Exploring Panamanian Culture

Panama links Central and South America and is a bridge between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. Geographically, it is part of Central America, but Panama culture has been historically influenced by the Caribbean and South America. Known as “the place of many fish,” Panama is a tropical paradise with beaches, rainforests and exotic animals, birds, and sea life of unparalleled beauty. Sometimes called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and transformed this country into an international trade hub.

Study abroad in Panama Host a Panamanian student in the U.S.


People and Community in Panama

Teenagers in Panama

The family is the core unit of Panamanian society. Urban families typically have two or three children, while rural families tend to have four to five children. In urban areas, where both parents usually work, grandparents often assist with child rearing and household chores. Despite progress women have made in the workforce, machismo, or masculine pride, is abundant.

In Panama culture, most Panamanian families do not have the cultural custom of having their meals together, all sitting at the table. It is common that family members eat in different places of the house, and at different times. Most families buy only the ingredients for a single meal each time. So, there is very little food or snacks to prepare or to eat between meals.

Each region in Panama also hosts its own unique festival with music and dancing. The whole community takes part in the preparation, sharing tasks and celebrating the end result.

Language and Communication Styles in Panama

Dancing in Panama

The main language spoken in Panama is Spanish.

Panamanian Food

Arroz con pollo in Panama

The foods of Panama reflect the diversity of its people. Rice is the staple—it’s rare to see a meal without it. Meat, beans, platanos (a type of banana) and vegetables like tomatoes, carrots and cabbage are common. Most dishes aren’t too spicy. Patacones is a typical side dish of fried plantain slices. Arroz con pollo (rice and chicken) is eaten on special occasions. Whatever the meal, a sweet, cold drink called chichi, made from fresh fruit, water, and sugar, usually comes along with it. Unlike most other Latin American countries, mealtime in Panama culture tends to be informal.