted here, the way we have been. The locals are wonderful.”

How much sense of belonging to Pedasi you feel from the expat community when they get involve in “Hombres de Acción” and how much good is done for local residents?

“Another great question. Our 40 members (several of them are Panamanian who grew up in the area) are very proud of our involvement in the local activities. Not only are we helping the underserved in the community as mentioned above, but we are showing that different cultures and nationalities are not that different, we all believe in basic human kindness. We all have the ability to help the less fortunate. Further more we are also demonstrating to everyone, that new residents are not here just to take from Panama. We are here to show our appreciation and give back to our new home. We are not looking to change what the Panamanians hold dear to their hearts. Hombres de Accion is here to help with basic living standards, like electricity, water and shelter, all things any citizen should have, in any country. The people of Pedasi have really embraced and supported us, we are very humbled. 

We love Panama and its citizens, we believe that it’s everyone’s responsibility to look after each other. Kindness communicates care and compassion in any language, it’s universal.”

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