Several readers have asked me how easy it’s been to adjust to Panama’s climate after living for over two decades in Florida. Climate is an important consideration in finding an overseas location you’re comfortable in as an expat. So did living in Florida prepare me for living in Panama?
The reality is — not so much.
Both are hot and humid, but there are some important differences.
Here are my thoughts — keeping in mind I’m living in the lowlands on the Azueros Peninsula. Once you get up in the hills above about 1200 feet things cool off noticeably.
Living in the Heat
Dealing with the heat here in Panama is just plain different from coping with heat in Florida.
In Florida, you don’t really live in the heat. You live in air conditioning and make brief forays through the heat. You go from your air conditioned house to your air conditioned car to your air conditioned work, shopping, whatever.
The only times most Floridians really spend a day in the heat is when they visit the beach or the theme parks.
Here, you’re in the heat all day. Central air conditioning is almost nonexistent. If you’re reasonably well off, you have an AC unit in your bedroom, but the rest of the house is not air conditioned.
Evenings Here are Cooler, Though
In Florida’s summer heat, the nights stay pretty warm. Here, because we’re closer to the Equator, the sun goes down before 7 PM. This gives evenings a chance to cool down.
It’s pretty normal for nighttime temperatures here to drop into the mid-70s while in Florida they can easily stay in the 80s. Once the sun goes down, it can get downright pleasant!
If we decide to grab dinner out, it’s no problem to walk to the restaurant here. Back in Orlando it would have meant arriving in a dripping sweat — not too pleasant for us or the other diners!
Except for an hour or so in the late afternoon, almost every day here sees lots of breezes. When you open windows and doors in the house, you get nice cross ventilation to help keep things more comfortable.
When the breeze drops, it’s time to relax and stay cool in the hammock.
You Get Acclimated
Yes, your body does adjust. Temperatures that felt very hot to me when I first arrived now just feel warm, and temperatures that felt warm initially now feel pleasantly cool.
As with any hot climate, you need to be careful not to get dehydrated. I always have a big glass of cold water or iced tea handy, and I swig down a few extra gulps before I leave the house.
I don’t think I’ll be pulling on my jeans or a long-sleeved shirt anytime soon, though.