The Secret To Success Developing Property Overseas
Part of my long-term offshore lifestyle and diversification strategy includes a beach house in Panama at the Los Islotes residential community my wife Kathleen and I have been developing on this country’s western Azuero coast.
I’ve been involved in different ways in dozens of developments like Los Islotes in more than two-dozen countries over the past 25 years… and I’ve noticed one critical common denominator among the most successful of these:
Long term, it’s everything.
I’m talking about creating a community both within the project, among the residents, and, as well, between those residents and their local neighbors.
This past weekend was the first of a series of holidays in Panama this month. Nov. 3 and 5 celebrate the country’s separation from Colombia (as part of Theodore Roosevelt’s let’s-build-a-canal adventures). Nov. 10 and 28 remember Panama’s independence from Spain… the beginning and end of the “revolution.”
With 20% of the workdays in November official holidays, November is not the time to try to get anything done in this country. Kathleen and I learned years ago not to fight the Fiestas Patrias factor. Normally, we make sure we’re elsewhere this time of year.
This year finds us with nowhere else we’d rather be.
So, on the ground for the most important dates on Panama’s annual calendar… we decided to join the party.
Experiencing Fiestas Patrias In Quebro, Panama
Sunday, we drove 10 minutes into the heart of neighboring village Quebro to watch the ribbon parade. Students from the local school marched to drums and xylophones up the town’s main road and back. The children with the best grades were given ribbons to wear over their shoulders to signify their position. The entire town came out to see.
We returned Monday morning for the Fiestas Patrias parade. This time the main event was the ox-drawn carriage carrying the local beauty queen. She was 5-years-old.
She sat atop the wooden cart waiving to her townspeople while two escorts threw candy to the crowd.
Pre-parade the school staged a series of activities, including egg races for each age group and, finally, the faculty. All the town leaders were in attendance, including the elder ladies from the local church who my wife has become friends with.
Workers from Los Islotes, past and present (and future, if you count the school kids), stopped by to say hello and kiss our cheeks or shake our hands.
Everyone was eager to speak with us.
This is where things can get tricky. I speak Spanish well enough to get by… as long as the required vocabulary has to do with building something or negotiating a property purchase, for example. I realized this weekend that my chit-chat Spanish is more limited.
Plus, the locals in Quebro speak what I refer to (not at all disparagingly) as campesino Spanish. They mumble and cut off the ends of words. Even Panamanian friends from the city who’ve come to visit have trouble understanding the locals out here.
Fortunately, they are happy to repeat themselves when I say “no entiendo” or “disculpe.” Sometimes I understand them the second time. Sometimes not. Sometimes a bystander will try to help me interpret by repeating the question or the remark using different words.
After doing business and living in Latin America for more than 25 years (and two years of high school Spanish), my Spanish should be better.
Last weekend our adopted community of Quebro didn’t just welcome us, they embraced our participation.
That only made me feel worse about my limited language skills. My commitment to improving my Spanish has been redoubled.
I’ve watched over the past year as my wife’s Spanish has improved significantly.
She attends mass with Los Islotes Project Manager Carlos every Sunday we’re out here and takes every other opportunity to attend local events. She’s been putting herself out there, among the community, and it’s paying off.
Maybe I need to start going to church.