Snake Oil Salesmen

These slippery and slimy individuals still exist.  They are not gone like the five and dime alcohol cough syrups they used to sell.  If you don’t know the term ‘snake oil salesmen’ you are most likely the wrong generation which means you are not their target audience.

Today they try to sell Baby Boomers on the ‘this place is paradise’ lie.

You have seen the ads; come to Panama and buy your slice of Paradise.  The infamous and well quoted International Living keeps touting certain locations as the best places to retire (they have relocation tours you see where they are making a lot of money).  These headlines make me crazy because they are so untrue and so unfair and unfortunately, so legal.

First of all there is no such thing as Panama being Paradise.  I have lived in Panama.  Panama is suffering from a serious draught right now and the coffee trees and the banana trees are suffering blight.  Crime against expats is on the rise in certain areas; so much so that the local police have told expats to protect themselves.

These tours where people want to show you the ‘real’ Costa Rica or the ‘real’ Panama are as bogus as the day is long.  They are making, depending on how many people are a part of your tour, upwards of $1,000 a person on you to show you around.  And they aren’t really showing you around.  Or you aren’t asking the right questions.  If you aren’t asking kick the tire questions you aren’t really being shown around.

Ask them about legal documents and the fact that the one in Spanish is the only one that is legal.  If you do not speak Spanish why would you enter into a legal agreement about buying property?   And how do you know you have clear title to the property?  There are tons of stories on the internet about expats not really owning the property they think they own mostly because they do no understand what that contract in Spanish says.

How about asking them where the water supply comes from and where the water sewage plant is located (there isn’t one in Panama and the water comes from the mountains and flows into the ditch’s which get clogged with dirt; that is the water you will drink and cook with and wash with).  Ask them about electricity outages and how often they happen.  Ask them about scorpions and how to deal with them.  Ask them about the constant fight against mold and mildew and I’m going to bet they tell you to get an air exchange machine for your house.  Someone has something to sell everywhere!

No one should be buying property in any foreign country until they have lived in that foreign country no less than 6 months.  Pack a suitcase and move to whatever country you think is paradise and see if all the hype is true.  Do the touring on your own.  If you can’t travel the country on your own you shouldn’t be living in that country.  If you don’t speak the language but you think doing these tours is the answer you are moving to someplace that you shouldn’t be living.  Who is going to be around to help you when the tour ends?

Expats in some of these areas are more crooked than the locals and you can’t trust many of them either.  Do not fool yourself that many of these people will be your friends.  Most of the expats we met while living in Panama are long gone now; in fact most of the expats who try to live in Paradise are gone within 3-5 years.  These are the folks you need to chat with and ask them why they left.  They will tell you.  Compare their stories with those of these snake oil salesmen and then you will have a real picture of what it’s like to live in these places.

Alcohol consumption is a common theme among the expats as well. For some reason because the cost of living is so low they move to these places to drink themselves into happiness.  If drinking is not your favorite pastime rethink moving to a third world country.  Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the rest are all third world countries.  I don’t care if you can have granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances and hot water on demand.  You are also going to have to live behind a gate; with iron bars on your windows; no maid to clean up after yourself because they will all rob from you; respiratory issues from the mold and mildew that you are not accustomed too and scorpions in the house; snakes and bugs on the front lawn to the point where you cannot walk through the grass; and wild dogs roaming the streets who tear through the garbage and leave a mess.  Does that really sound like Paradise?

The other snake oil pitch is how your family and friends back home will love coming to visit you every year.  Back the truck up.  Why on earth would you think that someone else is going to spend their vacation going to the same place over and over again just because you think you are living in paradise?  This has been one of the largest realities for people when they realize that after the initial visit the generations after you want to go someplace else and so no one comes to visit.  This is when people realize that they miss their families more than they want to live in Paradise and they leave.

The rules still apply; if something looks too good to be true it usually is.  This applies to living in Paradise as well.  If like I said you can live in any of these countries for 6 months and really live in these countries without trying to change the locals and without trying to bring your home country with you; then more power to you.  You have successfully learned to live in Paradise.  But if you want to change the environment around you to suit you and your needs; if you want the locals to learn to be more like the people and workers back home (which means they show up on time and they are ready to work); if you want to live just like you did back home; why did you move?  If you don’t want to learn their language, don’t expect them to learn yours.  The world does not revolve around expats.

So the next time you are approached by any of these snake oil salesmen ask them the tough questions before you spend your money on any of these tours they offer.  You might be better off taking the whole family on a trip to Europe or someplace exotic.  After all, isn’t spending time with family and good friends really the Paradise everyone is seeking after retirement?

And as always I will say what I have said many times; if it was paradise, why are there always so many homes for sale?

Florence Lince


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