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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Plastic Shopping Bags Soon to be Banned by New Law

Plastic Shopping bags will soon be banned in Panama, if a recent bill which just passed the first debate becomes law.

The assembly has approved law 492, during their first debate on the matter, that will ban stores from giving out plastic shopping bags to end users, and promote the use of more eco-friendly alternatives.

This is an attempt to begin to curtail the litter problem, and it is hoped that the new law, if passed, will create awareness of the problem these types of plastic bags cause in the environment, and curb their use nationwide.

According to the President of the Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs, this law should result in a reduction of around 20% once the bill is enacted and enforcement begins.

According to reusethisbag.com, there are currently somewhere between 500 billion to a trillion bags used in the world every year, but many countries are making an effort to ban them or tax their use.

The law was designed to promote the use of re-usable and biodegradable bags, by specifically banning the use of polyethylene bags.

Many other countries already have a ban in place, including France, who as of September 2016 banned the use of plastic plates cups and utensils.

Ireland, in 2002, began charging a 37 cent tax to the consumer for the use of the bags, reducing their numbers by 90% over a ten year period.

According to Greenpeace, “At least 267 different species are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish. The scale of contamination of the marine environment by plastic debris is vast. It is found floating in all the world’s oceans, everywhere from polar regions to the equator.”

The new proposal still needs to pass two more debate sessions to become law.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cultural Differences Between the US and Panama

Looking to relocate to Panama and not sure about the cultural differences?

I'm often asked what the cultural or social differences are between the people of the US and the people of Panama.

The Latino culture here in Panama and in general is typically very polite. For example, if you and I were in a theater and I wanted to walk between your knees and the seat in front of you, I would be using the phrase, “Su permiso,” which means “With your permission, may I pass in front of you?” 
Another example is when people get onto a bus or on any form of public transportation, they will look at everyone and say “Buenos días” to everyone. Panamanians are very amiable and very polite. 
The Spanish language as a whole isn’t offensive or direct, unlike how English can be. English is great for math and businesses, but some people in other parts of the world are almost offensively direct. 
Spanish isn’t that way. Spanish goes up around the bend and out the back door. People here in Panama will typically never tell you anything you don’t want to hear, and that is something I don’t really like. The Panamanian culture is a culture of non-offense. 
Here in Panama, when somebody comes to your property, it’s considered very offensive to walk up to the door. You have to stand on the road or at the yard and say, “Hola! Hola!” to get permission to enter into the yard.  
The rural culture that came out of the ghettos of East L.A. is a culture that is seen throughout the world. When I was in Eastern Europe, I could see that culture there. It’s what you and I call the culture of rap, or the gangster mentality, and it’s here in some parts of Panama. It’s everywhere in the world and it’s a very loud, abrasive, in-your-face type of culture typically involving younger people with loud music that I don’t resonate with. It’s something that’s come in the last 10 or 15 years through music. Fortunately, in this agriculture based area, local residents are too busy trying to make a living to take up that urban ghetto mentality.

By American standards, the driving of Panamanians is aggressive. They use the horn too much, but it’s because there are too many people. Their traffic flow is superior to ours in the United States because they’re always inching forward, and when you have a lot of cars in a small space, nothing moves forward if everybody waits for everybody else. That is most evident in the larger cities; not so much of a problem in the rural towns around here.
In general, Panamanians don’t stand in lines well. They don’t get the concept that you take your turn. It’s really a mixed bag: on one side they’re very, very polite and almost non-contact, and on the other side, it’s what you and I take for granted coming out of our culture, like the distance and space. People get closer to each other and talk louder than what normally you and I would see in the United States. It’s a cultural difference.  

Generally, I'd have to say Panamanians in and around this area are pretty well behaved and respectful of everyone else, although they can seem intimidating at first because they may stare at newcomers trying to get a feel for them.

We don't have many gringos in these parts.